Getting to Albuquerque II

Under some rubric listing quaint, old-fashioned expressions, I might list the word receipt. I was puzzled as a child that my Grandma Long used receipt to mean recipe, until I learned as an adult that the two words have overlapping etymologies. In receipt of is another quaint expression to my ear, sometimes regarded as stuffy and falsely formal. Nevertheless, I am in receipt of two letters that have caused my heart to swell; though both speak of hardship.

The two letters are included in a cache of my Grandma Long’s keepsakes for which I am grateful to my cousin, Marion Choate. Marion’s mother was my Aunt Frances, my father’s younger sister. So let’s start back with the photo of my father’s family I have cited previously. A note attached tells me it was taken on January 1, 1911, but that can’t be correct because my uncle Bill, the baby in my grandmother’s arms, was born March 1, 1912. Perhaps January 1, 1913 is the correct date.

The Longs of Las Cruces, circa 1913. Peter Peterson, my maternal great grandfather who had died in Oklahoma in 1910, is absent. My grandmother is holding my Uncle Bill, the baby of the family. My father is the boy in the middle between my grandfather and great grandmother Melissa Peterson who is holding my Aunt Frances’s hand. Next comes my uncle Randolph and finally, a neighbor boy whose hat covers his face. All photos are “live.” Click images to enlarge.

I don’t know the exact date of my family’s arrival in Las Cruces, but the earliest deed to the property in this photograph that I find among my grandmother’s keepsakes is dated January 20, 1912. The land was apparently not a homestead in the strict sense. Though my grandmother’s papers include several documents pertaining to the farm property, the process by which she and my grandfather acquired it is still not clear to me. In this photo it appears a hardscrabble place, but here’s how one of his obituaries describes my grandfather and his farm.

Mr. Long was born in 1879 at Minneapolis, Minn., thus being 39 years of age at the time of his death. Later the family moved to Missouri, Mr. Long moving from there to Oklahoma, where he was engaged in the newspaper business for a number of years, until seven years ago when he came to the Rio Grande Valley for the benefit of his health.

Mr Long took a small place on the outskirts of town and in spite of the handicap of il [sic] health had made a success of it and had one of the nicest little homes in the valley at the time of his death. He acquired a reputation as a very successful grower of vegetables and as one who was peculiarly conversant with farming conditions in the valley.

I could guess that my grandfather arrived in New Mexico very early in 2012. The ill health referenced in the obituary was tuberculosis; though my grandfather died in the flu epidemic of 1919 as I’ve noted previously. He had tried a sanitarium in Colorado before going to New Mexico. In the early twentieth century not much could be done for tuberculosis, though it was thought that dry climates were better for the afflicted than wet ones. I make it also that my grandfather arrived in New Mexico in advance of his wife and children, who by this reckoning might have arrived between January and March 1912.

I’m not comfortable with these dates, however, think the family could all have arrived the previous year and it could have taken them a while to get settled on the farm. When I last visited with my Uncle Randolph, around 1992, he told me that my grandfather had gone to New Mexico first and that my grandmother and the children first traveled by train to San Antonio, Texas and then traveled from there to Las Cruces in a covered wagon. My memory is that Uncle Randolph said these events occurred in 1911. The difficulty with my projected dates in 1912 as the time of the family’s trek to the Rio Grande Valley is that at that time my grandmother would have been in the last stage of her pregnancy with my Uncle Bill. Some light may be shed on this question and others by a letter I found among my grandmother’s keepsakes from my great grandmother, Melinda Akers Long, whose grave I was unable to find last fall. I’ll quote the entire text, though it is a bit lengthy.

R. 4. Hico Texas
May 23 – 1912

Dear Olin & Adda

Your letter of the 18th came this week. I am quite strong again and am enjoying Texas very well. Marian and I took a buggy ride this afternoon to see the new baby girl at Cashiou’s. We also had quite a chat with Mrs. Autrey as we came home. Hico school will close tomorrow and then Vernon will be at home. He has done well in school and is so large and strong that he can do considerable work at home. He chops cotton pulls weeds and cuts wood evenings and Saturdays and of course can accomplish more when school is out. Atticus is also very large for his age and talks so plain that he does not seem like a baby. He carries a little hoe in the field and tries to use it much of the time.

Well, I certainly am glad that you are in your own house and are able to work. I hope nothing will successfully tempt you to do more than you ought and hinder your complete recovery. Marian found several ripe strawberries this evening so you can guess what we will be doing.

You may know it seems somewhat better to be here with Marian and well than to be at Sayre sick and the neighbors waiting on me.

Lovingly,
Mama

First things first—my great grandmother was chronically ill. Though she claims to have recovered, she would barely live out the year. The cause of death listed on her death certificate is “La Grippe [influenza] complicated with bronchitis—pneumonia.” I’m guessing that she, too, had tuberculosis. The date of this letter suggests that she had just recently heard from her son that he and his family were settled, but her comment about being “in your own house” leaves open the possibility that the Las Cruces Longs had arrived previously and stayed in rented quarters for a time.

I also learn that my grandfather was known as Olin, a fact that is confirmed by another letter from an aunt in Kansas at the time of his mother’s death in 1913. I’ve mentioned the hardship reflected in these letters. My great grandmother’s mention of cotton indicates that her daughter, Marian Curtis, and her family were not merely engaged in subsistence farming in Texas but were raising a money crop as well; and her recounting of the activities of her grandson, Vernon, who was seven (or possibly eight) years old in 1912, says a great deal about how much human labor was required by their way of life. The other grandson, Atticus, who had been named for his father’s brother, would die late in 1913 of an unspecified illness that had lasted seven months. Atticus died in Pecos, Texas, at his namesake’s home. That his parents had sent him west to live with his uncle suggests to me that he may have contracted tuberculosis as well. The image of a dying boy trying to chop cotton with a small hoe speaks poignantly of the lives of these folk.

And all these folk, the Longs, the Petersons, and the Curtises had first settled in and around Sayre, Oklahoma between 1900 and 1905. At that time what would become Beckham County had just been opened to Anglo settlement. Quannah Parker still lived at his Cache establishment not far away. The place had been part of Comancheria and before that Apacheria—before the expansionist Comanches drove the Apaches off the plains. But the Southwest was changing fast. The Longs, Petersons, Curtises, and folk like them would inherit much of it.

To be continued . . .

Big pig, little pig

I Win, We Lose:
The New Social Darwinism and the Death of Love, and Other Writings

by John Hall Snow
edited by Frederick Stecker
229 pp., Wipf and Stock, $34

White Trash:
The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

by Nancy Isenberg
476 pp., Viking, $28

 

During the years I worked at Fort Bragg I had various old cars as companions along the country roads of North Carolina. I’ve already written about my 1959 Porsche in another context. But I drove and fiddled with a Karman Ghia coupe for a while as well. The Karman Ghia had a tendency to throw fan belts, and I always carried a couple of spares with me.

One night when I was on my way home to Durham the little VW engine began to overheat. I pulled over, turned the car off, and opened the rear boot to let the engine cool a little. Then I got out some tools and sat down on the shoulder with my legs underneath the back of the car.

My head was fairly close to the edge of the boot cover, too, as I bent into the engine compartment; and that turned out to be important in a few minutes when I was startled by some strange noises coming my way from an open field just off the road. I straightened up suddenly, banged my head on the boot cover and knocked myself out.

When I awoke after what I took to be just a few minutes, I didn’t worry about what had startled me, and I was too shaken up to finish the work on my car. I locked things up, hitchhiked back to the base, took some aspirin for my headache, called home, and spent the night on a cot in my office that I kept there for just such emergencies.

The next morning early I hitchhiked back to my car. When I got there I saw that there was a small herd of medium sized hogs in what I had taken for an empty field the night before. They had been turned out to forage in the stubble of whatever crop had been harvested in that field and were still snorting around quite contentedly.

That was my introduction to the practice of turning hogs loose to forage in fields and woods. I didn’t know then but do now that the practice has a long and complex history that has been productive of culture of various kinds. It has given us songs about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and the War of 1812, songs about cowboying, prospecting, going to Texas, being seduced by fancy men, and other profundities, in addition to providing us with lots of feral hogs. It has also given us the expression, “Root, hog, or die”—self reliance or nothing, you’re on your own old buddy—which might have meant something to me on the road back then if I had thought of it. Here’s a verse from an old song, for which I am indebted to Wikipedia.

I’m right from old Virginny wid my pocket full ob news,
I’m worth twenty shillings right square in my shoes.
It doesn’t make a bit of difference to neither you nor I
Big pig or little pig, Root, hog, or die.

The speaker would appear to be a slave, “worth twenty shillings right square in [his] shoes.” Though it dates the song 1856, the year of its first copyright, Wikipedia traces the expression “Root, hog, or die” to a time “well before 1834,” that date being the date of the publication of Davy Crocket’s Autobiography, which quotes the expression as “an old saying.”

Before he became enshrined in Texas history as one of the heroes of the Alamo, Crocket had a considerable career as a politician in Tennessee and served in the United States House of Representatives. He was a tireless defender of squatter’s rights and of the landless poor. Nancy Isenberg attributes the saying to Crocket that “It’s grit of a fellow that makes a man.”

In her new book, White Trash: The 400-year Untold History of Class In America, Isenberg also writes of the complex and racially charged history of social Darwinism among us, whose cultural roots are probably older than any songs about them. Indeed, the cluster of ideas we subsume under the social Darwinist rubric has been around in America since before we had a term for it, before Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), and before the career of Herbert Spencer, who gave the phrase “survival of the fittest” its characteristically modern spin.

On the other hand, the Rev. John Hall Snow’s analysis of social Darwinism, as revealed in a new book edited by the Rev. Frederick Stecker, doesn’t explore its folkloric or other cultural antecedents, perhaps because Snow seems less interested in social Darwinism’s American history and more interested in the corporate consequences of the faith (after it had become a faith), particularly in its having resulted in a culture of winners and losers. Indeed the most telling and interesting sections of I Win, We Lose concern how winning came to be the American conception of “survival of the fittest.”

Fr. Stecker found the manuscript of this little book among Fr. Snow’s literary remains together with a number of unpublished sermons. Indeed, some of the most valuable parts of this book are to be found in the sermon excerpts that Fr. Stecker includes as commentary on the main text. I’ve read Fr. Snow’s other books since reading I Win, We Lose. Two of them, The Gospel in a Broken World and A Vocation to Risk specifically address issues of preaching to times of great change: the first in relation to the massive social changes wrought by the 1960s and the second in relation to late twentieth century culture, which Fr. Snow perceived to be in spiritual decline. The effects of social Darwinism and the American culture of winning are themes to which Fr. Snow returned again and again in his writing and preaching.

The importance of winning grows out of competitiveness through the introduction of an adversarial component into all human relationships, according to Snow. The chapters of Snow’s book detail the effects on education, racial justice, marriage, institutional life, and environmental ethics of a cultural paradigm that views social life in all its forms as a series of sites for competition. Winning is promoted and winners are rewarded with major or minor celebrity, money, etc. This is the meaning of success in America. Losing, normally identified with performance that falls short of accepted standards of achievement, but also with wage earning and poverty, is rewarded with shame. The social consequences have been devastating, as Snow details them. His understanding of the losses to public education brought about by the competition paradigm, which Snow alleges have “removed the last vestiges of true learning from the educational process” prefigure present day concerns about high stakes testing and the unfortunate social consequences of our so-called meritocracy, for instance.

For the culture of winning requires that most will be losers. “Winners are defined by the symbolic power of what they own as well as what and how much they consume.” And as the win/lose ethos expands into the creed of American exceptionalism it comes to require “the aggressive accumulation of natural resources, wealth, and technical-scientific information for the single purpose of denying them to the rest of the world as the guarantee of the survival of those currently self-defined as the most fit, namely the richest and most powerful.” Acceptance of this view and the corollary views it requires in contemporary American life puts Christians in a particularly difficult position, because “No vision of reality could be more in conflict with what Christians believe,” according to Fr. Snow. Yet American Christians have defended slavery, Indian removal, the destruction of Appalachia and other environmental devastation by extractive industry, as well as the pervasive growth of destructive technologies the world over, as beneficial and necessary to the survival of “the most comfortable, elegant, liberated life-style in the history of the world . . . .”

Professor Isenberg has other fish to fry. She traces the history of American scapegoating of the poor and the persistence of destructive class-consciousness in America to English colonial policy and practice. Our former British rulers viewed their North American colonies not merely as a source of wealth but also as a dumping ground for human trash, for the hordes of landless paupers, “vagrants, idlers, highwaymen, Irish rebels, known whores and convicts” that filled England (particularly English cities) with what the better classes termed human rubbish. It was settled British colonial policy to transport these persons to the new world for centuries, a fact amply illustrated by the history of Jamestown as Isenberg tells the story. After 1776 the newly constituted United States adopted and extended this policy through the various stages of continental expansion. But far from being valued as pioneers and settlers, the landless poor remained objects of scorn, in some cases more scorned than people of color, described as sallow, diseased, and malformed, an inferior breed of human beings.

It is a widespread conviction that Jefferson’s ringing affirmation of human equality at the opening of the Declaration of Independence entitles Americans to believe that we have created a society without invidious class distinctions. But that belief is everywhere deconstructed by the actions of Americans past and present. We tend to perceive and address the cognitive dissonances entailed by the belief by reference to the category of race in our present-day life and to erase other manifestations both from our perception of and discourse about inequality; yet we have never successfully discriminated between the natural inequalities that abound in our experience of one another and forced or artificial inequalities that are social constructions. This blurring has contributed to our history of demagogic exploitation of inequality for political purposes. Professor Isenberg provides a wealth of examples of the political exploitation of inequality from colonial times to the present in a thick social history that lends substance to Fr. Snow’s argument. Just as race has marked many as socially inferior in our history, so extreme poverty has marked others as deserving of exclusion from the goods obtained through our social contract. Historically, those identified as white trash have been regarded as naturally inferior to their more affluent betters, along with people of color, especially in the South, and their putative natural inferiority has a long history of association with partisan attempts to exclude them permanently from society’s benefits. In its most extreme form, the belief in the natural inferiority of some humans has resembled fascism in all but name.

I owe recognition of the relevance of one of his sermons to our own historical moment to Fr. Snow’s daughter, Lydia Field Snow, who called attention to it in a recent Facebook post. I quote only part of the passage to which she refers.

The precise situation that creates fascism is where society is demoralized, where the conscientious are paralyzed with guilt and leadership believes that it is no longer accountable to anyone, where social disorder is everywhere and that this disorder is everywhere met with more police using more force. It occurs when the law is set aside in the name of order and humans find that the fear, the tension, the chaos, and the guilt become unbearable. It is at that moment when the human spirit is tempted to say suddenly, “No! Wrong is right, evil is good, ugliness is beauty, repression is true freedom, and the important thing is to be on the side of the strong. This is nature’s law – the weak, the stupid, the ugly, all those people who are not like me are destined to be destroyed, they are a drag on us, the truly strong. We’ve wasted enough time on them – let’s get it over with – why put up with their nonsense?”

There was a time when I didn’t believe the Republican Party really wanted to destroy the social contract. That was then, before they paraded a collection of proto fascists through a series of elections that ended up requiring all those who survived to pledge ever more stringent scenarios of social harm and that produced a final round of so-called rallies that fostered a lynch-mob ethos. Faced with the recent consequences of that ethos, we shall hardly need the renewed rallies to sustain the country’s angry mood. Our President ran for office in the familiar role of outsider, attacking government as ‘the problem’ in the tradition of Ronald Reagan. But his authoritarian approach to governing promises a police state, and as it develops it isn’t hard to predict a time when his régime will declare itself free of all obligation to ordinary human decency and give itself carte blanche to complete destruction of the social contract. And one further thing is clear. His appeal is deeply rooted in the American culture of winning. Here’s the President speaking to that point.

You’re going to be so proud of your president if I get in—and I don’t care about that—we’re going to start winning again, we’re going to win so much, we’re going to win at every level, we’re going to win economically, we’re going to win with the economy, we’re going to win with military . . . we’re going to win with every single facet, we’re going to win so much you may even get tired of winning, and you’ll say, ‘Please! Please! It’s too much winning! We can’t take it anymore! Mr. President! It’s too much!’ And I’ll say, ‘No it isn’t! We have to keep winning! We have to win more! We’re going to win more! We’re going to win so much!’

There’s some cognitive dissonance between the spectacle of Americans winning on such a scale and the destruction of the social contract that the Republican hard core desires, but winning in the presidential rallies was and is imaged as Fr. Snow described it: We need not concern ourselves with “the weak, the stupid, the ugly, all those people who are not like [us].” As the Republican program unfolds, particularly as the Affordable Care Act is repealed and great numbers of citizens lose access to health care while the middle class and the wealthy are given substantial tax breaks, it will become clear that Republican scapegoating doesn’t stop with Muslims and other immigrants but targets the poor as a social class as well. As Representative Roger Marshall (R – Kansas) put it in a recent interview, “Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us,’ . . . There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves . . . .”

Getting to Albuquerque

August, 1960: an unbearable day—the temperature well over a hundred degrees on the concrete runway at Dallas Love Field where I am pitching bags off a conveyor belt onto a luggage cart, unloading one of the Vickers Viscount aircraft that Continental Airlines flew in those days. Next to me a mechanic jokes with a coworker as he takes a wad of chewing gum out of his mouth and stuffs it into the guts of a turboprop engine he’d been having trouble with. “That ought to get ‘er to Albuquerque!” he opines.

True story. I have no idea what happened to that airplane, though I certainly hope it got to Albuquerque safely. I should probably have reported that mechanic to somebody, my boss maybe—but I was too frazzled and tired and drenched with sweat (besides being too low in the pecking order) to think that. I’m a bit ashamed that I didn’t report him, though not as ashamed as I ought to be, and I soothe my conscience with the absence from my memory of any stories of plane crashes from around that time.

Thirty years later I published an essay entitled “The Ultimate West.” It has several weaknesses, the chief of which is an excessive literariness, to which I am still prone. I’m not ashamed of it though, and I’m thinking of a particular paragraph I wrote then about childhood trips to Albuquerque from Abilene, Texas: when my mother would put my brother and me in our 1939 De Soto and drive us there in one day. It still seems remarkable to me that she did that. We would usually stop in Clovis for lunch, which consisted of roast beef sandwiches at a restaurant in a small downtown hotel. I remember parking meters and brick streets in Clovis, but another memory, another kind of memory predominates.

Getting to Albuquerque was for me the most powerful of symbols. Texas was plain, New Mexico exotic and cosmopolitan. In Albuquerque I went to school with Mexicans and an occasional Indian, whereas my Texas schools protected my Scotch Irish ethnicity against cultural pollution and forced me to memorize Bible verses, which I still think of as Baptist, at school.

I did a lot of growing up in Abilene. It had been my mother’s family home since 1926, the place where she and my father met, fell in love, and married. We lived in Abilene with my grandparents during the early years of World War II when my father was in the Philippines. We moved there more or less permanently in 1948 after his death had been confirmed. But both my brother and I had been born in Albuquerque, I in 1937 and he in 1940. We both started school there; though I had a longer exposure to school in Albuquerque than he did, from first through fourth grade. The road trips I recalled in my 1990 essay took place between 1943 when we moved back to Albuquerque from Abilene and occupied the house my parents had built on Tulane Place near the university, and January, 1948 when we resettled in Abilene.

My parents’ Albuquerque house as it looked when it was it was new (circa 1939). All photos are “live.” Click images to enlarge.

And of course there were as many road trips to Abilene as to Albuquerque in my childhood—but although I have many cherished memories of visiting and living in Abilene as a small child and continue to love my adopted home town, it is the road trips to Albuquerque that my memory assigns to a special place among my magic things. “I could feel my heart rise in me as we passed the state line at Farwell and it mysteriously got an hour earlier.” Not even the seemingly endless succession of wolf and coyote skins strung on the barbed wire fences along the roadways dampened my enthusiasm. But in spite of the fact that Albuquerque gave me a childhood sense of something like cultural diversity, what I didn’t understand as a child was that both in Northern New Mexico and in West Texas I was living in places where perhaps a hundred fifty years of history had been erased. It is my connections with that history that I continue to ponder and with which I still strive to come to terms.

Historic marker at Millerville (TX) Cemetery.

Last fall, on my way to my annual high school class reunion, I made another road trip, in a rented car, to the Texas ghost towns of Duffau and Millerville, not far from the present day town of Hico, on the edge of the Texas hill country. I made the trip to search for my great grandmother’s grave. She is buried in Millerville Cemetery, according to her death certificate. I didn’t find her grave, but I suspect it may be one of a good many graves in the old cemetery that are marked with field stones bearing no inscriptions, or that it may never have been marked at all. Her name had been Melinda Ava Akers. She was born in 1843 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and had moved with her extended family to Bloomington, Illinois, some time before 1870. She was just shy of seventy years old at the time of her death in 1913. Her journey from Pennsylvania to Texas had been long and meandering.

My great grandfather, John H. Long, outlived Melinda by twenty-five years, married again, and died in Los Angeles, California in 1937. I should like to know more about him and my great grandmother and his second wife, one Mary Floyd Marcoux, though I now know a good deal more than I ever did growing up, when I don’t think I ever heard their names. Apparently, my great grandmother’s death certificate mentions only one child, her daughter Marian. But Marian was the youngest of four siblings, two of whom, Florence and Raymond, are buried in New Florence, Missouri, and one of whom, James Olin, was my grandfather. Here is a photo of John Long, for which I am grateful to my cousin, Carol Flanagan. I have no idea where it was taken or when, though the subject looks to be middle aged. I’ve not been able to find a photograph of my great grandmother. John Long was six years younger than Melinda Akers when they were married in 1876. I have no idea how they met or where, though I have traced John Long to his birth in Peoria County, Illinois, not far from Bloomington. He and Melinda show up together with their then two children, Florence and James Olin, in the United States Census of 1880 in Minneapolis. Their southwards migration through towns in Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri (where they lost their two children, Florence and Raymond), would bring them to Beckham County, Oklahoma, some time prior to 1905 when my grandfather, James Olin, and Adda Belle Peterson were married at Guthrie.

Adda Belle Peterson and James Olin Long on their wedding Day.

I knew none of this growing up, perhaps because we lost contact with my father’s family after World War II. For a long time Grandma Long would come to visit every few months, but finally the visits stopped when she moved to Hawaii for a while—she too was a wanderer. The extended family of Longs and Petersons lived in Oklahoma until 1911 but seem to have split up after that, with John and Melinda and their daughter Marian, who had married a man named Orlando Curtis, going to Texas, and my grandparents and Melissa Peterson settling finally in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Here’s a photo of the Las Cruces clan, I think from 1913; Peter Peterson, my maternal great grandfather who had died in Oklahoma in 1910, is absent. My grandmother is holding my Uncle Bill, the baby of the family. My father is the boy in the middle between my grandfather and great grandmother Melissa Peterson who is holding my Aunt Frances’s hand. Next comes my uncle Randolph and finally, a neighbor boy whose hat covers his face. I never knew my grandfather, James Olin, who died in the flu epidemic of 1919, but I spent a number of happy childhood times at the Las Cruces farm—we didn’t call it a homestead, and of course I’m remembering it as it may have been thirty years after this photo was taken. I chiefly remember sleeping on a screened-in porch on cool summer nights and waking every so often as a train hooted by on the tracks close by. My memory is that the porch faced the railroad, though that could be wrong. I also remember the farm as a garden. Grandma Long kept bees and dairy cattle in addition to chickens. She raised vegetables and I don’t know what else. There was a lot of alfalfa grown in that part of the world in those days. I associate the smell of alfalfa with Grandma Long’s farm and find that smell exhilarating still.

And I think that farm was a sustainable enterprise as long as Las Cruces remained rural and as long as climate cycles allowed. Of course, all the farms in that place were irrigated. The irrigation ditch that brought water to them from the Rio Grande was the chief feature of downtown Las Cruces in those days. My mother once told me that my father and a friend wrote a book about what she called ditchwater Spanish, which my father spoke fluently she said. That expression, ditchwater Spanish, suggests to me that my father and other boys, not all of them Anglo, must have played in and around that irrigation ditch much as I and my friends sneaked away and played in the dry creeks of Abilene. I have the address of the Las Cruces farm but think it exists no more. A 1998 photo shows only the railroad right of way. I’ll go to Las Cruces and look for it one of these days. My favorite of the handful of photos I have of the place is one I’ve used before, because it shows my grandmother and her four grown children. I should say too that I am grateful for all my photos of the Long Homestead to my cousin, Lorian Choate, and her husband, Brett Martin. Another I love just for the way it shows the house, is this winter picture.

But central to the lives of all of us who gathered from time to time at that farmhouse was the fact that we were inheritors of what we now sometimes call Indian removal. We were the first couple of generations of Americans who profited directly from that experiment in ethnic cleansing. But we didn’t think of our lives that way, and part of the reason we didn’t was that history had been cleansed for us as well, in Texas by the banishment of everything native American including the people, and in New Mexico by commodification. Our story, the story of our times and our places in them, was a story of migration into a place that had been empty of human culture before our arrival, or so we thought. Our stories of heroic journeying, cowboying, and the like, neglected to mention the people who had been there before us as human agents engaged in civilized life.

To be continued . . .