Sometimes a song just happens to twang the heartstrings and worm its way into a lifetime, I suppose. Navajo Rug’s been such a song for me.
I first heard the song in Austin, Texas, performed by Bill and Bonnie Hearne in some tiny, packed appearance of theirs in the mid-1980s. I liked it so well I bought a tape. Then, later I discovered the Tom Russell version and made a 90 minute tape with just that song on it, listening to it on road trips sometimes for several hours at a time until the tape wore out.
Almost a decade later I was headed through the Four Corners area toward Hovenweep and various ancient sites in southwestern Utah, but still in Colorado when a road-sign announced I was entering Canyon, Colorado. I craned my neck watching for evidence of a burned down cafe in the weeds as I passed through.
But all the time I was in Utah over the next several days the Navajo Rug song and Canyon, Colorado were nagging at the back of my mind. I didn’t even have the tape with me, so I sang it to myself and the truck. Then, on the trip back I resolved to try to find out if the cafe ever existed, where it was, maybe even pick up some piece of broken melted glass or a spoon from the ruin.
I spent half a day in that village slowly driving back and forth along the grader ditch, getting out and trekking around possibilities, asking around among any residents I could approach without interrupting what they were doing.
I didn’t find it, didn’t find anyone in town who’d ever even heard the song.
But I did sit down in the only eating establishment open and order two eggs up on whiskey toast, home-fries on the side.
Sometimes that’s about the best a person can do.
But it wasn’t the only time I’d found myself pursuing musical/lyrical craziness when location comspired with a song I remembered to distract me from a destination. On more than one trip through Morenci and Clifton, AZ, I did a lot of asking trying to find someone who remembered who sang Open Pit Mine.
Not a soul even remembered ever hearing the song.