Tag Archives: vendors

Accusations

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The group of vendors I sometimes sell with on the side of the highway is a varied bunch. Some are serious business people with huge selections of merchandise displayed on multiple tables. Others are just passing through, trying to sell a few things in hopes of earning enough gas money or beer money to make it down the road. Some vendors hand-make everything they sell, while others buy mass produced items and sell them at a big markup. Some vendors are honest about their products and others, not so much. Common lies involve saying a stone is turquoise when it isn’t and telling a potential customer an item was made by the vendor (or a member of the vendor’s family) when the item was actually imported from a developing country.

I don’t believe in lying to customers, but I don’t narc out other vendors when I hear them doing it. Do I think lying to customers is wrong? Yes. Do I think it’s my place to police other? No.

Loyalties are ever-changing among vendors. Two people may be friends today and enemies next week. Folks get mad at each other over parking and (real or imagined) lying and taking up too much space.

I try to stay on friendly terms with everyone, although there are certainly some vendors I don’t like much. I have no use for bossy or nosey behavior, and many vendors act in those ways. The most common nosey question is How are you doing?/How did you do today? What people really mean is, Are you making/did you make any money? When I’m asked how I’m doing or how I did, I start rambling about the beautiful weather or seeing my friends or meeting nice people. Only the boldest of people (or those with no capacity to pick up on my social cues) go on to actually verbalize the word money. (The last time another vendor actually asked me if I was making money, customers approached my table in the nick of time, and I was able to ignore Nosey Nelly until she got bored and wandered away.)

Some of the vendor grudges are old. One woman has been despised for years, long before I crawled out of the sage and joined the community. Part of the reason she’s despised is because she makes a lot of money. She’s a good business woman who knows what merchandise is going to sell and how to talk to customers to get them to buy. She also exhibits unpredictable behavior. One day she’ll be someone’s bosom buddy and the next she’ll scream curses at the same person. The only thing she loves more than being the bearer of bad news is getting other vendors all riled up with negativity and too upset to sell.

This woman has gotten a little nicer since her husband died and she’s all alone in the world, but we’ve all seen her turn against a friend with little provocation. Anyone with any sense treads lightly around her.

The funniest altercation I’ve seen her involved in happened a few summers ago. I don’t remember why people were mad at each other or who was taking what side. I do remember the despised woman was pissed at one of the vendors who drives in from out of state.

This guy allegedly sells pain pills along with his glass pipes, chile powder, osha root, and the baskets and purses he says his wife makes (despite the “Made in Mexico” tags still attached to them). I’ve never bought pain pills from him. (For the record, I’ve never bought pain pills from anyone, even a pharmacist.) I’ve never caught him in the middle of a pain pill transaction. I’ve never heard him offer to sell anyone pain pills, but I’ve heard the word on the street, and the word is he sells pain pills.

It was a hot summer day, and there weren’t many customers. Trouble tends to start when there aren’t many customers. Customers keep vendors busy, and when there aren’t enough of them, some vendors get bored and start picking fights.

The despised woman looked over at the out-of-state vendor and out of nowhere started yelling, Drug dealer! Drug dealer!

Without missing a beat, the out-of-state vendor yelled right back at her with his gravely, Spanish accented voice, Weetch! Weetch!

She had no response, just sat back down behind her table and waited for a potential customer to come along.

Coyote at the Bridge

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I’d been away from the Bridge for a while. When I left in late October, I planned to be back in time for Spring Break, but plans change. By December, I’d decided I wanted to spend the summer working as a camp host. By January I’d applied for several camp host positions. By April, I was on my way to California.

I decided to head back to New Mexico when my work season ended. If nothing else, I needed to say good-bye to friends who thought I would only be gone a few months when I left. Of course, once I was back, I couldn’t resist the siren’s song of making a few bucks at the Bridge. Soon I was unfolding my tables and setting out my wares.

Many aspects of life at the Bridge were unchanged. A dozen or more vendors vied for the tourist dollars. Vendors still fought among themselves but showed each other kindness as well. I continued to arrive early to get a good spot where I could attract the attentions of shoppers. Of course, the scenery was still beautiful; the rugged high desert landscape surrounded by snow-peaked mountains always makes me stop and take notice.

There were differences too. Although still officially fall when I arrived, days were cold. I soon wore a comical number of colorful layers in an attempt to stay warm. Days were shorter too. While in the summer we had until seven o’clock or later to catch the sunset visitors, in October and November, daylight was gone by 5pm. Also, the number of visitors must have been less than half of what we saw in the summer.

This photo shows the wild coyote in the vending area at the Bridge.

My favorite addition to the Bridge community was the coyote.

During the many nights and early mornings I’d spent at the Bridge, first while sleeping in a picnic pavilion and later in my van, I’d heard plenty of coyotes. Sometimes there’d be simple, predictable howling, but often I heard the yipping and yapping I anthropomorphized as “partying”–as in the coyotes are really partying tonight. While I knew the coyotes were relatively close because I could hear them, I never saw one. For all the noise they make, coyotes know how to be visibly discreet, so I was surprised to see one skulking around in the sage on the highway side of the fence, pretty close to where the vendors set up.

I was excited to see the coyote, but other vendors were blasé . They knew this coyote; it had been coming around for a while.

Some of the vendors left food our for it. Early in the morning, when there weren’t many people around and food was available, the coyote would come right into the vending area. That’s when I realized the coyote walked with a limp, which is probably why it hung around close to humans who were willing to leave it food.

By talking to other vendors, I pieced together the coyote’s story.

Sometime after I had left the previous fall, the coyote’s foot had been injured. I don’t remember anyone saying what exactly had happened, but whether by trap or by gun (or some other way entirely), the coyote’s foot had been seriously hurt, and it could barely walk, much less run. The vendors saw it limping around and one of them (a great friend to animals although often causing strife for humans) started leaving meat out for the coyote. Her offerings probably got it through the winter when it couldn’t hunt.

The vendor who told me the coyote’s story repeatedly referred to it as “she.” I wasn’t sure if he could tell the animal’s sex by its size or markings or if he’d been close enough to check out its genitals. While I certainly never saw testicles or a penis, I can’t say I got a definitive look. Maybe because of the months the coyote had been around, the vendor felt confident in what he had and hadn’t seen.

While the coyote certainly wasn’t fat, it was by no means skeletal. I’d expect a coyote that was only living on human handouts to be bony and weak. This coyote was lean, but seemed healthy. I think the coyote was hunting again and only supplementing its diet with what the vendors shared.

Although the coyote obviously limped, it moved around well. It was still quick. It wasn’t difficult to imagine it hunting, especially if it used cunning to get the job done.

I had mixed feeling about the coyote hanging out so close to the vendors. I typically think wild animals should stay wild and humans should stay uninvolved in the lives of wild animals. I worried about how close to the

I worried about the coyote crossing the road, as it is doing in this photo.

road the coyote came when it skulked around the vending area looking for food. I got really nervous when I saw it actually cross the highway. I worried about what might happen to the coyote if it did a perfectly normal coyote thing like snatch a little dog for a snack. Now that the coyote could take care of itself, it was better off leaving humans behind.

On the other hand, I was glad the vendor had fed it when it was injured and couldn’t hunt. I’m glad she saved the coyote’s life. I was grateful for the opportunity to see the animal up close too. Not everyone gets to see the beautiful independence of wild creatures. Even though the coyote was eating scraps left by humans, it wasn’t begging. One look at the coyote and I knew it belonged only to itself.

I haven’t been to the Bridge in over a year, so I don’t know if the coyote still visits with the vendors early in the mornings, but I think of it whenever I hear a coyote howl.

I took all of the photos in this post.