On the morning of the 10th, this is the sight that greeted me when I opened my eyes.
Their house is like a museum in and of itself but always very homey as well. Every morning I participated in their morning routine. Saying Grace while holding hands around the table, a light breakfast and conversation. A daily bible reading and a discussion of what the words meant in everyday terms. Then by 7:30 am they were out the door to get the museum ready to open. Once they were gone, I'd go out and watch the hummingbirds for an hour while I read my book. Then I'd shower and go off to do whatever I was doing that day. Dinner was a repeat of breakfast and then we'd all sit around talking, reading or watching the History Channel in the evening until about 11:00 when Buddy and Irma would go to bed.
The house where they live is called Tres Piniones for the pinyon pines in the front yard. Buddy and some friends built it by hand around 1988 when his first wife Bebe was still alive. Bebe passed in 1990, the next year he married Irma. I was at their wedding. The house is on a mesa above Cimarron and the view takes in all the most scenic parts of the area.
That first morning I made my way downtown to my cousin Tracy's store, Blue Moon Eclectics. The clerk told me she was at her new gallery. The news surprised me because I had not heard she opened a new gallery. But there at the end of the block was a gallery called Cimarron Blue and inside I found my cousin Tracy Boyce. It was a really nice space with lots of really nice art and she gave me permission to put some of my artist friends in touch with her to get their pieces shown. Tracy and I talked for awhile and I got caught up on all the gossip that I'd missed in a year. Afterwards, I went over to the Cimarron Art Gallery where I used to have some of my linoleum cuts and sat at the same soda fountain counter where I met my ex wife and had a butterscotch sundae in an old fashioned glass dish. Other than the soda fountain, everything about that place has changed so it no longer really reminds me of my ex-wife. From there I hit the Rockin' Lazy B Gallery to talk to Jim Beil about the jewelry, linoleum cuts and photography I have there. I'd gotten a nice check at the end of June and he told me when I got home, I'd find a nice check from July. My stuff has really taken off this summer and I've made about $1,000 so I'm really happy about it. Jim needs more jewelry from me so I'm working on that this week.
It was getting to be lunch time so I made my way over to my favorite eatery in a trailer called the Burrito Banquet. Nancy that runs it makes her tortillas fresh every morning and prepares all her own ingredients. She's been parking in Cimarron and selling burritos since 1986. Back then it was just the trailer. Then she bought the lot in the mid-90's and her husband put up the canopy. Nancy lives in the tiny village of Miami about 20 miles away. I was her next door (half a mile away) neighbor when I lived there in 1986. She was about out of food when I got there at just before 2 pm. She shoed the guy away in line behind me saying she'd be out. I think it was only because we are old friends that she served me. I just told her to dump what she had left in a bowl and give me a homemade lemonade to go with it. While I stood and ate, Nancy caught me up on the goings on in Miami. Seems an outfit from Oklahoma called the Express Ranch has bought up all the smaller ranches and pretty much controls the town now. Still, she thought they'd be good neighbors. They sure had made everyone's property values go up. A little Asian woman named Mrs. Woo lived in my old home in the Boot and Saddle Shop. She drives a yellow Gremlin. And the post office is now a home and occupied by a guy named Barry Potter. Bet he takes some ribbing.
The buildings next to the Burrito Banquet are from a bygone era of architecture and I love to sit on their front walk and eat my lunch. Been doing it for years and no one has ever said boo to me about it.
Taking part of my lunch with me, I headed over to Outfitters in Leather to see my good friend Shirley Dale who much admired my pink 3 1/2 point trade blanket I was sleeping under for the trip. I've traded with Shirley for 13 years and I don't think any cash has ever crossed our palms. We always end up with a trade that favors us both. Usually I bring turtle shells but my old supplier got out of the business last year and my new one didn't have any for me when I left. So I had several yards of black wool broadcloth I wasn't using and took that with me. It would be enough to make a nice frock coat or maybe even a capote if you were careful. I wasn't quite ready to trade the point blanket yet. So I ended up with an elkskin bag and a beaded knife sheath with a homemade knife. And Shirley and I talked for an hour or so. Shirley's place is a big old adobe that used to house the roughest bar in town, the El Dorado. Most Anglos fought shy of the place. Being a skinny white kid, I stayed away. My now ex father inlaw who is a burly logger sort of person would sometimes go in for a drink after work. The El Dorado was right behind his house so he didn't have far to walk when he was too drunk to drive. But even he stayed away on weekend night when there was a crowd. Many was the night when blood was spilled in that place. When I worked at Philmont Scout Ranch in the 80's we were warned never to go in there and also to stay away from the girls on Coco street where the bar was located. It was said they just wanted to find someone to get them pregnant so they could get out of Cimarron. Even the name of the street has been changed now.
I left Shirley, talking to a customer and headed up to the Museum. Crossing the Cimarron River, I saw a young girl in tight jeans riding a horse. She had a long dark braid down to her waist. Now that reminded me of my ex-wife the first time I saw her riding. Ouch. Nice memory but painful to remember right then. I've thought a lot of different things about Cimarron over the years. I've loved and hated it depending on my perspective at the time. I've thought it was heaven and hell. Right now, it's just a place I really like being. I used to go there before I met my ex so I associate it more with being my place than hers and mine. So I keep going back, but those nagging memories are inevitable I guess.
I got to the Museum around 4 pm. Remember I said Buddy had agreed to be the museum curator for 25 years? Well this is year # 25 and after Labor Day, he will be stepping down as the curator. So entering the building this trip was a bittersweet feeling for me. Because for 25 years I've only known it as Buddy's place and his touches are everywhere. When I first met him in 1982, the place was dusty and unsettled. Boxes of collected exhibits lay strewn about the floor and he was just getting things organized. Only the main floor was open at that time. Over the years he distributed the collection over 4 floors and fielded all sorts of new contributions, building one of the finest collections of Scouting memorabilia in the US on the third floor. This trail sign is from Philmont Scout Ranch. I found it while taking a leak on a spruce tree in Phimont's South Country when I worked at Apache Springs in 1984. I didn't take it to the Seton Museum on Philmont because the curator at the time only wanted "professional" looking exhibits and it would have been lost in the basement. So I smuggled it in to town and gave it to Buddy. You can still see the pine sap on the sign from where it was nailed to the tree back in the 40's. The basement houses the parts of the original grist mill and other historical items from Cimarron's past. The first floor is all about Cimarron from pre-history to present.
The Second floor has the Scouting collection and an exhibit dedicated to all the working cowboys of the area who have passed on. The third floor houses relics from the general frontier history of NM. Over the years and with help from friends, Buddy and Bebe and then later Buddy and Irma dragged all this stuff up and down the stairs, carefully hand lettered placards and learned all the history of the all the objects so they could pass the info on to Museum patrons. The Museum is a place that has always made him happy so it's really going to be hard to go in there next year, knowing he won't be there. His replacement is a man in his 50's who is writing a historical novel about Cimarron and has worked in the area several years off and on. He's worked for Philmont too. So hopefully the collection will be well looked after.
I talked to Buddy and Irma for an hour and then walked up stairs with Irma to help close the windows against the coming monsoon rains and cover up the more delicate exhibits. That's another reason for Buddy to retire. It's been a couple years since his knees would allow him to climb the stairs. I've heard his opening spiel so many times, I could say it in my sleep. "Howdy folks and welcome to the Old Mill Museum. We have four floors of history here, two above us and one below. You tour is self guided, take all the time you like and be sure to ask questions if you want to know more about something."
I'll miss that.
Next installment - The Party