By: Jerry R. Barksdale
My good friend (and sometimes red-head) Pat and I spent the night with my grandson, Joshua at his adobe house outside Santa Fe. There was no air conditioner and none was needed. Open windows let in cool air from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains along with the lonesome call of coyotes. Joshua, age 19, had worked at the upscale Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi for only one day and immediately asked four days off to visit with us. I appreciated his desire to be with us, but it brought on grandfatherly advice. “The secret of job security,” I said, “is arriving early, sober and clean; leave late, don’t complain and always be available. Others won’t do that. Pretty soon you’ll be on top.” Of course, that’s old fogey thinking. Nowadays, it’s popular to whine, become a victim and sue someone – anyone.
Next morning, I departed Santa Fe, leaving Pat and Joshua to shop and, drove the high road through the mountains to Taos.
The ancient village of Chimayo, settled by Spanish colonists around 1680, clings to the brown foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I stopped at Ortega’s weaving shop and looked at several hand-woven, wool rugs, but resisted the temptation to purchase yet another one. Later, I visited Santuario de Chimayo, a Catholic sanctuary built in 1810. It’s claimed that the soil beneath the floor has healing power. Scores of crutches hanging on the wall attest to its miraculous power. Who am I to say otherwise? When I was a kid many older folks drank Hadacol, an over the counter potion high in alcohol content, that worked miracles on some folks. Many women swore by it. It was rumored that an old fellow at Piney Chapel with a wooden leg drank it daily. It was so potent he had to carry a hatchet to keep the sprouting limbs trimmed off his leg. Not only that, when I was 11 years old, Uncle James Burch purchased all 16 warts on my hands for a penny each. They disappeared within days. Was it a miracle? For me it was.
In Taos, I took a room at Kachina Inn, next door to the Indian Pueblo, and read the Taos News while waiting for Pat and Joshua to arrive. Citizens were in an uproar, as usual. They opposed Walmart, the Dollar Store, burning porch lights at night (it pollutes darkness) and the expansion of their tiny air strip. Tempers flared at a public meeting and one official was properly dog cussed. One lady was fearful, that “the military could possibly use it.” Gasp! According to a recent survey residents described Taos citizens as “a little crazy,” “wacky and weird,” and “unable to show up to anything on time – preferably two hours late.” Here’s my definition: Imagine a powerful magnet located in the center of America strong enough to attract every nut and loose screw from both the East and West Coast. That’s Taos. I love it! But I don’t want them running our country. Later, I sauntered into the Broadsky Book Shop on Paseo del Pueblo Street North and mentioned that I was from Athens, Alabama. “What street?” asked the long-haired clerk. It was Chipper Thompson, son of the well-known Athens artist, Bob Thompson. Chipper and my son, Mark were childhood playmates when we lived on Aston Street. Chipper married Huntsville artist, Langford Monroe and they moved to Taos several years ago. Unfortunately, her career was cut short by death. Chipper is a well-known Taos singer and musician and recently published The Substance of Things Hoped for, his first novel (www.chipperthompson.com). Being a high brow reader, I purchased a used copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence who is buried north of Taos. Lawrence was hounded out of England in 1922 and the book banned. Nowadays its probably required reading in the third grade.
The sky was turquoise blue and the air cool and thin when Pat, Joshua and I joined Shannon and her best friend, Jamie for lunch on the deck of the Bavarian Restaurant high in the Taos Ski Valley. Jamie is Northern Cheyenne, born and reared on the Lame Deer Reservation in Montana. Her Indian name is “One Who Kills In The Morning.” I know a woman like that – my ex. Contrary to her name, Jamie is sweet, kind and beautiful. The name was given her by her people for standing up to the U.S. Government. She and her German-born husband operate the excellent restaurant. Shannon loves Jamie and considers her the sister she never had. “Jamie and I are blood sisters,” Shannon announced over a platter of bratwurst and fried potatoes. Several months earlier, while enjoying wine, Shannon proposed that they become blood sisters; went to the kitchen, returned with a butcher knife; slit open their palms and mixed their blood. Jamie had never heard of such, but went along with it. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. “It’s how they do it in the movies,” Shannon replied. Jamie just shook her head and laughed.
By: Jerry Barksdale