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 Chris DiGregory

Chris DiGregory

Chris DiGregory

In loving memory of Chris DiGregory

In August of 1995, Chris DiGregory and Greg Leichner headed north out of New Mexico in her Jeep Cherokee, bound for campsites in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Utah.

Day 18: Northern California

At nine a.m. at Enderts Beach, just south of Crescent City, Chris and I broke camp at the edge of a rocky bluff that looked out over the quiet Pacific. At noon we drove through a redwood forest. At Arcata we took a left and headed into the Trinity National Forest, Route 299. We took a left, away from the Trinity River, on a dirt road marked French Creek Trailhead. Three miles in, we came to a turnaround, and just down the embankment was a clean, flat site as big as a two-car garage. “This is it, baby,” said Chris. We pitched camp. Chris made chicken fajitas on the camp stove, and I gathered firewood. We bathed near the rocky creek that flowed noisily with its freight of crystal clear water, an ice-cold rush that we could still call snowmelt.

After dinner, we sat in our camp chairs by a fire that crackled, hissed, and squealed, I with my can of Tecate, Chris with her Dewar’s with a splash and a twist. We reminisced about our teenage years. I said, “I’d like to go back and start all over again.” Chris laughed. “Go back? Honey, you never left.”

In Montana, beginning in the late 1970s, six years alone in a 12x12 cabin on the Blackfoot River taught me to live by faith alone, to trust and exploit my chunk of the night, and to not only find the soul, but use it. On French Creek with Chris, in the middle of majestic nowhere, we found ourselves flipped yet again by the spiritual spatula. Many times Chris and I have ventured out together, and we have proven, “beyond the shadow of a trout,” that the good life is real.

The fast-moving snow melt tumbled impeccably down and down and joined the wild river, all of us barely visible beneath a crisp moonless star-studded outer space. The shiver up our spines was a jolt of life-enhancing hallelujah.

Chris DiGregory (February 16, 1948—January 8, 2014) was one of the creators of the Prairie Star restaurant.
With Jean DiGregory, she was owner/operator of the gift shop Something Else in Bernalillo.
She was a past president of the Placitas Recycling Association.
She was a world traveler, visiting southern Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Europe, Costa Rica, Southeast Asia, and Honduras.
Chris is survived by her son Lucas DiGregory, her sister Tamalie Heimerdinger, her brother Jack Heimerdinger, and her sister Leslie Grimes.

The fignificent fig man

—Katie Mast, High Country News

Inside the homemade greenhouses behind Lloyd Kreitzer’s Albuquerque house, the temperature pushes past one hundred degrees in early September. But Kreitzer, in a long-sleeved button-down shirt, blue jeans, and straw cowboy hat, doesn’t break a sweat. He moves deliberately among the serrated leaves of young fig trees and grape vines. Pausing at a tall plant, he puts on tortoiseshell glasses, then bends the tree’s stem to look for scale. He’s so attuned to the plants in his nursery, the Land of Enfigment, that “when the saplings get thirsty,” he says, “I can hear them clearing their throats.”

Kreitzer bought his first fig cutting at Albuquerque’s flea market 11 years ago. A month later, he had 120 trees. “The next thing I knew, I had all these cuttings, and then all these pots, and all this soil. All this background of tropical agriculture learned in the Peace Corps suddenly came out of closets I didn’t even know I had, and then I had all these trees.” Now, he is a regional expert with seven hundred potted fig trees, representing 89 varieties, in his backyard.

The specimens came from all over the state. “I would drive up and down back alleys of Carlsbad or Silver City… and, if I saw a fig tree, I would knock on the front door and say to the person, ‘You have a beautiful fig tree. Tell me about it.’” He’d leave with cuttings, sharing his knowledge of tree pruning and fig-based medicine and recipes in return: “This famous ex-con named Martha Stewart says (a wrapping of) fig leaves is the finest way to prepare salmon she’s ever discovered.”

On summer Saturdays, Kreitzer takes his pickup to Albuquerque’s downtown farmers market. Under the shade of a cottonwood, he displays potted plants and bags of fig tea and soap. The morning sun glints on his turquoise-studded belt and silver bracelet, and his full white mustache hides part of his smile. “My parents didn’t know I was going to grow up to be the Fig Man, so they named me Lloyd,” he tells customers, brown eyes sparkling mischievously.

Each fig has a story. The white Baca fig, the most expensive and his favorite, came from La Luz, near Alamogordo. Its small, round fruit tastes like a Bellini, a champagne and peach nectar cocktail. Another favorite came from a North Valley man whose grandmother smuggled cuttings in her dress when she came to the U.S. from Italy in 1955. “She risked her immigration to a new country based on her love of the fig,” Kreitzer says.

Kreitzer’s first fig memories are as a four-year-old, climbing his uncle’s fig tree in Los Angeles. Its fruits were sweet and delicious, and his family had to drag him down from the tree’s wide branches. A former student once told Lloyd, “We are all old dogs, and we take our favorite dreams, which are bones, and we bury them for ourselves to dig up later.” Says Lloyd, “I never thought that fifty years later, I would dig up this particular bone and go with it.”

Kreitzer has always looked after living things. Shortly after college, he joined the Peace Corps, and was tending fish for Japanese meditation gardens in Hawaii and practicing tropical agriculture in Borneo. And, he raised a child. His daughter remembers his refrigerator, always full of fruit. “You would fondle a fig for what was, for me, too long,” she tells him. “Then you’d bring it close to your eyes like you were examining an extraterrestrial… and then you would take a bite and roll your eyes very slowly and discern all the subtleties of flavor and listen to the emollient qualities of the swallow… I’ve never seen anybody eat a fig like that in my life.”

Despite all this, Kreitzer is retiring from his post as Fig Man to spend more time pursuing his other passions. “[The fig business] has afforded me a great sense of community development, a great sense of pride, a great sense of humor. It’s as good a lemonade stand as any to communicate the way I love to communicate, but it’s not my identity.” His next adventure may be to travel, and he has ideas for books he wants to write, but whatever comes next, he expects it will keep transforming him, just as the figs have done. “When I work the land, the land works me. When I work my relationship, the relationship works me. That’s where the divine works us and coaches us—that’s where life tries to teach us.”

This profile originally appeared in the December 23, 2013, issue of High Country News (

Understanding the Penitente tradition

On Sunday, February 16, at 2:00 p.m., Joe Maes, a writer/journalist, historian, wildlife photographer, and curator of Historical Interpretation at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, will talk about the Brothers of the Pious Fraternity of Our Father of Jesus of Nazareth. Maes is a twelfth generation New Mexican, born in Santa Fe with an understandable interest in the history of the area. Find out what the Penitente traditions are and how the group came about.

The presentation will be at Sandoval County Historical Society Museum (DeLavy House), at Highway 550 and Edmond Rd, in Bernalillo, (turn between I-Hop & Warrior Fuel), 1.75 miles west of I-25, exit 242. General admission is $5; Friends of CSM are admitted free. For further details, contact George at 505-771-9493. This event is presented by the Friends of Coronado State Monument (

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