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.


After the Colonel stole the land grant he fenced off the roads and trails, cutting off access to thousands of acres families had been using for a couple hundred years. Later most of it was bought by the feds for National Forest and everyone blamed the "government" for everything.

Sadie used air quotes and tossed the spiral bound notebook onto a nearby table. She chose another from an ungainly pile. Cat raised her eyebrows and glanced into the dark corner of the bar where Chocky was sitting in the booth he used as his office. Smoke curled into the light of a desk lamp. He had on sunglasses. It was hard to tell if he was listening.

Sadie was fast, turning pages noisily, looking for portions of her writing she'd previously highlighted, reading then tossing. Cat tried to put discarded notebooks in order but Sadie kept aiming at the tidy stack she'd made, knocking them all to the floor. Sadie seemed oblivious which made it funnier to Chocky who laughed aloud when she managed a direct hit.   

Villagers’ herds were starving when he offered to buy them at discounted prices. That’s when people got mad. Then he turned them against each other, telling nasty rumors about this or that. He started a little civil war that lasted right up until World War II. That gutted the population of angry men. He died soon after that. 

Sadie paused and looked up from the notebook. Cat braced to catch it. But Sadie set it down carefully and began speaking slowly and clearly, not looking at notes. 

Aunt Connie poisoned my father after he raped her the third time.

This hung in the air like a strong scent, hard to identify, pungent, intriguing. Chocky looked up. Cat's chin dropped. Sadie continued, quietly.

She told Rosa she started putting rat poison in his coffee and that it took longer than she thought it would. He died at the poker table in the back room of his bar after winning a big hand.

Chocky took off his sunglasses.

They said it was a stroke.

They never did an autopsy. 

Cat just stared. Sadie continued reading.

A professor at the University wrote a history of the land grant called, “The Thief Who Was a King.”  He was like the Dan Brown of Escadero with his nuggets of half-truths carved to fit his fairy tale. It centered on the ridiculous claim that the Colonel was a descendant of an original land grantee, making him a legitimate heir to the grant. He was the son of a woman who was thrown out of the village for being a witch, according to this fiction. That was more interesting than the truth - he was just a wanna-be Santa Fe Ring white-collar crook. 

She paused to take a swallow of water and glanced at them both, then went on.

The professor later said he’d taken cash from Annie to promote the myth. Then he made the fatal mistake of trying to blackmail her with the fact that the Colonel wasn’t a Colonel. She  hired a young body guard to beat him up and he died of a stroke a week later. Ace, the bodyguard, got promoted to assistant ranch manager.

Sadie threw this notebook, deftly hitting Cat's pile, scattering them like playing cards. Then she lit and took a long drag on a little hand-rolled cigarette.  

What was that about poison again? 

Journey with Jerry - The Piro and the Missions

Took another Journey with Jerry. (See previous Journal entries here and here.)  

San Miguel Mission 

San Miguel Mission  Socorro  NM

The church was locked up tight. We drove around the vast parking lot and I became acutely aware of what’s under the tires - probably a plaza and multi-story pueblo. 

We came to see the interior of Socorro’s San Miguel Mission. Our associate Chan Graham was involved in a renovation in the 1970s and considered it one of his favorite projects. His story is here

A man watering rose bushes in the churchyard told us that since “covida” they keep the church locked up except for services. Mass was at Five. Jerry asked him about the church and grounds and I admired the new expandable hose he was using. But our charm didn’t work. He didn’t have keys and we were a long way from mass. 

The church is celebrated for being on the site of one of the first Missions established by Franciscans in the 1620s on one of the first sites of contact with natives in what would be called the New World. Oñate led explorers and a couple of priests here, or near here, in 1598. In their relief at finding friendly native Piro villagers, the place was later named  ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Help’ or Nuestra Señora de Perpetuo Socorro. 

They weren’t the first Spanish explorers by a long shot. Coronado himself may have been in a small party on his expedition that traveled through here in route to visit the unfortunate Tiguex in 1540. Chamascuro and Espejo expeditions also documented the Piro in 1581 and 1583. Multiple Piro villages sat along both sides of the route to and from Mexico near the northern end of the notorious Journada del Muerto, a near waterless segment of the Camino Real. 

Authoritative sources on all this history include:  

  • Michael Bletzer, who’s written many things about the Piro, including: “The First Province of that Kingdom: Notes on the Colonial History of the Piro Area. New Mexico Historical Review, Volume 88 Number 4 Fall 2013.
  • Paul Harden, who has written extensively about area for the Socorro paper, many available online like this one, courtesy of the Socorro County Historical Society  . 


According to Spanish chroniclers the place name for the area south of Tiguex was Tutahaco. The individual village names in the Piro “kingdom” are probably Spanish versions of the original place names. They are intriguing; Seelocu, Pilabo, Teipana, Senecu or Tzenoque, and Qualcu.  The overwhelming majority of these sites have been partially or totally destroyed through neglect or flooding or both. 

The Pueblo Revolt in 1680 forced long term abandonment of Socorro. According to the church website, a priest buried church silver, including a solid silver communion rail. The silver was never found. Or no one ever admitted to finding it. 

Cold Turkey Twitter

I Quit. The new oligarchic owner with an adolescent's impulse control gave me the push I needed. I've "deactivated" my account which is apparently the closest thing to leaving Twitter you can get. No withdrawal symptoms but it's only been 24 hours and this morning I was on tiktok so long I got the warning video. "Hold on! You've been scrolling WAY too long...." Or am I the only one that gets those? Is it after two hours? Three?

Twitter never showed concern for time or anything else. I used Tweetdeck to create news and topic columns. I didn't see the ads or promoted tweets. It was like a old school ticker tape - news scrolling down my screen. It is invaluable for breaking news and events. But step off into the discussion and you're tripped up and tied down like Gulliver by little lying Lilliputian trolls.

In the many years that I've "reported"  accounts that were obviously fake, abusive, or purposefully misleading, Twitter never determined a single one violated their narrowly defined policies. Nearly every thread of substance and topical interest, and there are many, is infested with professional and amateur trolls within hours of posting. They dispirit, dishearten, misdirect, mislead, question consensus, suppress, degrade, intimidate and threaten.

Done with it. I re-upped subscriptions to Santa Fe New Mexican and WaPo and honed the tiktok algorithm to feed me videos of   horses. Horses running, jumping, doing tricks, getting groomed, pulling things, having foals, having surgery, having snacks....


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. 

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