In The Beginning, or the Zuni Ring

Me at 11 or 12 years old.

Me at 11 or 12 years old.

 

I have always been a silver girl.

Gold just never did it for me.

I think sterling silver reminded me of the moon. And of the magic and mysteries concealed by the night. It was the feminine counterpart to the masculine sun.

Or maybe I just read too much Greek mythology as a kid.

 
A Navajo silver and turquoise ring that was given to me by my great aunt. It was most likely made in the 1930's or 40's.

A Navajo silver and turquoise ring that was given to me by my great aunt. It was most likely made in the 1930's or 40's.

 

One of my earliest jewelry memories is from when I was about 11 years old. We were living in the tiny town of Overgaard, Arizona. Everyone always sees of the arid desert of Pheonix and Tuscon when they imagine Arizona, but a large part of the state is mountainous with a high elevation plateau. 

Overgaard is situated up in the mountains on the Mogollon Rim, 144 miles from Phoenix. It sits in the Eastern part of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The population at the time was in the neighborhood of 400 people. There wasn’t much to the town. A couple of taverns and a corner store were about all Overgaard had to offer.

Because it was such a small community, we had a lot of freedom. My days were spent exploring the Ponderosa Pine forest, sailing down dirt roads.  My nights were often spent with my sleeping bag at the edge of the forest near our property. 

The elementary school was in the next community, Heber. It was a whole lot bigger with a whopping 2,000 or so people.

 
A Navajo concho brooch (circa 1930). It was my grandmother's. She gave it to my mother, who later gave it to me. 

A Navajo concho brooch (circa 1930). It was my grandmother's. She gave it to my mother, who later gave it to me. 

 

I can't remember what the occasion was. Maybe Christmas. Or maybe the end of the school year. Everyone in the class drew another student's name, and we were supposed to give them a gift at the school party. The boy I liked drew my name. I was terribly excited by the prospect of a gift from him.

He was Zuni Indian. I didn't really know him. I had never been to his house and never hung out with him after school. He was kind of shy and didn't say a whole lot. It was a typical early adolescent crush - infatuation without substance.

One of the things I didn't know about him was that he came from a family of silversmiths. Instead of buying me a gift, he made me a diminutive turquoise and silver ring. It was quite simple. A small round piece of aqua colored turquoise, framed in silver, and resting on a silver ring shank,

 
A ring similar to the one I was given. This one is made by Amy at Mossy Creek Studio

A ring similar to the one I was given. This one is made by Amy at Mossy Creek Studio

 

I loved that ring. I was so amazed that he could make something like that. And that he would spend that much time making something for me. It was one of the first pieces of real jewelry I ever owned.

We got to be friends after, that boy and I.  We hung out a little over the summer and had a few adventures in the rural mountains. I have a vague picture of meandering paths and bicycles. Dirt roads and alfalfa fields. There was an old, abandoned travel trailer at the end of one of those dirt roads. It became the summertime hang out for all us kids.

 
Ponderosa Pine Forest. Photo from biketouring.com

Ponderosa Pine Forest. Photo from biketouring.com

And then one day we had an argument. I am sure it was something trivial. Very juvenile. He demanded that I give the ring back. It had been given as a gift. But that didn't matter. I threw the ring down, and it hit the dusty dirt track with a poof. That was the last time I saw the ring. If he didn't want me to have it, then I didn't want it either.

Dumb me.

Funny. I still think about that ring. But I can't even remember the boy's name. 

 
 

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