The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Do you know where your wallet is?

Despite the countless times I have lost, misplaced, or left it in a restaurant, I never realized the consequences of the situation until my purse was actually stolen. I knew it would involve cancelling credit cards and bank accounts, replacing my driver’s license, getting new Social Security, voter-registration, and phone cards, new club membership, grocery store, and library cards, and new glasses, but when friends all offered their deepest condolences, I began to realize the gravity of the situation. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” they said. “If there’s anything I can do...” It was as though someone close to me had died.

I called every studio on the Placitas Studio Tour to see if I had mindlessly left my purse there, but finally accepted the fact that it had been stolen out of my car trunk by the teenage boys we passed on a hike to Tejon earlier that day—rotten, cute boys that had the nerve to say hi to us as we passed them. No, I hadn’t locked the car.

Oh, I’d seen those funny public-service ads about identity theft, but how can someone actually steal your identity? You’re still you and they’re not. I flamed with thoughts of some eighteen-year-old girl (with long brown hair) down at the Launchpad in Albuquerque, laughing and drinking on my driver’s license after changing the 5 to an 8 in my birth year.

And what about all my credit cards packaged neatly together like multicolored picture postcards? Friends assured me that I wouldn’t be libel for bogus credit-card charges, but I suspected that it could still look bad and make it hard to borrow money in the future—much like filing a claim on a car accident that isn’t your fault. I naively thought we are more than our credit history.

Then my concerns changed direction. My wallet contained at least twenty years of personal history. It was two inches thick and not closable. There were cherished old photos of my three kids, miscellaneous receipts and ticket stubs that had accumulated as an unintentional diary, uncashed gift cards, phone numbers, and other happy bits and pieces carried around for no good reason. Perhaps more than the financial loss and the hassle of replacing my purse’s contents was the thought of some stranger frolicking through this intimate view of my life.

I knew what the thieves looked like, but I didn’t know their names, nor did I have any proof. Somebody said I should file a report anyway, for credit card and insurance purposes, so I reported the theft to the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department, which sent two deputies all the way out to our Placitas house just to write up a report. They seemed surprisingly concerned about my loss. The deputies told me that all a person needs is your name, date of birth, and Social Security number to use your identity to order credit cards. All these things were in my wallet. They informed me that identity theft is the crime of choice among our young local meth addicts.

So I signed up for the free thirty-day trial period of one those privacy-guard programs with their promise that for one low monthly payment I could protect myself from the horrors of identity theft. They offer a comprehensive analysis of your personal credit portfolio, a report notifying you of any inquiries or negative information added to your files, and even reimbursement of lost wages during the month of full-time work it might take to repair your credit history. Things were looking darker, but the perhaps imaginary relief from this identity-theft program and the fact that my credit cards were now all cancelled made me feel a little better.
I waited daily for a call that someone had found my purse. My family drove the road out to the trailhead three times, scouring the bushes in case it had been discarded there. We looked at night with flashlights, looking deep into dark culverts. If no wallet, I still wanted the other things.

A few days later, my husband received notice from the Veterans Administration notifying him that his Army identification records from 1971 to 1973 had been stolen and that now he was among twenty-six million vets at risk of identity theft. Other reports said it was just post-1975 records, but that nobody really knew for sure.
Well, dang. We’ve worn our Social Security numbers like identity badges for most of our lives—student IDs, dog tags, employee IDs, voter-registration cards. Birth dates used to be something to celebrate.

Attorney General Madrid has advised all consumers to order a free credit report and check it for accounts you did not open, debts you did not incur, etcetera. My husband and I anxiously awaited the release of the Identity Theft Repair Handbook.

But there’s a happy ending, maybe not for the twenty-six million veterans, but for me. Ten days into all the worry, we got a call from a woman who lived just down the road from the trailhead to Tejon near where the alleged theft had occurred. She told us her puppies had knocked over her trash cans and ripped open some of the bags. My purse and contents had spilled out of one of the bags and were among the scattered garbage. Gone was my ninety dollars in cash, of course, but all else was miraculously still there—driver’s license, Social Security card, glasses, pictures—although now smelling like dead mice. Apparently the boys weren’t concerned with identify theft.

And suddenly, I wasn’t either. I immediately cancelled the privacy-guard membership and never checked my credit report. Next thing you know, we’ll hear that somebody stole the files from the privacy-guard people, so why should they have all my information? I bought a skinny new wallet that contains two of my credit cards, my driver’s license, and one duplicated picture of my kids. The rest has been delegated to a bottom drawer at home and the photos placed where they belong—in a nice, neat album.

For further information about protecting your personal information, go to or call 1-800-678-1508.

Fire in Alaska

Soon after ignition, the Parks Highway Fire south of Fairbanks Alaska stopped traffic.

Forester’s log—Alaska adventuring

When I spent the first night of my recent Alaska odyssey sleeping a few hours by the side of the road in Nenana, Alaska, I had no idea this town would exert its pull on me in the most unusual way. I had flown into Fairbanks on a Friday and was heading toward Denali National Park. The main purpose of my Alaskan visit was to moderate a panel at the thirtieth annual Intertribal Timber Council Conference in Fairbanks. I planned to spend the weekends on either side of the workshop exploring the Last Frontier.

After rafting on the Nenana River and hiking in Denali National Park, I rendezvoused back in Fairbanks with several of my staff. The Tanana Chiefs Council, in Fairbanks, was sponsoring the native-focused national-forestry gathering. On Wednesday of the conference, my staff broke into two groups. While a small group went to visit Denali National Park, most of our group participated in the conference-hosted field trip. After a morning of learning about black spruce, white spruce, and birch-aspen forest ecology, Nenana tribal leaders set out a beautiful lunch on the Tanana River beach in Nenana. Tribal children entertained us with traditional dancing and singing.

At our next forest stop above the town, several of us noticed a plume of smoke starting in the valley below. As our speakers talked of thinning, forest pests, and the effects of global warming on boreal forests, we watched the smoke column grow. My Denali-bound employees called in to report that their attempts were thwarted by a closed highway, tall flames, and smoke jumpers coming out of the sky.

Despite the excitement of watching the fire develop, my staff was more excited with the conference agenda. On Thursday, five of my employees presented papers relating to our work on Fort Apache Reservation, in Arizona. All tribal forestry technicians, this was their first opportunity to speak at a national conference. The speeches drew wonderful evaluations and generated thoughtful discussions.

Later on that near summer-solstice Alaskan night, we were mesmerized by the smoke column, now quite visible from Fairbanks. The next morning I drove my staff to the airport. On my list of Fairbanks sightseeing for the day, I planned to stop into the Alaska Fire Center and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

When I wandered into the Parks Highway Fire Information Center, it was still hastily being organized. The sole woman staffing the center had a cell-phone headset and was rapidly answering multiple calls. Recognizing the chaotic rush that comes in the first days of a fire incident, I quickly volunteered to answer phones. I figured I was looking for adventure, and what would be more adventurous for a seasoned fire information officer from the Southwest than to spend an afternoon helping on a real Alaskan wildfire? When I explained I had experience talking about fires, she looked at me in awe. Rather than volunteer for an afternoon, she needed me to stay for at least a week. After few calls to my home unit in Arizona, I was officially one of the 551 firefighters that would respond to the incident.

That evening in Nenana, I attended a community meeting and got my first briefing on the fire. Just as the university professors two days earlier had described, the homogenous stands of black spruce were burning intensely and fire was rapidly spreading. One home and some cabins had already burned. More were threatened. People with smoke-related health concerns were encouraged to leave the area. Many other residents had evacuated. That night the town lost power and another home burned.

I spent the next nine days working out of Nenana. The days were full, as changing winds threatened additional communities along the Parks Highway. I had a chance to learn about firefighting techniques utilizing trains, helicopters, river access, and slopping through the muskeg.

As I came to know residents and firefighters, my enchantment with Nenana grew. Although I found myself fantasizing about moving to the Great Land of Adventure, I was needed back in Arizona, where fires were also burning. My planned week in Alaska had stretched past two weeks and I now had lifelong friends all over the state.

“The Forester’s Log” is a monthly column written by forester Mary Stuever, who can be contacted at

Sugarite Canyon State Park ranked in Camping Life’s Top 10 List

Of the nearly fifty-five hundred state parks throughout the United States, Sugarite Canyon Lake State Park was chosen as one of the top ten state parks in the country by the National Association of State Park Directors.

The list, which was released in the March/April edition of Camping Life—a nationally distributed magazine—indicates that Sugarite Canyon was ranked as the ninth-best state park in the country, with Arkansas' Petit Jean State Park leading the way in the number one spot.

“Sugarite is a crown jewel of the New Mexico State Park System and we're pleased and honored that others see that too,” said State Parks director Dave Simon.

NASPD took several factors into consideration when determining their selections. The contenders were evaluated based a combination of qualities, including unique combination of land, water, flora, fauna, vistas, legend and lore.

As noted in Camping Life, Sugarite Canyon, which lies at the New Mexico-Colorado border, off of Highway 526, just east of Raton, possesses a variety of terrain, with two scenic lakes that allow for an abundance of wildlife. The topography of the park is described in the magazine as “Great Plains meets the Rocky Mountains.” Butterfly season in the park is at its prime from May to July, when dozens of varieties can be seen fluttering around the park. The park's historic coal camps and neighboring trail (remnants of the camps are spread throughout the park) provide accounts of the past, rich in legend and lore.

“I'm glad that other people are finding out just how unique and spectacular Sugarite Canyon is, which are the very reasons I have worked at the park for the past twenty years,” said park manager Bob Dye. “I think Camping Life did an excellent job of highlighting the unique history, natural resources, and beauty we have to offer.”
Dye said that there has been a recent influx of visitors, which could be attributed to the Camping Life article.

Sugarite Canyon has also been the center of publicity, after a documentary video entitled “Walking Home Along the Trails of Sugarite” recently won two national Telly awards for the depiction of Sugarite's coal camps. The video can be seen at the park during normal visitation hours.

For more information, contact Sugarite Canyon State Park at 505)-445-5607 or log onto

Master Gardeners will present planting tips

On August 7 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. the Sandoval County Master Gardeners will host a lecture by Dr. Curtis Smith, a horticulture specialist at New Mexico State University. Smith’s topics will be Vegetables: What to harvest for early spring, What to plant now to flower in the spring; and Trees: Planting dos and don’ts. The lecture will be held in the South Conference Room in Rio Rancho City Hall, 3900 Southern Boulevard SE, in Rio Rancho.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from local experts about gardening in New Mexico. The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call Sandoval County Extension Office, 867-2582.






Ad Rates  Back Issues   Contact Us  Front Page   Up Front  Animal News   Around Town    Classifieds   Calendar  Community Bits  Community Center  Eco-Beat   Featured Artist  Fire and Rescue The Gauntlet  Health  Community Links  Night Skies  My Wife and Times  Sandoval Arts   Schoolbag  Sheriff's Corner  Time Off  Ask Uncle Duffy