Mike Lord

Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

Thursday, 22 September 2016 20:29

Peña Blanca Summers - by Jim Baca

Peña Blanca, the home of my father and his ancestors, is a small village that lies between the Pueblos of Cochiti and Santo Domingo on New Mexico highway 22, about an equidistant drive north from Albuquerque or south from Santa Fe. In my childhood it was a place of summer daydreams, aromatic kitchens, ringing church bells, nightly visits to neighbors, homesickness, and the loving care of my Grandparents, Delfin and Lenore Baca.

In the summers, and sometimes at Christmas, my parents, Fermin and Dixie Baca would pack us kids off for ten days to this small and humble village to stay with “Grandma and Grandpa”. My identical twin brother Tom, and my big sister Carlota and I would travel the old highway 85 in one of Grandpa’s trusty but dilapidated trucks or cars. He worked as the supervisor for the Cochiti district of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, an agency I would serve as General Manager for a short time some 25 years later.

The ride to Peña Blanca was always an adventure to be anticipated. In the 1950's the old two lane Highway, which was to spawn I-25 some years later, was as good a ride as anything one could hope for at Disneyland. There was a particular section between Bernalillo and San Felipe that provided a stomach churning topography for any vehicle. We came to call that section “the dips”. We looked forward to it and Grandpa never let us down. He worked the accelerator just precisely enough that we were weightless at the top of the mound and then picked up g-forces at the bottom.

Once we left Highway 85 at the old Domingo trading post we were onto the washboard dirt road into the village. This is where Grandpa taught us his method of singing. He would let out a single tone hum and every bump in the road would cause the car to buck and hence force a new note from Grandpa. The effect was especially impressive as he traveled on the ditch roads as he made his daily rounds of the main irrigation system from Cochiti to Agnostura. There was a strange and haunting melody that formed when he did this, much like chanting of the pueblo dancers.

The next obstacle to arriving at Peña Blanca was the old Galisteo arroyo crossing. If it was dry, there was no problem. If it had been raining hard anywhere north of the crossing it was downright dangerous. I recall a three foot wall of water hurtling down the arroyo after one violent thunderstorm near La Bajada. The water ran for a day before the crossing was passable and the antiquated bridge was declared safe for a few more months. Years later a modern structure was built there and that adventure was forever removed.

A few miles further through the Santo Domingo reservation, we passed over a clattering cattle guard and were in Peña Blanca. I always remember the dogs of the village running beside us snapping at the wheels. We children were petrified the car would run over these always emaciated canines, but Grandpa never gave it a thought and the dogs gave up the chase after a hundred yards to wait for the next pursuit.

The next landmark was Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. We would often stop for a visit and while grandma prayed we would look at the beautiful stations of the cross painted by Fray Angelico Chavez. My grandfather and many of his family were said to have been models for these magnificent frescos.
We visiting three children from the big city of Albuquerque were viewed by some residents of the village as “those twins and their sister who don’t speak Spanish”. Ours was not a bilingual household and so when we arrived in Peña Blanca for a visit we were always assured of constant ribbing in Spanish about our lack of language skills. My sister Carlota got the message, she went on to a Ph.D, in French and skills in three or four other languages.
My Grandparents at that time lived in a large and seemingly ancient adobe home with a tin roof. The house was connected to the store yards of the Conservancy district office. The warehouse, tool sheds and vehicle barns were full of trinkets and adventures for us kids and we hung around them much of the time. I particularly remember the tool sharpener in a dark corner of that building. When it was spinning, it provided a shower of sparks that could outdo any July 4th sparkler.

The house was gray colored with thick dappled stucco over adobe. The walls were so thick that you could sit inside the window recesses. Grandma used one of those deep windows on the cool side of the house as an icebox. Even interior walls averaged two feet thick with smooth white plaster. The house had wood floors and old furniture sprinkled with white lace doilies starched hard with a sugar solution cooked up by Grandma.
The first few years we visited the house there was only an outhouse to use. For us city kids that was a hard thing to endure, especially on cool mornings and dark nights. I always feared snakes might be lingering down below those holes in the boards and my visits were swift. Later on indoor plumbing was added and none of us complained.

There can be no doubt that the center of all activities was the kitchen with its wood and coal burning stove. Grandma was a master at using that stove for the incredible meals she would create almost everyday. I specifically remember the wonderful breakfasts. We would go out and feed the chickens the skins from the fried potatoes and onions that were always on the menu, collect eggs from the adobe chicken coop, and return for this meal that grandma insisted was so important to get us through the first part of the day. At least, just until lunch when she laid on another immense feast that might occasionally include her home made tamales. We eagerly awaited that most special of treats, sweet tamales with raisins inside. Dinner was usually leftovers from lunch. Essentially, another feast.

Nothing however could ever compare with grandma’s holiday banquets when relatives close and distant showed up. There were always three or four meat dishes, Grandpa’s spaghetti (a favorite of ours), lots of green and red chile dishes, squash, mountains of mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, beans, empanadas, bread pudding, flan and candy for the kids. It was something to see. Everyone pitched in at these occasions.

I remember another kitchen activity that grandma periodically performed. The making of soap. Lye soap. I don’t remember the recipe but I know there was a lot of mixing and boiling. I recall that the abrasive soap would clean anything. You sort of tingled after using it. I remember she would shave a bar of it and use it in a tub with a washboard for clothes washing. We kids would then wring the clothes out in an old fashion wringer.

We needed all that good food. The days were long and full of work and play. Mostly play. We awoke everyday to the sounds of the church bells from Our Lady of Guadalupe calling the faithful for 6:30am Mass. Grandma went often and we attended regularly too. Sometimes the Franciscans would let my brother and me ring the bells on Sundays.

The mornings were spent with Grandpa in the truck touring the miles of irrigation canals and checking on the progress of the work crews. There were frequent stops at the small general stores for Seven-Ups and ice cream. Often, Grandpa would buy a tin of sardines and eat them for a snack. Nothing grossed us out more.

After lunch Grandpa did office work and we kids took to the pasture next to the house that held the untamable horse Grandpa had bought for us. This was the “Arabian Horse from Hell” and we spent all of our time just trying to get close to him. Carlota was the only one who could deal with this horse. We named him “Wildy”. He lived for many years and we always loved him.

Also, in that pasture were a dozen head of sheep. We would get very excited when lambs were dropped and would try to adopt them as pets. I remember that terrible night when a pack of dogs killed many of the sheep. My grandfather went outside to end the maimed animals lives with a shotgun. It was the loudest and saddest sound I had ever heard. The ensuing hours were spent butchering the sheep. We stayed out of sight that day. Grandma could make a great mutton stew out of the slaughter, however.

We spent a lot of time at Grandpa’s apple orchard. This was my favorite place in Peña Blanca. There were eight hundred apple trees, a dozen cherry trees, and scatterings of peach, plum, nectarine and apricot trees. We learned how to irrigate, spray insecticide, clear underbrush and, in the spring, try to stay away from the beehives he kept for pollination. We also learned how to drive a tractor sitting on Grandpa’s lap.
Very often, the blossoms would freeze in late frosts, and I can remember the adults frantically burning old tires under the trees to save them. I remember my father injuring his back lifting heavy loads of apples onto the semi-trucks that came to buy these wonderfully flavored New Mexico apples. Sometimes there were bumper crops and then Grandpa would hand out ridiculous amounts of money to us kids. (Whenever Grandma and Grandpa visited there was always money handed out. My sister always got more because she was older.)

This beautiful orchard succumbed to the record hard freeze of 1972 and the trees were uprooted and burned a couple of years later. Believe it or not, we were unable to give away the apple wood for firewood. Fireplaces in Albuquerque were not yet in style.

After a full day of activities, which included the massacre of ants and water bugs by my brother’s and my BB guns, we would usually visit relatives in the village. There was no TV, of course, so people had to socialize or die of boredom. We often visited my Grandmother’s sister Ignacita and her husband Godofredo. The men smoked pipes and cigars while we children stayed with the women.

Godofredo’s garden was an extraordinary attraction. It was magnificent. It covered about a half acre and provided vegetables for the whole year. We snacked and munched through row after row of healthy produce.

I remember one particular visit to Peña Blanca at Christmas time. The village’s La Posada celebration will live in my memory forever. The small bonfires that lighted the way cast a surrealistic glow on the procession from home to home as the Joseph and Mary sought shelter. On Christmas night, we all traveled to Santo Domingo Pueblo to watch the dances. I will never forget the dancers covered with deer hides and antlers. I stood in fear as the men of the pueblo discharged their rifles into the air. During Mass all I could think about was the day’s activities and the nonstop banquet.

Grandma and Grandpa moved away from Peña Blanca in the early 1960's after his retirement. They had kept a home for years on South Broadway in Albuquerque and moved there. Our visits to Peña Blanca became less frequent through high school and college. My wonderful Grandparents passed away, Grandma in 1962 and Grandpa in 1979. I wish I had known them better and had spent the necessary time talking to them about their lives and the history of Peña Blanca. Small children don’t do historical research however, and we were no exception. More often than not we were homesick after a while in the village and became impatient and cranky.

I find myself returning often to Peña Blanca now. The family land is still mostly there and more beautiful than ever. In 1972 I had plans drawn for a home I would like to build on the orchard property someday, and I still have those plans in my closet.


--Jim Baca, 2016

Saturday, 16 July 2016 17:21

Santa Fe Fiestas Parades - 1929 to 1957

The Palace of the Governors Photo Archives has a 23 minute video spanning the Santa Fe Fiestas parades from 1929 to 1957.  The La Conquistadora Procession, the DeVargas Entrada, the Pet Parade, and the Historical Parade the way they used to be, when the celebration was by and for the community.  A far cry from what it is today.



--Mike Lord

Wednesday, 15 June 2016 00:06

Tesuque Pueblo Photographs 1883 - 1945

I recently came across a collection of photos of Tesuque Pueblo.  There are over 100 photos and they present an amazing snapshot of the pueblo from the 19th and 20th centuries.  You can view or download the attached.pdf file.

Saturday, 26 March 2016 16:15

Good Friday Tradition - By Gloria Mendoza

Been up since 5:00 a.m. Today is our Lenten meal day.

Here's my menu: Beans w/chicos, salmon patties (rellenos de pescado) w/green chile, torrejas (torta de huevo) w/red chile, quelites (spinach), macaroni w/tomato and cheese, calabasitas (zucchini squash w/corn), sopa w/caramel syrup and capiratoda (sopa w/a milk syrup) peach dessert. This is the traditional meal I grew up with in Santa Fe on every Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

The week before Easter we went to confession, went shopping for our Easter outfits, and spring cleaned the house. We went to church each day for Holy Week. On Holy Thursday we would all go with my Mom and Aunt to the Santuario. However, starting early in the morning, we would visit each church in Santa Fe, pray a rosary at each one, and light a candle. We would then visit each church on the way to Chimayo. We would arrive late afternoon, visit the posito, and get Holy dirt and Holy water.

My mother would cook for two days. She would bring out her small glass scalloped dessert dishes and serve everything she made in an individual dish.  She set all these upon a tray, covering the food with a clean, new tea towel.  We would take a tray to all our Aunts and Uncles who lived in the neighborhood. The recipients of our meal would then clean the dishes, fill them up with what they cooked for that day, and send them back to our home. This is a tradition which has died and which I am trying to keep alive.

We had to finish by noon time because all radios, music, and phones were turned off for the Holy three hours. We knelt in front of a nicho where our Santo Nino de Atocha sat with candles lit, rosaries, scapulars and other small tokens surrounding him. We prayed a rosary and other prayers, led by my Mother and Grandma. My Grandma’s prayers were in Spanish. We could not talk or do anything for those three hours. At 3:00 we continued to deliver trays of food and finally sat to eat our meatless Lenten Meal when Dad got home from work. I have continued this tradition for 50+ years.

I am now teaching my granddaughters and daughters-in-law our traditions and recipes.

God bless your families as we ready for the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


--Gloria Mendoza

Saturday, 12 March 2016 01:09

DeForest and Neil Lord, 1909

In 1900, my great-grandparents Charles Norvall and Marietta Phelps Lord arrived in Santa Fe with their two sons, DeForest (5) and Neil (3,) where Charles established a dental practice.  He had followed his older brother Frank, who was a thriving dentist in Las Vegas, from Sackets Harbor, New York, .

Charles did well in Santa Fe, becoming the territorial Secretary of the Board of Dental Examiners in 1905.  In 1907, he was accused by Marietta of infidelity with his dental assistant, which led to a bitter divorce.  Charles left Santa Fe and Marietta married her divorce attorney, Alois B. Renehan in 1909.

This photo is of my grandfather, DeForest, and my great-uncle, Neil, taken in 1909.  Neil was adopted by Alois, but DeForest chose to remain a Lord.

--Mike Lord

Tuesday, 12 January 2016 01:11

Packrats and Piñons

We discovered this packrat cache in our woodshed.  According to William Henry Mee, Agua Fria NM historian, these have been sought out for generations.  William says:

"Another story from the Agua Fria Oral History Interviews. There is a Spanish term/phrase for this action. People would ferret out these cache nests and take all the piñon. They would then leave corn meal behind for the rodent and check the same places the next year. Some people even said a prayer over the corn meal. Apparently, when you ground corn you would sift it and the jagged pieces would be held to the side.  This was what was fed to the rodents."

I write of Christmas 1938, the last year my father was alive. He loved these occasions. The Christmas tree, a beautiful, well-shaped blue spruce, was selected early in the year on one of his horseback trips to tend to his cattle at the Valle Grande (now Valle Caldera). Just before Christmas, he would make another horseback trip to bring the selected tree.

The December celebrations started with preparations for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Peña Blanca. The mayordomos, two couples from the parish, had the honor of overseeing the celebration. White-washing the interior church walls, organizing parishioners to bring piñon trees to line the area of the procession for the vespers, and preparing the luminarias which would be lit and burned on the evening of December 11. Luminarias were made from piñon wood which would have lots of pitch to burn brightly. A luminaria is a formation of interwoven piñon logs and to purists like me, the only luminaria. The candle in a paper sack is a faralito. On the evening of December 11, there was a procession with the parishioners singing the Rosary, as well as other prayers. Little girls in their white First Communion dresses carried the Blessed Virgin Mary’s banner. Older women carried the banner of the Sacred Heart. At this time in Peña Blanca, there were still old ladies wearing long black dresses down to the floor and a tapalo (shawl) on their heads, not unlike what we now see in pictures from the Middle East.

The church functions were followed by a dance. Everyone wore their finery. We would estrenar our winter coats, and the soot from the luminarias could be catastrophic on a light-colored coat. Estrenar means first use of something, be it clothes or other objects, and there does not seem to be an English equivalent. The following day, a high mass was held. Franciscan priests from Cuba, Gallup, and Santa Fe came to celebrate. After the church function, a fiesta followed at the home of the mayordomos.

After the Fiesta of the Patroness, came the novena in preparation for Christmas. For some reason, unknown to me, these nine masses were held at 6:00 a.m. in the dead of winter. We walked in pitch darkness in bitter cold weather to the church for mass. (I hope St. Peter will take note of this when he marks down the Sundays I have missed mass.) At school, we had Christmas plays, ending with a visit from Santa Claus who gave us each a paper sack with peanuts, candy, and an orange.

The winter solstice marked the Ember Days—days of fasting and abstinence. With the cold, it was a time to butcher a yearling. According to my mother, her Tio (uncle) Amado Baca would say, “Cuando el pobre ya tiene carne siempre se atravieza La vigilia.(When the poor man finally has meat, along come the Ember Days). It never failed.

Butchering was only one of the preparations. There was also baking of biscochitos and candy-making. Empanaditas and tamales were made the day before Christmas. Making tamales entailed soaking the white corn in a lime solution, then it required many rinsings before grinding the corn for the masa. The masa was then beaten very well until a sample of it would float in water. Boiling and shredding a pork roast was next. Then the red chile sauce was added and the tamale could be assembled in cornhusks which had been soaking. There is little wonder that this was the only time of year that we had tamales. Chaquewe was another thing. It was much easier to make and the results were not too different.

The meat concoction for the empanadas (probably a cooked beef tongue) had been prepared with raisins, chopped apples, piñon nuts, whiskey or wine, and aged for a few days. The pastry is similar to a sopapilla. The empanadas were stuffed and deep fat fried on Christmas Eve, so they would be fresh.

Rural electrification came early to New Mexico compared to other parts of the country. Governor Clyde Tingley was a political supporter and friend of President Franklin Roosevelt, so New Mexico profited from the New Deal projects early. In December of 1938, we were hoping that the installation of electricity would be completed, and it was. My older sisters Elda and Margaret had brought us Christmas tree decorations. There is no comparison between the beautiful General Electric decorations of those years with the lights we have today. The lights were blue, about one-and-a-half inches long, and shaped like bells and stars. We had a blue tree for many years as those lights lasted twenty or thirty years. While my mother baked, Fita—one of my older sisters—decorated the tree. After the tinsel and icicles came a covering of “angel’s hair.” This was a spun glass covering. This decoration was removed from the market quickly, perhaps because it could cut and was very irritating to the skin. We would try to peek through the keyhole into the room where the tree was, but we were not allowed to see the tree until we returned from midnight mass (La misa del gallo). The nativity scene at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was, and still is, especially beautiful. The manger was lined in piñon boughs. The nativity set had been purchased with funds donated by the students, also with bingo games and raffles and, like our tree at home, it was not put up until Christmas Eve.

Immediately after mass, we opened our gifts. By 1938, the depression was receding and we received dolls. In previous years, we received paper dolls and were just as delighted with them. After opening gifts, we had tamales, empanaditas, and coffee.

Early in the morning on Christmas day, less fortunate children came to beg for “Mis Crismas,” much like children go from house to house for trick-or-treating at Halloween. The children were given peanuts, nuts, and candy.

Our Christmas dinner was roast beef and my sister Celina made fruit cake. In the evening, we went to see the lights in Madrid in Elda’s car. My sister had recently completed her education as a public health nurse and had purchased a new car. Our family had never had a vehicle other than a caraje (carriage) and wagon.

Madrid, a mining town, assessed the miners a fee from their monthly wages and used volunteer help to put on a spectacular display at Christmas that was famous far and wide. We had never previously been able to see it.

During the Christmas vacation, every evening, my mother would come out with her cache of goodies. She hid the candy, peanuts, and nuts in her square sewing machine cabinet. She thought no one knew where they were. Each night, she doled out a handful of these goodies. The candy had to last through January 6.

The Feast of the Epiphany was the end of the Christmas season. We had early dismissal of school, and we would go to Santo Domingo Pueblo. At each home, in the pueblo, where someone was named Ray or Reyes, the family celebrated their Saint’s Day by throwing gifts from the rooftops to the crowd. The gifts might be a loaf of bread wrapped in muslin, or a pretty printed material from a flour sack, or candy, or, if you were lucky, one of the squares of cloth might have a turquoise ring.

Our Christmas tree was up for several weeks after Epiphany, perhaps my mother kept it up until the beginning of Lent.

This article’s author, Amelia Montoya Andrews, is a member of the Sandoval County Historical Society and contributor to their quarterly publication El Cronicón.

Thursday, 05 November 2015 01:50

Garcia Street Club - The Early Years

Who remembers?  1950s.

Thanksgiving, 1942.  Wartime food rationing was an American reality and  Cisco Gormley, who owned Gormley's store on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, was printing and mailing penny postcards weekly to his customers, offering foods that were avaliable that week.  Cranberries, corn and cookies were avaliable but coffee was very hard to obtain.  Piñon nuts did not seem to be on the ration list.

Thanks to Kathie Leyendecker.

Saturday, 05 September 2015 19:45

Maria Trujillo, Truchas

This is a wonderful story by Rey Montes, Montes Santa Fe

This is a photograph of Mary/María Trujillo and my puppy Lisa Marie/Lisa. They loved one another. It was unusual for Lisa to love a human since she was in a puppy mill for the first seven years of her life. She had been a champion Toy Poodle, but was imprisoned in a cage while she produced other little champs. But she loved Mary. Mary died September 1st. It was because of Mary that Montez Gallery was able to find a home in Truchas. The last time my father was in a hospital, St. Vincent’s in Santa Fe was short on rooms so he had a roommate, Eliseo Trujillo. During the time we were in the hospital, Eliseo’s wife, Mary, and I became great friends. They say that it is near impossible to form close friends in later life, but Mary and I became very close very fast. As both men were dying, Mary would yell to her husband, “montate!” I had not heard that word since I was a child. “Get back on the horse!” It made me think of my father’s story about the stallion that his father, a horse trainer for the U.S. cavalry in Santa Fe, could not train. One day, while my grandfather was out, my father spent the entire day being bucked off that horse. Finally, in the evening, before my grandfather returned, my father was riding the horse. He had gotten back on. My father told me many stories during his last days in the hospital. He told me where he kept his “treasures”, he asked me to guard them, like his WWII memorabilia which he hid in a trunk in his back shed. He told me many things I had never heard before. And he repeated that Truchas was “Paradise”, his favorite place to fish for trout (“truchas” means trout). My father was an avid fisherman and, after falling in love with my mother from Chimayo (the village below Truchas) he would spend many hours fishing there, often with my mother. A month after my father died, I received an e-mail from Eliseo’s granddaughter that Eliseo had died. I drove up to Truchas to give Mary my condolences and during our meeting she asked me, “?No has visto la capilla?” I answered, “?Que Capilla?” Mary said that when she was a girl she went to a church that was just a few minutes walk from her home and I should see it. At the time, I was wondering how I could save my 22-year-old gallery in downtown Santa Fe (which has the same square footage costs as Manhatten) during the recession. As I opened the beautiful blue doors of the old, adobe church, my heart flew out of my heart! It was the perfect place to place the santos made by the more than 100 families of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado that I represent. And the rent? 1/6th of the cost! Mary helped me hang every retablo and display every bulto in the capilla. We started in one corner and went around the old church as everything fit in place naturally. At the end, I told Mary, “Eliseo and my father are with us.” Now, Mary is watching over her family, Lisa and me. Mary taught me many old traditions and many archaic words in this village of Truchas, the highest and most protected in New Mexico. And so, to my great friend, Lisa and I miss you dearly. “Has montado, Maria. Cuidanos.”

--Montes Santa Fe

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