In 1976, Douglas Miles published a book entitled Cutlass and Crescent Moon based on research carried out in South Borneo in the early 1960s. I take up some of the themes of that work to provide a narrative account of trade, barter and exchange across the Indonesian-Malaysian border on the upper Balui River of Sarawak in the last decades of the 20th century. Doug supervised my PhD thesis on rural commodity markets in Java for a short period and the advice he gave at that time was crucial, not only for the development of the thesis, but also for ensuing publications. The gist was that all research detail is important, but that one should not lose track of the main theme. In other words, good ethnographic writing should paint both the big picture and the small.