Thursday, October 02, 2014

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

October 2, 2014
   As I motored through the Malpais (Badlands, pure black volcanic rock with a road cut through it) yesterday, I put on Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and as the big mountain peaks—Carrizo being the biggest—swung into view, I got a big smile on my face because a great soundtrack puts a nice, juicy glow on everything. Knockin' on heaven's door, indeed.

   Landed in Lincoln at 1:35 after a 485 mile run. Checked in with Gary Cozzins at the Gallegos House and we did a tour of the old town to talk about what exactly I would be concentrating on while serving as an artist in residence for the next ten days. We talked a bit about the early history, when the torreon was built and Gary showed me a photo from about 1900:

   The original torreon was four stories high with a ten foot wall around it (it decomposed by the 1930s and was rebuilt, but smaller). The jacals (crude adobes with mud dobbed in between cedar poles) placed around it, all had tunnels leading to the fort. Because the raids by Mescalero Apaches was so intense, the residents of Las Placitas (the little plaza) slept in the torreon every night, with the children on the bottom floor and the men on the top three floors.

   What I didn't realize is that the settlers were mostly Penitentes, and they were probably fleeing persecution in Socorro and wanted an isolated place where they could practice their controversial worship. The men flogged each other—and themselves!—with spiny whips for being sinful. They would also disappear from Wednesday to Saturday, doing penance of some sort (more whipping no doubt). It finally dawned on me this morning that this area of New Mexico has long been a refuge for scoundrels and misfits. You had the Penitentes and then you have all the renegades being driven out of Texas and they all congregated in these mountains. Some believe they still do.

   Gary and I also lined out narrative holes in the story of Lincoln and the Lincoln County War and what I could do to fill those gaps. For example, there are no photos of Squire Wilson. Ditto for so many of the Lincoln stalwarts.

   Landed at the Ellis Store at four and saw a herd of deer in the side yard:

The Ellis Side Yard (see the deer just this side of the fence). And in case you can't see him, well, here's a better view:

Ellis Store visitor

   Got up this morning and walked down to the Gallegos House to begin my work. Drew a couple sketches of the torreon and studied oral history reports Gary produced featuring interviews with old timers like Lorenzita Miranda, who was born inn 1861 and lived in Lincoln from about 1873. She was interviewed in 1953 when she was 92-years-old. Here's what she remembered about Susan McSween: "Yes, she was a Catholic. She [played organ and] sang in the church choir. She didn't have a family. She was a very pretty woman."

   And of course she remembered another young man who rode into Lincoln quite a bit in those days:

"He was short. He always wore boots."
—Lorenzita Miranda, remembering Billy the Kid