Category Archives: Portales

Resolving resolved issues

The thing about your life flashing before your eyes is the real deal, except it doesn’t flash and it doesn’t wait until the last minute so’s to have to rush around and maybe forget something.  But if you get into your 70s and have any memory left, I can promise you you’ll find yourself re-living all the tiny events of your life you thought nothing about at the time.   Then, a few nights or months or maybe years later, doing it again, and remembering you’ve done it, remembered it before this time.

For instance, I was thinking the other night about an incident on the playground when I was in the fourth grade in grammar school.   It was an incident I’ve written about here involving a kid named Winkie Hodges, and another named Keith Kelt.  [They still call him Winkie – posted July 29, 2014]

But this time I was remembering it all in a different context.   I was thinking about several of us who were around at that time, but who lived to a ripe old age.   One died a few months ago – Eddie Hiner – and I was thinking about how surprised we would have been back then if someone had told us, “Hey kid…..let me flash your life before your eyes [the way it gets flashed backward nowadays but faster] and give you a look at what you think as an old man was valuable about your life.   What was worth doing.   What was worth remembering.

I don’t think it would have changed much about our lives, but we’d probably have shuddered some and figured it was a nightmare.    Everything I thought I wanted out of life back then, everything I thought made life worth living, got replaced and eroded so many times I should have realized a lot sooner how little difference any of it actually made.

The area between this old 1890s house I live in and the next one over is all grass.   We’ve been told they’re going to let us put in a ‘community garden’.   Got my fingers itching to dig them around in some cow manure and soil.    Went out and bought a Roma and a Big Boy each tomatoes to put in the solarium porch… [one’s going to blossom tonight or tomorrow – but stumbling blocks keep showing up for starting to dig that community garden].

But my point is, breaking up a little dirt, putting some seeds down, it’s probably as important ans anything I’ve ever done this lifetime, and that’s just fine.   In fact, I’d count it as important as anything anyone I knew this lifetime ever did, too [at least anything they did that I knew about].

So I’m wondering how everything came to be so complicated back then.   How Winkie, and Eddie Hiner, and Keith, and all those other kids ever came to believe there was something we could do that didn’t involve turning over some dirt, squeezing in some cow manure, and putting some seeds in the ground, that was going to produce something of lasting value.

In those days it was a given that old people were where you’d find wisdom.  By hindsight I tend to think wisdom escaped them, too.

The old men in that photo at the top of this post were out there at that time, doing what they’re doing in the photo.    I’m thinking they probably knew that thing about putting seeds in the ground and cowshit..

But they weren’t telling.

Old Jules

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If the shoe fits burn it off

shoe store xray machine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe-fitting_fluoroscope

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

During the 1950s wisdom used to bunch itself up and spread itself around at the local barber shops.  That’s where I first learned God was going to destroy us the way He did the Tower of Babel and for the same reasons.  The USSR had just put Sputnik 1 into orbit.  Too damned high in the sky to be tolerated by God.

That barber shop was also where I first learned all this uproar about radiation was a damned Communist lie intended to scare everyone out of their wits.  The proof of it was just around the corner of the square at the shoe store.  They had a machine over there where you could put your foot in and they’d shine radiation on it so’s you could look right through your shoes at the bones of your feet.

Anyone dying from it?  Anyone getting sick?  Heck no!

That shoe store had it all over J.C. Penny Company because of that machine.  We kids would go in there and they’d let us look at our feet anytime we wanted to.  And when shoes were to be bought the salesman could look through the viewer on one side, mama look through it on the other, and the kid through the third.  The salesman could then point with the pointer that the shoe wasn’t squeezing the toes, or was, etc.  Everyone loved that machine.

But government interference ruined it, same as it ruins everything else.  They made them take that machine out of there so nobody could look at his feet anymore.

Here’s what the sissie fuddyduddies say was the reason:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe-fitting_fluoroscope

“Although most of the dose was directed at the feet, a substantial amount would scatter or leak in all directions. Shielding materials were sometimes displaced to improve image quality, to make the machine lighter, or out of carelessness, and this aggravated the leakage. The resulting whole-body dose may have been hazardous to the salesmen, who were chronically exposed, and to children, who are about twice as radiosensitive as adults.[7] Monitoring of American salespersons found dose rates at pelvis height of up to 95 R/week, with an average of 7.1 R/week.[5] (Up to ~50 mSv/yr, avg ~3.7 mSv/yr effective dose)[5] A 2007 paper suggested that even higher doses of 0.5 Sv/yr were plausible.[8] The most widely accepted model of radiation-induced cancer posits that the incidence of cancers due to ionizing radiation increases linearly with effective (i.e. whole-body) dose at a rate of 5.5% per Sv.[9]

“Years or decades may elapse between radiation exposure and a related occurrence of cancer, and no follow-up studies of customers can be performed for lack of records. Without such an epidemiological study, it is impossible to conclude whether this machine actually caused any harm to customers.[5] Three shoe salespersons have been identified with rare conditions that might be associated with their chronic occupational exposure: a severe radiation burn requiring amputation in 1950,[10] a case of dermatitis with ulceration in 1957,[11] and a case of basal cell carcinoma of the sole in 2004.[8]”

Those guys sharing their wisdom at the barber shops are mostly all dead now.  I’m guessing if a person wants to get smart in Portales he has to go to a hair stylist.  Can’t help wondering what they’re talking about in those places.

Old Jules

Hitch-hiking from Beatnik to Hippiedom

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

When I got out of the Army, summer 1964, I had a lot of ideas about my bright future.  Shopped around the Portales area for a while and found a quarter-section cotton farm I thought briefly I’d buy and become a starving-to-death farmer, which fell through.  Worked meanwhile, for Abe Ribble at his cement operation, and applied for the Peace Corps, knowing I wouldn’t hear from them for several months.

I was hanging out with a number of other young guys who were at loose ends, drinking coffee and walking around town, sitting on benches around the courthouse trying to figure out the meaning of life.  Going out with a waitress out at the truckstop when she got off work at midnight.  A young woman with goals, and confidence that no matter what a man might want for himself, she could mold him into something more to her liking.  Once she got him nailed down on all the corners.

The World Fair was going on in New York that year.  I could feel the walls of Portales trying to close in on me, and the guys I’d been spending spare time with were mostly thinking of themselves as beatniks, to the extend a person could be a beatnik in Portales.  A slight beard and a beret went a long way in that direction.  Sketchpad and a piece of charcoal, or a lot of free-verse poems jotted on cafe napkins were the tools.

So another aspiring beatnik, Stan Sexton, and I, decided to hitch to beatnik heaven.  Check out the World Fair.  Visit a couple of New Yorker weekend beatniks who went to Eastern New Mexico University, but were home in Westchester that summer.

I’ve told elsewhere on this blog about that summer, about sleeping on the Brooklyn Bridge, about catching the freight-train out late-August, jail in Rochester, and eventually hitching, driving the school bus to California, etc.  About all those would-be beatnik women and the “Eh?  YOU don’t believe in free love?” pickup line that always worked.

When I was accepted for Peace Corps Training and headed out of New York I had no idea I was seeing the dying gasp of the Beatnik phase everywhere.  That a year later everyone who was anyone would be Hippy.  That Greenwich Village would be replaced by San Francisco as the center of ‘what’s happening in America’.  Kids would be burning their draft-cards and taking acid trips.  Doing ‘Love-ins’ in the park.

By the time I got back to Portales to spend my time waiting for the Peace Corps India X training to begin in Hawaii the world had begun a sea-change, though it didn’t know it. 

But at least some of the pressure was off in Portales.  The waitress had found someone else with better prospects for a bright future.  Cotton farmer, he turned out to be, if I remember correctly.

Old Jules

Confederates and Non-Confederates

Me, trying on caps at the JC Penny store:  Why are some of these blue, other ones grey?

Store Clerk ladyWhy the grey ones are Confederates.

Me:  Oh.  Okay, what are the blue ones.

Store Clerk lady, frowning:   Um.  Those are Non-Confederates. 

Back when Keith Kelt and I were struggling through grammar school in Portales, New Mexico, a movie briefly drained our bluejeans pockets. 

Suddenly every kid in town had to have a blue, or a grey cap with a shiny bill and crossed rifles at the front.  Half-dollar at the JC Penny store had us all scrambling.  Each of us tripped down to JC Penny the instant we could scrape together the gelt. 

At which time probably all of us discovered we didn’t know enough to be making the decisions as we took cap after cap out of the bin, trying them on.  Those of us who’d seen the movie weren’t educated enough to know much about it, aside from the fact it was bloody, violent, and exciting. 

All we knew was that every kid who was anyone was wearing one of those caps.

Not until I made a fool of myself in class several years later in Junior High did I learn that the US Civil War wasn’t fought between Confederates and Non-Confederates.

Old Jules

Speaking of KENM, 1450 on your radio dial circa 1955

This is Monet George talking to you from KENM, Portales, New Mexico.  The peanut  basin of the nation.  And we’ve got a little song here for you today.

The theme song for the station was “My Adobe Hacienda.”

Lord how I hated that song.  They played it at every opportunity.

But they also loved, “Dear Hearts and Gentle People,” which didn’t exactly describe the local population except in fantasy.

Helped them feel better about themselves than they had any business doing.

“Doing What Comes Naturally” actually fit them better and, believe it or not, they liked that one, too.

I suppose “Buttons and Bows” would have resonated with any but the most stalwart souls in Portales, New Mexico, circa 1950-60, and it sure as hell got plenty of play.

Those were the days of “Knock knock” jokes, and the favorite joke around there was, “Knockknock.”  “Who’s there?”  “Kilroy”  “Kilroy who?”  “Kill Roy Rogers!  I’m Gene Autry’s fan!”

KENM was a Gene Autry Fan.

WWII vintage folks ruled the world then.  If it hadn’t been for “Tennessee Waltz”, Bonaparte’s Retreat” and “Fraulein” I expect KENM would have had long silences trying to figure out what to play.

Old Jules

Portales, New Mexico’s Multi-Phased Personality Test

I found out the other day there’s another occasional reader here shared classrooms and the seven-year drought with me in the 1950s.  Surprising, the people of that town and that vintage clicking to remember.

Every kid in Portales, New Mexico, believed Gene Brown and Bobby Thomas were lower trash than they, themselves were.  Including me.  I can’t recall now why they believed it, though both started smoking before they learned to masturbate, most likely.

But maybe the fact both kids were considered such lowlifes explained the reason I ran around with them a while, caught those freight trains to Clovis with them.  [Riding the Rap]. 

Bobby Thomas quit school, lied about his age and joined the army when we were 9th graders.  The next time I saw him he was a different person from the buzzard-necked, shunned youngster he’d been.  I’ve often thought quitting school, for him, must have been a cheap price to pay for an opportunity to be out from under the pall of scorn the town piled on him for being whatever they thought he was.

Gene Brown, on the other hand, was still vilified as one of the historical lowlifes 30 years later when I went back for a visit.  Never saw him, but I was surely impressed with how the sign the town stamped on his back stayed through the decades.  Likely he came by it honestly.  Certainly early.

On the other hand, a lot of the higher society folk who shunned those two managed to make lousy enough choices in life to earn their later reputations as lowlifes.   And some of the kicked around, not-quite lowlifes did impressive, though maybe meaningless things with their lives.

My old friend, Fred Stevens, who spent early years as a hotshot savings and loan president, went down with the ship in the mid-80s crash, was as solid a citizen as I’ve ever known.  But he assured me I’d have thought differently if I’d known him as an S&L president.

I’m sorry I didn’t get up to Seattle for a chance to reacquaint myself with the other banker from our kidship, but after he’d chosen to live under a bridge instead of running a financial institution.  [Could you choose to live on the street?]

But I think the one I’d like most to know before I die is the one walked around the corner from a class reunion at the Cal Boykin Hotel in the early 1990s.  Reunion for the grad classes 1960-1970.  Fred Stevens told me about it.  One of the attendees walked into a bank branch a block from the Cal Boykin Hotel and stuck it up.  Walked clean away with $1500 and a well-deserved place in local legend.

I hope he’s remembered.  Wish I’d thought of it and had the brass to do it.

Old Jules

Pieces of the Past

When Keith and I were in the fifth grade one of our classmates at Central Grade School , a girl named Ruth Durett, came to school with an ornate, silver-handled dagger she’d dug up in her back yard.  It was known that Coronado had camped a while in the vicinity of Portales, and in those days Portales people had a lot of interest in Spaniards and conquistadors. 

Ruth’s dagger became an object of envy, conjecture and debate.  Billy ‘the kid’ Bonney had also hidden from the law and raised cattle for a while at Portales Springs.  Some thought the dagger might have belonged to him.

Eastern New Mexico University was right there on the edge of town.  Ruth’s parents evidently thought someone out there might be helpful identifying the age, at least, of the artifact.  Took it out there and left it for examination.  Vanished into thin air, that dagger.

The people who came here a while, lived their daily adventures and died couldn’t resist scattering their belongings all over the countryside.  Nobody paid a lot of attention to them for a longish while, but sometime during the 19th Century a fascination became an obsession with many.  Acquiring them by any means whatever became the rule of thumb, on the one hand, preserving them if they couldn’t be conveniently stolen, on the other.  The British Museum’s an example of stolen ones that eventually made their way into preservation.  Same with other museums.

And naturally there are legions of academians, anthropologists, who’ve developed protocols and rituals of method for stealing them in approved ways, vilifying anyone who loots the sites without the proper credentials.  Nowadays they have the law on their side.  Probably today, ENMU would have found a light-of-day legitimate means of stealing Ruth’s dagger.

Even so, it’s not always easy to resist picking off pieces of the past.  I described in an earlier entry how Mel inadvertently tried to carry Oola’s skull home with him.  Exploring Alley Oop’s Home Circa 1947 and how something similar got Squirelly Armijo into all manner of difficulties.  ‘Squirrelly’ Armijo Survives his own Funeral

Maybe something in all that explains the popularity of Gale’s ‘Hanging Tree’ belt buckles.  A number of years ago Gale managed to acquire a mesquite tree they’d cut down somewhere with a history of having criminals hanged from the branches.  Naturally he brought it home and over the years made belt buckles, all manner of jewelry items from it to sell at art and craft shows.

Not everyone wants a hanging tree belt buckle, but a lot of people do.  I’ve never been able to quite wrap my mind around why.  For me, having my belly button rubbing against a piece of wood that was part of a long series of dangling partici-whatchallits just doesn’t have a lot of appeal.  But I hold my pants up with galluses, anyway.  Rarely wear a belt.

As for artifacts, I was never attracted to run off with Oola’s skull, either.  Though I do wear this arrow head I figure offed my old prospector on the mountain hanging on a thong around my neck.  [Recapping the Lost Gold Mine Search]

Old Jules