Cattle rancher Tim Trabon has shared things with me over the years. So has printing entrepreneur Tim Trabon. As has adventurer Tim Trabon. His hat rack holds sweatbanded Stetsons, a red watch cap from Jaques Cousteau, a worn boonie hat, a beekeeper's mesh helmet, a Borsalino fedora, probably a pith helmet -- many other hats, many passions, many goals achieved. He sets his cap, so to speak, and off he goes. To conquer another world.
He comes by it through DNA and by way of books and dreams and happenstance. To paraphrase Lew Grizzard's book title, his daddy was a pistol, he's a son of a gun.
His father's parents emigrated from Sicily to New Orleans, where Tim's father Mike Trabon was born in 1907. The family moved to Rosedale, and at age 13, Mike was arrested for allegedly stealing a tire. He learned the printing trade in reform school, and left Tim a Heidelberg letterpress when he passed away. It was with this basement find that Trabon Printing began.
In his teens, Mike hopped a freight train and took off for Mexico where he was apprehended by authorities and sent home. He had a tattoo of bull on his forearm when he returned. The local priest stopped his father from beating the boy, stating, "the tattoo is not a bad thing. It'll make it easier to identify his body some day."
Mike deserves a book, but a few facts bring him into focus. He was court martialed three times; once when he broke a drill sergeant's jaw for beating an enlisted man, once for appropriating a general's beef and whiskey stash and throwing a party, and finally, when an island had been evacuated, all but thirteen men (including Mike) due to an expected Japanese invasion, he was told to defend the island. He laughed at that order.
Mike's brother Jim, Tim's uncle, was a motorcycle cop and one of the principals in the KC Star headline, "Two Brothers Involved in Shootings, the Same Day." Jim stopped a carful of Ma Barker's gang and barely dodged a shotgun blast, while Mike was seriously wounded in a "political argument" in a restaurant on 31st Street. This was in the 1930's. Mike survived to travel through the South Pacific with an 8mm movie camera shortly before WWII. One wonders if he was on his own, or working for a precursor of the OSS.
One piece of black and white footage shows a native ceremony with Mike in the middle. A procession of women dance toward him, laying woven mats on the ground where he sits. Years later Tim participated in a Kava ceremony on one of the Fiji islands and he mentioned the footage, asked what it may have been. The native said it was a marriage ceremony, and said "I knew you looked familiar!" This revelation led Tim to believe his old man was married more than the three times he admitted to.
Tim describes his Fiji Island Kava ceremony: "We sat in a circle, the head man dipped a wooden bowl in a larger bowl that contained a muddy liquid made from pounding Kava roots. It was their version of beer. It had a peppery taste and made your lips go numb. He would fill the little bowl, extend it to a man in the circle, everyone would clap their hands together once. You would take the bowl, drink all the liquid and everyone would clap three times. It would start again. The bowl would be passed to each man ten or twelve times." We tried to emulate the ceremony at various Westport bars and pool-table roadhouses in our misspent youth. It wasn't quite as organized but the results were much the same. It made our lips go numb.
Tim's wanderlust and quest for adventure are quite understandable in the context of geneology. And the fine craft of printing was part of the heritage. My own forebears ran guns to Mexico, chased people with swordcanes and roughnecked in the oil fields of Louisiana. They lived. As did Tim's father. Fully