I stepped away from my weekly update last Friday because one of our community archivists Andrew and I were traveling to Las Cruces to visit my uncle and collect stories and photographs from him. I had not been to Las Cruces since before the pandemic. And that visit had been for my dad’s funeral. It felt strange to visit Las Cruces (well, technically Vado) without seeing my dad. His trailer sat empty and unused; the inside coated with dust. I rummaged through the few things that had been left behind – mostly books and as always remembered what a reader my dad had always been. There were a few paperback Westerns and a ton of books on raising livestock and other agricultural practices. My compadre pointed out my dad’s Carhartt overalls still hanging by the door and I was so grateful to have someone I trusted to witness with me the kind of person my dad had been; the kind of life he had lived and that all of that was okay.
We went from my dad’s trailer across the field to my uncle’s house. The Rio Grande is not far from his front door, maybe about a couple of hundred yards and I was surprised to see no water at all. The acequia in front of the house was also dry and my uncle mentioned something about the water hadn’t been released yet. The pecan trees were still bare and as my uncle, my cousin Emily, Andrew and I sat around outside we talked and made plans for what we were going to document and record.
My uncle has a room full of his sports memorabilia – boxing posters, trophies, photo albums. These are all treasures; however, for me the treasure was seeing his boxing robe hung on a hook by the floor-to-ceiling West-facing windows. In one moment, seeing that boxing robe took me back to the Cloth World in Amarillo. My mom and I had picked out that red satin for that robe at least 40 years ago. I could not have been older than 5 when she made that robe and yet; I could remember the smells of the cloth, the sound of the scissors slicing through the fabric. Memory is powerful like that. It can and often does engage all five senses. This is what I hope for as we move forward on the Manito Community Memory Project. I hope that all of us will find those images, those documents, those recordings that bring not just memories back but also prompt the stories that surround them for that is what last weekend also was – storytelling.
The day we left, some quail crossed from my uncle’s yard, through the acequia and onto the banks of the river. I had seen quail crossing that exact spot in the days around my dad’s funeral. I thought of how quail are one of the most common colcha designs. I don’t know exactly why they are so popular, but they definitely always remind me where I am, where I am from, and where I am going.