(Editor’s note: Renowned Western writer Edward Abbey, who died in 1989, would have celebrated his 76th birthday this January 29, 2003.)
On the road with Ed Abbey, chaos as usual
About this time of year, almost 30 years ago, the writer Ed Abbey and I were laboring through the exurbs of Ajo, in the south of Arizona. We were driving on a miserable backcountry road in an old VW van. There were, of course, paved roads to Ajo, but Ed had taken the scenic route, as usual. He had the gas pedal to the floor on this javelina trail, and we were doing 15, maybe 18 miles per hour due to an imperceptible incline. As nothing distinguished this particular thoroughfare from anything to the left or right of it, staying on the road was not easy. Nor was it scenic. Just the lamentable, searing desert, and us. I was hungry, hot, annoyed.
I'm thirsty," I said. "Have some water," he replied.
"You brought water?"
"No. You?" "No."
Ed thought for a while and said, "I'm thirsty, too."
"Well, had you told me we were going to go this way, why, I suppose I would have brought some water," I said, eventually adding, "and food."
Everything we owned was in the back of the van, as usual. Whenever Ed heard about a house that had fewer neighbors than ours, or more property, or a bigger refrigerator, we moved there, as we were doing this day. It wasn't very hard to move because we didn't own very much: some clothes, one of which was a tie; a typewriter (manual); a sewing machine (treadle); some pots purchased at J.C. Penney in St. George largely as a means of cashing an unemployment check; an ice chest; books maps tools; a bottle of wine; and some money, not much. As usual.
We spoke only intermittently in the oppressive heat. When our conversation lapsed entirely, the only sound we could hear was the low-slung van waging battle with the rock-strewn road. Kerchunk. Kerchunk. I glanced at the speedometer. Ten miles per hour.
"Can't you get this crate to go any faster?" I asked.
"I've got the pedal on the floor. What do you want me to do? Push?"
"I'm thirsty," I said. "Well, you should have brought some water. That was stupid." "You're the one who's stupid."
I was growing aware that the rhythmic pitching of the van was corresponding not to our hitting rocks in the road, but to the sound of the engine. Kerchunk. Kerchunk. It was growing louder. Soon the van was lurching in sync with the noise. I was holding onto the door handle to steady myself.
After a time, Ed turned to me and yelled: "I think something's wrong with the car." "No. Really?" "Did you put any oil in it?" he shouted. "When?" I yelled back. "Ever." "No. You?"
And, so, well, we began to laugh. Time passed. We were not moving forward anymore, just jerking violently in place, and, so, we laughed harder.
Then with a final, violent kerrrrrrCHUNK, the engine seized up. Died. Four red-hot pistons solidly and finally fused to the cylinders, melted into the engine block that was now their coffin, never to pump gas again. O silence. Silence everywhere.
"Well, thank God," Ed said, glancing at the gas gauge, "we've still got half a tank."
Now we spilled out of the van, eyes tearing, struggling for breath, collapsing onto the desert sand with aching lungs and throats, laughing. When our merriment subsided, we crawled over to each other, and, back-to-back, sat quietly, exhausted. Time to assess our situation. After awhile, Ed spoke.
"Got any water?"
So, we opened our bottle of hot red wine, and prepared to die. We had almost finished it when a truck happened by and the driver gave us some water. Sympathetic to the plight of two complete idiots, hungry and thirsty, he tied our dead VW to his back bumper and off we went. We chatted lightly about whether we could get arrested for drunk driving when our engine wasn’t on.
Our tow ended at a car dealer in Ajo, and there we threw out the Volkswagen and bought a red-and-white Ford van, an American car, reliable. Six cylinders, 600 bucks. We loaded our worldly possessions into our new van, which, before too long, I would back into a parked car that was, alas, occupied by its owner at the time. But, that was in the future.
Off we went. Late that night we pulled into a cheap motel, cashed an unemployment check, and fell peacefully to sleep. It had been a good day, as usual.
Ingrid Eisenstadter is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org). A dancer from the Bronx, she lived in the Utah-Arizona area for a decade.
Calling all Archibeque and Gurule families
Come to a gathering and celebration of your families! This event, hosted by the Sandoval County Historical Society, will be held on Sunday, February 16, at 2:00 p.m. at their building on Highway 550 in Bernalillo, north of the Phillips Gas Station and west of the Coronado Monument. For more information, please call Martha Liebert at 867-2755.
Bullis to lecture on history of the West, its peace officers
Don Bullis brings a rare combination of talents and interests to “Frontier Justice,” the program he will present to the Sandoval County Historical Society on February 2.
Bullis has had much experience in the field of criminal investigation. He has been a detective sergeant in the Sandoval County sheriff’s department, marshal of San Ysidro, commissioner of the New Mexico Governor’s Organized Crime Prevention Commission, and supervisor of criminal intelligence of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety.
To his experience in law enforcement, Bullis adds a long-time interest in the history of the West and has published many works: New Mexico’s Finest Peace Officers Killed in the Line of Duty, The Old West Trivia Book, Bloodville (a New Mexico novel), and Bandits: Perchmouth and the Kid.
Bullis also writes a New Mexico history column, Ellos Pasaron Por Aquí, for the Rio Rancho Observer and writes book reviews regularly.
In his presentation of “Frontier Justice” on February 2, Bullis will share his love of history of the West and knowledge of peace officers of the West—new and old.
The program will begin at 3:00 p.m. The public is invited and there is no charge.
Also on February 2 a collection of new and antique quilts to be displayed for one month will open at the Sandoval County Historical Society Museum. The museum is on US 550 in Bernalillo, just north of the Phillips gas station. For further information, call Martha Liebert at 867-2755.
Fun at Rio Grande Nature Center
Several fun and interesting events are being held at the Rio Grande Nature Center this month.
On February 16 there will be a Full-Moon Walk starting at 7:00 p.m. Search for nightlife with staff members and volunteer naturalists.
Make earth-friendly Valentine's Day cards for your special friends at Eco-Art on February 9 at 2:00 p.m. Cost is $5.00 per person or $10.00 per family.
Children ages three to five accompanied by an adult can attend the Early Childhood Outdoors program entitled "Locomotion: How Animals Move” on February 13 at 10:00 a.m. Cost is $15.00.
Weekend Walks are free to the public and include bird walks at 9:00 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday, and nature walks at 10:00 am Saturdays and 1:00 p.m Sundays.
For further information about activities, call 344-7240 or visit www.rgnc.org. The Center is located at 2901 Candelaria NW.
One of six kivas at Coronado Monument, excavated in 1935, and open to the public.
Coronado Monument group seeks members, docents, directors
The Coronado State Monument is forming a support group to be known as Friends of Coronado Monument–Kuaua Pueblo.
The Coronado State Monument is the site of Kuaua Pueblo. The vision of the Friends of Coronado State Monument–Kuaua Pueblo is to ensure the future restoration and enhancement of this historical treasure. The Friends hope to accomplish this by creating a sound financial structure through grants, corporate and private donations, memberships, and fund-raising events.
The new group hopes to interpret, preserve, and maintain this uniquely beautiful and historic site and increase awareness of it throughout New Mexico and the United States.
Your help as a member of the Friends, particularly as a board member or docent, is needed to accomplish these goals. There are many roles to fill: meeting the public by giving interpretive tours, working in the museum or out in the ruins, working hands-on recreating the historic adobe structure, or working behind the scenes spreading the word and raising much-needed funds.
The Coronado Monument is in Bernalillo, one mile west on US 550 (Exit 242 off I-25). For more information, call Angie Manning at 867-5351.
Coronado Monument holds amazing Pueblo murals
Seven hundred years ago drought forced the Pueblo people of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon to abandon their homes and create new pueblos along the Rio Grande. Kuaua (the Tiwa word for “evergreen”) was one of these. The present visible remains give barely a hint of the extent of this major pueblo that contained twelve hundred room blocks, several kivas, six hundred burials, and pottery.
In 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, seeking the mythical Seven Cities of Gold, reached Kuaua and the other pueblos along the Rio Grande to find no golden cities but only adobe villages. Disappointed and discredited, he returned to Mexico. Kuaua, now abandoned, was almost forgotten until 1935, when archaeologists made an amazing discovery.
An archaeologist cautiously excavating a kiva suddenly saw a painting of a hand on one wall. Careful excavation revealed walls covered with murals painted in earthen colors. The frescoes were layered-on mud plaster and were carefully peeled off and preserved. They are now among the finest examples of pre-Columbian art in North America. Some of these murals are on exhibit in the Kuaua Mural Room at the Coronado Monument Museum.
The Coronado Monument Visitors’ Center, designed by architect John Gaw Meem, was dedicated in 1940, the year of the Coronado Quatrocentennial. The center and the Kuaua ruins are listed in the State Register of Cultural Properties and National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors can explore an interpretive self-guided trail through the ruins and climb into a reconstructed kiva to see reproductions of the murals. There is a picnic area from which the spectacular views of the Rio Grande and Sandia Mountains that the Pueblo people saw hundreds of years ago can be enjoyed.
Professor Lamadrid to portray Capitán Chacon
Folklorist, critic, translator, and professor Enrique Lamadrid will perform as Capitán Rafael Chacon at the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales this month, as part of the Corrales Historical Society Lecture Series.
Chacon was witness to some of the most significant events in the formation of modern New Mexico in the second half of the nineteenth century. At the tender age of thirteen he commanded an artillery position at Apache Pass for the aborted defense of Santa Fe. During the Civil War his company fired the first and last shots at Texan invaders at the battles of Valverde and Glorieta. Chacon served with honor in the campaigns for peace with the Navajo and Apache Nations, and was the first commander of Fort Stanton. He embraced the challenges and contradictions of all nuevomexicanos. His recorded reflections make him one of the most resonant Hispano voices from the nineteenth century.
Lamadrid, a professor at the University of New Mexico, will portray Capitán Chacon on February 20 at 7:00 p.m. The program is free, and refreshments will be served after the performance.
The Old San Ysidro Church is on Old Church Road in Corrales. From the intersection of Alameda Road and Corrales Road go north three miles to Old Church Road. Turn left and proceed 0.3 miles to the Old Church. For more information, call 897-9109.
Antiwar demonstrations lift the spirit, strengthen commitment
Saturday, January 18, 2003, was the kind of day that restores my faith in humanity. Given the current upheaval in the world, due at least in part to the arrogant antics of our nation's leaders, my faith certainly needed some restoration. What made Saturday's antiwar demonstrations and events so powerful for me was that finally, for at least one day, the world around me matched up with my internal thoughts and hopes and prayers. Everywhere I turned that day, people were exuberantly affirming life and peaceful coexistence and unequivocally decrying the Bush administration's seemingly single-minded determination to declare war on Iraq, if not indeed on the entire world.
The events on Saturday began before noon, as eager demonstrators gathered at the Truman gate of Kirtland Air Force Base for the 12:00 rally. As the crowd quickly filled in, so did the variety of antiwar signs, both handmade and professionally printed. I was especially heartened by the fact that so many people had spent the time to create signs bearing their own thoughts about the current situation. In fact, I was heartened throughout the day, often to the point where unexpected tears welled up in my eyes. The tears stemmed from such a complex mix of emotions that it is impossible to sort them all out. I do know that hope, gratitude, love, and fear were among them. My strongest emotional impressions of the day, however, were hope and gratitude at the numbers and spirit of those who gathered.
Judging strictly from what I hear in the media, it's hard to tell where public sentiment weighs in on the issue of war with Iraq. I do know that my friends and I are quite opposed to, and in fact outright appalled by, much of what passes for our nation's foreign policy these days. But in terms of the larger American public—what do they think? Saturday's events gave me a large measure of hope that not everyone is dancing along to the drumbeats for war led by the administration and readily echoed by the mainstream media.
Particularly over these past several months, I have grown more and more grateful to live in a community where I have easy access to high-quality alternative media. As the mainstream corporate media and even the supposedly more progressive National Public Radio rally around the administration in its ever loudening cry for war, I am even more thankful for KUNM and the access it affords to both locally produced and national programs that offer alternative viewpoints. In this time of growing media consolidation, it is worth noting that KUNM truly does offer alternative views, not simply the hollow choices offered by the vast numbers of corporate-owned media outlets.
This brings me to the crowning touch that so nicely framed the second half of Saturday's events: a sold-out lecture at UNM's Popejoy Hall by none other than the goddess of independent media, Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! Goodman spoke straight to the heart of the issue—and to the hearts of the hundreds of peace activists who filled the auditorium. Her lecture, entitled “The Independent Media in Times of War,” highlighted the absolute imperative of access to noncorporate media sources, now more than ever, as our government seeks to further clamp down on civil liberties in the name of security.
Goodman was, as always, stunningly well informed and articulate throughout the lecture and the question-and-answer session that followed. Her lecture was artfully constructed to present an enormous amount of information, but also to inspire the audience toward action. At the end of her talk, Goodman encouraged those present to continue working for peace, stating that indeed, we would never know what potential atrocities our efforts have already helped to avoid. She added that our local efforts are supported by hundreds of thousands of people around the globe who are also working for peace. (To read more about the event, visit http://www.democracynow.org and see stories for January 21, 2003.)
Two days later, I sit at my desk writing and trying to process and determine my own best course of action. I have reached some sort of internal critical mass over the past several months. I feel that I can no longer sit quietly on the sidelines as our government unleashes more and more atrocities at home and abroad in the name of homeland security. I take great comfort and hope from Saturday's events that my internal critical mass is not mine alone, but is mirrored many times over—here in New Mexico and around the world.
Organization seeks nominations for survivors
A New Mexico group called FRIENDS is requesting nominations for their eighth annual Acknowledge the Struggle awards. The organization awards grants to recognize people who are struggling with a major health crisis and are successfully rehabilitating themselves through personal courage and determination. Four people will be selected by a committee of medical professionals and community leaders to receive grants of $2,000 each.
FRIENDS wishes to identify four people whose stories are compelling and representative of the human struggle to survive. They are seeking detailed stories about you or someone you know who is at least sixteen years old and currently medically or physically challenged and deserves recognition. Explain why the candidate qualifies as an example of strength and character. All submissions must include the name, address, and phone number of the candidate, and two references that will verify the candidate's story.
For more information call 505 890-7600. Submissions must be postmarked on or before April 15. They can be sent to FRIENDS, P.O. Box 2820, Corrales, NM 87048. Grants will be awarded on June 26.