The Price of a Taxi

September 5, 2004

I grabbed the manila envelope from my husband as he walked in from the mailbox. I had eagerly looked forward to hearing the tapes of Charnell Havens interviewing Jean Wallace McSwain about dating Quincy Tahoma.

Jean evoked the Santa Fe of the 1940’s and the parties where young Anglos and young Indian artists met and talked about art and life. As Jean recounted the story of the unlikely romance of a young woman who had grown up in Connecticut and attended a private school with a Navajo who had grown up in a hogan and attended Santa Fe Indian School, Charnell asked about prosaic things like transportation. Jean said she and Quincy mostly walked around town, but sometimes he would come and pick her up in a taxi. Charnell wondered what the fare would have been, and Jean did not know for sure, but said it was cheap.

Meanwhile, back in Tucson, I had been reading Turn Left at the Sleeping Dog, John Pen La Farge’s collection of oral histories of Santa Fe. There I learned that you could take a taxi anywhere within the city limits for fifty cents. Now we can picture Quincy fishing two quarters out of his jeans pocket to pay the cab driver. You never know when a detail like the price of a taxi ride may fit into the story of a life.

Ice delivery? Milk in bottles? What detail captures your life long ago?

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