Category Archives: New Mexico

Flashback: ‘Squirrelly’ Armijo Survives his own Funeral

Hi readers. I saw on Yahoo News that someone faked his own funeral. Got me remembering Squirrelly Armijo. So I searched for a post I was fairly certain I made in the deep history of this blog: Squirrelly didn’t fake his, except by accident.

A legendary man in the Quemado/Reserve area nicknamed ‘Squirrelly’ Armijo had a good working claim down near Queen’s Head in the Gallos near Apache Creek in the 1940s through the 1960s. Maybe that’s where he came across a skeleton, and probably just figured he might as well take it home, so he put it in his truck.
Driving up those winding mountain roads he lost control of the truck and rolled it. Squirrelly was thrown clear and the truck caught fire. He must have been out of his head, maybe with a concussion, because he evidently wandered into the mountains in a daze.

The police arrived and found the burned out truck with a skeleton inside and assumed because the truck belonged to him the remains were Squirrelly’s. He was pronounced dead, an expensive funeral held, and he was buried.

Twelve days later Squirrelly wandered out of the woods several miles away, which was a source of, first joy and awe, then suspicion. Initially it was thought he’d killed the person the skeleton belonged to. Then the lawsuits began, the Armijo family and the Funeral home arguing heatedly about who owed money to whom for burying some anonymous skeleton.

The story is so well-known it was used in a book about forensic pathology in New Mexico during the 1990s, the forensic pathologist explaining such a thing could never happen these more enlightened times. Journey in Forensic Anthropology, Stanley Rhine, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1998. Author Rhine elected to change Squirrelly’s surname to Aramando to avoid any sort of civil action. The Armijo family’s been herding sheep in that country since the time there was nobody out there but them and Mimbres Apaches. A lot of them are still there.

“A Premature Funeral

“Bones and Fire
“On June 4, 1959, Forest Service lookouts reported smoke rising from what was assumed to be a small forest fire just east of the Arizona state line, among the 8,000-feet peaks of the San Francisco Mountains of southwestern New Mexico. A firefighting crew dispatched to the scene discovered no forest fire, but an automobile burning furiously on the side of a gravel forest road. Dousing the flames, they found a mass of burned flesh, a skull, some other bones, and some teeth resting inside the burned-out hulk.

“The car was found to belong to a Mr. Armando, well known in the
lightly populated region. His fiery demise prompted the organization of a six-person coroner’s inquest in Catron County. According to former Catron County Sheriff and now Washoe County ( Nevada) Coroner Vernon McCarty, the “six responsible citizens” required by 1950s New Mexico law were most easily found by the justices of the peace at a local bar.

“McCarty observed that an insufficiency of able-bodied citizens could be remedied either by visiting several such spots or by prolonging the official quest at one of them for as long as it took to empanel the necessary six people.

“The resulting coroner’s jury in this case was made up of ranchers, Forest Service firefighters, two bartenders, and a service station attendant. It concluded that the remains were “badly burned and charred beyond positive identification,” according to the Albuquerque Journal for June 17, 1960. Nonetheless, an identification was made by Armando’s two brothers-in-law and the district attorney, apparently functioning in his multiple roles of death investigator and skeletal “expert.” That it was Armando was attested to the by the fact that the human skull was accompanied by some impressively large upper incisors. These prominent choppers had . . .”

Probably Squirrelly never paused to wonder about any moral or ethical issues when he put that skeleton into his truck. He just did it absent-mindedly the way any of us might. Probably somewhat as Mel did on Gobblers Knob:

Exploring Alley Oop’s Home Circa 1947.

I suppose the Squirrelly story came to mind because it’s a synopsis of the possibilities carried to the ultimate extreme, accompanied by the fact I recently had an email from his great-nephew wanting to ask some questions about my mention of his Queenshead claim in my lost gold mine book.

Old Jules

Previous posts: Skulls, skeletons and homicides:

The Ruin Skull – A Long Day Ago

Cold Mystery, Fevered Romance and Lost Gold

The Strangeness – Background Context of Unsolved Homicides

Migration – New tire obligation – Respiration – Palpitation and Coincidence Coordination

Sheeze.  Hi readers .  Sometimes I disgust myself, make no sense whatever.

Went out to the tire place this morning and ordered two each 10 ply 16.5 inch tires to arrive Wednesday and have mounted before I even know whether I’m going to kick the bucket before I can wear them out.    Jumped the gun something awful, but it feels okay, me betting the Universe I can drive on those tires long enough to justify having them before the Universe can draw a tight bead on me and squeeze off a round.

Meanwhile I’m figuring to hear from the VA around Wednesday setting me up for a sawbones to look me over, poke me here and there, tell me to stick out my tongue and say “Ahhh.”  Once that’s accomplished he’ll offer up a theory of what I’d least like to hear from a person in his position and watch my facial expressions to decide whether he needs to trump it.

Generally the whole situation’s seeming better than it did a week ago, though.  Haven’t been toking the oxygen machine nights, generally been getting all the hyperventilating under control, thinking whatever it was happened was just some damned trick of anomalyism trying to rob my macho.

And hells bells, I’ve got a couple of new tires coming down the pike I have to live long enough to wear out.  Hell of a deal.

Got me and address here in Andrews, too, right here on the west coast of Texas, so’s to be able to be a Texas resident dangeriously close to the boundary with New Mexico.

Psychomosomatic heart attacks and similarly life-threatening imaginary events can be a blessing.  Boots a man off his ass and gets him out there betting against the Universe, buying tires and sneering into the future with reckless aplomb.

Old Jules

Superb judge of character, me

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

I slipped over to Yahoo News when I got online this morning, wanted to find out whether the world went up in smoke during the night.  Turns out all the news is piddly stuff mostly, nosy things allowing the non-celebrities spot checks into what life’s like for the sainted big named and big-breasted.

But something caught my eye about some 10 year old kid who found a mummy in the attic of the house his grandparents owned.  Brought to mind what a great judge of character I pride myself being.

Early 2000s a friend of mine died near Belen, NM.  He and I loved the same books about history, etc, and he used to joke he’d leave me that several walls of books we both cherished, when he died.  And I’d tell him I would kill him if he left me those books to have to drag around and find someone else to leave them to.

His house was a museum of artifacts he’d found.  We’d even done some artifact searching together.  I think some of those mini-balls on one of the lead pictures on this blog were found when we were somewhere together.

So when I saw in the Albuquerque paper that he’d died I was careful not to contact anyone concerning the fact we knew one another.  Not because I was afraid he’d left me those books, either.

Turned out he’d been robbing graves down in the neighborhood of where those mini-balls were found.  Maybe graves elsewhere, old ones.

Back room of that house was jam-packed with human remains a century-or-more old.  Bastard never showed them to me, all the time we were sitting around drinking coffee and talking about history.

Which I suppose is okay, because I put a high value on his friendship, enjoyed knowing him a lot.  And sometimes even then I’d forget how old I was and have to decide spur-of-the-moment whether to open a can of whupass on someone.

In his case if I’d known what he had in that back room we might have had to pick our weapons out of his museum and go at it.  I had a lot of mixed feelings swirling around inside me when the news came out and he had his brief day in the sun.

I’d have never suspected it of him.  So he’s the exception proving the rule.  I’ve got everyone else figured out.

Old Jules

Time to lighten up a bit – Communist hell on the Zuni Reservation

I wrote this after a weekend spent with a once-lady-friend who spent her career as a high school librarian on the Navajo and Zuni Reservations.

zuniland1a

Cataclysmic Doggerel
 
 
A schoolmarmish lady in Zuni
Had canines subversive and loony;
Her Communist felines
Made neighborhood beelines
With doctrines both outworn and puny.
 
The KGB cat was a lean
And speckled-nosed beauty serene
In appearance alone
For her countenance shown
Multi-faceted plots as she preened.
 
Her Weathercat history was tops:
She sprayed on dozens of cops
With a Commie aroma
But joined Sertoma
Cavorting with phonies and fops.
 
The ringleader hound was a red
And curly haired rascal it’s said
Whose Trotskyish leanings
And Maoish gleanings 
Were pondered curled up on the bed.
 
Princess Redfeather, they tells
Of this curly red bitch of the cells,
Forsook her fine lineage
To sip of the vintage
of Lenin, and Gulags and hells.
 
The worst of the felines, Bearboy:
Striped and cross-eyed and coy;
Politically weak, 
Had claws that could tweak
Bourgeois carpet, and bedspread, with joy.

The Uncle-Tom dog of the hut
Was Ernie, the gray-bearded mutt; 
Dog-tired, and dogmatic,
He thought,”Problematic:
dog-eared dialectic and glut.”
 
The Uncle-Tom dog she called Ernie
Began as a dog-pound attorney
Commuted from gassing
He pondered in passing
Discretion’s demand for a journey.
 
A calico hound lying dormant,
Most likely a police informant:
A capitalist clown
Took his food lying down
Resisting the commie allurement.
 
The Stalinish kittenish spies
Spread foment and torment and lies
To Indian curs
And mutts that were hers
And War-Gods high up on the rise.
 
Princess and Ernie and, Spot,
And Chester, the narc-dog; the lot:
For half a piaster
Would bring a disaster 
To Zuni, once called Camelot

shalako pot

Old Jules

The moving finger writes and then moves on: NM Floodplain Managers Association

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

Fairly weird.  I was websearching for Mike Czosnek, a guy I used to do some Lost Adams Diggings searching with, and came across something that rocked me back on my heels. 

New Mexico Floodplain Managers Association http://www.nmfma.org/content.aspx?page_id=0&club_id=920799

An egg I laid, nurtured, hatched, and promptly forgot as soon as my career ended in 1999.

When I assumed the job of State Floodplain Manager for the State of New Mexico in 1992 the state had a law on the books to allow localities to adopt ordinances regulating building in designated floodplain areas, and for the residents of those to buy federally sponsored flood insurance to cover their damages when the creek did what it would inevitably do.

Someone had screwed up when the law was passed and left in language that could be construed [by me] requiring that the locally designated floodplain managers be trained and registered or licensed by the State Floodplain Manager or Administrator.  All that happened 15 years before my arrival, and had lain dormant and unnoticed.  Nobody in New Mexico had a clue what they’d agreed to, what they were supposed to be doing. 

The reason I was hired for the job was that FEMA was losing patience.  I was mandated by my grant to audit the local programs, report to FEMA what they weren’t doing according to their federal agreement, and hassle them to death until they did it.

Lousy, lousy, lousy job I had for a while travelling around the state being ignored and tolerated barely.  Then I happened to study the statute and came up with the idea.  Started hassling the hell out of local governments about not having registered or licensed [by me] floodplain managers whom I could lay some heavy crap on if they didn’t do their jobs.

“How do they become licensed?”

“They have to go through training.  Take a test.  I do the training at the [non-existent Floodplain Managers Association meetings.  Your people will have to join.”

The cage took a lot of rattling, but 1993, 1994, I put together an organizational meeting in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  Almost every participating community in New Mexico was represented.  Did some rudimentary training, had them adopt a constitution and by-laws, create officers [of which I refused to be one].

NM Floodplain Managers Association made my life a lot easier, reduced the amount of heckling and hassling I had to take from FEMA.  And became my primary training tool for the local communities.  Gradually got them training one another.

And my old buddy Mike Czosnek is still out there, treasurer of the damned thing.  Might have to stop in and see him when I get out that way.

Old Jules

SWAT teams and militarized police forces – An outlet for frustrating human needs

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

I’ve noticed a few scattered concerns on the WEB by people who think the 21st Century militarization of civilian police forces is a bad thing.  Seems to me those complainers aren’t looking at the bigger picture.

Time was when a person with a mean streak, or just a desire  to kill someone didn’t have many options.  He could sneak around and do it and maybe get by with it a while, or he could get drunk and do it, and go to the slammer.  Or he could unhealthily suppress it and go around frustrated and unhappy.

But nowadays there are plenty of outlets for a person with those needs.  Sure, he might spend years becoming a SEAL, a Marine Sniper, or a Green Beret.  But those are really too large and too institutionalized for the local badass who just wants to blow the face off someone without being criticized for doing it.   Municipal, County, or State Police SWAT teams offer a lot easier outlet.  Plus, they’re clubs where all the members have the same goals and can be depended upon to protect one another by keeping their mouths shut if it’s needed. 

For instance, there used to be a cop in Socorro, New Mexico, who was involved in a couple of extremely questionable shootings.  Residents and city officials had all witnessed, or heard about his blusterings, his posturings, his suspected desire to use that firearm as frequently as possible.  After the second shooting incident he was quietly encouraged to find greener pastures elsewhere.

So he applied for, and was accepted to the Albuquerque Police.  Trained for the SWAT team.  Wasn’t long before he got to put a bullet into a suspect and got a lot of praise for doing it.  Short while later they were raiding a drug house and an 80 year old neighbor saw what was going on, thought it was a gang.  Ran out of his house with a flashlight, yelling, and the Ex-Socorro cop stopped him in his tracks.  Turned out the raid was conducted at the wrong address, but the 80 year old was found ex post facto to should have minded his own business.

A year or two later someone was holding a baby over a freeway overpass threatening to drop it into the traffic below.  Ex-Socorro cop plugged him so’s the baby only dropped on the overpass.  Hero again.

I heard over the years he got to kill a number of other people who got downrange of the Albuquerque SWAT team, as well.  Managed to make what would otherwise probably just been a lifetime spent in prison, or sneaking around murdering people, into a healthy, productive life.

People who criticize militarized police forces aren’t considering the needs of the SWAT teamers and the healthy way they’ve dovetailed themselves into the greater good of society.

Old Jules

Should’a done its

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

The last post about creeping cowardice was going to have some of this as a part of it, but became too lengthy so I saved it with the thought I’ve got a while to live yet and might still work it in somewhere.

I believe one of the ways a person might attain valid perspectives about himself and his life events is through hindsight.  Might be the only way.  If a person can look back and seriously say to himself, “I should have done it,” probably he should have done it.

I can’t say that about those two mine shafts because I know even now I’d have done them if I could, and I recognize for whatever reason, I couldn’t.  No ‘should have done it’ hidden in there.

But around 2002, 2003, there’s a should have done it I still occasionally experience a flash of regret about.  Just until my insistence about not to regret anything in my life kicks in to trump it.

There’s an airstrip, or was an airstrip parallel to the old highway running between Belen, Los Lunas, and Isleta Pueblo I used to always swing into when I was in the area.  A number of old airplanes to walk around and look at, wonder about, kick the tires of.  The airstrip was gradually becoming inactive.

But at one end there was an old Cessna 140 tied down.  I’d always go over and walk around, check it out.  Sometimes sit inside it.  Watch the tires gradually lose their air and grass get taller around it.

I asked the guys running a motorcycle shop that used to be an airplane related business about it.  The 140 belonged to a man who lived in the neighborhood adjacent to the air park.  He’d been experiencing advancing dementia … quit flying the plane a couple of years back.  One of them heard he was in a nursing home, and that his wife had died.  The house and plane were in an ambiguous ownership state as a result of complicated family matters.

When I heard that I began to realize that old plane needed to be taken around the patch a few times before it rotted to the ground.  Or before it found its way into Trade-A-Plane and got sold to someone in Alabama to fly off or be hauled off.

I did a lot of planning about that plane.  The battery was going to be dead, and maybe the fuel would have gone bad, but probably not.  Avgas tends to last a long time in a tied down airplane.  But there’s probably water condensed inside the tank if it wasn’t left full.  Water under the gas that would be drained off before the engine started.

I borrowed an air bottle and brought the tire pressure up on one of the trips, checked the oil, got inside and tested the controls.  Everything hunky dory.  Just needed to draw the water off the fuel tanks.  Fuel guages showed one full, one 3/4 tank.  The 3/4 tank would be the one most likely to have water in the fuel tank.

I never made a conscious decision not to take that old bird around the patch, do a few touch and goes.  My bud in Belen,  Deano, died and other matters kept me from going into that area without a special trip.  I suppose it just slipped my mind.

Which didn’t keep it from creeping back into my consciousness for years afterward, including now.  I can tell you today, I should have done it.  The way I know I should have is that I can’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t have.

I’d be remembering that as my last pilot in command this lifetime, if I’d done it.  And instead of a sense of loss when it sneaks into my head, I’d be remembering those touch and goes in a Cessna 140.

Old Jules