Mike Lord

Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

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

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.

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