Tag Archives: Portales

Lessons in life

There it is…. the gas pump on the left.

Someone posted this photo on the Portales, New Mexico, FaceBook group site and it brought back a flood of memories of that gas station, and even that pump there on the left:

When I got out of the army July 1965, I went to work a while for Abe Ribble at his readymix company on the Lovington highway….

One of my jobs was to take the deposits down to the bank, park outside the door with the engine left running, and quickly go into the bank to drop off the deposits. This was the way Abe demonstrated he wanted it done my first day on the job.

The second week on the job I made the deposit, then came out and the car was gone. I was craning my neck staring down the street when an old man leaning against the building asked, “Are you looking for Abe’s car?”  Portales was a small town and everyone knew Abe Ribble [and everyone else in town, and their cars.]

“Yeah, it was right here.” Me indicating the vacant pull-in.

“It headed off in reverse up 2nd Street and cut into the Gulf station. Knocked down a gas pump and stopped on top of it.” He pointed, and there it was, gasoline flooding the tarmac underneath it.

I figured that was the end of me working for Abe Ribble.   But in fact, when I told Abe what happened he couldn’t quit laughing. I’ve been intending to get that fixed,” He chuckled. “I guess I waited a bit too long.”

Seems that car had been slipping out of the Park position and heading off on its own missions for some while, but it never got around to hitting anything important before.

Old Jules



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


Winkie Hodges – They still called him Winkie

Hi readers.  When Keith and I were kids in Portales in 1954,  a boy named Harold Hodges ran around with us a little.  For some reason we called him Winkie.  Keith and I discussed him sometime a while back and he knew Winkie a long while after I lost track.  Winkie was one of the really honest-to-goodness poor kids we knew.  Hardscrabble farm kid out in the sand hills off the Clovis highway.

I knew his dad died in the mountains deer hunting in 1955, I remembered that.  And I remembered his mom became a bootlegger to make a living in alcohol-dry Roosevelt County.

Anyway, I was remembering an incident on the school grounds involving Winkie, Keith and I getting into one hell of a lot of trouble with a teacher named Mrs. Tate.  The meanest teacher I ever had, maybe the meanest woman I ever encountered this lifetime, though she had stiff competition on both avenues.

But Winkie, Keith and I made her cry.  On the other hand, thanks to her I didn’t learn long division until a quarter-century later.  It wasn’t an even trade, but it was the best three 4th graders could do given the resources available.

Anyway, I did a websearch for Harold Hodges, then Winkie Hodges.  Just curious.  All I came up with was an obit for a name I’d encountered several years later when I lived in Borger, Texas.  Small world.  Winkie was still alive in 1998, still in Portales, and they were still calling him Winkie.

Abbie G. Friend
  BORGER – Abbie G. Friend, 85, died Monday, Nov. 2, 1998.

She married Deane Friend in 1975 at Borger. She was preceded in death
by a son.

Survivors include her husband; three sons, Wayne Vaughan of Mission,
Jack Vaughan of Pryor, Okla., and Gerald Vaughan of Long Beach,
Calif.; three brothers, Volly Hodges of Friona, Teet Hodges of
Roswell, N.M., and Winkie Hodges of Portales, N.M.; seven sisters,
Lorene Cunningham of Lubbock, Lois Hill of Odessa, Bernice Alexander
and Natoma Reigle, both of San Antonio, Geraldine Farmer of Ozark,
Ark., Maggie Rae Gibbs of Silver City, N.M., and Lena May Gibbs of
Portales, N.M.; seven grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

The family suggests memorials be to the Women’s Abuse Center.

Sooooo.  Bound to be a story worth knowing why the family wanted memorials sent to the Women’s Abuse Center, but it didn’t have anything I could discern to do with Winkie Hodges.  Just Coincideneces trekking around roping and branding everything in sight.

Anyway, Winkie’s dad died of a heart attack early in life, but I think he might still be alive.  I didn’t find an obit on him, anyway.  If I ever figure out I’ve got enough heart left to travel I think I might try to look him up or find his gravestone.

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

Half-Century of Male Evolution – Bullying Part 3

I’m going to get away from the brave new world of the 21st Century and the animal kingdom for this segment and go back a few million years to my childhood.  I explained a little about that farm on the other side of the railroad tracks here:  Could you choose to live on the street?, but to pursue the bullying issue I’ll elaborate a bit.

The kids who lived on the other side of those tracks were overwhelmingly tough, poor, and ‘bad’.  The families were farm laborers or otherwise unskilled, lots of kids, and Hispanic or considered ‘white trash’.  The kids living there went to Lindsey Grammar School, and the RR tracks defined the boundary between Lindsey and the other two grammar schools.

In 1949, when I was starting school my mother went to war with the superintendent of schools and the school board to make certain I went to East Ward, not Lindsey.  She succeeded.

Meanwhile, on this side of the tracks and the highway there were a few neighborhoods of kids who belonged in Lindsey, but were doomed by geography to go to school with the regular population at East Ward.  One of those was a boy named Floren Villianueva and his siblings.  A tough, bad, mean as hell youngster with older brothers meaner than him.  He and I entered the first grade in the same class.

Floren and I somehow got crosswise with one another almost the first day of classes during recess.  He gave me a blow to the stomach that knocked the wind out of me, doubled me over and might well have been responsible for the hernia of the goozle that’s caused me trouble to this day.

After school each afternoon Floren and his brothers walked home the same route I did, and for a few days they went the extra distance to chase me home, throwing rocks at me when they couldn’t catch me, beating hell out of me when they could.  Me finding safety only when I went through the door to the house.

That naturally came to the attention of my mom after a few days.  One afternoon she was standing on the porch shaking a rug and saw me running across the tracks chased by Floren and his brothers.  They came right into the yard, and she grabbed a broom and chased them off, yelling insults.

When they were gone she turned on me in a fit of rage, grabbed me by the ear and dragged me into the house where she kept her switch.  While she was beating hell out of me she was yelling, “If I ever see or hear of you running from a fight again this is nothing compared to what you’ll get.”

When my step-dad got home she told him about it and he just shook his head.  “Running from a bunch of God-damned Mexicans!” 

I went about in disgrace a few days, the story circulating among the adults with me in hearing distance, all of them dumbfounded by my cowardice.

But I never ran from a fight again.  I started carrying a heavy stick with me walking home and only had to whack one of those other kids upside the head with it one time.  Afterward Floren and I fought a lot of times during recess and I never whipped him, but I took the beatings rather than the alternatives.

This is too lengthy for me to continue where I’m going with it, but it’s necessary background to get in place before going forward in this segment.

Old Jules


Lying Consistently or Telling the Truth

When I got out of the US Army in 1964 I was a confused young man.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but initially I felt some urgency to get started doing it.  My first thought was to buy a farm in the vicinity of Portales, New Mexico, where I’d spent most of my youth and done a lot of farm labor.  That area was in the process of the subtle change from hardscrabble family farms to agribusiness farms, though I didn’t recognize it.

Although my granddad had a small farm a few miles from town, and although the main revenue for the population was farm-related, most non-farmers didn’t hold  farmers in high regard.  Including my granddad, with reasons he considered adequate.

The result was that my granddad, my mom and my step-dad took active measures, once I found a 160 acre irrigated farm I could swing for, to make certain with the local bank that I didn’t get financing to buy it.  They each pronounced separately to me that I was destined for ‘better things’ than farming, which I bitterly resented.

Someone mentioned to me the Peace Corps was a place where young people at loose ends were volunteering to go off and set the world right.  Relatively new at the time, I’d never heard of it, but I applied.

Then, as I’d done numerous times before, I hitch-hiked out of that town.  The World Fair was going on in New York, and I headed that direction, and spent the summer in Greenwich Village simulating being a beatnik.

I might talk more about all this in future posts, but I’ve digressed from my original intentions for this one.

I began my Peace Corps training in Hilo, Hawaii.  India X Peace Corps Project, intended to send bright young Americans off to Gujarat, India, to teach the locals how to raise chickens.  Sometime I’ll probably wax poetic about all that, but I’m trying to limit my digressions.

Training was intended to be a time of intense learning, but it was also clear, we were cautioned from the beginning, it also served as a filter to remove the great percentage of the trainees  through observation, psychological testing, peer ratings, and voluntary withdrawals.  A sort of basic training with the emphasis on washing out all trainees with potential shortcomings.  About 2/3 of India X washed out of training before the end, including me.

But I’m having a lot of trouble getting to the point of this post because of all the background material.  Enough!

One of the methods of screening trainees was the Minnesota Multi-Phase Personality Test.  Most of the trainees were well-enough educated to be familiar with it.  The MMPP was reputed to be ‘unbeatable’, and we were each acutely aware of our personal shortcomings.  Most of us agreed if the Peace Corps had any idea what was going on in our heads they’d faint, revive themselves, and deselect us without further ado.

During the week prior to the test we’d gather at night to discuss the best strategy for foiling the Peace Corps cadre and the MMPP.  The two obvious approaches were, a] Tell the truth and suffer the consequences, and hope to be forgiven, or, b] Lie consistently.

By reputation, the MMPP wasn’t capable of being lied to consistently without catching you out.

Most of us viewed ourselves as the cream of US youth.  The Peace Corps told us that’s what we were from the first day of acceptance for training.  We’d been picked from hundreds, maybe thousands of applicants.

So we’d already fooled them that much.

Our consensus as a group was to lie consistently.  Some of us succeeded.

This is getting lengthy, so I’ll use it as a launchpad, most likely, for some future posts.

John Prine– Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian

So Long, and Thanks for all the Valentines

During the early 1990s I had a lady friend with whom I was close enough to
exclusively share a few years of my life.  Interior decorator lady who grew up in the same town and entirely different social strata than I did.

I first remember noticing her in the fifth grade, and from then until the time I left that burg as a high-schooler, I don’t believe she ever spoke to me.  She was upper crust and I was somewhere down there below the lower crust.

Anyway, 30-35 years later we spent a few years together seeing one another every day and night.  She had a lot of strong points, beautiful woman, smart, and well-intentioned.  I’d mentioned to her once that it used to really hurt my feelings in school on Valentine’s Day.  I hated it, all those kids getting valentines from one another and I didn’t get any.

Valentine’s Day, maybe 1993, ’94, I headed down to her house after work.  Came in the door and fell over.   She’d decorated the house with valentines, fed me a piece of cake shaped like a valentine, and handed me a box shaped like a valentine wrapped. Made me open it.

Crazy woman had filled that box with old-timey valentines like were around when we were kids…… full, chock full, that box was, with valentines claiming to be from kids we went to school with, all addressed to the kid I used to be …… the lower-class scum of yesteryear. Crazy stuff.

I’ve cried maybe twice during my adulthood, but for some reason I was having to hold back tears on that one. But that isn’t why I’m writing this blog entry.  I just wanted to preface the next thing with that one, so you’d understand she wasn’t a bad person underneath everything.

Anyway, she had two habits I found particularly irritating, aside from being miserable and liking to spread it around, toward the end of our relationship. She pronounced the “G” in guacamole. “Gwakamohlee.”  Drove me nuts.  Knew better, but maybe couldn’t remember, maybe didn’t care.

Secondly, she had this thing I figure came from being upper- crust as a kid.

“You find someone to work on the roof?” I might ask.

“Oh yes,” she might warble. ” Hired this little Mexican man.”

When I see the guy, he ain’t little.  He’s 240 pounds.  But he is Hispanic.

“Oh!” she might say.  “I hired this little Indian woman to do some bead work for me.”  Turned out the little Indian woman was taller than she was and weighed in heavier than the roof repair man.

You get the picture. Non-Anglo-Saxons were little, particularly if they were hired to do something.

No, the lady wasn’t a bigot, precisely.  She wouldn’t sit still for racial slurs unless they were subtle, oblique, or less so, but about Navajo folks, whom she generally disliked.  She conveyed the impression instead, that she found little men who did repairs to the plumbing so cute, so lovable, so adorable and quaint.  Something akin to looking through the big end of a telescope at them standing there so tiny doing their assigned jobs.

When we parted company after a few years it wasn’t pleasant, but I learned a lot about myself from her, once she began explaining what all was wrong with me.  It was worth a lengthy listen because she probably knew me as well as anyone ever has.

After I decided it was over I continued talking to her every night on the telephone for about a month, an hour-or-so per night, determined to listen carefully and consider everything ugly she could think of to say about me without any argument.  She mightn’t be right, or she might be right but about something I didn’t want to change, or she might be right and I might want to change it.

But we don’t get many opportunities in this life to have someone who knows us well go into loving detail explaining every flaw and wart, everything we haven’t noticed  about ourselves.  There aren’t any little people a person could hire to do that.

Eventually I came to realize she was enjoying those protracted nightly diatribes more than was possibly good for her.  She’d begun repeating herself, also.  So I told her it was over.

I mostly remember her for the valentine side.  The going up big was worth the coming down little.

Old Jules

P.S.  For you bloggers, a note from Jeanne (Admin):

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P.P.S. Another note from Jeanne (Admin):
We’re getting a few new readers from the contest site who are probably confused about my linking  to some old guy’s blog… so I wanted to mention that I’m a background partner on this blog and no, I didn’t write most of these posts!  I didn’t really understand the submission forms, so the blog is listed under “Jeanne Kasten”. I don’t know why. Sorry for any confusion!

Paul Simon– Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes