‘Squirrelly’ Armijo Survives his own Funeral

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

Meanwhile, today on Ask Old Jules:  Mirror Holds Information From the Past? –

Old Jules, if someone had a mirror from 40+ years ago, could something be gathered from its backing?

Old Jules replies:  The pastametric pressure of all that stored history would almost certainly explode backward opening a hole into a parallel universe carrying with it the identities and souls of everyone who ever looked into the mirror.  Read more …..


13 responses to “‘Squirrelly’ Armijo Survives his own Funeral

  1. Nice story Jules…thanks for sharing.
    I am currently living in my Caravan (Trailer?) in the Golden Valley Herefordshire UK, with my wife who is disabled- MS – supposedly for her to chill in this beautiful Ancient English countryside, and me to spend some time photographing he local wildlife. We have been here for 9 days but unfortunately we have to return to civilisation tomorrow. We have already started to plan our next visit, one of the benefits of being ‘old’ and retired is that we have time…please God!
    Always look forward to your posts and have now linked you on my blogroll.

    Best wishes

  2. A most fabulous read. Took me back to two loves: the southwest and researching bones. Many thanks ~

  3. Crazy! If I ever see a skeleton, I will call the authorities and not put it in my vehicle. Lesson learned!

    • Mary Ann: Thanks for coming by for a read. I suppose a person could get that lesson from it. I’ve never called authorities when I’ve found skeletons, but the ones I’ve found weren’t the sort to interest authorities. The area where Squirrelly found that one has a lot more dead people in it than live ones, and the dead ones weren’t always circumspect and organized about where and how they died. Too many skeletons, too few cops. Then and now. Gracias, J

  4. They often say the truth is stranger than fiction! realy enjoyed that story

  5. Ah, the Mimbres …
    I still remember waking to the sound of bells and walking outside to dozens of sheep in our yard – passing through, as it were.
    Great story Jules, thanks.

    • Marvin, yeah it is. Thanks for stopping by. I think the truck might be the Dodge Powerwagon that belonged to the homicide victims, Gary and Judy Wilson. There’s a story there I might get around to telling sometime. Gracias, Jules

  6. Reblogged this on So Far From Heaven and commented:

    I was searching around trying to find blogs about my challenges working up to leaving the ranch in Texas [back before fate and health took a possession of the steering wheel and gas pedal]. I wanted to reflect on the urgency and intensity I was pursuing in those days before the bottom fell out of my life and I had to find a different reason to stay alive than returning to all I love in New Mexico.

    But as I’ve done so often, I find I’ve digressed, am digressing a moment. I came across this post and even though it’s been told before, I had to read it again.

    And now you can read it again, too, if you’ve been here a while. Or for the first time if you haven’t. Old Jules

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