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The Mine and Yours


As we noted in a previous post, Cano Graham was an actor who had helped found the Method Acting School. Tired of the vacuity, decadence, and avarice rampant in the entertainment business, he “dropped out” of conventional society in the early seventies, moving into a small house in the Mojave Desert. There he befriended several members of the Western Shoshone Tribe, including Corbin Harney, its chief and spiritual leader.

After gaining the tribe’s trust, Graham was allowed to participate in its religious rituals. The Western Shoshone showed him their sacred caves and baths near Tecopa Hot Springs, California, and they told him about the healing power in their clay mine. It was their “amazin’ healing mud”, as he told a friend a few years later. His life, he said, was forever altered by the discovery.

In 1976, after receiving the tribe’s permission, Graham founded the Crystal Cross Resort in an old strip motel in Tecopa Hot Springs. There he offered healing sessions in calcium bentonite clay baths. Graham was an effective evangelist for the cause, and tens of thousands of guests underwent spa treatment at his resort over the next decade.

Cano Graham wanted more. He wanted his local therapeutic clay business to reach a national market, but he didn’t know enough about business to make it work. He would need help.

In 1985, Graham met David Smith, who was interested in exploring alternative medicine. Smith had the business experience Graham lacked, so Graham tried to convince him to to help market his clay therapy nationwide. Smith was unsure that such a venture could be profitable, though, and he was busy with other projects, so it took five years for Graham to convince him to act. Smith finally visited the Crystal Cross Resort and the clay mine in 1990. What he saw impressed him. Shortly afterward, he and Graham signed a partnership agreement.

Securing the mining rights would be complicated. Smith and Graham would need a mineral lease from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which owned the land, permission from the Western Shoshone, who lived on the land, and permission from the U.S. Navy, which had a small base in the area. It took two years to secure the necessary agreements and bring the product to market.

Smith decided to market the mine product under the name of Nature’s Body Beautiful. To Austin’s 1991 Whole Life Expo, then one of the largest trade shows in the United States, Smith brought 200 jars of the clay powder, for which he charged $27.77 per jar. He sold every one on the first day.

To be continued…

(Editor’s note: The image in the enclosed photo is Tecopa Hot Springs, California, which is near a calcium bentonite clay mine.)

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