Troy's dad came here to this area and homesteaded in 1887, I think it was. He homesteaded some property down at Kirtland, New Mexico, when William McKinley was president. He homesteaded 160 acres. He began trading with the Indians from that time. He would go with his wagon to Durango, Colorado, and he always carried a gun on his hip in those times. I have his gun with ivory handles on it.
He would go back and forth with his wagon, bringing supplies to the Kirtland area. And he started a little store there. He had a farm on the property he had homesteaded. And then he had stores at different places. The longest one that his son owned with him was Lukachukai Trading PostLukachukai, Arizona. I think they were there close to forty years. Then he had a store at Kirtland, New MexicoFruitlandsame thing, nearly. He traded with the Indians 'til he died in 1944...
His name was William Leroy Kennedy, but they called him Roy. He dealt with the Indians so much. He had a little thumb that jutted out from his main thumb, and he could pinch with it, so the Indians gave him the name, "Two Thumbs." That was his name, Létsoh. And then my husband was named Létsoh Biye’, "Son of Two Thumbs.” Mr. Kennedy was really well likedand his wife, too. They lived right there and worked with the Indians all his life after he settled in the area...
There were seven children in the family. Out of the seven, five
of them were Indian traders, including one daughter [who] had Leupp Trading
Post, Leupp, Arizona. She was a McGee. And four brothers then
were traders... Lucille McGee. Her husband was Elmer McGee,
and they had Leupp for many years. They lived out at Leupp.
Then Walter lived at Dinnehotso, Arizona. Earl Kennedy was at Lukachukai.
And at one time they had a store at Mancos, Colorado. I've heard
Troy talk about it. And then Harold Kennedy was their youngest brother,
and he worked at Tosito. Troy and Walter bought a store for him,
bought Tohatchi Trading Post for the youngest brother, Harold. Harold
died quite young. I think he was in his forties when he died.
Five out of the seven were traders.
Jewel [McGee] offered us a partnership in Red Rock... We got a third to start with, and it was a working partnership. We had a small amount to pay down. Most of the time we'd pay him in the spring when we'd buy the wool and mohair and we'd get our sharewe'd give it to Jewel. And in the fall when we'd get our share from the lambs, we'd give it to Jewel, and we paid for our trading post like that....
We [then] bought half later on. I forgot what year that was. Again, we were paying it out for what we'd take in from the trading post, as we most of the time just had our money twice a year, as probably the traders have told youin the spring and in the fall, 'cause we’d credit the Navajos six months at a time. We bought a half, and then later, like I say, I think it was 1966probably Jewel might have told you, tooI believe it was 1966 that we bought the full amount of the store. And Jewel was ready to move into Farmington, where he started a ranching business. He had a big ranch....
We had lots of sheep. I suppose Jewel told you how we would herd
them into Farmington to get on the little narrow gauge train to ship them,
'cause we didn't have trucks or anybody to come out to get them, so we'd
gather up all the 2,000-3,000 sheep and hire herders, and they'd have
the chuck wagons. When we had bought all sheep at the end of October,
November, they'd start them toward Farmington. And a lot of times
Lukachukai would come over the mountains, and they would keep 'em in our
corrals sometimes at night, waiting to gather the next day to go on their
way. The traders would all meet in Farmington. When the train
came in to ship them out, they would really have a big partyall the
traders, the men. That was the end of their season, when they sold
all those lambs. All of the trading posts nearly had a lot of lambs
in those days. It was good business.
Our road wasn't paved. We ruined more shock absorbers on pickups. In the summer it would be sandy and dirty. In the winter it'd be snowbound. We really, that was our worst trial I think of the trading post, was getting supplies over that road, until it was paved. That was really the only difficulty, I think, that I remember much, was the terrible road.
One time the boys and I were in Farmington. It was the weekend, and Troy was out at the store, and they kept going over the radio, "Don't travel! Don't travel! The roads are slick, they're icy." And so I determined I was going to Red Rock with the boys on Friday after school.
We got in the car and we started out, and like a nut, I took their sled with us, I tied it to the bumper when we got off of the highway, and I pulled the sled with the boys on it that thirty miles (laughs) from the highway to Red Rock. I had a big, heavy carit didn't slip or slide, and I made it over that road. You know, a lot of times the Highway Department tells you not to go, and you can go. But we did, and I pulled them behind on that sled. Those boys will never forget that little ride.
And when I showed up, Troy just about was ready to shoot me (laughs) taking a chance and doing that. But we didn't slip and slide around even though it was icy. But the car, I just knew how to drive on icy roads.
... It wasn't paved 'til... I don't think it was paved 'til about
19... It was after the uranium. It must have been about 1980.
I think somewhere around in there. We were out there a long time
with that dirt road. (laughs) Well, so many of the roads all
over the reservation, thoughthat wasn't unusual, you know.
There's still a lot not paved and all. But this one was traveled
so much by people in that area. There's probably 3,000 people in
that area right there.
Cole: What were the living conditions like for the Navajo
at that time?
Well, most of them lived in their hogansthey didn't have very many houses.... So many of them lived in just one big hogan/room, and they would all pile down on the floor on their Pendleton shawls or robes and sleep. But they kept warm because they had a stove, usually, right in the middle of the hogan, and wood. They didn't have many possessions, so they weren't really crowded. And what they did have, they would hang up on the side of the hogan on the wall on pegs or nails or something.
They had to haul all of their water, of course, which a lot of them still
have to haul water. They had Coleman lights. We sold an awful
lot of Coleman fuel, and mantles for them. They made bright lights.
Or they had lanterns with kerosene. They were very scarce possessions
that they had, just their cooking utensils, and they slept on the floor,
and their blankets that they covered up with. And they also wore
their Pendleton shawls or robes for coats, too. But as you'd go
into those hogans, they were neat inside, because they didn't have a lot
of trash in them at allthey kept them neat, the ones that I was in
always, they were very neat.
Cole: How far away did some of your customers come from,
do you know?
Oh, my, they came from up on the mountain, way up the foot of that mountain,
probably, I imagine, let's see, from Cove, oh, probably twenty, twenty-five
miles. And we had a hogan out by our trading post. They'd
come and spend the night. It was too far, it'd be latein the
winter, especiallyand we had a stove in it, and they would stay all
night in that hogan. They'd just bed down out there, and bring feed
for their horses, and spend the night. Of course when they'd come
to the trading post, that was their social event, too. In the bull
pen they would meet and talk and laugh and have a good time. That
was when they would come to the store to buy groceries, also to socialize.
I think I learned not to raise my voice too loudly (laughs) if I got angry, because they're very low-speaking people. They don't speak loud.... I really learned patience and compassion, because if they liked you, they loved you to death. They'd do anything for you, they really would, when they liked you. Most of the old ones were that way. The young ones that were growing up during the last few years we had the store, very few could get credit, because they thought it was smart to beat us out of it. They weren't like the old ones when we went there, how good they were. Like I say, if they liked you, they couldn't do enough for you. They were there to help you, as well as you were to help them. It just was a slow-moving game, it really was.
They didn't hug and kiss on their children, but they loved them. They had a way of telling stories. The old grandfathers would sit around and tell the children all of the old stories of the old days. And that's so great for an older person to tell their family. That's why I say, my father-in-law, I should have done that. I didn't get any information from him. He came here as an orphan. We knew at one time he did have parents, but they died off when he was very young, and he came here with a Baptist minister. We knew that much, but we didn't sit down and ask him. Where the Indians, the old grandfather would sit around in the hogan with the kids gathered around him, and the family, and they would tell stories. And they did that at night for entertainment. So their stories and legends have been handed down to the younger generation. I don't know about now, what's going on. I doubt if any of that goes on much now, but in those days, when we first went out there, they would.
I've always thought of that picture at the end of the trail, the man on the horse. You would see a flock of sheep out on the prairie between Shiprock and our trading post, and there would be a Navajo just sitting there, up on a little knoll, slumped over in his saddle, looked like he was asleepjust a beautiful picture sitting there. Peaceful, quiet, you know, and the sheep out there grazing. And I'd think, "Oh, that's a peaceful picture. They would go out like that and take their sheep and just sit and sit. They were content, it didn't bother them, they weren't restless. But now, it's a different story all togetherthey're a restless people.