There are times when I confuse my wife, my kids, my coworkers, and even myself. It is, however, relatively rare that I confound all of us at the same time. That, however, was the case several years ago when I bought a 1936 Chevy Sedan Delivery. Having come of age during the muscle car era of the 1970s, I had always wanted, craved, hungered for, a hot rod. American Graffiti, Gone in 60 Seconds, and even Smokey and the Bandit left an indelible mark on me. I needed to go fast, and my Ford F-150 pickup truck was never going to scratch that itch.
Why then, you might rightfully ask, didn’t I buy a 1970s car: a Hemi 'Cuda, a Dodge Challenger, a Chevy Chevelle, a Plymouth Roadrunner, or even a Mercury Cougar for Pete’s sake. The answer is . . . well, I just don’t know. At the time, the Sedan Delivery seemed an interesting project. There it sat in the side yard of its owner’s Grand Junction, Colorado, house, sad and run down, a shadow of its former self, its best days behind it, just looking for a sucker to come along and rescue it. Decades ago, it had been an essential business vehicle. I was an aging businessman, also a bit worn, so it seemed there might be a connection, some commonality. We might be kindred spirits. Maybe, I thought, we could both be redeemed. It seemed worth a shot, so I bought in.
Sedan deliveries were light-duty commercial transports built on a passenger car chassis. Consequently, they combined the ride and handling, gas mileage, and comfort of a passenger sedan or station wagon, with the carrying capacity of a panel truck or van. They were typically used for suburban services or light products delivery and were especially suitable for transporting smaller packages that could be stowed in the enclosed rear compartment. Their halcyon days began in the 1930s and tailed off during the 1950s. Consequently, my depression-era specimen was from the earlier days of the delivery movement.
My initial investment was modest, only about $5,000. All too soon, however, the enterprise began to consume gobs of greenbacks. The body work, new chassis, souped-up motor, custom wheels and tires, paint, and a variety of other upgrades required mountains of cash. And that is when the tension began to build. All too soon, I became embarrassed by the cost and started concealing the escalating payments from my originally supportive spouse. As everybody knows, that is a slippery slope. I convinced myself, however, that I was in the chute and couldn’t get off that raging bull without finishing the ride, no matter how painful, no matter the cost. Soon the car would be complete and nobody would be the wiser. When she discovered my duplicity, Jana was not amused. To make matters worse, my mechanic unexpectedly expired, leaving me a partially finished job and taking all the associated information with him to the grave.
After bouncing the Chevy from shop to shop for several months, the car was finally ready for the road. It was, however, too late. At times, I felt the car and I had been cursed. So, in order to exorcise the delivery demons and repair the relationship, the car had to go. As it happens, about that time John Huntress, accomplished Southwest lapidarist and noted authority on all things turquoise, arrived at Twin Rocks Trading Post with his cases of turquoise and coral treasure.
As I pawed through Royston, Candelaria, Blue Gem, and Bisbee pendants, buckles, and beads of great beauty, I laid out my tale of woe: hot rod, too much money wasted, angry spouse, gotta go. As anyone who has ever met “Brother John” knows, it is difficult to get a word in edgewise when he starts talking mining, miners, minerals, or making jewelry. Notwithstanding his inherent loquacity, John listened intently to my sad story and when I mentioned the car was a ’36 Chevy he seemed genuinely interested.“1936 Chevy Sedan Delivery?” he asked tentatively. “Yup,” I said, making a sad face. “When can I see it? Wanna trade?” It turns out John is a big fan of sedan deliveries and my automotive storm was about to break. The sun was shining through the clouds.
It took a while, but John and I finally hammered out a deal, baskets and jewelry for the Chevy. In the 1960s, Pete Seeger wrote a song entitled Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, which was recorded by the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary. I have often thought of that song in the context of historic Navajo baskets, which seem to have disappeared from the market about 20 years ago. While there was never an overabundance, when Twin Rocks Trading Post first opened in 1989, there were always a few circulating through the shop. And then they were gone, evaporated.
As John and I haggled through the details of our deal, I realized he had been one of the people hoarding the good ones, and was, at least in part, responsible for the dearth of early to mid-20th century Navajo baskets. At the end of the day, he had the Chevy, I had his cache of baskets and several pieces of turquoise jewelry, and the marriage was back on track. And that, as they say, was a fair trade.