Friday, February 5, 2010

Born To Trade

Shortly after I arrived at Twin Rocks Trading Post, I began to question whether my decision to come home and enter the family business was preordained or a matter of free will. For many months I vacillated between the two alternatives; was it destiny or personal choice. Initially I was convinced it was the result of a conscious decision on my part, but as the months rolled by I was less and less sure.

Steve @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

Wrestling with this question for days on end, I began to believe it is suspicious how seemingly unimportant occurrences turn out to be the most important happenings in one’s life. The entire course of your time on earth can be altered by a seemingly innocuous decision; right or left, yes or no. Admittedly, coming to Bluff was a major change, but in reality was the result of an ostensibly trivial choice made years before.

The day the Simpson family acquired its first television set in the early 1960s, an interesting but certainly not groundbreaking event, would turn out to be one of those life altering incidents. Back then not many families in Bluff had TV. Of course back then there were not many families in Bluff anyway. The original signal came through a two strand wire held together by cylindrical black spacers. That cable was lashed to small towers and slug over the cliffs, a crude but workable system; at least until the wind blew. Remnants of this early network can still be seen protruding from the sandstone behind the trading post.

Although I do not recall much about the early programming, I can still remember the broadcast symbol which came on at the end of the day and hear the humming sound that accompanied it just before the television went dead. Although I have never been a great fan TV, there was one program I really loved. No, it was not I Love Lucy or Mayberry R.F.D., it was in fact Let’s Make a Deal.

It was probably not until the show came to nighttime television in 1971 that I realized the impact it was having on my life. I remember sitting on the edge of my chair each night as the contestants tried to outsmart the host Monty Hall. Their goal was to take home the super prize, rather than the mediocre gift they had been initially awarded. “Choose door number 3” or “Don’t fall for that, it’s a trap,” I would shout at them, as though they could hear my advice.

Soon I discovered myself trying to make deals whenever possible; a few bucks for an old watch, an old watch for a turquoise ring. When I found myself at Twin Rocks I was like a pig in slop, I fit right in. Big deals or small deals, it made no difference; I was a deal junkie.

One day Bob Slaven wandered into the trading post. Bob was a legendary trader who bartered literally anything; guns, saddles, coins, jewelry, feed, horses, cars. Whatever you needed, he usually had and was willing to swap. Once, during my tenure as a single man, I even considered asking Bob if he had any prospective brides among his trade goods, but decided that was an idea better left alone. Bob would surely have one, and I would end up with the short straw.

Bob had been on my radar for some time, but realizing he could end my trading career in one short afternoon of negotiating, I had studiously avoided him. Standing behind the counter as he approached, I tried to be brave. I was, however, genuinely worried. “What do you have to trade,” he casually inquired. I surveyed my stock of Navajo rugs, turquoise jewelry and folk art. I even thought of offering up Barry. In the end, however, there was nothing I could afford to lose, and losing was a sure thing when it came to trading with Bob.

“Let’s Make a Deal,” he said. The words shook me to my core. Here was a trader I actually feared using my own strategies against me. Screwing up my courage, I resolutely said, “No, Bob, I’m not trading with you today!” Bob looked as though he had been struck in the face. He was not, however, the type to give up easily. Attempting to draw me in he said, “You’re a smart guy. You can handle it.” “Yes,” I said, “smart enough to know when I’m outgunned.” As Bob walked out the door I felt badly for him, he lived to trade. I had spoiled his fun by refusing to engage, and Bob was sorely disappointed.

As I watched Bob climb into his pickup truck and drive away, I began to think trading must be genetic. Let’s Make a Deal had only brought out the latent tendencies that smoldered deep in my breast. Like Bob, I was born to trade.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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