A Horse Dispute in New Mexico


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By Katherine Johnson

August 29, 2017

This is an only in New Mexico story.

First one needs to understand that Pajarito Mesa is about 15 minutes from Albuquerque and runs west out into the desert and has an estimated population of 1500 to 2000 people living in trailers and other exotic forms of housing that do not have running water or electricity. To complicate the whole mess it is illegal to live there but Bernalillo County has been ineffectual when it comes to stopping people from moving out there and setting up housekeeping. One can conclude that this place is on the wild side and that people do whatever they feel like.

Pajarito Warning Sign: Purchasing property on the Pajarito Mesa may be illegal. – 2017.12.25 – West Mesa – Bernalillo County, NM

Enter David Derringer who lives out on Pajarito Mesa and raises horses, so he says. The only problem is he doesn’t brand them and lets them run free. This can lead to all kinds of fun such as claiming his neighbors are horse thieves, from time to time, over the years. Sometimes he brings his AK-47 along when sorting out disputes.

Enter Isidro Ruiz who also raises horses and apparently does brand his horses and has a corral with a gate and water which horses like. On occasion Isidro “forgets” to close the gate and is surprised when unbranded horses show up in his corral. Of course, since there is no way to identify the horses, he closes the gate when this happens and considers this just plain good luck.

One day, a couple of months ago, David decided that somebody stole his horses and later he “found” them in Isidro’s corral, a situation that seems to have happened, by accident of course, multiple times. Now, New Mexico is a pretty big place and it would be easy lose track of a few horses from time to time, especially when the said horses are pretty much left alone to be horses out in the desert. I am going to go make a wild conclusion from the thin evidence that David didn’t spend much time looking for “his” horses.

I am also going to claim that this pissed David off is an exercise in understatement, so let’s say that he was.

After locating “his” horses a very pissed off David went to Isidro’s place to retrieve “his” horses. He also made sure Isidoro wasn’t home when he arrived because it is damn inconvenient when trespassing and cutting up a corral fence to have an equally pissed off Isidoro around. Anyhow, David got his horses loaded up and took off. As David was attempting to make good his escape Isidoro drove up and took great offense to his fence being cut and new horses being swiped.

A Pajarito Mesa Estate – 2017.12.25 – West Mesa – Bernalillo County, NM

Saying this pissed off Isidoro is an exercise in the obvious so let’s just say that he was.

Since having the law get involved in this dispute would have been a gross violation of unwritten rules of Pajarito Mesa, Isidoro immediately blocked David’s truck with his thus creating, how do I delicately say this, a New Mexican standoff way out in the wild parts of Pajarito Mesa.

As one might expect the conversation between David and Isidoro became complicated. Heated comes to mind too. David, being a guy that cuts right to the heart of a matter during a negotiation, pulled out his AK-47 and shot up two tires on Isidoro’s truck. David, once again having regained the upper hand, most likely with a twinkle in his eye for this brilliant tactical maneuver, took off with “his” horses and left Isidoro short a few horses and two functional tires. I am not sure if it was the horses being taken, the cut fence, the flat tires, or some combination of these events but it does seem that Isidoro felt that the unwritten laws needed some written ones.

David Derringer, age 68, looking none too happy – BCSO Metropolitan Detention Center Booking Photo

Sometime later the Bernalillo Sheriffs showed up at David’s place to discuss the matter and decided that it was best concluded at the local jail, which you should have seen coming, is located right out on the edge of the wild places of Pajarito Mesa. Such details come directly from God’s funny bone.

And that folks, is how life rolls out on Pajarito Mesa just west of Albuquerque.

I love New Mexico.

Copyright 2017 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved


A Few Thoughts On The Winter Solstice For the Holidays


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By Katherine Johnson

December 21, 2017

It has been a long year and a longer decade, where these measures, arbitrarily made, are plopped atop the stack of time permanently lost; where each of these measures of men begin and end in the season we call winter that passes somewhere in the universe that cares not what we say; where new births come alive in a season and too are plopped onto that finite path which must end in an infinite season of vast solitude; such are the bones that make up long years and longer decades that will soon be picked naked by time and join the dead.

At the end of this long year I find myself living in a vast landscape, belonging to a peculiar winter family, aging, where each lives in confinement, solitaire, deluded, believing that this is by choice but in reality is more the culmination of every right, wrong encountered and inflicted along the finite path and to some unknown degree by the very atoms that defined our souls, our fate, long, long, long ago; where I sleep warm in the vastness, drunk and by burning what is left of the good fortune I encountered, a miracle it seems, when compared to those that lay on frozen ground, drunk too, and find themselves being burned alive by the culmination of their atoms, their lives, their fortunes, their fate.

Now at the end of my decades I find myself writing from what I want to be my last living place on earth, New Mexico, for reasons that are more akin to completing a will than anything else; a living oxymoron, a bag of flesh that has never changed, full of unequal bitterness and joy, living life anew, reimagined; where my thoughts are consumed with being in love with this time, infinite and finite; where I can feel the pending change of season in my aching bones; where I hear the land whisper that the wise rub its red earth, a blessing, over your heart, where I am now surrounded by people whose atoms have been smelted, forged, and hammered by an infinite sun into a cultural metal that too is a blessing; all this, all this, makes you fall to your knees, weeping, beneath a staked plains sky, as blue as the music of America that most certainly resounds to the moment of creation.

Copyright 2017 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved

A Graduation Gift


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By Katherine Johnson

Today’s tale is about Some Kid’s High School Graduation Gift aka a Backlund Model 100 Guitar aka Guitar Porn.

What follows are the various events that led up to him getting this gift. Why am I sharing this? Because it is funny and I am a jerk.

Backlund Model 100 Red Guitar aka Guitar Porn

Some Kid has wanted one of these for several years now but they were priced completely beyond what he or I could afford. Basically, I told Some Kid, if you want it, buy it yourself.

Then today, instead of watching car chase videos on YouTube with my morning coffee I started watching guitar porn videos.

Coincidentally my Mom, Some Kid’s Grandma, sends me a text message about some auction that had a Fender Stratocaster that had been signed by all the members of the Eagles.

We went back and forth about putting in a bid for the guitar giving that to Some Kid as a graduation gift and then, in a moment of clarity, I recalled what THE DUDE said in the Big Lebowski about the Eagles.

Scene: Riding in a cab at night with “Peaceful Easy Feeling” playing on the radio…

TD: Jesus, man, can you change the channel?
CD: Fuck you man! You don’t like my fucking music, get your own fucking cab!
TD: I’ve had a really rough–
CD: I’ll pull over the side and kick your ass out!
TD: Man, come on I had a rough night, and I hate the fucking Eagles, man.
Cab Driver pulls over and tosses the Dude out of the cab
CD: Outta my fucking cab!
TD: Hey man!
CD: Out, get–
TD: Man man! Hey! Awwwwh Jesus.

The memory of this was like getting jolted back from the white light after being zapped with paddles EMTs use. I was like, this is a stupid off the shelf Stratocaster, most likely a Mexican one, and probably signed by some press agent. Plus, it involves the Eagles, so I bailed on the whole deal. That was too close.

However, these two things, got me wondering about what ole’ Jim Backlund had been creating in his guitar design studio (actually I think he only works during happy hour in a dark biker bar).
So, I cruised over to the Backlund Guitar web site and it was like, oh, they are so friggin’ beautiful and OMG, they now have a price a us mere worthless mortals can afford.

I immediately fell to my knees, wept, and for one brief moment I thought I saw the light, the white light. I can also attest that my butthole (1) puckered; this is what happens when you are heavily into guitar porn.

More Guitar Porn

This lead to a text message exchange between Some Kid and I:

Me: Have you seen the Backlund Model 100 and Model 400 in red? OMG. (Links to both were included).
SK: I want a Backlund so badly They are some of the most elegant guitars.
Me: I love either of the two I sent in red. I don’t know which is hotter, the Model 100 or the Model 400.
SK: I’m super partial to the 100. I like the blue. Well maybe the red is the best.
Me: Which one makes your butthole pucker?
SK: They’re all gorgeous. They are surprisingly affordable for what they are. Probably because they are now partnered and no longer being independently distributed [ME: this little weasel has been sneaking around drooling over them behind my back for who knows how long] I’m leaning red I think now.
ME: Oh, are you actually going to graduate as in you passed all your classes and met all the requirements?
SK: Of course, I graduated. [ME: did I just hear a massive eye roll coming out of Seattle?]
ME: Just checking. I knew someone that didn’t and still went to the graduation ceremony.
SK: I can think of a good graduation present.
ME: Oh, like what? I thought we were talking about a stereo.
SK: A stereo is nice and all, but it’s not red. [Can’t you just hear him begging and pleading about now!]

A brief interlude occurred while I consulted with Grandma about this whole deal and we agreed to get it for Some Kid. Our conversation when something like this.

ME: Forget the Eagles – they are lame and the Dude hates them.
GM: Ok, Ok. I trust your judgement.
ME: Trust the Dude. Here is want he [Some Kid and not the Dude though I know the Dude would be all over this guitar too] would love: A Backlund guitar (I included a link to the web page).

I sent him a text message about Backlunds and I actually got a reply [If you have teenagers you will immediately understand my shock and amazement at getting reply, let alone an prompt one]…Model 100 in blue. No, Red, Maybe blue, no red, no definitely not blue. Red it is.

Do I know this kid or what?

GM: Now what?
Me: I will order it today. He may end up in the hospital. He has wanted this for two years and I refused to get it unless he had two 4.0 quarters back to back. He was not amused but he his school work improved immediately.
GM: I started writing him a graduation letter today. I’ll have to revise it.
ME: Done, it is ordered. He may wet himself.
GM: That’s ok. How long to get it? Any chance while you are here?
ME: it will take 3 to 5 business days to arrive. I may or may not get to see him drool over it.
GM: Thanks for helping me give Brett [ME: I keep telling her his real name is Some Kid but she never gets it right] a special gift.
ME: He will have this rest the of his life which will tragically end in a heart attack when it arrives.
GM: I hope not.

I then started texting Some Kid again:

Me: Your butthole can officially pucker. Model 100 in Red (2). It should arrive in 3 to 5 business days. If I get lucky I will even get to see you drool over it.

Your Grandma and I are getting this for you. When you get it, you need to go show it to her. In fact, you should just go see her anyhow and by all means, you should send her a quick thank you text message today.

Happy graduation.

Of course, because Some Kid is a teenager and we all know their brains are only partially functioning, I never heard another word from him. Then again, he may have had a heart attack and is now dead. I am pretty sure I won’t know what transpired until I go to the graduation on Monday.

This 3 to 5 day shipping thing got me thinking…hmm, may be if I ask the company nicely they might expedite this shipment for me and because I don’t know how to leave well enough alone I wrote the following email to see if anything could be done:

I just ordered a Model 100 in Red as a graduation gift for my son and I am having it shipped directly to him.

I live in Rio, Rancho, New Mexico and he lives in Redmond, WA. I am going to be in the Seattle area for his graduation from 6/19 until 6/26. By some miracle do you think it could arrive by say Friday, 6/23?

I would love to see the guitar. He has drooled over photos of these for several years now….oh, you, get it, I would love to see him actually drool over real one.

Any help would be appreciated.

I will update this post if I get a reply.

And with that I can now conclude this tale of teenage lust, guitar porn, and puckered buttholes.

I will let Some Kid decide which is the better gift, this story or the guitar. We may never find out, after all he has a partially functioning teenage brain.

Update June 24, 2017

The Backlund people pulled out all stops and got the guitar to Brett in time for him to share it with me. I cannot thank them enough for this. I think his Grandmother and I got him the perfect graduation gift.

Brett and “Buttpucker”


(1) I was confused about the proper written usage for this word; should it be butthole or butt hole? There does seem to be a case for both forms. However, in the end, I went with then online consensus which is butthole. Now you know something you didn’t care about until right now.

(2) The following day I got to thinking how all the great players have a favorite guitar that he or she has named. Of course, this instantly got me spun up and I decided this Backlund deserves a name and because I have no sense I immediately sent a text message to Some Kid:

Me: Two very famous guitars: Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” and Steve Ray Vaughan’s “Number One”. You should call the new Backlund “Buttpucker”.

I am rather proud of my handiwork.

Copyright 2017 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved

The Things That Come From Hello


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By Katherine Johnson

On Sunday, I took my first walking trip in downtown Albuquerque after moving here in May. My goal was vague but in general I was hoping to get a sense of the city’s personality and style. I think I succeeded in my purpose; Albuquerque is big enough to have everything I need, and, as I am finding out, it is going to have everything I want.

Downtown on a Sunday feels abandoned and handed over to the street people that lazily loiter along the classic American road, Route 66. Route 66 in the city is now known as Central Avenue and where I spent my day was between 1st Street NW to 7th Street NW with the Kimo theater the capital of this Royal Road.

Many hours later, during the hot part of the day, I found myself in a parking lot, near the intersection of Gold Avenue SW and 2nd Street NW contemplating a wall mural that felt like it got at the core of being American, the right to vote, and how that impacted New Mexico.

Frutos del La Expresion Mural – 2017.06.04 – Near Gold Avenue SW and 2nd Street NW Albuquerque, NM

Front and center in this mural is depicted Witter Bynner, a writer, Miguel Trujillo, a native American who was denied the right to vote because he lived on a reservation, and Nina Otero-Warren, whose family dated back 200 years in the area. All were instrumental in making sure that the right to vote really was a right here in New Mexico.

Soon a man came by, who looked like one of the those that loitered on Central and whom obviously struggled to walk, most likely from serious injuries. Because this is New Mexico, because this is Albuquerque, this man, took the time to stop and say, “that mural is beautiful, yes?”

I replied that it was. Being all gabby and stuff, I told him that I had just moved here and based on what I was seeing today that I thought Albuquerque was becoming a new love in my life. He smiled without replying and shuffled off a few steps. Something stopped him and he turned to me and said, “I moved here 32 years ago and I have never stopped loving this place.”

Curious, I replied, “32 years, oh my gosh, that is a long time, what brought you here?”

And with that question out came not why he came to New Mexico, but a full biography of his life and most likely his impending death. In the spaces of his story I think one can get a sense of the why: as he freely stated a great part of his life was all about “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.”

Steven James Osborn – 2017.06.04 – Near Gold Avenue SW and 2nd Street NW Albuquerque, NM

Steven James Osborn, half French Canadian, half Chippewa who grew up on the “Rez” in Northern Michigan right up next to the Canadian border. There he learned to be a message runner, an expert tracker, the ethics of being a man from his Daddy, and to be a patriot. And for good measure he was the runt of the family that didn’t at all look like a Chippewa.

At some point, his Daddy who stood 6′ 8″ and was a full-blooded Chippewa bought the Half Moon, a cowboy bar in Dalton, MI. After buying the place and moving the family there, Daddy had to chainsaw out the old door and replace it with one he could get through when wearing his cowboy hat and boots.

Steven James Osborn, then joined the army in 1979. His first assignment, after basic training, was to track people down in Chicago in -30 degree weather just see if it could be done. He succeeded and then went to Italy where he was taught to be a killer which he said he did and was not proud about.

Later the Army sent him to Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. There in I983 he got caught up in the horrific barracks bombing that killed 241 US service members and had to carry out his comrades burned bodies by hand to the ships in the harbor. He nearly started crying, in that parking lot under the gaze of the painted three on the wall. His only comment was you never get the smell of burned bodies and dead comrades out of your nose.

The rest of his career was spent being a human guinea pig in various operations designed to find limits of human endurance. One mission found him doing a low-level jump from a helicopter, without a parachute, into the Florida everglades miles from anywhere and then he had to get back out with nothing more than his wits and good luck. He did mention that you bounce hard when you hit the water.

Not surprisingly all this took its toll and he ended up with blown out knees, a fused back, and his front teeth missing. Of course, he was denied care because none of his injuries occurred in combat. Being a warrior he fought with the government in court for years. He eventually succeeded through persistence and with the help of his lawyer and good friend, Pete Domenici whose was one of New Mexico’s Senators from 1973 until 2009.

In passing, he mentioned in the early 1980s while back in Albuquerque, most likely when he was stationed here, he and an army buddy went out on the town while decked out in full uniforms because “the girls” liked that. At some point, they walked into a bar where a guy doing straight shots of tequila and multiple lines of purple peyote off the bar. They both went “Whoa, this is somebody we need to know,” and they did. You might recognize his new friend’s name: Hunter S. Thompson.

He then bid me goodbye because he had to go catch the train to LA where he going to have the cancer behind his eyes treated at UCLA.

Before he left he said he is worried about Trump because he never served and never lived a hard life. What I heard him say is a man that never faced death straight up might not be the best person to send men to die.

And with that Mr. Steven James Osborn thanked me for making his day because “I let this old vet” tell his story.

I thanked him for being so kind to me and honoring me with his life. I promised him that I was going to share his story and with that small gesture, preserve his memory.

He smiled at me, nodded his head in agreement, and then shuffled off to the train and his fate.

There, in that parking lot, I found a sacred place where I was surrounded by four American heroes, three in spirit and one in flesh. And yes, on a sunny day in Albuquerque, I found myself in love with the soul of this city.

Yeah, I do have a piece of New Mexico dust in my eye. Damn dust.

Note: After Mr. Osborn was out of sight I sought out the shade of tree and drafted the main parts of his life while everything was fresh in my head in less than 20 minutes on a cell phone. Almost nothing of that first draft has been changed; what is different is I added some introduction and a few wrap up comments.

Copyright 2017 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved

Ethan Frome Is Starkfield


Editor’s Notes:

At the end of June Brett sat down to write his final essay for his High School Junior AP English course. I was hanging around like an old cat whose role was to occasionally jump up on the desk and sit in the middle of the keyboard where I offered up equal parts distraction and mild annoyance.

My role as mentor during the writing of his third essay was rather limited because Brett was rather unlimited. The fact of the matter is I didn’t have to do much mentoring at all which I think is the best mentoring one can give. Or maybe he had me around because he secretly liked having me around to offer up equal parts distraction and mild annoyance.

I held off on publishing this essay because I wanted to honor his growth as a writer over the last year by having this essay become the 150th item published on Una Voce Sola.


By Brett Johnson

Edith Wharton is widely regarded as a prominent writer of social satire in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Often recognized by her strong themes of social imprisonment and ironic representations of Victorian social conventions, such as restrictive marriage, women’s etiquette, and education are representative of her life struggles as a woman in the Nineteenth Century. Her views craft the story of Ethan Frome in a way that shows how the character, Ethan Frome, experiences his own social confinement through his failed marriage and his extramarital affair.

This thematic approach in Ethan Frome is described in the novel through an interpretation of Ethan’s marriage during the time of late Nineteenth Century New England and his affair. Ethan, who is married to his sickly wife, Zeena, is infatuated with a young girl, Mattie Silver, who comes to help him take care of his wife. Both women serve as a jaw of a vice, as in, Ethan wishes to pursue Mattie, yet he is bound by his commitment to his wife, Zeena. Because of these two forces, “He feels torn between a desire for the emotional compatibility he has with Mattie and a traditional sense of duty toward his wife” (Joyce Moss and George Wilson 126). Therefore, one of the larger social challenges in the Nineteenth Century was the inability to find true emotional freedom in place of the “traditional attitudes” akin to the ones that keep Ethan bound (Joyce Moss and George Wilson 126).

Initially, the social interactions in Ethan Frome appear to be straightforward and simple, as Ethan goes into the town of Starkfield, a snowy and rural New England town, to get his mail from the post office before leaving for his home. Yet it becomes more apparent as the story unfolds that things are more complicated than they seem. The narrator, a contemporary who lives in Starkfield questions if Ethan has “been in Starkfield too many Winters,” and what “obstacles have hindered the flight of a man like Ethan Frome” and kept him there in the town of Starkfield (Edith Wharton 3-6). The obstacle that has kept him there is that Ethan has tried to nullify social restrictions by engaging in an extramarital affair that ends in a mutually failed suicide attempt between him and Mattie, which leaves both of them crippled.

As a consequence of the restrictive nature of social norm, there is a personal cost regarding unrealized dreams and the eventual bitterness that comes from living a compromised life. In the book, Wharton puts Mattie and Zeena in clear contrast with each one being an antithesis of the other. Zeena, who has lived a compromised life due to her illness, is clearly bitter and “her sole pleasure, as Ethan sees it, is to make him miserable” (Marie Rose Napierkowski 127). Whereas Mattie is initially quite the opposite as she is unhindered and seemingly a positive aspect in Ethan’s life. Following the failed suicide pact Mattie assumes a similarly negative role parallel to other negative aspects of Ethan’s life as she “turns as querulous as Zeena” because she is now ill and crippled herself (Marie Rose Napierkowski 128).

Starkfield, even the name of the town where the story takes place exemplifies the starkness of the social traps that Wharton has laid out. The central crux of the novel is the ironic demonstration of Ethan being trapped by Zeena’s illness which stands in contrast with how the book ends. Wharton condemns Zeena to live the life of an invalid and then further condemns her by forcing her to be a caregiver for her husband and his mistress. Ethan is similarly impacted as he sought to escape the negative aspect of his life, Zeena, through the positive one, Mattie. In doing so, he creates two negatives in his life by remaining with Zeena and transforming Mattie into an equally negative person. Mattie, who begins free and unburdened attempts to find complete freedom by escaping through her own death, ends up confined to a chair due to her recklessness. Ultimately Wharton is commenting on the social restrictions of Nineteenth Century New England through the impact similar conventions had on the characters in the novel. Then lastly, she is using the way the characters of Ethan, Mattie, and Zeena, interact with such rules to provide insight on her own social confinement in the Victorian Era.

Works Cited
Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. N.p.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911. Print.

Joyce Moss and George Wilson. Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them. Vol. 2: Civil Wars to Frontier Societies (1800-1880s). Detroit: Gale, 1997. 125-129. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 18 June 2016.

Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Novels for Students. Vol. 5. Gale, 1999. 122-144. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 18 June 2016.