When David and Courtney Reeder Jones moved into two rooms reached by ladder in a northern Arizona Indian ruin, they had been married only two weeks. Except for the ruin's cement floors, which were originally hardened mud, and skylights instead of smokeholes, the rooms were exactly as they had been 800 years before.
The year was 1938, and the newlyweds had come to Wupatki National Monument as full-time National Park Service caretakers for the ruin. Remote in time and place, their story as described in Courtney's letters will take readers into a dramatic landscape of red rocks, purple volcanoes, and endless blue sky. Here, some 60 years ago, two young people came to terms with their new life together and with their nearly total reliance upon each other and their Navajo neighbors.
"They helped us in any way that a neighbor would, and we helped them as we could," wrote Courtney in her memoirs years later. Vivid and engaging, her letters home spill over with descriptions of their friendship with local Navajo families, their sings and celebrations, and her good luck in being able to be a part of it all.
Letters from Wupatki captures a more innocent era in southwestern archaeology and the history of the National Park Service before the post-war years brought paved roads, expanded park facilities, and ever-increasing crowds of visitors. Courtney's letters to her family and friends reflect all the charm of the earlier time as they convey the sense of rapid transition that came after the war.
Tracking those changes in the development of Wupatki National Monument and the National Park Service, the letters also—and perhaps more important—reveal changes in the Joneses themselves. Of particular interest to anthropologists and historians, their story also gives the general reader captivating glimpses of a partnership between two people who only grew stronger for the struggles they shared together.