About a year after my dad died, I took Mom to Red River for Aspencade, which is an annual arts and crafts fair during the peak aspen season. Sue Davis, Shorty's daughter and good friend of my mom's, had been asking Mom to come and stay with her at the Shortes's cabin up Bitter Creek. It was a great trip to get to see the aspens turning gold and the arts/crafts fair is one of my favorite events in RR. To get to stay in Shorty's cabin with all its great memories was just icing on the cake. Sue is a beautiful lady - much like her mother, she is tiny and has a great smile. Since I had grown up with Sue's kids, we had much to catch up on. We shared lots of memories of times up Bitter Creek: once when we were really young, we went on a little hike, I accidentally dropped Sue's daughter in the creek. Of course, I fell in too. My brother went back to the cabin to sneak some towels for us - as if our parents would not find out. They did find out, but they thought it was funny rather than getting on to us.
The Shortes's cabin was much more modern than I remembered it being. Yet some things were the same. Several of Shorty's paintings were on the walls. Sue told us there were not many of them. I shared that Mom had one that Shorty had given her, and that I would take a photo of it and email it to her. She was thrilled.
It was also on this trip that we went by to see Frances Williams. She was not in good health and died just a few months later. I was glad that we were able to see her before she died. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I wanted to have a closer look at Frances's house, but it was not good timing. On this last trip to RR, my friend, Randy who bought Williams Trading Post, invited Joy and me in to see the house and store. I'm sure Frances's family had gone through things, but still, it was pretty much the way Frances had left it. Joy and I told Randy stories about Frances and Williams Trading Post, although he had his own memories. What kid who ever spent time in RR didn't have stories. Once in the house, I made a beeline for the paintings. Then I saw a painting on the wall that I was just pretty sure was one of Shorty's. I did not have my glasses and could not read the signature, but Joy, who is younger and has better eyes, saw that the painting said "W. Shortes." Both Joy and I began telling Randy who W. Shortes was and all about her. We told him Sue Davis had a cabin just up the road and would want to know about the painting. I was sure Sue would buy the painting from him. Randy said he had thought to gather all the art work and put it in the store for everyone to see. Since most of the art seemed to be done by locals, locals would appreciate it. He truly seemed to understand the historical significance of the place.
About that time, a car pulled into the driveway. Randy looked out and asked if we knew who the woman was. Joy and I looked and saw that it was Sue Davis. It was such a coincidence that we both squealed and rattled on about Sue, Shorty, Frances, etc. I'm sure Randy's head was spinning.
We met Sue out in the yard with lots of greetings and hugs. We introduced her to Randy, and she explained that she was looking for some notes that Frances wrote on the history of RR. Apparently Frances wrote down stories of her first years in RR on notebook paper. No one knew where the stories might have gone after Frances's death, and would Randy look for them as he went through the Williams' stuff. The RR Historical Society wanted to read and record the stories, but not take them. Then we invited Sue inside the house and showed her mother's painting. She was so excited to see it. Sometimes when Sue smiles, she puts her hand to her mouth the way Shorty did. Sue told of finding another painting of her mom's back in a closet at the RR library, and that she was glad to be able to get it back.
It was at that point that Randy said, "So your mother painted this painting?" and he pointed to the painting. Sue said yes. Randy walked over and took it off the wall and handed it to her. I thought she was going to cry. I know I was.
I know what Randy did was the right thing to do. That painting meant more to Sue than any of us. Shorty was not a well known artist - not even in RR - so the painting would not be worth lots of money. It was strictly sentimental. But still, if it had been in my possession, I'm not sure I could have given it up. For me it was worth lots. To Sue it was worth more. You did a great thang, Randy!