Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Days of the Blue Tattoo

Special Report with musical gift from the Triple T Truckstop just east of Tucson, AZ: Being a woman with face tattoos in the 1850s caused quite a stir. Even today, when tattoos abound among the most provincial-seeming folks, full face tattoos are rare. But when Olive Oatman believed that her whole family was dead, when she lived with the Yavapai for a year as a slave, and lived with the Mohave for two years as a daughter to "chief" of the tribe, she asked to be tattooed by her Mohave family so they would recognize her in the afterlife. And the afterlife was very present to her, since her entire family had been massacred by the starving Yavapai and she watched her sister die in captivity.

But quite unexpectedly and reluctantly, Olive re-entered "civilized" society and eventually died the wife of a wealthy Texas businessman. She wore a veil over her blue tattoo.

Last May, we found a book called The Blue Tattoo in Sallie Sue's Gift Shop at the Triple T Truckstop just east of Tucson -- which has a selection of books on the southwest rivaling any university bookstore. For many years, we'd passed the Oatman/Shinarump exit on I-40 just inside the Arizona border. That's when I first read about Olive and her blue tattoo. But last May, everything fell into place.

We wrote the song near Bend, Oregon. We played it first in Summit, Oregon, for Karl Smiley at his dinner table. We recorded the song with the Big Picnic Band in November. Today, we delivered the CD to Debra, the cashier, at the Triple T and sang her the chorus of the song. She took our picture in front of the books with tears in her eyes. "Don't lose your innocence," she said. "Stay just the way you are. Keep being happy. Be safe." Such a lovely person, Debra of Sallie Sue's Gift Shop on I-10 just east of Tucson.

And here it is streaming for your consideration: The Days of the Blue Tattoo.

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