Indian trader has seen much history

Don McAlavy

H. W. Rehorn says he is the oldest Indian trader in New Mexico. He has been at it 43 years. He is now 82 and still in the business in his Indian Shop of Triangle, inside Triangle Home Center on North Prince.
He said a Clovis woman asked him to move here 28 years ago because she liked his Indian jewelry.
Rehorn, pronounced Ray-horn, said he was born in Orange City, Iowa, but raised in Kansas City, Kan., during depression times. He said he was making a living for his mother by the time he was 14. He said his parents separated when he was 4.
He has a cash register made in 1915 that he says tells the history of the depression. “The biggest sale it can ring up is 59 cents,” he jokes.
Rehorn also has a marble shelf with a lot of history in it. “I’ve had people in here 80 years old,” he said, “and they have forgotten what that is. But I’ll give you a clue: The banks put in marble counters around the tellers. The marble was a counterfeit detector for silver. You dropped your silver coins and it would ring. And the lead slugs crooks tried to pass wouldn’t ring. Now our coins don’t ring because there is no silver in them.”
Rehorn said he lived with his mother until he was 19. His business career has been long and varied.
“I went into business in Kansas City at age 27,” he said. “I had a lot of businesses. I didn’t have any education; never went beyond the eighth grade.
“I knew you could make money if you sold things. I went into the service station business and Firestone tire business, and then I bought a restaurant. I sold out in 1955. I had picked up asthma; never had asthma in my life and my brother was an engineer on the railroad out here (Clovis). Every time I came out here to visit him I felt better.
“What got me into the Indian business though … you know I’m an historical buff, too … I teach Indian history, giving talks to civic clubs, etc.
“Kansas City used to have five small tribes of Indians. When I was a boy the Indians would come back from Oklahoma, where they had been sent, and pitch their teepees in the middle of town and had pow-wows for two weeks each year. It thrilled me to no end.
“When I moved out here in 1955 I got acquainted with Indians in New Mexico. I used to have a pawn shop at Seventh and Main, in the Village. I got acquainted with Geronimo’s son, Robert, who was on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation down near Ruidoso. I got acquainted with many Indians. You’d be surprised how many visit my shop. Many Navajos make a lot of my merchandise and over 90 percent of it is reservation-made.
“To me my Indian Shop of Triangle is an investment as silver is one of the best investments there is. I have over 500 squash-blossom necklaces. I have a few here in my shop but the rest are in vaults. If you get real Indian jewelry it’s 92.5 percent silver. Better than having money.
“Some of my things here are museum pieces such as my old trade beads, my old Indian blankets.
“You know it was the Spaniards that taught the Indians to make jewelry and weave blankets. Before the Spaniards came, the only trade goods they made were pottery and woven baskets.
“I bought my first plane in 1962, an Aronica, for $600. Bud Cagle taught me how to fly. I’ve flown many places, even to Santiago, Chile. I’ve traveled this world. But all of my jewelry comes from New Mexico and Arizona (silver), and Oklahoma (bead work). A lot of my jewelry I sell goes overseas. German people really love it.”
H. W. Rehorn said he is of German descent.
“Three Rehorn brothers came to America in 1800 and they split up and finally one settled in Tennessee, one in Kansas, and the other one in California,” said Rehorn.
“One of my uncles, named Frank Rehorn, was head of the Bank of America in California for years.”
Besides being a merchant, Harlan W. Rehorn is an associate pastor at the Texico Assembly of God Church. He is an amazing man.

Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.