Ron Garnanez and his wife, Alice, live off-reservation with their four children. They work as home health nurses, tend their livestock, and grow crops on their fertile land along the San Juan River. At summer and winter sheep camps on the Navajo Nation, they maintain a flock of over 500 sheep and goats with the assistance of a sheep herder, a llama, and sheep dogs.
Remarkably, Ron finds time to card and spin his animals' wool for trade or for his own weaving. He uses both the traditional Navajo spindle and the drop spindle. He learned about the drop spindle at a third world health conference at his sheep camp where he watched South Americans using the technique.
"While we were talking, they were spinning," explains Ron. "I thought, I'll make one of those. That would be fun to do, especially while I'm herding my sheep. So one day I made my own drop spindle, got on the horse, got it ready, dropped it, and it just kept going all the way down to the ground. Then the horse took off with me; the drop spindle was dragging behind us! Later I was watching a program on South America. They were driving llamas and spinning wool and I saw [a certain] motion and I said, 'that's it! That's how they make it work!' The spindle had a notch to catch the wool."