Rockabilly Poetry!

I finally got Effigies II, the  London- published collection of five Native female poets that includes Ungie Davila;  Most are dutiful to OK, but Ungelbah’s are brilliant, partially because she draws upon the  cultural history of New Mexico as seen through the rhinestone – studded red sunglasses and sensibilties of a talented cowpunk artist and pinup esthete who knows history, rodeos, and the Fifties. I have known her since she was born, in 1987, thirty miles south of the pavement in her father’s house, a unique passive- solar creation built of stone by Mexican craftsmen and tucked beneath the slopes of a little volcano, a house that stays warm even in winter despite the subzero temperatures of Mangas in winter, especially between the twin peaks, Escondida and Allegre, and watched her grow and travel from the ranch to Quemado to the Japanese diaspora in Taiwan and Brazil to the Prado. She has learned from her father, the bronc rider, chickenfighter, and world traveler; from her mother, born to a Navajo mother, now a professional Culinary- school- trained pastry chef, from her ancient grandfather Pete Daniel, prophet- bearded Jack Mormon gold prospector and hand, who has sought treasure off the coast of Belize and in the mountains of New Mexico; from her girlhood mentor Russell Means; perhaps even from reading her old semi-uncle, me. She is at home on the ranch, in Albuquerque, Europe and Asia, at a keyboard, behind a lens and in front of one. She is indeed The Gothest Girl I Can. And these good poems are not even new; I believe they pre- date her  (recently folded) La Loca magazine.

I  have not gotten permission to reprint these poems, as I don’t have Ungie’s current numbers and John is off the grid, but I am sure printing them to promote Ungie’s career comes under the doctrine of Fair Use. And I encourage Ungie or any of her friends who read this to get in touch with me.

 John when Ungie was about one:

Aaaah, a little more…

Old Timers

Our annual fiesta seems to have taken on new life, and despite threatening (pre?) monsoon  clouds staggering  by, nothing is getting  cancelled. It SMELLS like O t’s. Now we just need the metronymic rhythm of 4 pm daily storms (with hail!) and maybe this will be the best “real”  rain in a decade…

Pics, random and not necessarily meaning anything, but “I LOVE THIS TOWN!” (Sis Olney) is as reasonable response as the more cynical one by the old cowboy who when asked why he stays in our harsh land: “I been three other places and they’re worse…”

Click on photos to enlarge– most will two times, with a lot of detail.

Libby took this photo of Bessie Apache in a formal shirt.

  Eleanor, Roxy, and “Cousin” Sis with her granddaughter, who wants to be a paleontologist and has assisted UNM scientists on a dig of mammoths on the ranch (it was one of the conditions Sis gave for them to dig). Sis is semi- retired from actual ranch work after getting busted up by a cow, so she has time to chase lions with her hounds and her husband Tom, ‘way below on roan. Next,  Sis and daughter Gianetta, who I have known since she was four and who is now the ag teacher at the high school. When she was four, she used to exhort me to drive “..faster, Stevebodio, faster!” on the dirt roads on the ranch. Once, when I could barely stay on the road in my Suburban, I asked imperturbable Sis if she usually drove that fast. She grinned and said “I aint driven this fast on this road in my life!”


Gospel rock band from the Alamo rez. And every parade needs a 57 Chevy.

Karolyn and Doc ham it up.

Tom Olney (above, the computer won’t add where I want), leads the parade. Barbara Trujillo Bowden, below with flag, is the aunt of my old friend James “Viejo” Trujillo, who died last year and appeared here, sister of my mentor Tony, and the recent widow of Curly Bowden, a fellow bird fancier (he briefly kept an emu!) The whole family is known for good  horses. A teacher and a reader, she beat cancer last year, and is still smiling.

Above: the guy with this float has a collection of antique (mostly 19th century) astronomical telescopes, some on display at a gallery in town, and assists at astronomical events and star parties. (Remember, we have Tech, the VLA of “Contact” fame, and a huge traditional telescope on the crest of the mags. NM is cowboys, Indians, old Spanish culture, and science fiction.

Below, Paul Pino’s band has played in every fiesta for years, decades…

Left: Marin Harris, who I have known since she was born (in this town), has gone to college in British Columbia and Maine, and worked for the circus in Manhattan. She is in Albuquerque when not visiting her family here,  pursuing further degrees. Then, Sharon, Marin’s mother, and Terry, teachers

The last float was incomprehensible. When Libby asked Felipe, more or less driving, what it was for, He said “I don’t know– they came and woke me up and asked me if I wanted to ride in it.”

Below, us. We are still staggering, still smiling. A few hours later, the rains came. Libby in the aftermath just outside the front door, as some will recognize…

Local Artist

Libby’s friend Happy Piasso is a Navajo silvermith who is not always traditional. The belt buckle design is based on a Japanese Goshawk portait in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (notice the red coral eye); the ring is built around a silver bat skull.


Leon Gaspard was a Taos painter of the early 20th  century, with an eccentric style that makes him marginally less popular than some of his straightforwardly impressionist colleagues.

He was a Russian who traveled in the the Soviet Union in the 20’s. Like his predecessor , the poet and novelist Lermontov (grandfather Scot “Learmont”), his was a transformed western name– his grandfather was a Huguenot refugee fleeing persecution in France.*

For now, a simple image, very real despite romanticism… photo’d from Frank Water’s book. I would be interested in seeing any better version, or any of the other falconry images that exist…

* Or the great 20th century ornithologist Vladimir Flint, whose “Flint’s Rules” for toasting with Vodka have brought  many to their knees…

Magdalena Old Timers Fiesta

Good week with the hawk and with guest Annie Hocker; bad week with my right hip, and not very productive. But once a year, local patriotism demands I pay some attention to Magdalena’s only event that brings out of towners in. Yeah, it’s hokey and country and so what? We missed it when water worries  cancelled it last year, and I always see unexpected people, especially but not always from the ranches.  As always right or double click to enlarge.

A cowboy bunch– Wade Dixon, Vida Trujillo (widow of Viejo, who you can search up), Shonda and Darryl Welty. The Welty ranch is 60 plus dirt road miles away, and Wade works in Catron county, so we don’t see them every day.

… in our bar

We have a parade- candidates…


…  unclassifiable New Mexican oddities…

Dead animals (yes, that oryx has one horn pointing up and one down)

The mayor (in the back, playing)

Wonderful old cars (I long for when they drove wild cows through town ahead of the cars, but I am beginning to sound like I was born in 18 not 1950)

Our  reporter (and beer maker) John Larson, and him shooting the float with Paul Pino’s band, who in one incarnation or other have provided a soundtrack for my last, what, 34 years? Paul’s stepson Rudy was one of the dedicatees of my pigeon book Aloft.

Dogs enjoy OT in their own way

I’m backing my friend Ed for sheriff. There is a persistent rumor that a popular TV series mined a period in his life for its first season. I’ll never tell…

Two women I love: Sylvia Troy and Hilda Kelly, Tom’s wife. Hilda: “Take those three and call it three Magdalena hookers!” Me: “No Hilda, not unless you get in too.” She did, immediately. Unfortunately that one didn’t come out. She has been married to Tom, below, with Jeannie and Tita, who makes an appearance in Hibben’s Hunting American Lions as a “young cowboy”,  for longer than I have been alive or than there has been a paved road to Magdalena. He is 86. I won’t presume to ask a lady her age.

Early Monsoon?

Magdalena mountains last weekend, by Elizabeth Campbell. This is less than ten miles from us, mountains thrusting up to nearly 11,000 feet from a plain over 6000, between us and Socorro 2500 feet below on the Rio Grande.

Topping out– telescope on the ridge ahead.
Going down toward Water Canyon, a hummingbird appears.  Peregrines nest in the cliffs to the right.
Looking northeast from the canyon, through Lee’s ranch, at Polvadera Peak.

Gorbatov and Seton

The live capture of the wolf in the video below put me in mind of a Vadim Gorbatov project I would love to see published in English. Almost twenty years ago a Korean publisher decided to revive the classic Ernest Thompson Seton tale “Lobo”, about a cattle- killing wolf in northern New Mexico; a story that many readers here remember from their youth (this is for you, Beth!)

It is interesting that wolves were considered a particular problem here; also that the two ambivalent narratives that changed the public’s perception of wolves to something benign– perhaps in our day too benign?–were by paid wolf killers: Seton, who had been a bounty hunter; Aldo Leopold, a government official who believed at first that fewer predators meant abundant game, in a neat linear progression. Leopold was to see that “fierce green fire” in a dying wolf’s eyes, but when he spoke in Magdalena in 1914, to a crowd as big as our entire population is today, he was in his twenties, an ace predator controller.

At that time Vadim had not yet visited New Mexico, so he requested model photos from us– “arroyo; Pinon pine; Sharps rifle”. We sent almost 200, and were rewarded with the original illustration of our choice. We took a calm one, set perhaps before the story’s beginning. But check these out. The first is a perfect homage to Seton, a near copy of one of his almost cartoon- like marginal drawings. The second recalls the Kyrgiz wolf hunt; the hunter tying the knots is Seton himself.

Vadim has a new Russian Seton collection out now too. More on that later, but you can see some of it on his site..

A new cover for Querencia- the- Book?

As my backlist comes up for reprint by Skyhorse, chances come up to change things; from wrong to right, from ugly to visually striking, or just from old to new (a new cover always catches my eye).

Querencia the book has always looked just fine, with its cover by Russ Chatham, its brilliant design, its quality paper. Most readers of this blog are happy with the esthetics of their copies, I trust. But with a whole new generation of reader, why not try something new? I collect TH White, and have first editions of almost all, but I treasure the interesting covers of the mass- market paperbacks of The Goshawk as they mix images from the 19th century up through some very odd ones in the Sixties to a near mistake on the last edition by the NYRB press, whose catalog featured Holbein’s portrait of Sir Robert Cheseman at the court of Fat Henry (VIII), with his Gyr on the fist! (This would have followed their edition of Baker’s The Peregrine with a Redtail). Luckily at least one person who knew hawks saw the mistake in an early catalog and raised the alarm. With the bit of power that came with having presented an edition once myself (in the Wilder Places line for Nick Lyons), I was able to let them know, and the edition is now graced by Liljefor’s Gos striking into a winter flock of blackgame, one of the finest paintings of predation ever done.

So I am hoping to persuade Skyhorse to do a new cover. No one is going to paint me a new one, and I wouldn’t insult Russell; the thing to go with, I am convinced, is something that evokes the melancholy and haunted beauty of our hard land, as Russell did in his painting. Here are five images, all by either me or stepson Peculiar.

The “covers” are arranged more or less from my favorite down, but please give me your votes and reasons why you prefer one to another. I may then do a post on your responses. And if this works, consider becoming my advisors on similar issues in the future.

Number three and number four courtesy of A. Jackson Frishman ; others by me. First and last on Henderson ranch a few miles out of Magdalena, where we hunt; others in town except for rainbow, taken on another big spread up in northern Socorro county, now subdivided for ranchettes not yet built. Or as Jack called it even pre- “Breaking Bad”, “Summer Storm over Meth Labs.”

Seen in Santa Fe

I photographed this out the window last week in Santa Fe. I am not a total 19th Century relic, nor does my nearly 64 years yet blind me to the new. But would someone explain to me how a giant inflatable Hamster (or rather “Hamsta”) in camo pants, giving gang signs,  can be seen as a likely way to sell Korean cars to any New Mexican of any culture?

Magdalena’s Poet

Bruce Holsapple wasn’t born here any more than I was (“I’m not from here/ I just live here”– James McMurtry); but sooner or later you make your stand. Would you not credit Gary Snyder and his adopted watershed in the dry Sierra, or me in my Querencia?

Bruce has been here long enough to put down roots, and he is one of the very few people other than my late mentor Floyd Mansell who you might encounter high in the mountains of our fortunately neglected range outside of deer season. In his new collection Wayward Shadow , he sings our austere highland’s subtle songs, like some latter- day Zen monk praising “Mountains and Rivers Without End”.

Like Snyder, he speaks with precision, but so simply he is almost laconic, painting his chosen landscape with a dry brush, making a subtle picture anywhere you care to make a cut. I particularly like this piece below, perhaps because I too look over my shoulder for our (ambivalently) beloved but subtly feared apex predator whenever I descend through the switchbacks after the sun goes behind the ridge:

“Walking a twisty arroyo

cliff, hillside, tumbling rock, sand

& at one damp spot

shelved in by rock

a cougar’s track

where it leapt down

into the wash

then across–

me searching the canyon walls

from that point

especially as the sky darkened”