Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fate is as gentle with men...

Photo source

Down by the water tower on the Navajo River there was once a
small settlement.....Nothing much, half a dozen rectangular wooden
buildings   none of them measuring more than 12'x12'....The men
worked keeping the track free of rocks and making sure the tower
was filled with water.

A steam locomotive needs a tank full of fresh water in its tender
to make steam....If there is no water, the train can't move.  There
were women and children here as well....I used a big magnet to
probe the drinking water well that was  near the town. Fragments
of toys, metal hooks from ladies underwear fasteners, even an
occasional heel from a shoe.....The metal nails that allowed it
to be fastened to the shoes attracted the magnet.

All this attested to a family environment, but there wasn't enough
to date the relics....I had to find something with a date on it   Here
the power of  an educated guess came into play.  Perhaps the ladies sold food or beverages to the passengers.  After all, railroads did not pay track crews much, and a couple of cookies
sold to a passenger might bring as much as the lady's husband
made in an hour.  Multiply that by half a dozen sales and the family income could be improved.. Did it happen?   Well there was one way to find out......I borrowed a metal detector from the
school's science lab.  Then allowing for the fact that the locomotive had to be under the water tower, and the cars were
about 30 feet long, where would that place the passenger cars?

I was right!  I found, after a while pennies (I presumed these would be the most common)   and a couple of dimes.  these ranged in date from  1896 to 1910......There were half a dozen coins in all.  These were all "in the Ballpark" datewise. These
weren't dropped later on after the town had been abandoned.
Okay, so it isn't "Iron Clad Proof", but it beats an educated guess
by just a bit.

I knew, from my research, that the tracks were lain in September
of 1880, and the town was called "Navajo Tanks" and that it was
abandoned in May of 1927......The tracks were pulled up in June
of 1956.  That was my time Frame.......A coin minted after 1956
would not fit these parameters.

Having exhausted my search for coins at the passenger site,
I started sweeping the area around the water tank with the detector.

I found two coins with square holes in the middle....Chinese?
It took a trip to the library in Albuquerque to find out for certain.
They were Chinese!  Minted  in Yunan Province in 1742 and 1756.
Before the American Revolution.

Back came the old guessing cap!   What kind of men came from
China in 1880? ......Guess:  Track Laying Crews....They would be
from poor families, and the early coins would have been handed down from generation to generation.......The young man would have been given every coin the family had for his trip to America.

The coins are called "Cash" (that's the origin for our word cash.)
they would be carried on a cord  strung through the square hole.   They, of course, would have no value in America, but likely the
Chinese workers used them when dealing with other chinese.

It made sense....Every now and again the cord would break, or
coins would be lost........These two parted company wih their
owners back in September of 1880. Surmise?  Speculation? Well,
Yea, I guess so, but just as I can not prove the theory, neither
can anyone disprove it.

As a parting thought, I wondered then, and still do, whether these
poor people from Yunan province in South China ever saw their
home again.....I wonder what happened to them.....I doubt anyone
will ever know.

That brings up the title for this story, A genuine old Chinese
proverb. "Fate is as gentle with men, as a mongoose is with a
cobra."  Perhaps, all the poor Chinese laborers found was a grave
in some far off American frontier town......Not many would have
been fortunate enough to be able to pay for a trip home to the land of his birth.......And how many mothers wept for the son they
would never see again?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stepping out of times past...

Civil War Reenactors
Photo sourc

There, along the banks of the Navajo River on the
Jicarilla Apache Reservation, down by the old railroad
R.O.W. (That's Right Of Way).....I cut a striking figure.
I was wearing grey trousers with a yellow stripe on each
leg, Mid-calf length black military boots, and a pistol
belt  with a full flap holster, cap box, and  cartridge
box...In my full flap holster  was a Model 1851 Navy Colt.
(replica, of course)   I had on a butternut colored bib
front western shirt and my Kepi on my head....

In short, based on the theory that the Confederate Uniform was almost anything but uniform. I cut a pretty
good image  of a Rebel Soldier of  1862.....

Oh you could find flaws with its authenticity, but, there,  miles and miles from any critic, it would pass

I left my spurs at home....They tear up a car's upholstery, and my saber....Too danged tough to drive
a car while wearing it.

Now, why would a normal, late 20th Century  male be
dressed up in such an outlandish outfit?   Boredom!
Pure and simple......

Mary tolerated such nonsense....We had a kinda unspoken
agreement...I tolerated her trips to visit her relatives in Castlerock, and her  trips with Brenda, and she tolerated my preference for my grandparent's war over my
own  war in far off Asia. Maybe it was even a healing
experience, who knows?

In a little while, I saw the dust thrown up by an automobile.  A car was coming.....9 chances out of 10
it  was Tony Pena taking the short-cut to Pagosa Springs,  or maybe it was Mike Duran going in the same
direction.  We were all part of the Teacher's Colony
called the "Teacherage" up in Dulce.....

Nope, I could see glimpses of it....It was  a Pontiac
sedan, blue colored, and pretty recent in vintage.

Well, Dog My Cats, if it weren't a passle of bluebellies.  Genuine Yankees, from a place called Ohio.

I waved at them, and they slowed down, then, upon closer
examination of my uniform they stopped and fumbled for
what I presume was a camera......

They were typical yankees.  Middle aged, the woman was
homely and she acted as if one smile would make her face
fall off. The man, her husband, I guessed was short, a
little too liberal with the vittles, and bald headed.

"Hi-die Folks," I chirped in my best Texas accent, "You
folks ain't seen a sorrel horse hereabouts, has Ye?"

The man shook his head but said nothing....His traveling
companion stared straight silent as he was.

The man stammered, "You in some kind of movie they're
making, or something like that?"  I painted a dumbfound
expression on my face and replied, "A Whut?" then, "Naw-suh, Ah jes got some Dispatches fer Captun McLaws frum
Genrul Sibley, an ma horse run off. a rattler spooked him."
The fellow was obviously flustered and was measuring his words carefully before he spoke....So, I took the lead,
"Y'al best be kerful, our boys has a battery up on them
hills a mile er so up th road, an yer thingamabob thar
you is drivin being blue, Y' might draw some fire."

The car window went up, and there was a hail of small gravel as Mister Ohio an his prune faced wife "Plum Skedadled" right up the road.

The whole episode proved a point...Remove people from
the environment they are used to, expose them to illogical scenerio's and they  panic.  In half an hour
or so, Mister Ohio would be telling this whole bizarre
experience to the first highway patrolman he met...Why,
he might even get his Yankee behind locked up for psychiatric evaluation......

In any case, it was time to get in some target shooting
with my Colt Navy an get on back home.....After all,they just might call out the SWAT team.  My MG was a hundred
yards or so up the branch of the road that paralled the
river....Nestled in a grove of fir trees. Why, I'd even
take the river road home....It was about 5 miles longer,
but driving along a mountain stream, with mountain birds singing, and the aroma of Christmas Trees everywhere was not too terrible a fate......

I never heard a thing about the prank....As the nearest
town was 50 miles up the road....Well, live town. several others there were ghost towns....Maybe Mister Yankee finally calmed down enough to realize he'd been
a source of amusement for a tired old teacher in a
little Reservation town.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The End of the War

It is late in 1944, but there is no Christmas
joy in Germany.....Her cities are little more
than heaps of rubble....The allied bombers
come 24 hours a day....The British by night
and the Americans by day.....100,000 civilians
are dead in Hamburg, Germany's second largest city from  fire bomb raids....Desolation
is everywhere.

V-1 and V-2  Reprisal weapons rain down
on allied cities, but without a guidance system there is no way of controlling what they will hit.  Again, it's a race to see who can kill the most women and children, and
Germany is losing.....

At sea,  the much vaunted U-Boats are much
the same as they were in 1940.......80% are
the little 750 ton  Mk VII boats another 15%
are the larger 1,200 ton MK IX boats. The
Fatherland's hopes lie in three new types.
The MK-XVI boats with the experimental
Walter   closed cycle Hydrogen Peroxide engines......There are problems with them.
They simply explode without warning, and the 6 boats they built have become 3 boats.

The large MK XXI boats are larger than the
American Submarines, faster than them, and they can dive is complete.
7 more are under construction.   They could win the war, but Germany will need a 100 of them, and with the allies pounding the shipyards,  It may be impossible to complete
the 7 that are unfinished.  U-2511 is undergoing sea trials off Norway, but she is
the only complete MK-21 Boat.

The MK-XXIII boats are small.  Their range is short, and they are all electric. Much beyond the coast of Europe and they are useless.  Hitler had them built to defend the
Baltic Sea from a seaborne Soviet naval threat that never materialized.

In short, the German response to the Allied
invasion of Europe is  too little and too late.

The first combat patrol of U-2511 the Nazi
"Super-Sub"  occured  the day before the war ended.   Her captain made a dummy attack on a British Cruiser but did not fire
a torpedo......He knew the war was lost and
simply couldn't stand the thought of useless
bloodshed .....He couldn't resist the chance to make  the British look foolish....He made his dummy attack, then sped away at a speed no submarine could manage up until that day.  The next day it was all over.  Most of
the advanced MK-XVII,  MK-XXI's, and MK-XXIII were studied by the British and Americans then given to the French.  The
MK-XVII lasted a week before it blew itself out of the water taking 35 Frenchmen with
it......The French operated the MK-XXI Super Subs until 1979....Including the U-2511.   Nobody wasted much time on the little  MK XXIII electric boats.......

The Japanese got a copy of the blueprints
for the MK-XXI's and built 2 ,  7/8 scale copies   neither was finished by the end of the war. They were the first ships in the Imperial Japanese Navy to employ all electric welding.......U.S. Navy sources that
examined the Japanese copies of the MK XXI's  said they compared favorably with
the German originals......The Navy Scuttled them in deep water......Relieved, no doubt,
that they never entered active service.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rain Rain Go Away...

photo via

A mushroom cloud has tragic consequences for Jerry's wife Mary and her family...

It was a Spring day in 1945.  Not unlike  the many beautiful days of Spring in New Mexico.Nobody knew it, then, but it would be a day that would change the world forever.

Mary's family was having  a "work-day."  There was a War on, and if you wanted potatoes,
or any other vegetables, well, you'd better be prepared to grow them yourself......Otherwise,
you were into things like rationing........Nobody argued about the need for all this......The
War had to be won....

Mary's mother took care of the inside of the house......There would be housecleaning and
food preparation to tend to.    Her father, Al Kendrick was taking care of the bean crop.
It was only Spring, but the beans were about knee high.  Her brother Dick was being a good
farm boy and was helping his dad.......Mary, for her part,  was   weeding the garden, out about
the radishes and cucumbers.........

Mary's two older sisters  were  not around........Bertha was probably down at the drug store
flirting with boys,  and Jannet was off to school.....She was a college girl.....

None of them suspected a thing when there was a clap of what they thought to be thunder.
Even though the sky was clear,  thunder storms do come up suddenly......Then  came billowing
clouds from the South and a peculiar cloud that was  shaped just like a mushroom.

She'd never seen one like that before, but , oh well,   weather is weather, and you've got to
have one kind of it or another.......

Then came the dust, the clouds, and a rain storm......Even her father wondered where that
peculiar weather had come from.

Where it came from was a site in the South of the state called "Trinity"  by the government.
It was the first Nuclear Explosion in the history of the world.......Even the scientists in their
concrete bunkers acknowledged that the  explosion was at least 3 times as powerful as had
been expected.

Then came the rain. Everyone in the field was soaked to the skin.....and the world would
soon learn a new word "Radioactive"   for that was what the rain was.....and the people of
New Mexico started coming down with Cancer.

Public outcry?    Indignation?   There was none.....The steel hand of government secrecy
descended on the cases......Records were sealed.....on orders from Washington.....Officially?
Well, it didn't exist!

Mary's brother, Dick died first,  then her father........After a  wait, the 5 bouts of Cancer that
would kill Mary  started.........The government, then , said it was all, "Rumors and Irresponsible speculation"
How could anything like Nuclear Bombs contain anything harmful?

Ah, but we are so much wiser today......Why, the government could never get away with such
a thing, now........Or could it?

The truth is, the government is just a bit more sophisticated in dealing with these matters.
Besides, we have so many more  people to blame it all on, now.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Red MG (reflections on another age)

photo via

Now an MG  is a "Roadster."   In ordinary language, it has two seats....There is an open
space behind the seat for the top to fold down into when you drive with the top down.

With the top up, you can carry paper sacks filled with groceries...About 5 sacks worth cram
it to capacity.........The owner's manual forbade  in very  harsh language the use of the rear
deck for passengers......Children were forbidden to ride there, and this was in underlined
bold  print......

So, did I ever violate this most virulent of  warnings?   Hey, C'mon, guys!   You know  the
answer to that....Of course I did!   The secret of doing it with any degree of comfort lay in
taking apart the cloth top and removing the metal framework....It was an involved process,
but it was done often........Putting it back on was worse than taking the top off.

So, who did I carry back there?   Well, on  more than one trip, Mary drove and I rode back example?    Well, when we took Grandma Icel  to her very favorite Mexican
food place on her birthday......You couldn't ask a lady in her 80s  to ride back there, and
Mary steadfastly refused to try it.........It wasn't all that bad, but it wasn't all that great either.
I got some bruises  that  were difficult to see without two mirrors.....

Ana Beth rode back there several times.......Did she get bruised?    Hey, if you think I'm
going to ask her, you're crazy!    I mean, there are limits imposed by decency  involved
here.   I'd like to think that the damages to her anatomy were minimum...but, I'd just as
soon not know. Lord knows, I tried to be gentle and avoid the bumps.

I carried Brenda and Dusti a lot of places.......Though the question doesn't apply.
Brenda would never put down her baby anyplace.....She carried her every mile of
the trip.   Why, a couple of times, I had  3 ladies sitting on the rear deck with their feet
on the  ledge......That was during parades in Dulce and the ladies were beauty contestants.

I mean, there was status in being carried in the back of the smallest motor vehicle in
Dulce......This was before ATV's.  Everybody else got to stand up in the bed of a pick-up.

So, we've established that an MG is a nominal 2 seater that can carry up to 5 people in
a pinch.......Providing 3 of the passengers are 16 year old Apache girls.

Mary and I put 186,000 miles on that little car.......Would I own one again?   My heart
says Yes......I fear the rest of my body  would veto the idea.   Why, I could even ride Ana-
Beth up to Cedar Crest and back, and she could even sit in one of the seats this time.
It wouldn't be the same without her mother along; but , I don't know, maybe she would
be  with us.......I'd like to think she  would be.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fighting the fight, a hank of yarn at a time...

photo source
Anything that bought Mary another day was good...

Going down in a not so great section of El Paso, near the river to buy yarn  caused  some
small problems......The main one was cultural.......In the Hispanic Culture men would not be
caught dead  in a yarn shop buying yarn.   Much less, a man who knows the differences in
lot numbers,   plys of yarn, and  yarn blends.......

Yet,   Mary was fighting for her life, and
anything I had to do to improve  her quality of life, or make the struggle easier I was going
to do.......Okay, so it meant learning a lot of things.    Like?     Well, yarn called "Sports-Yarn"
has some cotton mixed in with the wool,  and there are baby yarns that may be 2 ply or 3
ply and regular yarn is 4 ply.   Oh it is a whole different world!

Well, the Mexican ladies down in this emporium of wool often sold 35 pound hunks of
yarn  for $10.   If I had been forced to buy the stuff at a regular shop.....Like Hancock
Fabrics, my customers couldn't afford it.....Then they wouldn't sit around and chat with
Mary, and she would start to brood about the horrors of the Chemotherapy.....In short,
if I had to let those clerks in the yarn shop think think I was a humpbacked whale, well
and good........Anything that would buy my ailing wife a little time and a little hope would be

She had lost both breasts and 29 lymph nodes to the cancer, and the Chemo had taken
her hair, or maybe it was the Radiation Therapy, at this point, whichever one was the culprit
is irrelevent.....I've heard it argued both ways.

So, if these little Mexican ladies thought I was gay,
so be it!  I got tired of trying to tell
them  "Mary No es mi madre, es mi esposa."    It got to the point where I didn't care if
they thought the moon was made of green cheese!    I only saw them twice a month.

Why, I even developed a set of mannerisms especially for yarn buying....Laying two
fingers alongside my cheek  and pursing my lips while inspecting the yarn....Patting my
foot,  and waving my hand and telling them that their new Alpacca yarn was simply

Acting?   Yea, You betcha!    There ain't nothing wrong with my  biological drives,
but, if nothing you say can change their minds,  why not enjoy making fools of them.

Okay, so maybe it was a little cruel,  Know what?    I'd do it again.......Anything that
bought Mary another day was good.......In the long run, it's not vastly different than
the Used Car Salesman's  spiel when he's trying to sell you a "clunker".........

Now Mary had some objections.....Not to my acting, but from the fact that the ladies
thought she was my mother......She was having some problems with her "self-image"
right then......and  her feminity was  taking a beating in her own mind.

In the end,  we lost the fight.......but we won the first 4 rounds with Cancer, and I bought
her 15 years using every strategy  I could think of.......On the whole of it, that statement
sounds concieted as all get out.........She won the fight....It was her victory, not mine.
All I did was to help, and sometimes "Helping" meant just having a shoulder for her
to cry on.........

In life, dear readers, you fight the fight, every moment, every hour, and every day.
There is time to wonder how in the world you managed everything ,when the fight is over.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Games People Play...

photo source

..teachers and principal battle over a copier...

Every once in a while, the Administration of  the schools in Dell City would get a wise idea.
Often as not, though, there was  a long way  between wisdom and their ideas.......

Take the Xerox machine  scandal.........Someone in the front office decided that no more would our
precious charges be subjected to the regular purple and white "Spirit-Master" copies that
schools had used for generations.....Now, everything done for the students would be on
Xerox copies.......In fact, if your students  were seen with an old fashioned purple and white
copy,  there would be "serious-consequences".

Well,   I agreed with the idea......I was sick of having purple stains on my hands....The new
system was cleaner, quicker, and more legible.  Then they started playing games......Xerox
copies  would cost the teacher .05 cents each......The sum total of your copies would be billed
to you monthly.......All of the sudden, the new idea was no longer  a good idea.  They were
paying us with one hand and taking back part of our salary with the other hand.

To make sure nobody cheated, they issued us each a code number......The machine would not
run if you didn't punch a code number  into the number-board on top of the machine.....
Well, tempers were running hot.......and our Principal  was an idiot.....It didn't take long to figure
out that the code numbers  ran from 00 for Kindergarten  to  06 for 6th grade.....I am sure
that there was  some reason for knowing the other teacher's code number, but it was unethical
to use   their number.....The one we needed was the Principal's   Private Code.  The one that
was used by the office  staff.

Now, Susan, the 6th Grade teacher,   found out the Principal's private code.....How?
Seduction?   God Forbid!   No, The idiot  left the  code book on his desk,  book open to
the code page.....His number was 28......Well, Susan was as anti-establishment as I was,
and soon both 5th and 6th grade teachers were using code number #28 to duplicate
material.....Our private   grade level code.   Well, we used it just enough to  keep down
suspicion.  You know, about 5 dollars worth a month.

We knew that it couldn't last.   Somehow, the idiot would get the notion that his code
was compromised, but it took him 2 months.......Then came phase 2, teachers would buy
the paper they were to use from the secretary.......There was even an official color.
Champagne.....A kind of parchment-like hue........People with white paper would be
"cheaters"  and crucified or whatever else he had in mind.......Well, no paper mill is going
to turn  out a special color for one  school district, and a search of El Paso paper suppliers
revealed the exact color we needed......We soon had  reams  of "Champagne" paper for
about  $3.98 a ream.......You kept the stuff in your car and only brought inside what you
were going to use......

Well, the copy count soared ever upward, but the School System wasn't selling much of
its nickle  a sheet  paper......and the ledger showed that the Principal was using an Ungodly
amount of  the stuff  every week.

What had started as a quiet game of defiance  was almost to the edge of Revolution.
The other teachers?   Well, about half of them were in on the deal.....There were several
"snitches" who were excluded..........Why, we even sent out fake memoranda   on the
official paper bearing a reasonable facsimile of the principal's signature and a nonsense

Example:   Memorandum:  It has been decided to change the name of the Principal's
Office.......From now on, students will be sent to the "Fuhrerbunker" and as it is my office,
you will address me as "Der Fuhrer"

Teachers were rolling in the halls  at the humor......Sadly, the Principal had no sense
of humor.....He never saw that the more he played Hitler, the more we gave him the title.

Then, one day, the game was over.....The paper re-appeared in the copy room, and the
codes and quotas didn't exist anymore......We had made our point, I guess,  but we had
also lost......Our Principal announced that he would not be back next year....Why?
"The hostile atmosphere in the school district was endangering his health."

All we had ever wanted was to be treated like professionals instead of lackeys.......
In the process of fighting for our rights, we had ceased to act like professionals.  So,
did we win or did we lose.......I think everybody lost......but what do I know?  I'm just
a kid at heart......