De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


The Land of Enchantment -- The People

The three dominant cultures of New Mexico are Indian ("Native American"), Hispanic, and northern European. Aside from the Navajos, the Indians don't mix much with the rest. All northern Europeans tend to get lumped together under the almost perjorative "Anglo". Most "Hispanics" are actually Mestizos. The sad thing is that too many "Hispanics" tend to be a rather arrogant lot. The few Indians I've gotten to know are really a delightful bunch. There was one Navajo woman in one of my classes at T-VI who is particularly memorable.

One afternoon when we had a lab session to work on our programs, I encountered her in one of the study rooms. In reply to my query as to how it was going, she made a gesture well known among Europeans, but not so well known among Americans. (Nothing rude; one holds one's hand out, palm down, and wiggles the hand from side to side. The meaning is "so-so".) I was completely taken aback by that. Very few Americans recognize that gesture and for a Navajo born on the reservation to be familiar with it was almost unthinkable. "Where did you learn that?", I asked. "What?" "That gesture." "We do it all the time on the reservation." Then the light went on. Because of the writings of Karl May, a lot of Germans had come over here and mingled with the tribes, intermarrying at times, and leaving a certain cultural influence. (She even recognized the name Karl May, even though she couldn't place him.)

Shortly after I got married, I got called to be the Membership Clerk at Church. While going thru the membership records one afternoon, I noticed that there was a couple who came from the same area as my Dad. She was born in Plauen; he was actually born in Windhoek, South Africa, but had returned to Plauen whence his father had emigrated. I got well acquainted with them and they became like surrogate parents to me.

One of my favorite memories of the Lippkes involved a little place they owned up near Pueblo, Colorado. We went up there for Independence Day weekend in 1988. The ride up thru norther New Mexico and southern Colorado is breathtaking, so I really enjoyed it. Rudolf and Ruth were already there when I arrived, driving a little '71 or '74 VW squareback that I had bought from them. Near their place in Rye is a fish hatchery with a stocked pond. You can rent fishing gear, and then pay by the inch for whatever fish you catch. It was no big deal, but I managed to hook three trout. I just can't remember whether they were browns or rainbows. But I do remember dinner that night.

Before Virginia and I got divorced, her father, brother and I went elk hunting out on Mount Taylor, near Grants. There we were, lugging our .50 caliber muzzle-loaders up hill and down dale, huffing and puffing and wondering why we had no energy. (Virginia's dad I could understand, but Tom and I were younger and don't smoke.) After a day or so, we finally consulted the topo map and discovered that we were up around 9,500 feet. Once we dropped down to around 8,000 feet, it wasn't so bad.

A few years later, I went elk hunting again with a retired AF Colonel. We were going to go on horseback, but something prevented that. Instead, we went in his pick-up. Neither one of us bagged anything, but it was still great. John did see a huge bull elk, but it was Sunday and he had told his wife he wouldn't shoot anything on the Sabbath. No way I would have made a promise like that.

In early '84, I got a call from the Bishop, asking if I could put a guy up for a few days. He had arrived in town on his way to San Francisco and had run out of money. He wanted to find work to pay for the rest of the trip. No problem. Keith turned out to be one of those unforgettable characters one meets in life. I'm not exactly a slob, but Keith's a neat freak. He only stayed with me a couple of weeks before find his own place and a job, but it was fun having him around. Of course, whenever I would go out, I'd have to say "Keith, I'm going out for a while. Don't clean anything."

Shortly after I arrived in '82, Terry moved in from southern California. He's originally from Iowa. The three of us made quite a team -- Keith the neat freak, Terry the *ahem* "anti-neat-freak", and me the one in the middle. Terry and Keith wound up living with a family down near the University, but Keith left in early '86 to serve a mission in Japan. I wound up moving from where I was staying and had a choice between a one-bedroom apartment or a two-bedroom, so I called Terry to see if he'd be interested in sharing the two-bedroom. At first, he demurred, saying he was OK where he was. But after I had been in the new place for a few weeks, I got a call from him, wondering if the offer was still open. Sure, I said; when did he want to move? Tonight? Things had gotten so bad with the kids where he was that he just couldn't put up with it anymore. We wound up living in that apartment for 4½ years. And we're still friends.

Right after I moved into that apartment, I started getting phone calls for some guy named "Vern". Mostly, it was messages on my answering machine. Finally, I happened to be home one day and caught one of the callers. Who, I demanded was this Vern character? Turns out, he's a handyman who had had my phone number before I got it. He had left his business card with clients and some of them were calling him back -- in some cases, a couple of years later -- to do some more work. I got his full name and looked him up in the phone book. Sure enough, he had moved down to Los Lunas and was still working as a handyman. I called and talked to him a bit and we had a good laugh, after which I offered to pass along his correct number to any future callers. He said that'd be fine. To this day, Terry and I often call each other and begin with "Hello, Vern?".

There are far too many people I got to know during 18 years in Albuquerque to mention here, but some of them will no doubt pop up in future posts. Let it just be said that it was the people who made living in Albuquerque worthwhile. My fondest memories revolve not around places or things, but around people.



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