On the less traveled road from Central City to Estes Park, Colorado - past the happiest carousel ever, in the sleepy little hamlet of Nederland - just a stone's throw from the beautiful old rock chapel of Camp St. Malo - sits something pretty special in it's own right. EAGLE PLUME'S TRADING POST - I'm betting it has been close to
50 25 years (at least) since we were last in there, enticed by a pronouncement of "treasures for good children", made by a grade school teacher. Dad and Mom took us then - they also took me last month. It was the first time since 1960-something that any of us had been back. Magical then - even more so through my adult eyes.
As always, clicking on the photos will bring them up larger - clicking again will enlarge them even more (and make them a little clearer...something in the collage process is making some of my photos a little blurry, as of late - I will be seeing about a remedy).
Founded in 1917 by Katherine Lindsey, who sold antiques, art, and curios (as well as afternoon tea to customers), the shop was originally called The What Not Inn, later renamed Perkins Trading Post after her marriage. Influenced by her own father's collection, Katherine eventually shifted her focus to the arts of the American Indian, becoming one of the better-known dealers in the Western United States at the time.
A newer sign out front, but the building is much the same as it has always been. At the front door, we were greeted by a pine box for "Messages, Tall Tales, and Dirty Jokes"...there WAS one inside that day.
Sometime during the late 1920's Charles Eagle Plume found his way to the trading post, endearing himself not only to the Perkins', but carloads of visitors. As Mr. Perkins' health declined, Charles was instrumental in helping out around the post - he and Mrs. Perkins continued to run the post until her death in 1966.
Charles (he hated the name Charlie, I have read) not only entertained and enchanted visitors to the store over the years, with Indian lore and corny jokes, he also toured the United States, making a name for himself as a sought-after lecturer on Indian Arts and culture. I remember him as he was in the top right photo (perhaps a little less gray at that time). I also remember being given an arrowhead by him, just as my teacher had promised...one that was "misplaced" (or taken by my sister, who did things like that!) over the years and miles of my life, sadly.
Charles touched the lives of many people during his years of running the post and on his lecturing circuit. Before he passed on in 1992, he established the not-for-profit Charles Eagle Plume Foundation, which encompasses his vast, personal collection of over 1,000 pieces, housed at the store.
They were more than willing to let me photograph inside that day - ALWAYS ask first. This trading post was a wonderment when I was 8 - even more so to me now, in more of a historical museum aspect. Charles' collection is incredible. As this is a "working" trading post, there ARE newer art, collection pieces, and jewelry items (as well as vintage pieces), available for purchase (my Mom went home with a beautiful pin that day), in addition to curios and items for the children Charles so loved.
Completely hand-beaded Plains Indian cradle board...
as well as hand beading on an incredibly detailed leather ceremonial "hair shirt".
The stairwell leading upstairs - all very old...all very loved - baskets, bead work, and a chief's bonnet that left me wondering if it was the one from the photo of Charles, up above. I'm just going to believe it was.
More jaw-dropping bead work, and a grouping of beautiful old, deep blue wool Crow dresses covered in Elk teeth, dentalium (long seashells), and antique coins. If you go, allow yourself plenty of time to take it all in...there's something interesting and beautiful at every turn!
Which brings me back to that arrowhead I was given, all those years ago...ok, it was more than the 25 I claim! On telling the ladies working that day, of my first trip and the fate of my arrowhead from Charles, I continued through the beautiful collection before me. A tap on the shoulder and an urging to open my hand found the black arrowhead above placed in the center of my palm, with my fingers closed back around it. The kind woman told me that Charles never picked out a certain arrowhead for any child, instead just reaching in and taking one, sight unseen - exactly as she had done with this one. Dear Charles Eagle Plume - this one will stay with me forever!
Thank you dear ladies, for rekindling some very special memories that day, and making new ones for us (there's a bittersweet story behind that clock in the photo, also...if you go, be sure to ask). Want to make some memories of your own - visit EAGLE PLUME'S - Real Indians. Real Indian Art by clicking on the red link, directly above, for more info on the store and directions on how to get there. "Epeheva'e - (it is good) This is a place unlike any other, ask anyone who has been here. A place with walls that whisper, floors that creak underfoot, a place with a rare history, a patina left by time and an endless parade of characters"...from Eagle Plume's advertising postcard
The punchline from the joke inside the box, from the photo up above (you thought I'd forget, didn't you)?: Because they had their trunks down!
Here's to "dirty" jokes and Charles Eagle Plume!