Monthly Archives: October 2010

Summer of ’61, again

  My son Bret asked me to pass along any other memories I might have about my first summer out of high school.  As you may have surmised, I graduated in 1961 (back in the Dark Ages), and that summer in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, northeastern New Mexico, left some indelible memories.  (I’ve re-read that last sentence several times, still not sure I have it right).

   Anyway, my mother had a couple of lady friends in Elkhart, Kansas who had gone in as partners in a small curio shop in Eagle Nest, NM, and through them she wangled me a job there at the Laguna Vista Lodge (I won’t go into my lodge career again).

   I packed up my 1953 Flathead Ford, (I won’t labor you with the explanation of what ‘flathead’ means) drove to the mountains.  I began my summer sharing time at the two cabins of my mother’s friends.  I only remember one of the cabins, but it was an interesting time there.  The cabin used a gasoline generator for electricity – they had not yet wired the backwoods for the proliferation of homes springing up.  So, the nightly ritual was this:  the lady (can’t remember her name) and her 2 kids and I would get ready for bed, sleeping bags spread out on the floor, shivering in the cold night air, then I would volunteer to go outside to take care of ‘shutdown’.  This involved taking a flashlight out into the edge of the woods where the generator was located, hoping not to encounter a bear, and twisting the gasoline feed valve closed.  Then, it was rush rush, back to the bedroom in the cabin and trying to get located and covered up before the last of the gasoline was used and the generator shut down.  Not quite the same as just ‘flipping a switch’, was it?

   Eagle Nest had about 38 permanent residents, and the basic services for the community was provided by a couple of gas stations and numerous curio shops.  You could get a few basic groceries in town, you could get all the accessories you needed that said ‘Coleman’ on the label, but that was about it.  Need a haircut?  Need an auto repair part?  Time to head down Cimarron Canyon to Cimarron, NM, about 25 miles away.  This road was a narrow two-lane that wound down through the forested canyon, with speed limits in the 15-20 miles per hour range.  Only at the bottom of the canyon did the road open up and flatten out a bit, allowing somewhat higher speeds.  So, 25 miles to Cimarron, narrow winding road, low speed limits – I think the record for the Eagle Nest / Cimarron run was 30 minutes.  Several guys tried to better that time, but it was tough going – all those campers pulling out in front of you.  One time I pulled into the cafe at Cimarron after whizzing down from Eagle Nest, and a fellow came in after me, big smile on his face as he came over to me.  He said, “I was following you on that last stretch – your little Ford runs pretty good.  I was just able to keep up,  but you were hitting 125 miles per hour.”  I guess I should have been happy it wasn’t the highway patrol guy talking to me.  Don’t tell my Mom any of this, ok?  🙂

   I worked at Horseshoe Camp, which was a gas station, grocery store, curio shop, they had cabins to rent, and we were well stocked on a small variety of fishing odds and ends.  That summer was a bad one for fishing at Eagle Nest Lake, or so I was told.  I knew nothing about fishing, I certainly knew nothing about lures, bait, etc., but that didn’t stop me from selling them.  Guys would stop in, shoot the breeze, and ask me what the fish were hitting on at that time.  With great apparent knowledge I pointed out that they could buy one of the various types of salmon eggs (they came in colors, for some reason), or they could go ‘Big Time’ and get one of our Royal Coachmen lures.  The fishing was so bad, it didn’t matter *what* they bought, but we played the game.  The standing joke (which of course I didn’t understand at first) was, “Oh yeah, those bugle-mouth bass are really hitting the bait down at the lake.”  There was a type of trash fish in the lake, like a sucker fish, and that was the ‘bugle mouth bass’.

  These memories are not coming in order, so I’ll just pass them along willy-nilly.  There was a store just down the street from where I worked that had clothing, camping supplies, and something neat from WWII.  In the front window, facing the distant lake, there was a set of GIANT German field glasses mounted on a pedestal.  Those Germans knew a thing or two about optics.  Using those precision binoculars, you could actually see the trout (or suckers) dimpling the surface of the water, several miles away.  Of course, the clear mountain air helped a little bit, I’m sure.

   Maybe we’ll go down memory lane again to visit Eagle Nest, we’ll see what happens.  Hope you didn’t doze off.  🙂



   You’ve seen this look before, the gaunt features, the unfocused eyes, the shuffling gait.  At times I stumble into things, unable to separate reality from dream.  I toss and turn at night, trying to cast out the demon within me.  My days are spent longing for the rest I have been denied.

   I am a stoner.  My body has the ability to convert anything I eat or drink into kidney stones.  Sounds sort of like a magical transformation, doesn’t it?  Magical perhaps, but not to be desired.  My recent go-round with the ‘Boulders of Punishment’ wasn’t exactly a carnival ride.  I’ll try to describe the ‘neat’ sensations available to you if your system begins to generate stones.

   There are often three bodily zones, or phases, taking their part in ‘passing a stone’.  I can’t recommend ANY of them!  Here they are:

   1.  Rather like the Oort cloud, where comets are formed, there is a distant realm within the body where stones come into being.  Within this realm, known as the ‘kidney’, there are calcium accretions floating there somewhat like grapes, or bowling balls.  With the right impetus, these tiny (read:HUGE) rocks begin their torturous journey to ‘the outside world’.  Also within the ‘kidney’ are the PAIN AMPLIFIERS.  These PA’s detect the tiniest motion of a departing stone and *multiply* the sensation so you’ll get the full experience.  The pain will radiate from the area of the kidneys to distant parts of the body, basically rendering you helpless – you can’t think of *anything* else but that pain.  There is probably some secret position your body can assume that lessens the pain, but to date, NO ONE has been able to find it.

   2.  Next, we have the ‘handoff zone’, where these rocks are being routed down down down from the kidneys, through internal plumbing ducts, on their way to the ‘teary eyed zone’.  Somehow, Mother Nature forgot to allow enough clearance in the natural piping of the body to allow for these occasional travelers to easily clear the tubing walls.  It’s kinda like this: imagine a small single-lane tunnel through the mountain, a small road leading into it, a small road leading out of it.  Now imagine several semi-trailers racing down the mountain, barreling toward that tiny opening, all determined to be the first to transit, and all of them arriving exactly at the same time.  This single-lane tunnel is YOU, dear friend.  Ok, got the picture?  One more thing – now imagine the open trailers of the semi’s are fully loaded with flaming porcupines.  Are ya starting to feel the moment?

   3.  The ‘teary eyed zone’ is the final holding area where one final set of PAIN AMPLIFIERS are located.  Here the stones circle and circle, causing more and more pain, gathering speed until there is a tremendous collision….. and nothing happens.  Yes, this is the part where you stand (or sit, you women) at the toilet, holding tightly onto those two grab rails, biting on a chunk of wood, waiting for that ‘obstruction bloop’ sensation that tells you that the offending item has left your person and is on its way to who knows where.  Oh, and by the way, your urologist probably told you that he wants to analyze that rock, so now you get to fish around down there, trying to bring up the treasure.  By this time, your eyes are watering so badly you can hardly see, so this is no small task.

   Sound like fun?  Maybe we can sign you up for the next event.  And, if you’re lucky, like me, you can have the added fun of passing one stone first, then the next day passing TWO MORE!  OUCH!  OUCH!

  Did I mention that there could be some level of PAIN associated with passing a stone?  Oh, ok – I won’t dwell on that.

Small World

   From time to time, you hear stories of people encountering friends from their past in a distant place, like bumping into a long-ago next-door neighbor in Times Square.  It’s kinda neat, but not incredible – these things happen.  It would be kinda neat if you knew someone who had this happen to them more than once.  Actually, I have 3 personal stories from that genre to share with you (really, only 2 of them are mine, but you’ll see).

   Way back in 1961 I had just graduated from high school in Elkhart, Kansas, and snagged a dream job (to a teenager, it was, anyway) working in a little tourist trap town in northeast New Mexico by the name of Eagle Nest.  When I was a little guy, my folks had taken us kids camping several times over the years up in the Sangre de Cristo mountains close to where Eagle Nest was located (we camped in Red River, 18 miles away).  So, when I had a chance to actually stay there and work *ALL SUMMER*, I jumped at it.

   My first job was at the Laguna Vista Lodge – I was taken on as a waiter.  I remained in my waiter job for about 3 hours – it soon became evident that I was not destined for greatness in that line of work.  So, the boss lady decided that maybe washing dishes was my raison dêtre.   From then on, I stayed in the back area of the restaurant, safely away from trayloads of food and paying customers.  My co-workers were all nice fellows, for the most part, and were nearly all graduates from the New Mexico Boys School (read:reform school).  I learned a lot about life from those guys – I was really green.  One guy offered more than once to take me to see an ‘experienced’ girl down in Cimmaron, but I quickly blushed and demurred each time.  He would say, “Say the WORD, THUNDER-BIRD!!”  🙂  I never did make it to Cimmaron – I’m sure it would have been educational.

   After working there a few weeks I got the opportunity to start working up the street at Horseshoe Camp, a combination motel with cabins, grocery store, curio shop, tackle shop, and gas station.  I jumped ship and moved to my new career.  I found lodging at a nearby motel/cabin place and rented a one-room cabin with hotplate (no water, no bathroom) for $1 per day.  There was a community shower room and bathroom in the middle of the group of little cabins.

    So, off to work.  My work schedule was from 5AM to 5PM, 7 days a week.  84 hours a week, I got paid $300 per month.  I was RICH!  Well, maybe not.  It was a memorable summer, I have lots of good memories of that time, maybe I’ll share some more of those stories down the line.  My job there was selling groceries, fishing tackle, curios and pumping gas.  The boss took care of cabin rentals.

  Now, a little ‘back story’.  I started my senior year at high school at Amarillo High School – the only high school in the city, and it was CROWDED!  There were 900 kids in the graduating class.  I was there about 9 weeks, managed to get my senior ring ordered, got my annual ordered, then was informed that my dad had found work in Elkhart, Kansas, and that we’d be moving.  After we got there, I found out that the graduating class in Elkhart numbered 25 students.  I got there too late to order a senior ring or an annual, so I was ‘betwixt and between’ on those items.  Oh well, on with the main story.

   One fine day, I saw a car pulling into the gas station, so I walked out front to find out what they needed.  As I walked up to the driver’s window, the back door opened and a guy about my age stepped out – I looked at him, he looked at me, and he then said, “I’ve got your annual!”  Turns out, he was in my class at Amarillo, and out of all those hundreds of kids, he was the one who wound up with my annual, and then happened to pull into my gas station in Eagle Nest, New Mexico!  I knew you’d be amazed!

  While I was enjoying my summer in the mountains, my brother Bob, who was 3 years younger than me, was working back in Elkhart at a gas station there.  Bob told me some time later about something that happened while he was pumping gas there.  He said that a car pulled in, the guy asked for a fillup, then while Bob worked, the fellow kept looking at him intently.  Bob asked if there was anything the matter, whereupon the fellow replied, “I *swear* you filled my car with gas this morning in Eagle Nest, NM!”  Yes, there was a slight family resemblance.  🙂  Small world, eh?  (sorry, still speaking Canadian).

   The last yarn is a little more tenuous, since I was not actually involved in any way, but it happened to 2 of my brothers.  My next-to-youngest brother Ken was living in Liberal, Kansas, and my brother Bob had re-located to Albuquerque, NM.  Someone stole brother Ken’s car in Liberal, then some time later brother Bob saw the car going down the street in Albuquerque, recognized it and told the police where he saw the guy park it.  Kinda neat, yes?

  Okokok, I’ll quit with the brother stories, but I enjoyed the telling.

  You never know what you’re going to encounter when you read these here blogs.

CASA and the Past

  Well, we had big doin’s yesterday, Friday, October 1st.  I mentioned in a previous post that Kate had signed up to be a CASA volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and yesterday she and 3 others got sworn in by the judge, so she is now OFFICIAL!!  I couldn’t be MORE proud of her!  Soon, she’ll be assigned her first case, and will be off and running, doing what her heart desires most – helping people!  A BIG HEARTED lady!!

  Later in the day, we went down to the square in Corydon to participate in the “Corydon’s Unsavory Past” historical re-enactment.  They had set up 10 or 11 ‘posts’ around the square and beyond, where a narrator at each of these locations would tell the tour attendees about the history and significance of their particular ‘post’.  I was the narrator at the 2nd post, and it was my duty to describe the events of “The Great Corydon Fire of 1871”.  Tour groups of about 30 people were being launched about every 15 minutes from the start point, and they had organized 8 of these groups.  Pretty good turnout!

   So, at at 7:30PM we received our first tour group and swung into action – I was doing the story line and there were a number of other folks acting out the pandemonium of the fire and the ensuing firefighting efforts of the townspeople. 

  We had some antique equipment (no, not me), we had some actual firefighter volunteer folk from Lanesville, just east of Corydon, we had a clown (again, not me!), we had it all.  There was a cast of HUNDREDS helping re-enact the fire fighting (well, maybe less – more like a dozen).  We had a great time, lots of yelling and running around – kinda like your wedding, yes?  🙂  Every 15 minutes we’d get set up and do it all over again.  I was the speaker, which was the easy part – all the rest of the volunteers were doing bucket brigades, tossing buckets of air onto the imaginary fire, running, running.  You’ll see Kate in a number of the pictures – she really got into it, bucket brigade, shouting fire stuff “Save the baby!”  “I’ll bet the clown started this fire” “Who’s the bozo doing the narrating??”  Lotsa fun!!

   We’ll be back down at the square tonight for another 8 groups of eager tour attendees.  Come on down, check it out!!  If you’re real lucky, one of our folks will surprise you with a tossed bucket of oatmeal – we did surprise a few with that old trick  🙂

  See you there!