Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

  Real People

Bllodstain on the floor

An old  blood stain on the Camino Real floor.

Local business owner is a treasure among treasures

—Margaret Nava, Signpost

Walking through the doors of Camino Real Antiques in Bernalillo is like stepping back in time. Row after row of elegant sideboards, armoires, and gateleg tables crammed with sepia-tone photos, old-fashioned kitchen gadgets, crystal stemware, delicate china, and unique collectibles bring back memories of early childhood and simpler times. In one corner, there’s a collection of silver service; in another, a display of art deco dinnerware, a harvest gold mixer, and a butter churn. License plates blanket an entire wall. Native rugs hang from the ceiling. There are clocks and toys and kerosene lamps. Surplus merchandise fills backrooms, drawers, and storage areas. Wooden statues, farm equipment, and flower pots grace the front entrance. A 1953 Chevrolet truck is parked nearby. If you can’t find it here, you probably won’t find it anywhere.

Born and raised in New Mexico, shop owner Fawn Dolan began her adult life as a middle school teacher in Los Lunas and the South Valley. After many years of teaching remedial reading, she decided to try something different. What used to be the Casa Blanca Bar and Azteca Ballroom on the corner of Camino del Pueblo and Avenida Bernalillo caught her attention. The bar was long gone but the ballroom still stood. Asking around, she discovered the place had a checkered history.

Even though it was a favorite of the Sheriff’s Posse, the Casa Blanca was a rowdy place during its heyday in the 1940s. Evidently, alcohol mixed with testosterone was a bad combination. Fights were frequent, chairs were thrown, windows were broken, shots were fired, and blood was spilled. The adjoining Azteca Ballroom, rumored to have hosted performances by Elvis Presley and Louis Armstrong, had problems of its own—ghosts. “Several shoppers have told me they feel a presence in here,” says Dolan. “One woman even said she saw a man and woman sitting on an old bed in the back.”

Whether because of or in spite of such stories, Dolan bought the property, renovated it, and opened Camino Real Antiques in 1996. After thirteen years in business, she says there has been a major drop in sales lately due to the poor economy. “Our biggest loss is other dealers,” she says. “Dealers from Santa Fe and Albuquerque used to come here to buy merchandise for their shops, but a lot of them have stopped doing that because their businesses have slowed down. A lot of stores have even gone under. I’m fortunate because my husband of twenty-five years is very supportive physically, emotionally, and financially. Otherwise, I would have been out of here a long time ago.”

Dolan says she goes out and personally finds a lot of the merchandise she sells. “I do a lot of trade with the Native Americans in the area and I really enjoy that. Being a born-and-bred New Mexican, I also like western and cowboy artifacts like old saddles, bridles and bits, spurs and stuff I wouldn’t even know how to put on. But I also get a lot of items from people who walk in with things they want to sell. Most of them have great stories and some of them give me way too much information. But, it’s the people and the stories behind the pieces that make life interesting.”

Feeling the need to help other people, Fawn opened the not-for-profit Nearly New Repeat Boutique about ten years ago. Located directly across from the Bernalillo Town Hall on Camino del Pueblo, Nearly New provides free clothing to women who are trying to get off welfare or who have been victims of domestic abuse. “We work closely with Haven House and several other agencies that are trying to help women get from welfare to work or school to work. Many of these women need clothing for interviews or appropriate attire to wear at their new jobs. We don’t ask them what their financial situation is, we just listen to their stories and provide them with whatever they need.”

Nearly New also sells to the general public. Dolan says the shop is doing really well because people realize they will find quality clothing at affordable prices. “Most of our slacks and sweaters are $8, blouses are $14, and three-piece suits are $20 or $25 depending on the label. We’re also gearing up for our August sale. If you’re employed by any of the school districts like APS, Bernalillo, Placitas, or Rio Rancho, or any of the charter schools or day care schools, you can come in, show your ID and receive a free item worth $10. It’s our way of supporting our teachers by helping them to dress professionally and be good role models for the kids they work with.”

Treasures are where you find them, and Fawn Dolan is certainly one of the finest. Camino Real Antiques is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Nearly New is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Whenever you’re in the area, stop in and say hello. You won’t be disappointed.


How a small town resembles Facebook

— John Clayton, Writers on the Range

“I’m looking for a crib,” I said, and my friends reacted predictably. “I’m so out of touch!” lamented one, while another asked if I had an announcement to make, then raced over to my wife’s spot to ask if she was pregnant.

The unusual aspect of this small-town rumor-mongering was its location. We weren’t in a traditional gossiping spot such as the post office, coffee shop or microbrewery. We were on Facebook, the social-networking Web site, which now claims to be the world’s fourth-busiest online destination. The fad was relatively slow to reach my rural Western town, but now that it’s here, I’m struck by how its success comes from mimicking our ancient social patterns.

Consider that Facebook tells you what everyone else is doing -- which recalls the old joke about how in a small town you don’t have to use turn signals because everyone knows where you’re going. And just like in the small town, on Facebook it’s relationship news that travels the fastest. For example, when Facebook told us that M “is no longer listed as ‘in a relationship,’” or that L “is looking for ‘dating,’” tongues wagged. Indeed, when I’ve gotten together recently with friends in person, we’ve often talked about what’s happening on Facebook. Call it a case of life imitating artifice.

I’m not necessarily claiming that Facebook promotes admirable behavior. Take one of my favorite pastimes, learning people’s ages. For 18 years now. I’ve wondered if B is older or younger than I am. Our hair is graying at similar rates, and he’s made comments suggesting we’re contemporaries, but since B is my doctor, he’s been able to look up my age in his files. So I was delighted to see that B filled in the Facebook birth-year field, equalizing our information disparity, and even more delighted to see that I’m three years younger than the old coot.

B has 37 official “friends” on Facebook, a relatively low total that’s partly due to generational challenges — folks our age (and especially his age…) have plenty of real-world friends who don’t network online. On the other hand, my college classmate P has 896 friends. Does he really know all these people? Or is he like my friend D, who regularly befriends faraway Facebookies he’s never met in real life?

D loves to work the network — just like some folks in a small town. You think you know everybody, and then you spend time with a friend who’s a Catholic Rotarian on the school board and knows all sorts of people you don’t. You’re stunned to realize that you don’t know all your friends’ friends. In the city, you would take for granted such multiple circles — friends from work, the neighborhood, your favorite sports or pastimes — and the way each circle ripples outward. In a small town, they ripple back on themselves.

Facebook, by publicly listing all of your friends for anyone to see, telescopes those circles. Again it’s replicating one of my favorite features of the small town: the way you see the same people in different contexts. I see work friends at basketball, or neighborhood friends at a committee meeting, and they become more fully rounded to me.

There are plenty of people who might find such a lack of privacy stifling, which is why there are plenty of people who don’t live in small towns or, for that matter, join Facebook. But that small-town-style intimacy turns out to be a quality that lots of people are flocking online to replicate. Call it the small-towning of 21st century life.

On Facebook, as in a small town, you end up learning a lot more about people than you might have intentionally chosen to do. But when it works, when you love it, it’s because you like the things you learn, because the people in your community consistently turn out to be full of pleasant surprises.

Take, for example, the crib. I made my announcement, but explained the details: It wasn’t actually about my household. My sister was coming for a weeklong visit and we needed a crib for my new nephew. C said he kept a crib in his garage for visiting grandchildren, and once again the small-town rumor mill had become a network of support.


Texas vs. NM

Texas vs. New Mexico

One botched land survey plus two neighboring states equals 160 years of fussin’ and fightin’

You’d think, after 160 years, that state borders are set in stone. Think again.

As visitors to the New Mexico History Museum (nmhistorymuseum.org) will discover, the blurry borders between Texas and New Mexico have fueled a century of mostly good-natured feuding that has continued into the new millennium. The museum’s computer-interactive exhibit, “Shifting Boundaries,” includes an examination of the intertwined histories of the two states, which at times have acted like contentious neighbors squabbling over the placement of a backyard fence.

While the Texas-New Mexico border officially was established by the Compromise of 1850, its precise boundaries were subject to interpretation, the whims of Mother Nature, and —whoops!—simple human error. It turns out that when surveyor John H. Clark in 1859 established the nation’s 103rd meridian as the border between Texas and New Mexico, he accidentally set the boundary about three miles too far west.

The narrow strip of debated land runs along New Mexico’s now-eastern border for 320 miles and encompasses the now-Texas towns of Farwell, Texline, Bledsoe, and Bronco.

“That’s our land!” declared officials of the territory of New Mexico, after the error was uncovered during their bid for statehood in 1910. “Don’t even think about it,” replied the state of Texas, which hadn’t been keen about relinquishing slavery or the territory of New Mexico in the first place. “Drop it—or else forget about becoming a state,” Congress told the New Mexicans in 1911.

And so the matter festered for the next hundred years, erupting most recently with a 2005 bill in the New Mexico Senate suing Texas for the land, which died in the legislative process. Two years before, the land commissioners of the two states had proposed to settle the dispute with an old-fashioned duel using antique pistols, followed by a skeet shoot. Fortunately, no modern-day blood was shed, but neither was the issue resolved.

“The exhibit shows that we are still fighting border wars,” said Dr. Frances Levine, director of the New Mexico History Museum. “We don’t always have guns drawn, but our states haggle over political boundaries all the time. The same thing happened with water rights. Many people don’t know that this is an issue that simply won’t die.”

Another point of contention between the two states has been New Mexico’s southwestern border, defined in the 1850 Compromise by the winding Rio Grande. Nice idea, but shouldn’t somebody have imagined that the river, over time, might very well change its course and muck up a perfectly sensible boundary?

Visit the New Mexico History Museum to learn how the boundaries of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona—the entire Southwest—have changed over time and to ponder what our shared heritage reveals about our future. Get into the stories that defined the American West.

The New Mexico History Museum is located at 113 Lincoln Avenue, just behind the Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe Plaza.


Great Old Broads for Wilderness

Great Old Broads for Wilderness is a non-profit, public lands organization that uses the voices and activism of elders to preserve and protect wilderness and wild lands.

Great Old Broads celebrate 20 years of hiking and advocacy

— Andrew Gulliford/Writers on the Range  

Where in Durango, in southern Colorado, can you spot a lavender size-40D bra hanging in an office window? Why, the national office of a group called the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, of course. It’s one sign that this organization, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is not an ordinary organization.  

“We’re the junkyard dogs of the environmental movement,” says Great Old Broads director Ronni Egan. With 4,000 members nationwide, it’s also the little enviro group that could, as it continues to capture headlines and financial support within the environmental movement.

They’ve carved out their niche with a sense of humor, along with a conviction that women over 50 have an abiding interest in the health of American landscapes.  

But the group doesn’t discriminate. If you’re a woman under 50, you can join by becoming a “training broad.” And if you’re a guy like me you can be a “Great Old Bro.” I like the title and admire their belief in wilderness tithing, a phrase coined by founding member Ginger Harmon, who thinks we all need to give back to the public lands we love.  

With most environmental groups you send a check and wait for the next financial appeal, but with Great Old Broads for Wilderness you need to get personally involved. That’s the recipe that brings American women together from all walks of life and from all parts of the United States for work projects called “Broadwalks.” No couch potatoes here: These women are ready to hike and to document public-land issues with digital cameras and GPS units. Members focus their attention on the impacts of oil and gas leasing, overgrazing and off-road vehicles. To that end, the group has created one of the most important databases on public lands in the West, with 60,000 data points useful to land managers or judges when environmental issues go to federal court. Volunteers document illegal traffic on public lands and the resulting erosion and litter, and then upload the photos, complete with latitude and longitude coordinates, to an online database to create what Egan describes as “a picture over time of what’s happening on the land.” “Citizens have to do the work,” she says; “we have to be the eyes on the land for the understaffed federal agencies.”  

Great Old Broads for Wilderness began over lunch one day in 1989, in southern Utah. After several days of hiking and backpacking, half a dozen weary women were gathered in a café in Escalante, and there they happened to read in a local paper what Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch thought about wilderness. No more wild lands were needed, he said, because senior citizens couldn’t visit them. Hatch said elderly people needed roaded lands that they could get to in cars, recreational vehicles or astraddle ATVs.  

I wasn’t there, but apparently the ladies’ discussion became somewhat boisterous, with recommendations about exactly where the senator could go and how he could get there. When one of the women rose to use the restroom, a male patron remarked, “Now there goes a great old broad.” The name stuck, and so did the conviction that Western women over 50 didn’t need a male U.S. senator to tell them what they could or could not do on our public lands.  

Over the years, the feisty group has earned some respect. It stood up for Park Service employees who were getting gassed by idling snowmobiles in West Yellowstone, and it has joined lawsuits for environmental causes. Last April, the monthly magazine of the American Association for Retired Persons — with a whopping 35 million readers — featured a two-page spread on Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and phones rang off the wall, says Ronni Egan. She adds that the story’s placement next to a full-page ad for senior sex videos was purely coincidental.  

Plans for the group’s 20th birthday include collecting and preserving oral histories from its founding members. Thanks to a grant from the Ballantine Family Foundation, Great Old Broads is linking up with students at the Durango-based Fort Lewis College for everything from work projects to resource monitoring, and even a marketing plan. Another goal is to have local affiliates support cash awards for students writing essays about the meaning and value of wilderness. The Broads are determined to pass on their eco-advocacy — teaching another generation to become stewards of wild lands.  So happy birthday, Great Old Broads, and thank you, Sen. Hatch, for inspiring an enduring environmental organization.

 

     

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