Mike Lord

Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

Saturday, 13 June 2015 01:04

La Carréta

"Travelling this morning quietly over the plain, we heard in the distance of several miles a singular, awful noise, like a combination of falling rocks, breaking of bones, screams of anguish and cries of children, but the deep impression which the mysterious concert had made upon my ears was but surpassed by the surprising effect, when with my own eyes I descried the wonderful machine whose action produced that unearthly music - a Mexican carréta.  Imagine to yourself a cart, made without any nails or iron of any kind, and with two solid wheels formed out of the trunk of a big tree, and in the circumference rounded, or rather squared, and with a frame of ox-skin or sticks fastened together by rawhide, and this machine then put in motion by three yoke of oxen, and carrying a load, which on a better vehicle one animal could transport much faster and easier, and you will have an idea of this primitive and only known vehicle used in Northern Mexico."

Memoir Of A Tour to Northern Mexico
A. Wislizenus, M. D.
January, 1848


Two of the most pejorative terms in New Mexico - Greaser and Gringo Salado - came from the 1830s when the Americano wagon trains began to arrive in New Mexico. The term Greaser referred to the individuals that accompanied carretas, carrying buckets of tallow, whose job it was to "grease" the wood on wood hubs and axles of the carreta . Gringo salado (salty gringo) was directed at the American wagon train crews who, after 3 months on the trail with little or no bathing, were very dirty and odoriferous when they arrived in Santa Fe. Transportation industry insults. Using either term could spark a fight.


--Mike Lord

Friday, 15 May 2015 23:48

San Ysidro, Patron Saint of Farmers

May 15:  Dia de San Ysidro

The patron saint of Madrid and of farmers, San Ysidro was born to a poor family in 1070. While young, Isidore’s devout parents instilled in him a strong work ethic and deep Christian faith. This was reflected in his life as a farmer on the estate of the wealthy Vargas family (ancestors of Don Diego de Vargas, governor of New Mexico in 1691-1697 and 1703-1704) outside of Madrid, where he was renowned for the hours he prayed each day while still managing to complete all his farming tasks. According to legend, another laborer on the estate complained that Isidore was taking too much time off to pray and was not doing his share of the work. When the overseer investigated this complaint, however, he did indeed find Isidore praying—and an angel taking his place behind the plow.

Although quite poor all his life, Isidore was known for his generosity to both his fellow humans and to animals. It is said that once when he was returning home with a coveted sack of grain he saw some birds foraging for scarce food. He punctured the sack and allowed the grain to escape, but when he arrived home it was full again. Another legend recounts that his wife, María, insisted that he work one Sunday rather than attend Mass. Isidore agreed and the Lord subsequently threatened him, first with torrential rains, then with a plague of locusts, but was not successful in getting him to go to church. In the end, it was the threat of a bad neighbor that got him to abandon his plow and attend Mass. When he returned home, however, his wife was not angry because an angel had guided the plow in his stead.

Isidore was canonized as San Ysidro Labrador in 1622 for the many miracles associated with him. His wife, to whom miracles are also attributed, was canonized soon after as Santa María de la Cabeza. Devotion to San Ysidro spread to the Americas, and in New Mexico, the Saint became an important part of local lore and agrarian life.

Thanks to Maria Montez-Skolnik


Sunday, 10 August 2014 17:33

A Forgotten Highway In New Mexico

A Forgotten Highway in New Mexico


State Road 22, the Scenic Highway from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Santa Fe, New Mexico and the beginning of tourism as a New Mexico industry



Michael D. Lord and Arthur Seligman Scott



The arrival of the railroad into the New Mexico territory in 1879 created major changes, most notably in commerce.  Since 1821, the most significant trade route between New Mexico and the United States had been the Santa Fe Trail, and the town of Santa Fe had been the main beneficiary.  Since the railroad did not pass directly through Santa Fe, Las Vegas had become a major railroad terminus and grown wealthy, while Santa Fe’s fortunes declined.  By the end of the 19th century, the idea of tourism as a source of revenue and new immigrants was beginning to take hold.

Sunday, 12 January 2014 19:26

Santa Rita Café, 1938

This is from Rita LeFevre Speer.  Santa Rita, NM was the location of the Chino open-pit copper mine.  It was once the largest open-pit mine in the world.

"My mother, Etna Lancaster,  was an 18 year old waitress at the Santa Rita Café, near Silver City, in 1938. My father, G. B. LeFevre, worked in the copper mine until he joined the Army when WWII broke out. My mother spent the war years back in Fort Worth, TX (near family), where she was a "Rosie the Riveter" at the Ft. Worth bomber plant until the war was over. It wasn't until 1948 or 1949 before they could get back to New Mexico, moving first to Española, then to Santa Fe in 1950, where they lived and raised a family for their remaining years. Bye bye Texas..."

Etna is fourth from the right in this photo.

Friday, 13 December 2013 22:07

Christmas Dinner at the Bon Ton - 1891

Pictured above is the Bon Ton Hotel and Restaurant which was located on San Francisco Street just to the west of the Claire Hotel.  While the Claire was considered a first class establishment, the Bon Ton catered to a less affluent clientele.  

Nevertheless, in 1891 they offered a Christmas dinner far more elaborate than one would find today.

 Jan Whittaker blogged about the event in 2012.


 Christmas dinner in a restaurant, again?

I suspect that a lot of people living in the Wild West in the 1880s and 1890s had little choice but to eat their holiday dinners in restaurants. The majority of the residents of western mining and ranching towns were males living in “hotels” which were nothing but crude rooming houses with a saloon, pool hall, and none-too-fine restaurant attached.

John W. Conway ran such a place in Santa Fe NM, but judging from the spread he laid out for Christmas in 1891, he was making a generous effort to please his guests with a delicious meal. On this particular day he served a genuine feast for only 25 cents, the price of an everyday dinner.

Conway’s Bon Ton Restaurant


Christmas Dinner


Clam Chowder             Chicken Giblet


Ham    Corned Beef    New England Boiled Dinner


Suckling Pig, Apple Sauce       Beef, Brown Gravy

Veal, Dressing             Turkey, Cranberry Sauce

Duck, Jelly       Chicken, Cream Gravy


Breaded Veal Cutlets, French Peas

Pork and Beans           Fricasseed Chicken, Dumplings

Quail on Toast             Lamb Chops, Tomato Sauce

Macaroni and Cheese             Irish Stew


Irish Potatoes, Mashed and Browned

Baked Sweet Potatoes      Green Peas      Corn     Beets

String Beans    Tomatoes        Celery


Worcestershire Sauce             Tomato Catsup

Chow Chow      White Onions              Horse Radish

German Pickles           Lettuce

Shrimp, Lobster and Potato Salad


English Plum, Brandy Sauce               Corn Starch

Nelly Bly, Nutmeg Sauce


Mince              Cranberry        Pumpkin          Custard


Gallagher’s Marble     White’s Jelly

Tea      Coffee              Chocolate        Milk

Nuts     Raisins             Oranges          Grapes

Wine List furnished by the waiter

 Dinner from 12 to 1 o’clock, 25 cents

Just down San Francisco Street, Will Burton offered a more refined, pared-down dinner. Judging from the menu, the 50-cent meal might well have equaled one served in more sophisticated big city restaurants. Unlike John Conway’s, his dinner began with oysters and featured fish and game courses. And there was no Pork and Beans or Cornstarch Pudding on Will’s menu.

Merry Christmas!


Billy’s New Restaurant

1 to 4 PM

Blue Point Oysters


Fresh Oyster


Red Snapper, Shrimp Sauce


Capon, Sauce Velouette


Turkey, Oyster Dressing, Cranberry Sauce

Loin of Kansas City Beef, Au Jus


Baked Loin of Elk, Orange Sauce, Currant Jelly


Brunswick Stew           Roast Quail


Fresh Shrimp               Potato


Browned Potatoes       Tomatoes La Royal     French Peas


Almonds          Nuts     Raisins             Apples


English Christmas, Brandy Sauce


Mince Pie        Apple Pie

 French A.D. Coffee      Cheese             Green Tea

 Dinner, 50¢

 Will C. Burton & Co., Props.

Will, aka Billy, had lived for a time in San Francisco where he may have acquired elite tastes. He hosted game dinners, kept vintage French wines in his cellar, and poured expensive Scotch whisky. He opened this restaurant in Santa Fe on Thanksgiving of 1891 but, alas, by the next spring he was ruined and reduced to running the short order department at Conway’s Bon Ton.

Regarding the first menu, I am left wondering what Nellie Bly pudding might be. Under Relishes on the same menu, German pickles were, I think, pickled green tomatoes with onions and green peppers. Chow Chow was a mixture of pickled vegetables. On Billy’s menu, Velouté Sauce, of meat stock, and creamed flour and butter, is incorrectly spelled. “A. D. Coffee” is short for after dinner coffee. Both menus use the French meaning of entree, a side dish usually of smaller cuts or chopped meat or fowl.

I find it interesting that Christmas dinner menus in most of the restaurants I looked at from the second half of the 20th century were far less elaborate than these.

© Jan Whitaker, 2012



Sunday, 03 November 2013 17:15

The Capilla at Plaza del Cerro - Chimayo, NM

This Capilla (Chapel) was built on the west side of the Plaza del Cerro in the early 1700s, 100 years before the Santuario was constructed.  It is an exquisite example of a Colonial New Mexico church.

This is a Holy place.  My first thought when I walked in was "Wow!  How many people worshiped and professed their faith here during the past 300 years?  Thousands, I'm sure."  Muchisimas gracias to Chimayo for preserving it.

Photo by Mike Lord

Sunday, 27 October 2013 19:19

Where's My Nickle, Where's My Dime?


When Acequia Madre Elementary School opened in 1954, my little brother and I were transferred there from Carlos Gilbert.  I was in the 4th grade and he was in the 1st.  We knew a couple of kids who also were moved, but most of our classmates were unknown.  As outsiders, we were befriended by a few boys and girls and we were picked on by the rest.  This all eventually sorted itself out, but the first couple of months were scary.

The school was a 20 minute walk from our home on La Vereda.  My father dropped us off every morning and we walked home every afternoon.  The route was down a small path from Acequia Madre to Gormley’s store on Canyon Road, then down another path, crossing the back yards of a few homes, to the Santa Fe River.  We went over the river on a small footbridge, crossed Alameda, walked up a short road to Palace Avenue and arrived at home.

Since there was no cafeteria we took our lunches to school every day.  The more affluent kids had lunchboxes (mine was Hopalong Cassidy) while the less fortunate brought their lunches in brown paper or bread bags.  We originally took drinks in a small thermos, but they were easily broken and, after I destroyed the third one, my parents began giving us each a dime to buy a small cardboard container of milk.  It wasn’t long before we stopped buying the milk and instead used the money to buy candy at Gormley’s after school.  There were quite a few Acequia Madre kids there, none of whom we knew, and they let us know that, because we were rich, we should share our candy with them.  When we refused, we were threatened with mayhem, but Mr. Gormley would come to our rescue and send them packing.

Eventually the showdowns at Gormley’s ended and our adversaries took up a new tactic.  One day we arrived at the footbridge over the river and were met by a kid from my class and his 6th grade big brother.  They told us that, beginning the next day, we would have to pay them ten cents in order to cross the bridge and, if we didn’t, big brother would beat us up.  They weren’t totally greedy, since we had twenty cents between us, but we found ourselves in a position that was terrifying.  The next afternoon, we got to the bridge and there they were, asking “where’s my nickel, where’s my dime?”  We paid our toll and went home.

After about a week of this, we decided that it was time to tell our parents and ask them to bail us out.  The first thing that happened was that my dad grounded us for 2 weekends for blowing our milk money on candy.  The second thing he did was to tell us that, since we created this problem, it was up to us to solve it.  We didn’t sleep much that night.

When we approached the bridge the next day, we told our tormentors that we had no money.  They pushed us around a bit and threatened us with a beating if we tried to cross.  Instead, with them throwing rocks at us, we climbed down the 4 foot wall to the river, splashed across it, scrambled up the wall on the other side and ran like hell for home.

For the next 3 weeks, we walked the long way home.  Up Acequia Madre to Delgado Street, Delgado to Palace Avenue and then Palace up to La Vereda.  It took a good 15 minutes longer and had a long uphill stretch.  The Billy Goats Gruff would threaten us at school but they could do us no harm there.  We finally decided to try the short way again and, when we got to the bridge, there was no one there.  For the rest of our time at Acequia Madre we crossed that bridge without incident.  And we always drank our milk.

The bridge (pictured above) is still there.  The paths have been fenced, walled and otherwise made inaccessible by the current property owners.  There was a time in Santa Fe when people did not so jealously guard their land.  We were fortunate to be able to experience it.

Photo by my little brother, David Lord

September 13, 2013

--Mike Lord

Source:  Johnny Valdez, longtime Chair of the Santa Fe Fiesta Council, creator of the list

Provided by Adelina Ortiz de Hill, Santa Fe Living Treasure and 1940s Santa Fe Fiesta Princess

Friday, 11 October 2013 18:59

First Holy Communion At Cristo Rey


My parents were married in Los Angeles in 1944.  Dad was in the Navy and met my mom through her cousin.  She was a Basque Catholic and he was a Santa Fe Episcopalian, which didn’t seem to present any problems until, in 1946, we all returned to Santa Fe to live permanently.  When my mom brought me to meet dad’s family, my great-grandmother informed her that all of the arrangements had been made to have me baptized at Holy Faith on Palace Avenue.  As an Episcopalian.

It must not have gotten cold enough for hell to freeze over that year, because I was baptized a Catholic.  After living in Los Alamos until 1948, we moved back to Santa Fe and I began my spiritual education at Cristo Rey Church.  The earliest memories of Cristo Rey I have were going to Mass every Sunday and learning the ritual of standing, kneeling, genuflecting and sitting at the proper times.  When I began school I also began catechism class for an hour every Saturday afternoon.   The class was held in a schoolroom that was part of the Cristo Rey Parish School, located behind the church.  We were first taught the basics:  the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Apostle’s Creed and the Sign of the Cross (which, we were told, the Episcopalians did backwards.)  As I grew older, heading for my First Holy Communion, the lessons focused on the life of Jesus, the stories in the bible and the 7 Sacraments.  We were each given a scapular which consisted of two small squares of cloth, each with its own picture of Jesus on one and Mary on the other, connected by two long strips of cloth.  They were worn under your clothing, with one picture against your chest and one against your back.  We were expected to wear them all the time.  I remember how mine itched.  I think  that it was supposed to, kind of like a hair shirt.

Monsignor Patrick Smith (Father Pat) was our parish priest and he had a unique way of making sure that we were absorbing our lessons.  Cristo Rey had 3 Masses on Sunday.  The 7:00 Mass, for those who wanted an early start, the 9:30 Mass which most parishioners and families attended, and the noon Mass for those who couldn’t attend the other two and for the sluggards who slept in.  At the 9:30 Mass, all of the kids in catechism class sat in the first 3 pews up front.  There was no escape.  After the sermon, Father Pat came down from the altar to the aisle and began randomly questioning us on what we should have learned the day before.  We were expected to answer in a loud, clear voice and Heaven help us if we whispered or didn’t know the answer.  Remember, we were all just kids and not accustomed to public speaking.  We initially tried to make sure that we sat as far from the aisle as possible, which led to a lot of jostling as we arrived, but we soon learned that Father Pat would question those kids first.  The girls almost always answered correctly.  The boys, not so much.  If we faltered, Father Pat would announce to the world that we must not be paying enough attention and we would be singled out during the next class.  The adults behind us were quite amused by the entire spectacle and, believe it or not, by the time we made our First Communion, we knew the material pretty well.

The Saturday before First Communion, we all had to make our first confession.  One of the Sacraments is Penance, which is an acknowledgement of and atonement for one's sins.  The confessional was a small wooden chamber with the priest separated from the confessor by an opaque curtain.  You entered, knelt down and said “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been (X) days/weeks/months since my last confession.”  You enumerated your sins and the priest then assigned your penance, which had to be completed, kneeling in a pew, before you could leave the church.  Penance for a 7 year old was pretty simple.  It usually was saying 5 Our Fathers and 5 Hail Marys or, if the sin was really egregious, praying a Rosary, which took about an hour.  My sins then consisted of things like fighting with my brother, disobeying my parents and once swiping a popsicle from the Palace Grocery (that one got me a Rosary.)  Impure thoughts and deeds came later.

The next day, we made our First Holy Communion.  Everyone was scrubbed clean and dressed to the nines.  The girls all had white dresses and mantillas and the boys all had on white shirts and grown-up ties.  Our scapulars were in place and we took our seats in the front pews, this time as the guests of honor rather than the uneducated urchins we had been before.  When the time came, we were first at the altar rail and we knelt (again).  I put out my tongue and received the Host, a thin, white wafer which immediately stuck to the roof of my mouth.  Picture a dog trying to get peanut butter off the roof of its mouth.  That was me.

When Mass was over, we all gathered outside for congratulations and photos.  There were parties and, in my case, breakfast at a sit-down restaurant.  It was the biggest day thus far of our young lives and I recall the pride I felt because I had finished a complicated task successfully.

Looking back, I realize that the first foundations of who I became as an adult were laid at Cristo Rey.  And I am most grateful.

--Mike Lord

Photo by Jerry Kerr

Saturday, 05 October 2013 17:12

When It's Apple Picking Time Down In Tesuque


My father must have had a secret fantasy to be a farmer because, in 1956, he moved our growing family from our ancestral home on La Vereda to a two-story adobe house in the middle of a Tesuque orchard.  For my brother and me it was a mixed blessing.  On the one hand, we could roam among the hills and arroyos, fish in the Tesuque River and the ponds and hang out with people like woodcarver Andy Anderson and saddle maker Slim Green.  On the other hand, we were expected to be the hired farmhands.  And the pay wasn’t much.

The Tesuque Valley then was primarily agricultural.  There were numerous orchards, truck gardens, a chicken and egg ranch and a dairy within walking distance of our home.  Both sides of the river were irrigated by a series of acequias and the amount of water one received was based on how much property you had to water.  In our case, we had about an acre of fruit trees around the house and another acre of trees up the lane behind the house.  This was a mature orchard, consisting of 3 different varieties of apples, a cherry tree, some pear and plum trees, a few apricot trees and quite a few peach trees.  We soon learned that one didn’t just water and wait until fall to reap the harvest.  There was always something to be done during the summer months, and my brother and I did a lot of it.  Our house included all of the tools necessary to maintain the orchard.  Shovels and hoes for cleaning out the ditches, 12 foot tall folding ladders, pruning saws, devices to grasp the highest fruit, picking bags and bushel baskets.  In the late spring we pruned out all of the dead branches and cleaned the ditches.  Once that was done, the irrigating began.

Our acequia water allotment was for 2 hours twice a week.  You walked up to the main ditch, closed the big gate and opened the gate that sent the water to our place.  You then opened a series of small gates, one at a time, and flooded everything.  When the 2 hours had passed, you walked back up to the main ditch, closed the small gate and opened the big gate to send the water down to the next user.  The timing was essential because, if you were late starting you would lose that water, and, if you were late finishing and sending the water on down, your neighbor would be at your doorstep.  All of this seemed like a pretty fun job except for one thing.  Our allotted 2 hours were from 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM.  My dad thought that this would be a good way to teach my brother and me responsibility (not to mention allowing him to sleep,) so he showed us how to do the job once, bought us an alarm clock and some flashlights, and wished us luck.  I hated that job.

The fall, however, was magical.  It was like living in the middle of the Garden of Eden.  The whole Valley smelled like apples and there was fruit hanging everywhere.  We ate it all day long – apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries and plums.  My mom made countless jars of apricot and peach jam, applesauce and pies.  But there was still far more fruit than the family could use, so back to work we went, picking the rest of the fruit.  We had picking bags, which were made of canvas with an open bottom.  They were worn on the front of your chest and the bottom was folded up and fastened with a clip.  After the bag was full (about a bushel) the bottom was unclipped and the fruit was dumped into a basket.  These were not used for peaches, as the fruit was too soft and would bruise in the bag.  Peaches were picked by hand, one at a time, and deposited in the baskets.

In the 1950s, many of the orchards and gardens sold their produce by the side of the road.  My dad agreed to let my brother and me keep the proceeds of whatever we sold, so one Saturday we took a few baskets of fruit, a couple of folding chairs and a small table out to the side of the road and waited for customers.  To our great surprise, they came and stopped.  The going rate for fruit was two dollars per bushel for apples and five dollars per bushel for peaches.  We had about 5 bushels of peaches, which sold out immediately.  The 20 bushels of apples took longer, but by the end of the day they were gone and we had the princely sum of sixty-five dollars.  This was an enormous amount of money for 2 boys in the 1950s and we decided that all of the work was worthwhile.  Had we taken the time to calculate the amount of labor, we would have discovered that we probably made less than ten cents an hour.

We discovered another use for apples that was much more fun.  By poking an apple on the end of a 3 foot long stick, one could hold the other end and throw the apple a long way.  A really long way.  It was an apple atlatl and we began having apple wars.  When we tired of this, we began launching them toward a neighbor’s metal roofed house about 100 yards behind us.  It took her a while to figure out what was clanging on her roof and, when she did, my parents were not amused.

Today, Tesuque is all estates and galleries.  There are still a few producing orchards (the apples in the photo above came from the orchard that is across the street from our old house.)  And the roadside stands are long gone.


--Mike Lord

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