Angel had worked at the diner since he was eight. That was what Uncle Johnny liked to say but Angel’s earliest memory was standing on a stool washing dishes and he was probably only three or four. By eight he was working the grill. When he was big enough to balance the heavy trays he served customers. Uncle Johnny told him that he’d make him a bartender when he was old enough and promised to pay him regular wages but he never did. Angel was nearly broken by drudgery and boredom before Rosa took over management of the place. 

Rosa sent Angel to school, cut his work hours, and increased his pay. When he finished high school he used his savings to travel everywhere. He came home when Rosa decided to retire. Sadie convinced her mother, Annie, to hire him to manage the new horse barn. 

Annie was bad at people - caring about them, recognizing them, and remembering them. Angel was her dead husband’s nephew but when he told her, as a joke and straight to her face, that he was a Russian circus horse trainer, she believed him. So he had to continue with his poor attempt at an Eastern European accent and began studying Russian because of it. A year later Annie got mad about a hay delivery mix-up and called Immigration on him. He had to show his passport and explain the joke but this just convinced Annie that he was a Russian spy.  She seemed a little afraid of him after that.

Alva began drinking and gambling after he thought he'd lost of the ranch.

He and his partners had taken advantage of a scheme to finance subdivision of the Cozy Y. Their advisor was a slick bond attorney whose name Alva never could remember. 

He got quarterly band deposits from someone at Tight Wire LLC and never asked questions since asking might point to illegalities.  He kept quiet, figuring a large payoff would come after the model home opened and lot sales began.

It was his land, after all.

Alva's Cozy Y - III

Alva Simpson believed in space aliens, ghosts and God and was sure to his dying day that mature trees were the work of the devil, especially together in a forest. This was from a bedtime story his grandfather, personally responsible for clear-cutting thousands of acres, told him when he was a child. Consuela warned him that the boy might grow up to believe this nonsense - which of course he did.

To his dying day Alva wouldn't go near the cottonwood bosque below the ranch house, preferring to walk his dog in a wide arc on the mesa above, even on the hottest days when the little pug pulled toward the shade.

He would have cut all those trees down if Consuela hadn't stopped him. By the time she died he just didn't have the strength. Alameda crows

Annie's Burro

Annie, in neon pink bathroom robe and slippers, had chased that old burro, Taxi, down the driveway with a broom again.  She'd locked the gate so the Sheriff's deputy couldn't get him back into the pasture this time. He knew the old lady carried a revolver in her apron pocket but he wasn't sure about the bathrobe. He just waved at her from the driveway.    Taxman illustration

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Father Troy

Father Ferdinand Troy arrived in New Mexico Territory the same year as the railroad. During his tenure here as a Jesuit priest he traveled on the back of a burro and in an airplane. Had he lived a few more years he might have flown to Rome again in a jet. But he left Old Albuquerque's San Felipe de Neri the last time in his life one morning by motorbus and was killed that night by a car in front of the Alameda church - the church he and parishioners had built over twenty years before.


It was the eve of Christmas Eve and he had worked for hours with the women of the altar guild on decorations in the sacristy and parish hall. The sun had turned the Sandias bright pink and the white spires of the massive church glowed against this mountain backdrop. He scanned the scene with deep satisfaction and crossed the street to the bus stop.*

Fourth Street was busy Route 66 and the road curved there then just as it does today. A car suddenly appeared around that curve going very fast. Accounts differ about who killed Father Troy. One said it was a hit and run and another that it was a drunk driver. Accounts do agree that his long tenure spanned an era of great controversy and change in New Mexico and the church.

He is buried with the other Jesuits in Mount Calvary.   
Troy grave
 *Indeed, there was bus service to Alameda in 1936.

Bronson and Justine

Land Of SunshineBronson and his sister were both first drawn to the romance of the West reflected in the "blood and thunder" books that were contraband at Bronson's Groton.  The history teacher berated the boys for reading such trash - perpetuating myths and falsehoods about the "noble savage." 

From his first reading of accounts of the "Indian wars" Bronson knew of the ugly reality Native American's faced in the Territories. Their treatment in history was sad and embarrassing for the country. His interest piqued, his study of the Southwest expanded and included accounts of appalling losses of community land grant property among Hispanics to notoriously underhanded legal tactics.

Justine thought of moving first. Her maid showed her a newspaper advertisement for waitresses at Harvey Hotels on the ATS&F line.  "Wouldn't it be fun to explore the wild West!" She was absently folding Justine's underwear in the chilly bedroom.  Gas lights were hissing and the fireplace coals were meager warmth against a Long Island winter storm. She could hear her brother's coughs echo down the long hall.

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Worthy Hero, Comrade Bronson Cutting


He was wealthy because his father was, like his father before him. Shipping and railroads mostly. Living off of the interest and overseeing big philanthropic endeavors. The best schools, sister too. Tutored in multiple languages for months abroad. Maybe babied beyond babyhood. You can see it in his cheeks.
Tuberculosis. Family resources were wielded to find help for Bronson and his brother. Different spas and resorts in Switzerland and Italy intended to cure. Favored brother died in 1908.

Then they tried New Mexico. In 1910 Justine and her brother moved here to thrive.

Seems they had compassion - some measure of enlightenment. Or maybe just guilt. Or maybe just both.

They inhabited New Mexico deeply - learning, appreciating and working to improve upon its governance as few others were able or willing. Cutting inscription


Tippy - Chapter This

Tippy the terrier had a temper. Ronnie kept him well-behaved through “Dog Whispering” principles of exercise, discipline and affection but he was still a handful. The dog spent days with her father, a retired colonel who taught him tricks and spoiled him with low-cal organic dog treats. His last dog, Mitsy, died and they’d buried her on the mesa behind the house. Tippy wasn't as smart as Mitsy but he was faster and could jump higher. He spent all day learning tricks, patrolling the yard, walking the neighborhood with the colonel and sleeping. Every once in awhile, when Walter wasn’t paying attention, Tippy would jump the backyard wall and cross the road to the mesa beyond - the wild edge of the growing city where exciting smells and risks abound.

Ronnie, Walter and Tippy had moved to Duke City from Minneapolis after visiting one beautiful week in October. She got a job at a temp agency and rented a apartment downtown. But when she got the county job and decided to buy a house, she found the sprawling west side of the city far more affordable. They moved into a new house in Unit One of the huge "Apostrophy" development just before the housing bubble popped and construction stalled. The realtor and developer had made promises about coming shopping, parks and hiking trails but everything came to a stop, including completion of several houses on her street "Parentheses Lane" that now stood half-finished, targets for vandals, tar paper and insulation rattling all night in the wind.

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The Flying T

Chapter Whatever

Ace lived at the Flying T RV Park after his wife disappeared. The truck stop was way out on the edge of town where the mesa dipped into the next dry river valley west of Duke City. There was nothing but wind and dust out there when Alva Simpson, Chairman Simpson’s father, built the place.

“Built” is a euphemism, of course. At the time, he had retired from a 40 year career of throwing his weight around in the local land development scene. He only had to nod his head in the direction of the Flying T to get approvals from the county commission. They had already named an elementary school and library after him and no one would say no to Alva's retirement nest egg - The Flying T Ranch Travel Center.

The project was a complete success for Alva. He didn’t have to bribe anyone or put up much money. He got the city and county to pay for every inch of road and utility lines under an "economic development" grant and his franchise agreement with the gas station and restaurant relieved him of constructing the actual travel center. Alva's expenses were limited to the required surveying, the thinly gravelled driveways to 117 spaces and the crappy signage on the freeway identifying the "Flying  RV Park" after the "T" was lost in a dust storm. Alva got rich.

The edge of town was a fluid line always pushing outwards during the booming real estate years. Since Ace had parked his travel trailer in space 27, subdivisions of stucco boxes had nearly surrounded the Flying T on all sides. Development unevenly blanketed the mesa like a ragged quilt patchwork of small subdivisions held together loosely by a few crowded two-lane roads and a web of powerlines.

Unlike other engineers in the development business, when the real estate market tanked and the furious land-scraping and paving of the mesa slowed to a crawl, Ace was very relieved.