Tag 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

Flea circus, Portales, New Mexico circa 1955

Flea Circus. Torps Flea Circus Tivoli Copenhagen 1956

Hi readers.  I’d just about decided my memory played tricks.  Two years in a row I remember  the carnival at the Roosevelt County Fair having a flea circus a kid could see for a dime.  Vivid memory because I somehow accidently went into the tent next door where a woman in a bathing suit who had no arms was typing on a typewriter with her toes.

But I’ve told a lot of people who grew up in Portales at that time about the flea circus and none remember it.  Most think I just dreamed it up, or remembered wrongly, which can happen.

Only the reason they thought so, and the reason I’d begun to thnk so, was that I came to believe no such thing as a flea circus ever existed outside imaginations.

The magic of YouTube doesn’t prove a flea market came to town with the carnival in Portales, New Mexico circa 1956, but it proves beyond doubt it might have.

Secrets of the Flea Circus

Secrets of the Real Flea Circus Revealed! National Geographic (Professor Oddnaught)

Genuine Flea Circus

No shortage of flea circuses were making the rounds those days.

So all you people who went to school beside me and don’t remember attending the flea circus I, think there wasn’t one, I say, “Horsefeathers!”  If you hadn’t been spending all your money on the steam shovels and cotton candy you’d have seen it too.  Playing bingo with pieces of corn on a checkerboard never got anyone into a tent where a woman with no arms in a bathing suit typed with her toes.

Old Jules

 

Tiger Eyes – a movie filmed in New Mexico

Based on the acclaimed novel by Judy Blume. Following her father’s murder, a teenager goes to stay with relatives in New Mexico and falls in love.  Takes place mostly around Los Alamos and Santa Fe.  More just a story of adapting to pain and loss.  Of growing old enough to learn that most of the adventure hurts somewhere.

Reminded me a lot of the years I lived in Santa Fe, and the scene on the Rez was strikingly similar to a Christmas celebration my lady friend of the time, Amy Nevitt took me to at Jemez Pueblo in the home of friends.

If I didn’t miss New Mexico so much I think I’d have hated it.  I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  Fairly lousy movie except for the scenery.

Old Jules

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

Bonfire of the vanities

Hi Readers:

I’ve got this box of US Archives microfilm of all the US Army Civil War correspondence for the Department of New Mexico and Arizona staring at me.  Wasted a phone call to the  Arizona State Archives, talked to a clerk who’d have her boss get back to me if they wanted them.

Microfilm of Yankee Army Civil War correspondence

No joy.  I suppose I might yet find a university, or the NM or Texans might want them for their State Archives.  It’s got the California Volunteers activities, and the Union perspectives on what all those Texas troops were doing raising hell up the Rio Grande.  Nice description of how, when the last Texans had retreated to Fort Davis, left their wounded in the hospital there for the Union to treat when they arrived.

Apache got there between the exit of the Texans and the arrival of the Union troops.  Slaughtered them all in their beds, mutilated the corpses.

We’re talking good stuff here.  Somebody sure as hell ought to want it.

Maybe I can swing up by Ruidoso and blackmail the Mescalero with it.

Or maybe it’s time for all that stuff to go into the burn pile.

Old Jules

Microfilm of Yankee Army Civil War correspondence

Packing up things I came across a box containing 30-some spools of microfilm I bought from the US Archives 20 years ago.  All the US military correspondence in the Department of New Mexico and Arizona, 1856 [I think] through 1866.  Includes California Volunteers after they crossed the Yuma River headed for the Rio Grande, also the Apache campaign and Navajo 1863-64 business.  And the late-1850s Bonneville campaign against the Apache with the occasional Navajo thrown in to spice it up.

I don’t think I’m going back to a place in my life where I’m staring at microfilm reader screens anymore.  If any of you have any interest in owning those spools, or know anyone who’d like to have them for the price of parcel post sending them, contact me at josephusminimus@hotmail.com.

Or if you have any ideas about some research library might like to own them under those conditions.  Or any other ideas how I can find someone who might get some use out of them.  Scads of interesting, intriguing, baffling stuff in there.

I’m not carrying them around with me anymore.

Old Jules

“It’s just you and me here. Do we want to go to war?”

Hi readers.

An email acquaintance who has a mining claim on Federal land in New Mexico sent out an anecdote to his email friends about an incident this weekend.

He headed out to his claim, bypassed a barricade, and began doing what he always does there.  He was spang in the midst of doing it when he looked up and a guy in a USFS law enforcement uniform wearing mirror sunglasses was scowling down with his hands on his hips.  “Come out of there.  You are going to jail.”

He scrambled up onto the bank and stood face-to-face with the sneering mirror sunglasses.  “This is a filed mining claim.  My fees are all paid, everything’s legal here.  I have a right to be here.  What law do you think I’m breaking?”

Mirror sunglasses ran his fingers over his holster.  “This is Federal land.  You are trespassing.  You’re either leaving or going to jail. “

“I’m armed too.  Get your hand away from that holster and don’t even think about pointing a pistol at me unless you want to shoot me.  I’m not doing anything illegal.  You are.  Get the hell out of here, or try handcuffing me and we’ll see what happens.  It’s just you and me here.  Do we want to go to war?”

Mirror sunglasses stepped back and assumed a gunfighter stance, the ghost of Billy the Kid in a USFS uniform.  Then he must have considered what he was doing and come to his senses.  “I can have backup out here in half-an-hour.  If you’re still here you’ll be in a lot of trouble.”

He backed to his vehicle, glared again, and drove away.

The miner did some thinking on his own part and decided the price of a shootout with the Forces of Darkness wasn’t the lesser of evils in this situation.  Loaded his gear and headed back to civilization, figuring he’d meet the US Cavalry on the road.

But he didn’t encounter anyone.  He says he hasn’t decided whether to try it again next weekend.

Claude Dallas is evidently alive and well in the boondocks.

Old Jules