Although her husband, James, officially owned the store, Clara Griffiths pretty much ran the place. She also filled the job as Post-mistress of the Frisco, Utah post office which was housed in a small building next to the store and accessed through an adjoining doorway. She also served as the town medical emergency service – assisting with the birth of most babies in the town, patching up injured miners, resetting bone fractures from bucking broncs, and preparing bodies for their final resting places in the cemetery south of town. Clara also served as chief psychiatrist for those who happened into the store bearing troubled souls.
So, it wasn’t unusual to find her helping an old Indian brave who seemed to follow the Paiute tribe that passed through the town on a regular basis.
The Southern Paiute’s would come to Frisco every fall on their treks to hunt pine nuts in the hills. These tasty nuggets would fall from their pine cones when the frosts hit the Pinon Pines that grew along the slopes of the desert mountains ranges. The cones would open in the cold air and the small casings would fall to the ground, then the Native Americans would scoop them up, roast them, use them in many of their recipes and sell the extra to the settlers.
The members of the tribe always visited the Griffith store when they came near the town. They knew that Clara would be willing to sell them bottles of “Jamaican Ginger”, a very spicy-hot drink that they had trouble getting from any other source. In the 1800s Native Americans were forbidden to buy any alcoholic libations. So, they turned to patent medicines for their enjoyment.
Patent medical remedies would seldom cure you of anything, but after a few sips of this stuff you wouldn’t care! The contents of a few herbs and spices might give a little flavor, but the 70-80% alcohol would mask anything else.
Clara understood the plight of her Indian friends. She understood their culture too. When the Tribe came near to town, they would make camp on the sage flats some distance away. They constructed sage-covered huts close to each other and made small fires downwind. They told her: “White man make big fire – then stand back and get cold. Indian make small fire – come close, get warm.”
When Clara came to the camp to bring supplies, she would always bring a little extra for one man who wasn’t camping with the rest. Hubuk would have his own sage hut at least 100 yards away. He was an outcast. Clara never knew what Hubuk had done to be shunned, but he was never allowed to get any nearer to the tribe than this. Still, these were his people and he wouldn’t leave them. Without speaking to Clara, Hubuk would merely nod his thanks, and look away when she came by his lonely spot.
She watched as the tribe moved on after spending a few days near Frisco. As the long line of Native Americans moved south toward the Wah Wah Valley, Clara would stand on the porch of the store and watch for Hubuk to follow behind walking in the dust.