A Selection From the Wide Valley of Hope and Order

8:43 PM

by Rudolfo Carrillo


As it turns out, the history of this state, even rendered and distilled into an extra-complex and viscous fluid of strategies as I have previously employed here, is dang popular. People like to read about stuff that happened to people who came out onto the earth in these parts before we were around.

With that concept in mind I turned the wheels in my head loose, locating all the odd stories that I heard from my old man and his kin, plus the stuff I experienced here, so far, myself.
Rambly as all of that may be - and it may get that way on purpose, just to swirl you around into all the different worlds and different places that I can construct with a finite set of alphanumeric characters - its mostly stuff that really happened.

Combined with an embedded set of ideas in each of my readers' heads about how to decode and organize those text-strings, the result, as any carnival barker will tell you, is to inform, amuse and perplex. It is no joke that I hope you all get something close to magic from said interaction.

So I am going to start with nineteen forty-five and wind my may through to the summer of nineteen seventy-five, before I drop you off somewhere about Christmastime, nineteen ninety-five.

After the war was done my father and his brother, their cousins who lived, and the friends who they grew up with, came home to Las Cruces. Even the ones lucky enough to be physically whole had been changed; whatever came before seemed ghostly and unkempt. Now they were thin restless souls returned to the desert, to a place of elusive order where some plants took forty years to bloom.

Men like this were scattered through New Mexico like the seeds of a new commodity, each mixed thoroughly into the rich soil of rediscovered locality and regional potential. Their assimilation into american culture and the economic success such entailed was anxiously informed by the military culture they brought back to reside with them in their flinty and orderly hearts. It was in the quick cinderblock ranchitos that appeared with waxen spontaneity on the edge of town; it was in the smooth concrete, built up from the sand next door and the river down below - deposited lovingly, but certainly as an intricate cover too - masking what remained of the past, dry and crummy as it was, had been, or was imagined to be.

There were demonstrations of American exceptionalism and what had been woven into their wartime souls poured out into their lives on the mesa. On more than one occasion, they trucked in trees from California and the new vegetative entities bloomed and otherwise professed greenness and fruition all damn year long.

Along the northern passage and in the midst of la jornada del muerto, immense reservoirs had been constructed so that once abandoned nautical fantasies could be pleasantly revisited, every weekend, ad infinitum. From those driftingly buoyant castles, they dreamt of Burque. To my people that place danced on the horizon like a daikini possessed by an atomic grandeur that could only possibly yield meaning through communion.

Assuming the measure of control desired and to some degree attained by the post-war prodigals, it is a wonder that any chaos crept out of all that beauty and strength and yearning, to walk down the bright boulevards and through the tamed tropical replicas, howling and mournful, as misadventure is wont to do.

But that's what this story is all about, now that I come to think on it.

You see my folks weren't the first to creep hopefully and by moonlight towards the fabled and fabulously well-to-do El Norte.

My old man 's sister Cuca married a restless and pugnacious state cop named Robert Gilliland. They settled in the northeast heights during the mid nineteen sixties. Their kids went to Sandia High. We were there too, mostly on the weekends, staring out at the arcadian world which surrounded them, gracefully and efficiently.

By the time the decade turned, Gilliland had grown disenchanted with the kind of law enforcement that happened along the state's highways. He retired honorably and bought a restaurant in Corrales.

The place was called the Territorial House. Besides the full-on biker bar that sat on the corner of the lot, the property had a notorious reputation. Two men had died there in a gun battle back in 1898. The cottonwood in front by the road was well-known to old-timers as a hanging sort of tree.

But the place was successful; Robert and his business partner, Monie Sanchez, ran a tight ship, pouring their restive hearts into it every night, dreaming by day of controlling this world and that one.

In the summer of nineteen hundred and seventy-five, two men entered that bar I told you about. Some say they came to rob, others said their motives were more vengeful and complex than that. In any case, gunfire erupted while Sanchez was at the cash register and my uncle was in a back room. The assailants fled from the critically wounded man, but were unusually calm and collected, walking back to their car in the parking lot, unaware of Gilliland, who grabbed a shotgun from under the counter, followed the men out and shot them to death where they stood, with the engine running and the AM radio blaring.

Robert Gilliland walked inside and called the police. Then, he dialed up my old man and breathlessly told him everything before he collapsed on the floor and died of a massive heart attack.

Twenty years later, when I was working a slacker job at an art supply shop in Nob Hill, the boss chose the Territorial House for the company Christmas dinner. At the time, the joint was called Rancho de Corrales, but the bar was still there, the tree, too. I took my brother along and we were both mighty uncomfortable during the proceedings.  The fellow that ran the art shop, Ernie, was just as confused as could be about all that, especially when all we could do was mumble about how clean and organized the whole place seemed to be. Sure, there were ghosts lurking there, but you wouldn't a known it by the way the art store people carried on that night.

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