Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Good Trade

Jana’s relatives are generally more diligent when it comes to tracking their family history than ours has been, and probably with good reason. For several years, her clan has been writing its stories, and this work recently culminated in a manuscript entitled A Good Trade, which is slated for publication by the University of Arizona Press.

Jana & Steve @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

In 1965, Jana’s paternal Grandmother, Mary Jeanette Kennedy, published her personal exploits in the book Tales of a Trader’s Wife. Since first learning of this small but interesting gem, I have feared Jana may become inspired do the same. Although my concern may seem irrational or unfounded, I have serious reservations what may happen if the truth is known.

Many years ago, with an eye on preserving our heritage, sister Cindy took it upon herself to begin looking into the Simpson family lineage. Having been raised around the Mormon culture, which makes researching one’s genealogy a priority, she felt we too should know more about where we originated and who we are. I am sure she had it in her mind that somewhere in the distant past there must be royalty; a king, queen, prince, princess, duke or duchess. A court jester or resident of the palace dungeon is, however, the most likely scenario.

Cindy began her inquiry by interviewing family members and reading documents that had long ago been hidden from public view. When I later asked how the project was progressing, she stated without explanation, “It has been permanently suspended.” It was only after an independent investigation of my own that I began to appreciate her decision. The list of incarcerated Simpsons only a few generations back was both embarrassing and impressive. My findings helped me understand both the shame and pride of Australians.

When it comes to Southwest Indian trading, which has been a part of our histories for several generations, our families have been both cooperative and competitive. It was not long after we opened Twin Rocks Trading Post that Jana and her father arrived to explore the opportunities. They opened their trunks of pueblo pottery, storytellers, Zuni jewelry, and miscellaneous other goods and the trading began. It has continued for almost 20 years.

At 96, Jana’s dad is clearly the senior member of the trading establishment, with decades on many of the other old-timers like Elijah Blair. I chuckled at Jana recently when she dejectedly informed me that her father was coming to Bluff to make his, “Last ever trip to the Reservation.” “Last trip!” I hurrumphed. “He will be back in less than 30 days.” “No,” she assured me, “this is really it, he’s getting too old to travel.” Two weeks later he was here trading for Navajo baskets, and has been back several times since.

Navajo Baskets @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

At the recent Second Annual Southwest Traders Rendezvous, Jana’s dad was recognized for his long-standing involvement in the industry. As Jana and I sat on the lectern with several contemporary legends of Indian trading, Claudia Blair, who is legendary in her own right, took the microphone and declared, “I want to shake Steve’s hand and give him a hug; he is the only one that ever out traded old John Kennedy.”

Claudia had unwittingly let the cat out of the bag. Unfortunately, taking the position that some things are better left unsaid, I had never informed my wife that I had gotten her in trade for Navajo basketry. “They were very nice baskets”, I sheepishly assured Jana. Although Claudia may have overstated my trading abilities, since that transaction was consummated I have understood how the Dutch traders must have felt when they bought Manhattan for $24.00 worth of beads. Now that was a good trade.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2008 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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