Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 22, 2009

Huck’s Trading Post & Museum

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:43 am

Huck!

Huck!

Blanding, Utah, is not an eye-popping town.  It sits forlornly on the Colorado Plateau with nothing to boast about, but with plenty of attractive destinations within an hour of it.  It is desperately trying to become something, as evidenced by the new “Smoothie Shack” and the “Peace Tea Cafe” on Main Street.  One surmises that real estate is pretty cheap in Blanding.  It has some decent trailers, that’s for sure.

Just on the south edge of town sits an unassuming log building with an ancient sign out front beckoning travelers to “Huck’s Trading Post & Museum.”  Having been alerted to this crazy joint by a ranger, we pull in to take in the local flavor.  A hand-lettered sign on the door says, “I’m out back. Ring the buzzer and I’ll be there in about five minutes.”  I ring.  Shortly, an ancient-looking man drives up the side of the building, rolls down his window, and says in a hoarse croaking voice, “I’ll be right there.”  

Jess and I exchange glances, and I know immediately that we are in for a treat — a cultural experience without parallel.  The door opens, and a hunchbacked old guy with almost no voice (“Cancer,” he croaked, pointing to his throat) greets us and welcomes us into his establishment.  Huck is about 5’1” and wears well-worn coveralls. He has a twinkle in his eye.  You can look around his trading post (the front room) or, for a reasonable $5 (“just for the lights, you know”), he will personally guide you through his private museum, leaning on his cases and breathing hard as he moves along.  We forked over $10 and entered the adjoining room.

Some people are hoarders.  Huck has spent most of his 81 years being an uber-hoarder.  He had a book signed by Bob Hope, a steel toy bus from a World’s Fair about six decades ago, and everything in between.  But that was just the warm-up display case.  The real stuff lay in countless glass drugstore cases in the back room.  My eyes could not take it all in without my lower jaw falling open.  Huck’s favorite pastime was going artifact-hunting, and he did that his whole life.  Sixteen glass boxes, housing 100 arrow points each, clung to his walls.  The entire back wall consisted of stone tools — axes, mauls, etc. — hung along every log.  Must’ve had hundreds.  The Anasazi pottery, however, was what freaked me out the most.

Pots of every size and pattern and style filled his glass cases. (“Would you mind not touching the glass? It’s hard to clean.”) “Huck, where in the world did you GET all this?”  “Oh, here and there, I found it all, least what wasn’t given to me…”, he croaked.  The black-on-white patterns dazzled my eyes and captivated my imagination.  I pictured archeologically savvy site-robbers going out with flashlights and digging on federal lands.  I pictured hushed barterings in smoky back rooms, and exchanges after dark behind the old log building.  I pictured every possible way Huck could have gotten so many pots, many worth thousands of dollars.  I noticed the wall-mounted security camera panning the room, and the “No Photographs” sign in his scrawly handwriting.

The mural of pot sherds didn’t bother me so much as the mural of arrow points with the letters “San Juan County, Utah” CUT OUT OF OLD SHERDS that had been found and were considered ‘junk.’  One could clearly see the intricate designs painted on the ancient pottery that had been recycled into block letters.  I cringed.  I thought of precious cultural resources, irreplaceable .  “Back 50 years ago, nobody thought that was anything, ” he justified. I could tell Jess was having the same trouble dealing with this ‘collection’ that we knew was of questionable origins. Huck may have been good friends with the sheriff.  

By the time we finished we had seen sandals woven by the Basket Makers of yucca leaves, jewelry fashioned from bones, mortars and pestles and axe sharpeners of stone, dioramas of Puebloan villages, fossil mammal teeth, and other things too numerous to recall.  Huck’s collection is second to none.  I heartily recommend Huck’s place to anyone passing through Blanding.  

But… ask Huck some hard questions, even if you know he is going to give you the answer he thinks you want to hear.  There aren’t many more like him out there.  Enjoy his self-taught expertise to the hilt.  Huck doesn’t look as if he will make it many more summers. 

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6 Comments »

  1. We stopped by huck’s today July 14, 2013. He is stll kicking. The kids loved the tour, including the bus from the Chicago world fair. My boys 8 and 11had loads of questions for him. Tour of museum is now $10, but kids were free with me.

    Comment by barbara ward — July 14, 2013 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

  2. “I pictured archeologically savvy site-robbers going out with flashlights and digging on federal lands. I pictured hushed barterings in smoky back rooms, and exchanges after dark behind the old log building.”

    Yes because, like black rhino horns and ancient Chinese dynasty art work, Anasazi pots are worth millions of dollars, and therefore must be exchanged on the “black market”. Give me a break, these broken pots are basically worthless that’s why they’re in a museum in Blanding and not in a national art gallery. I doubt Huck felt any need to hide his transactions or findings ever.

    Comment by David — May 28, 2014 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  3. Update: Stopped by Huck’s again this year, April 2014. This was a return trip from the year before. It was wonderful to see Huck with his amazing twinkly blue eyes and cute grin alive and kicking. No matter the worth of the collection, as mentioned by the previous comments, the collection was amazing and Huck is someone I will never forget. A voice from history with a love of all Indian artifacts.

    Comment by Jusy — July 22, 2014 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

    • This makes me happy! When I am next down that way, I too shall stop in again. Thanks for checking in!

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — July 22, 2014 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

      • I have a picture of Huck with my sister and I that I’m sending him. I’d also like to send him a copy of your write up of your visit with him – if that’s okay with you.

        Comment by Judy — July 22, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

      • Absolutely. He needs to know how many lives he’s touched!

        Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — July 22, 2014 @ 4:57 pm


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