Jane Kepp

Remembering Arroyo Hondo, Jane Kepp, October 24, 2015

I spent three of the best summers of my life working at Arroyo Hondo, and they set me on the most satisfying career path I could possibly have stumbled upon.

When Doug Schwartz hired me as his research assistant in May 1971, I had just graduated from the University of New Mexico, having transferred there from the East for my senior year in order to study archaeology. Everything about New Mexico was new and thrilling, and suddenly I had a job as a real archaeologist. My only previous experience on a dig had been on the coast of British Columbia, so what I knew about Pueblo archaeology came mostly from books and professors. Although Doug hired me to do library research on the effects of rapid population growth—the focus of his research plan for Arroyo Hondo—I managed to convince him that I couldn't do meaningful research without firsthand knowledge of the site. So he put me on the excavation crew that summer.

As the first woman Doug had ever hired as an excavator, I had to prove I could do the hard work. On the second day in the field, I showed up with bandages on both hands over the blisters I'd acquired the day before—probably not a reassuring sight. But I must have toughened up and done all right, because not only did I remain on the crew for the next two summers but also Doug began hiring more women each year. Some of the others played key roles in the project, notably Ann Palkovich and Wilma Wetterstrom.

Doug really knew how to run a field camp. Our living tents were large enough to stand up in and must have been designed for four to six people each, but we shared them only two to a tent. A full-time cook, Reba Ferguson, whipped up tasty meals in her kitchen tent (she could do wonders with Spam) and served them to us in an open-sided dining tent with a view of the site. From a water tank mounted on a platform, hoses carried water to a wash stand and a shower tent. And at night we could grope our way through the chollas to one of several strategically placed chemical toilets.

We worked hard, but the work itself was interesting and usually enjoyable, and we had plenty of fun after hours, some of which I can actually talk about. One of the crew members had access to a large, spring-fed pond on his parents' ranch along the Santa Fe River, and we often went there after work to swim. We also built a sweat lodge near camp, squeezing ourselves in to swelter around a pit filled with heated rocks.

I missed the 1974 field season, but once the fieldwork ended and I had finished my master's degree at UNM, I got involved in editing the reports coming out of the Arroyo Hondo project. I quickly found that I had much more talent as an editor than as an archaeologist, and now I was getting paid to read. Helping the specialists figure out how best to express their findings, I got to learn all about their interpretations even before they went to press. I also received an early introduction to the surprisingly varied and unexpected tasks editors can be called upon to do. For example, when the first Hondo manuscript was allegedly ready for publication—Ed Kelley's Contemporary Ecology—I discovered that none of the photos it needed, illustrating the different vegetation zones around Arroyo Hondo Pueblo, had ever been taken. So I rounded up Dick Lang, the project's former field supervisor, who knew where the zones were, and photographer David Noble, both of whom were still on staff, and we went driving around looking for photogenic views and taking pictures. This sort of “editing in the trenches” served me well: I ended up staying at SAR for altogether twenty years, running the SAR Press for thirteen of them, and then edited freelance at home for another twenty-two. It was a wonderful career, and I thank Doug Schwartz for hiring me as a green twenty-two-year-old and giving me a loose rein to find my own way. His is one of many lasting friendships that I still enjoy from those three wonderful summers.