Everyone has got to have a hobby, right? Well, most of the Airstreamers I know have several. It seems to be part of the Airstream owner psychological profile to be interested in lots of things. Perhaps it comes from our deep-seated need to explore.
My friend Fred Coldwell is a prime example. In addition to being the foremost authority on historical Airstreams (and hence a frequent contributor to Airstream Life magazine), he is also very well-versed in the history of WW II Jeeps and “agrijeeps”, and lately, Pendleton blankets.
He’s written two articles for Airstream Life about the history of Pendleton’s long-running “National Park” blankets, and he also has a website on the subject, for collectors. Fred claims that Airstreams and National Park blankets naturally go together. In his first article he suggested that it would a most sublime experience to visit some of the parks in their 100th anniversary years, and then go to sleep in your Airstream beneath a warm woolly blanket from one of those very parks.
Visiting Fred’s house, I’ve always been struck by the incredible collection of vintage national parks blankets he has. His bed is literally buried in them, so many that I wonder how he is able to get in bed at night. He has chests full of them, each with a very specific historical significance that he can explain. The stripes and designs of each blanket have meaning, and many of them are limited editions or historical versions that are no longer produced. It seems almost as if there as many variations to collect as there are with Hummel figurines.
Fred has been single-handedly responsible for my interest in the Pendletons, too. Not long after he wrote his first article, Eleanor and I spotted a limited edition Grand Canyon blanket at the North Rim, and we bought it as an anniversary present to ourselves. A few months later, I bought another one on eBay, “Homage To Spider Woman.” (No, not Spiderman’s girlfriend, but a person from Native American lore.) That one was featured in a fine art post card by Facerock Productions (no longer pictured on their website) and came to me with some red dust still in it from the photo shoot.
The Spider Woman blanket was used on our couch for the winter, and has since gone into the Caravel. The Grand Canyon blanket covered our bed in the house until this summer when I bought three more Pendletons in a bit of a blow-out sale. A guy had gotten these using coupons he’d won at an Indian casino, and was selling them on eBay for cash. Fred, again, was the motivating factor. He emailed me to say, “You’ve got to have this one!” and looking at the Man In The Maze pattern, I decided he was right.
When the buyer came over, he offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse on “The Record Keeper” (pictured at left), so now we have a total of four Pendletons. One for each Airstream, one for Emma’s bed, one for our bed. I plan to rotate them around, since I love all of the designs.
Pendleton makes the collecting habit even more addictive by creating limited-production versions for special groups. For example, the special Grand Canyon blanket we bought could only be purchased at the North or South Rim stores, and only for a year or so. It wasn’t even advertised. You had to go there in order to get one. The “Man In The Maze” blanket is only sold by the Tohono O’odham community in Arizona. My Spider Woman blanket is also no longer available. There are zillions of really cool designs that you simply can’t buy today, unless you can find one used. This ensures scarcity of certain designs, and drives collectors into a frenzy to get “rare” blankets.
But the only really bad thing about collecting these Pendletons is that they are expensive. Typical retail is $200+, although I’ve managed some bargains. They last forever, with appropriate care, and can become heirlooms, but there’s no doubt that collecting blankets is not cheap.
And that brings me to the key point of today’s blog. Pendleton Woolen Mills is running a video contest in which you can win a full set of National Park blankets. Their “Celebrate the National Parks” contest runs through November 1, 2010. To enter, make a short video of why you love our National Parks or describing your favorite National Park, and post it on YouTube. (Details here.) If your video has the most views by November 1, 2010, you win. So, if you are heading out to any national park this summer or fall, take the video camera and maybe you can win the entire set!