Cricket’s Revenge

The Deputy was the one that got the worst deal. Sandman paid with his life. He didn’t get pardoned by President Truman like Sheriff Happy and the other guy, even though he’d only watched them torture that black veteran into confessing. They had needed somebody else to blame after the football player was exonerated. It took J Edgar Hoover getting involved to shake things up and finally get the Sheriff and his men. But they were convicted of violating that man’s civil rights, not for Cricket’s murder. 

368AF82B-613A-473C-A8C6-E4800DE6EDA9The cover-up got obvious. Like digging a hole to bury something and leaving a big mound over it. Sandman served his full sentence and then publicly vowed to solve the murder. He started asking all the questions again. Next thing you know, Sandman’s shot dead. First they said he killed himself until the coroner pointed out to a reporter that the bullet entered the back of Sandman’s head. 

continues below

Continue reading "Cricket’s Revenge" »

Who Owns the Game

Torcthegame-300x192Without mentioning the unsolved Cricket Coogler murder, William Keleher decribes the scene in New Mexico around 1949 in his memoirs.* Pressure had come to bear on Governor Mabry about "wide-open" illegal gambling in several  New Mexico counties, including Dona Ana County at Anapra and Sierra County, at Hot Springs.

Keleher says a witness testified before a Sierra County grand jury investigation about the slot machine pay-off scale.

Forty percent went to the owner of the location in which the machine was installed, forty percent to the owner of the machine, and twenty percent to the politicians.

On the eve of the big parade celebrating the name change of Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences, Judge James B. McGhee, accompanied by a bodyguard and contingent of the State police, ended gambling in the downtown bars.









*William A. Keleher, Memoirs: 1892-1969 A New Mexico Item. The Rydal Press, Santa Fe, NM, 1969.

The Cricket Coogler File

Jay Miller tells Cricket Coogler's story* Inside the Capital and describes the tradition of outgoing governors offering advice to incoming governors.  Governor Ed Mechem had vowed to solve the murder mystery and never did.

Four years later, when John Simms took office as governor, he found one item on his desk when entered the governor's office. It was a file labeled "Cricket Coogler." Nothing more was ever heard about that file.

An interesting sidelight of the situation is that all the politicians and appointed officials involved in the case were Democrats. Meachem was the first Republican governor in 20 years. If anyone were going to blow the whistle, it was Meachem.

His advice to Simms must have been fascinating.


*Coco, as self-appointed obsessive Curator of Coco's Cricket Coogler Club, has read all the books, watched the video, published 9 posts about Cricket, Happy Apodaca, gambling hang outs of the era like Uncle Frank's Mecca Club, and conducted pilgrimages to the Mesquite Cemetery and Anapra.



Up Slots at Downs

Predatory addiction machines in a high density urban population - what could possibly go wrong?  Anti-gambler Guy Clark points to Governor Richardson's latest movida sin verguenza on behalf of his buddy Paul Blanchard.  (Albuquerque Journal)  Dr. Clark doesn't think it's a good idea to plop lots-o-slots into a low income hood.  But he's not holding any cards.
How did we ever get to this point?  Why is horse racing - the sport of Kings - intimately connected and dependent on despicable slot machines?  It's like taking a GameBoy trail riding.  Hell, at this scale it's like strapping Xbox to the saddle.  Sick and sad.
Second point, unrelated;  the redevelopment potential of the State Fair land between San Pedro and Louisiana Boulevards in Albuquerque's northeast heights is consistently over-estimated.  Both proponents and opponents of moving the Expo out of town have the misguided notion that a fabulous scheme for reuse will materialize.*  Yet there is no historical precedent to give cause for optimism. On the contrary, experience indicates that sale or lease of this public land will be decades long and fraught with complexities, not to mention politics. 
*It will involve unicorn sales and rentals.  They don't shit and can use the race track as a landing strip.

May Derby Day

Derby136logoRainy rainy in Kentucky.  Terrible racing conditions mean terrible handicapping and added danger.  Young horses will get distracted in a crowded field of other young horses.  Slinging mud and slipping around at top speed.  Scary.  Can't wait.  

Searching for the julep cup diverted my attention to the trunk of 40 year old mementos and memories of horse showing.  I have all the ribbons (mostly green, pink and white) but any trophies that could hold liquid was been pilfered for that purpose.  It's not the julep cup's first derby.

Not Fair Ground

So I hear from the Albuquerque Journal that we must free the prime acreage of the fairgrounds from all those smelly horse barns and carnies. Begone aging coliseum.

Look at it this way.  The fair was all about the agricultural arts once.  Livestock shows, rodeos, races and giant vegetables.  Not trade shows and sporting events.  Without the agricultural arts, the New Mexico State Fair has no heart.  

And without the most lucrative horse events, there is no money at the State's agricultural heart.  Face it, gambling was a cash cow for the fair that was sacrificed to benefit Paul Blanchard. The greenlight for the new Moriarity track and "racino" dooms the fairgrounds to redevelopment hell and the notorious "public-private partnership" panacea.

It just doesn't make sense -  to fragment lucrative racing from other equestrian events, demolish an existing entertainment venue located within easy reach of the population and rebuild new facilities from the ground up in multiple distant locations.  On the eve of a recession.  Sounds damn expensive too.

Barring long term economic meltdown, the State Fair should logically follow the racetrack out to Moriarity in a few years. 

A vision can hurt - whether far or short sighted.

Judge Lee's Arizona Card Room & Social Club

From the Sierra Vista Arizona paper: 

Once the lease ran out in Brewery Gulch, Judge Harold Lee moved his Arizona Cardroom to Fry Blvd. in Sierra Vista and the local poker scene has been flourishing in plain light since with games Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Harold_leeNews from The Arizona Republic:

Wearing a feathered derby over his graying ponytail, Lee condemns state gambling statutes as unconstitutional, evil, nefarious and anti-historical. He claims poker is part of "our inherent and inalienable right to liberty in the pursuit of happiness." Finally, he contends that a state compact giving Indian tribes the exclusive right to operate casinos is a monopolistic rip-off for Arizona taxpayers. (...)

"I would walk into a cell in the morning if I could drag along the amoral Arizona State Indian Gaming monopoly," he wrote in a letter to the citizens of Tombstone. "If sending an old man to the slammer will help bring down that reprehensible monopoly, great!" (...)

Among Lee's arguments:

  • The regulation of gambling should be conducted only by local government. Towns like Tombstone were founded as gaming centers, Lee says, and would thrive again with poker parlors.  He sites an 1881 ordinance as historic evidence and notes that brothers Wyatt and Virgil Earp regularly enjoyed gambling in the Birdcage Saloon.
  • The state's Indian gaming compact authorizes a "wicked, base and evil" monopoly that has enriched "foreign nations," the tribes, by $2 billion yearly at the expense of Arizona residents.  Lee says the compact violates the Constitution's equal-protection clause and was adopted as an irrational salve for White man's guilt after centuries of mistreating Native Americans.
  • Arizona laws against gambling are hypocritical because the state operates a lottery based entirely on chance, with far worse odds of winning than poker.

It's the Slots

Governor Richardson has appointed a Compulsive Gambling Council that is supposed to develop a plan to prevent and treat compulsive gambling.  Good luck with that.  Members include every conceivable gambling interest in the State, up to and including Paul Blanchard's wife. 

So no breath-holding  for anything that might reduce game revenue, like reducing or limiting slot machines which may be more addictive, and less beneficial to the State's economy, than other forms of gaming. 

4 in 10 Game

From the Santa Fe New Mexican:

According to a new AP-AOL Games poll, 40 percent of American adults play games on a computer or a console. Men, younger adults and minorities were most likely to play those games.

This seems huge in all ways.  Most are playing "casual" games like cards.  The potential for this to become a gambling habit seems obvious.  And it's gotta be another big reason some of us are so ... disengaged.  Overweight too.  Video games are the devil.  Coco      

Tribal Golf Green

Golf_santa_ana The attraction of the bright green against brown in the high desert landscape is undeniable.  And it's Saint Patrick's Day o'course.

The New York Times has a Travel story about Indian golf courses.  It's mostly about New Mexico.  Both photos online feature the Sandia Mountains in the background - first close, then distant. 

Interestingly, writer Bruce Selcraig does get around to talking about water in the 20th paragraph of the second page.

"Naturally, tribal golf, like all golf in parched and politically charged New Mexico, has its detractors. Environmentalists ask why Indian tribes would embrace a water-guzzling enterprise in a drought-prone region that annually averages about nine inches of rain. Courses here often use as much as a million gallons of water a day in the hottest summer months.

"To see golf on the high desert is such a painful irony for people who look to Indians for guidance on how to live in harmony with the environment," said John Horning, executive director of Forest Guardians, a Santa Fe-based group. Yet Mr. Horning conceded that golf is often just the more visible villain. "It's emerald green in an arid brown landscape," he said. "By far the largest user of water in New Mexico — about 85 percent — is agriculture, especially alfalfa. But you don't see alfalfa farmers being crucified.""

You don't see Indians being crucified either, much.

And you can't just replant a golf course in wheat or corn. 

  "Another critic, Steve Harris, director of Rio Grande Restoration, in Pilar, N.M., said: "The whole water situation in New Mexico and the West is rife with hypocrisy. The pueblos were here first, and if golf helps them get out of the third world, it's justified.""

The rest of us can just tee up.