Category: The Hundredth Meridian

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The Winds of Time

The wind roared all night, darkness in furious motion that yet held solidly in place.  It was still gusting hard when Harlan Edmonds’ Dodge pickup pulled into the drive beside the house at ten in the morning and stopped behind my Ford standing with the tailgate fastened in place against a full load.  I braced...

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The Silence of the Gila

The mystery of brightness is more profound than the mystery of darkness, and that of stillness perhaps the most profound of all.  In the noontime glare the heart of the Gila wilderness in southwestern New Mexico is both bright and still, the sole sound the drone of a circling horsefly, the only breath the imperceptible...

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A Bittersweet Conclusion

After so many years living in exile up north, Héctor had forgotten how pleasant fall in the Chihuahuan Desert can be, the summer heat banished for good and the first snows not yet upon the desert mountains that enclose the city on three sides.  From his office on the top floor of the Museo de...

A Night on Bald Mountain
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A Night on Bald Mountain

Héctor, who had never camped out in his life before, was entirely unprepared for the nighttime cold of the desert in late spring.  And he had failed as well to anticipate the utter and complete blackness—the blackness of outer space, of nothingness—of the desert night.  Though Jesús “Eddie” built a blazing fire that lit up...

Treasure Mountain
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Treasure Mountain

In the elation and excitement produced by Héctor’s interview with the curandera, he and Jesús “Eddie” could barely resist the impulse to start at once for Ladron Peak.  A late-winter storm of unusual force for central New Mexico restored them to their senses, blanketing the peak and the mountains to the southwest and east in...

Curandera
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Curandera

Because Héctor had experience as an historical researcher looking up books on the subject of Pancho Villa at the public library, it was agreed that he should be the one responsible for ascertaining the location of the treasure, and that the job of Jesús “Eddie” would be to outfit the expedition to Ladron Peak when...

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The Hobbyist

The joyous return to Rancho Juárez was dampened, but in no way spoiled, by a certified letter awaiting Mr. and Mrs. Héctor Villa on their arrival.  Mailed from the Belen Municipal Court, it threatened their daughter with juvenile detention if she did not return within ten days’ time to complete her court-ordered work with Darfur...

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Reprise in Vegas

The long drive from Belen to Rancho Juárez seemed to Héctor an endless agony.  He found the place in the greatest confusion, AveMaría vacillating between grim determination and hysterics as she packed a suitcase, Jesús “Eddie” tramping back and forth in the sitting room, shaking his fist and vowing to track down Contracepción’s fiendish paramour...

“¡Mi Casa es su Casa!”
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“¡Mi Casa es su Casa!”

Héctor woke on New Year’s morning with a reverberating headache that made his wife’s remonstrations (in the pinch, AveMaría had been appointed an emergency designated driver to take the party home safely the night before) the more painful to bear.  He felt thoroughly ashamed of himself—first for getting drunk, and second for . . ....

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For Better and For Worse

That Christmas was, in every respect, the horror Héctor had feared it would be. Homesick, broke, unchurched (AveMaría, after the second round-trip drive to the Assemblies of God church in Lordsburg, had decided to hold a Sunday prayer service at home instead), cooped together like rats in a cage, the Villas, with the Juárezes, endured...

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In the Looking Glass

The holidays were fast approaching, and, for the first time in his life, Héctor could find no joy in the prospect of the Christmas season.  Homesick, guilt-ridden, pinched in his wallet by his irregular business schedule, and worn down by the rigors of patrol with the Critter Company, he felt physically and mentally exhausted.  The...

Cupid’s Thunderbolt
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Cupid’s Thunderbolt

In the weeks immediately following the encounter with the illegal immigrants in the arroyo, Jesús “Eddie” and Héctor were men possessed by a single idea, though not the same one.  Jesús could think only of joining up with the recently formed Critter Company, based in El Paso but with a chapter in Deming, and fighting...

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A Close Encounter With the Enemy

Following his conversation with Jacinta Ruiz, Héctor took down from its shelf the statue of the Centaur that had been gathering a coat of the fine yellow dust blown in from the Chihuahuan Desert through chinks in the ranch-house walls and put it away in the closet, and he did not visit the Pink House...

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Villa Blanco, Villa Negro

Revealed in the headlights of the van, Las Palomas had never looked so depressing to Héctor as it did that night.  Indeed, it appeared to him as positively sinister, a ghost town in which the few flesh-and-blood inhabitants were the apparitions, and the thronging specters from the past, the true living beings.  It occurred to...

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Héctor Agonistes

For more than a week after his encounter with Jacinta Ruiz, Héctor avoided the Pink Store, finding an excuse to drive Jesús “Eddie” to Geronimo’s Bar & Grill in Deming—which Jesús much preferred anyway—instead.  All this time, the Centaur’s statue stood on the top shelf of his computer hutch, where he had to make the...

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Mexico Way

Though Héctor had lived all his life in a desert climate, he was a town kid whose closest experience of the desert itself had been to drive across it at 50 or 60 miles per hour.  Now that he was actually living there, he found the reality of the experience daunting, even frightening.  For Héctor,...

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Witness Un-Protection Program

Abdul Kahn’s face had remained entirely expressionless throughout the forty-five minutes required to get the wireless router that connected the three computers in the house back up and running, yet Héctor felt as certain that he had been recognized by the other man as he was in making his own identification. He’d experienced an excruciating...

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A Close Encounter With the Enemy

In the early hours of the following morning, well after closing time, the Taberna Aztlán exploded in flames and burned to its concrete foundation in ninety minutes. Héctor learned of the disaster shortly before 6 A.M. when AveMaría shook her husband awake to give him the appalling news.  (Since the attack on the machine shed...

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The Great Unrest

Bro. Billy Joe had been correct, Héctor reflected bitterly: Abdul Agha and the Crusade for Souls were a nationwide story all right, though everyone tried to pretend it was nothing more than a curious local phenomenon.  From the start, the New Mexico media had sought the appropriate tone in reference to a “certain unrest” in...

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Jihad on the Rio

On a morning less than a week before the kickoff to Bro. Billy Joe’s Crusade for Souls, AveMaría, after she’d dropped Contracepción off at the mosque, was in the middle of a U-turn in the street when a car rounded the corner ahead on two wheels, heading directly for the Subaru.  As there was nothing...

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Daughter and Lover

For days after the meeting with Bro. Billy Joe, Héctor was too angry to communicate with his wife other than in monosyllables.  During most of this period, the reason for his anger eluded him.  It was not until the third or fourth day that he understood the cause of his distress. Whether the kid Abdul...

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Mother and Daughter

Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Villa slept much that night from worry over Contracepción and her love interest.  From time to time, one or the other would drift off—AveMaría into nightmares of a Muslim wedding, Héctor to dream of thrashing the lusty young Islamist within an inch of his life.  But they would soon wake and...

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American Parenthood

Overwhelmed by the shame of having a juvenile delinquent for a daughter, Héctor could almost forget that he himself was a convicted criminal and the subject of an investigation by the Immigration and Borders division of the Department of Homeland Security. The entire business had been a father’s worst nightmare, as well as a major...

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Government by the People

Héctor Villa was, by nature, a patient, long-suffering man.  Even so, he arrived home in a cross mood that evening, at the end of an unusually frustrating day.  First, there had been the traffic ticket; next, his unproductive meeting with Mrs. Ahmadinejihad.  Finally, he’d been unable to meet with the school principal, after waiting for...

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Government for the People

“I owe you an apology, compadrito,” Héctor Villa was telling his friend, Jesús “Eddie” Juárez. Jesús “Eddie,” who hadn’t the foggiest idea what his friend was talking about, nodded his head and attempted a forgiving smile anyway, on the off chance it might prompt Héctor to clinch his apology by offering to buy another round....

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Noche de Desastre

The morning after meeting Juanito Villalobos, Héctor, throwing Dr. Spock’s strictures to the wind, put his foot down when Dubya demanded to be taken to the Lion Habitat immediately after the family’s return from breakfast at McDonald’s.  His patience was suddenly at an end.  Although the Habitat itself was free, the Villas’ suite by now...

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A Desert Idyll

For Héctor, Las Vegas was the American city.  The Strip at night suggested, Héctor thought, an explosion in a fireworks factory—all the flashing, soaring, running, bursting lights in every color of the universe; the gaudy hotels, like upended cruise ships; the fancy stores, luxurious casinos, and romantic cocktail lounges; his compatriots crowding everywhere and jabbering...

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The Candidate

A politician’s life—Héctor was discovering—is, like that of any celebrity, not a happy one. Even before he’d announced his candidacy for the open seat in New Mexico’s First Congressional District, Tomasina Luna issued a campaign statement announcing her endorsement by the National Council of La Raza, accusing the Republican Party of racism (amounting possibly to...

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The Draftee

Héctor Villa did not feel disposed to take phone calls this morning.  He was at work outdoors, gilding a large piece of driftwood he and Jesús “Eddie” Juárez had retrieved from a sandbar in the Rio Grande between Contreras and the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and brought home in Jesús “Eddie”’s pickup truck for display...

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A Border Surprise

In the Year of Our Lord 1878, on the sixth day of the sixth month of the year, was born to one Augustín Arango and his wife, Micaela Arambula, humble peasants on the Rancho de la Loyotada in Durango State, Republic of Mexico, a son, Doroteo, known to posterity as Francisco “Pancho” Villa: social bandit,...

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Two Trails to the Rainbow

It was in the spring of 1925 that a young Easterner named Clyde Kluckhohn, on sabbatical from Princeton to spend a year working on a cattle ranch near Ramah, New Mexico, first learned from a Zuñi Indian of the natural phenomenon called Nonne-zoche Not-se-lid (meaning “Rainbow of Stone”), standing at the very end of the...

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Dia de los Muertos

Fall had always been Héctor Villa’s least-favorite season.  This year, as the days shortened and his cousin’s stayover in his home lengthened inexorably, he felt his substance as a householder drain away in exact proportion to the diminishing quantity of the pale indirect light.  Four days after the shortest day of the year comes Christmas;...

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Reconquista de Villas

Héctor Villa was discovering the hard way that running afoul of the authorities in America is like riding a horse into quicksand, as Rodolfo Fierro, the Centaur’s chief executioner, had had the misfortune to do: You escape from the fatal mire only by miracle (something God had not seen fit to vouchsafe poor Fierro). For...

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The Villas of New Mexico

“Hey, compadrito—bring the mail along with you when you come inside!” Héctor Villa shouted through the open window to Jesús Juárez, his friend, who was just letting himself into the yard by the front gate where the mailbox, painted red-white-and-blue, stood on a barbershop post. Héctor “Pancho” Villa was having a pleasant Saturday morning in...

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Night Vision

“I hear thunder,” Ivalene said in a puzzled voice, looking up to the blue sky stretched tight across the great canyon. “How could there be thunder?” Will Ford demanded.  “There isn’t a cloud in sight.  They must be blasting somewhere close by to here.” “So how could they be blasting, smart-ass?” she retorted.  “Blasting isn’t...

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Endings and Beginnings

The meadow sweeping from the treeline down to the lake below had turned yellow almost overnight, with purple patches of the frost-seared ground cover showing through.  The lake surface was no longer a smooth reflection of the stony peaks, standing against the cold sky and dusted now with new snow, but an infinite series of...

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The Grave Robbers

From the dry wash where they sat in camp chairs beneath an improvised ramada built of box-elder poles with armloads of cut greasewood laid on top, they could just make out, through the brush that obscured the wash, the wide, shallow cave arched thinly across the enigmatic yellow face of the opposing sandstone cliff.  Lance...

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The Machine in the Desert

How many years has it been since I became acquainted with Moab, Utah?  More than I had realized, apparently.  When I first saw the place, a room at the Canyonlands Motel cost $19.95 per night, I recall, and you could get breakfast at the motel’s cafeteria, pleasantly located in the shade of a hoary cottonwood...

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The Warming of the West

We know that nothing in this world stays the same.  What we do not know is how or why it doesn’t.  Probably, this is because we do not need to know. After five or six years in western Wyoming, in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, I recognized what seemed a stable weather pattern.  Summers...

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Never the Twain Shall Meet

Maps show Wyoming beginning in the western Black Hills at its northeastern corner and east of the Laramie Mountains at the southeastern one.  Yet the beginning of a thing (or, for that matter, its end) is rarely so simple.  To me, it is obvious that Wyoming begins on the western slope of the Snowy Range...

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In Praise of Firearms

Apparently from the conviction that one lie is as good (or as bad) as another, the left has never been known to let a lying cause die, if it could help it.  I have read that Michael A. Bellesiles’ Arming America: The Story of a National Gun Culture (published by Knopf and awarded the 2001...

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Blood of Deer and Patriots

The desert smelled like September, acrid and dry.  It was the familiar high-desert smell, the smell of harvesttime without a harvest, unless you called the last thin cutting taken from among the willows along the creek a harvest.  In the dead season, all deserts smell alike.  Nothing was missing from the Mesopotamian variety but the...

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A Dripping Spring

The parallel trails of brown smoke tracking west to east 50 or so miles ahead above the place where the Grand Canyon ought to be had a sinister aspect, suggesting another greasy invasion by the encroaching metropoli of the desert Southwest. “Is that L.A.?” I asked Tom Sheeley.  “Or is it only Vegas?” Tom shook...

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Nothing Doing, Doing Nothing

Labor Day weekend honors those horny-handed men and brawny women who do the real work that gets done in America, hauling up to the pay office every two weeks in Cadillacs emblazoned with union decals to collect their fat two-week  paychecks (five days’ work, another five on sick leave).  A drone myself, I’m completely shameless...

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A Girl of the Gilded West

Lynette Lyon Hollow liked money.  Because she had never had any of her own before, though, having it around made her nervous, and so she spent it whenever she saw something she thought worth spending money on.  When more money kept coming in anyway than went out, she spent faster and faster on bigger and...

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Homecoming

I’d worked in the oil patch for several weeks already when I bought a T-shirt at the J.C. Penney Mother Store in Kemmerer.  The shirt was fire-engine red with black lettering across the chest.  The letters said, “IF YOU HAVE ONLY SIX MONTHS TO LIVE MOVE TO KEMMERER WYOMING.  IT’LL SEEM LIKE A LIFETIME.”  Since...

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Two Deserts

Nineteen ninety-one was Operation Desert Storm.  In 2003, it is Operation Shock and Awe—or was it Awe and Terror, or Shlock and Glock?  We make progress backward, as befits the new millennium.  Twelve years ago, the Pentagon at least managed to get the desert into it.  The Mesopotamian Desert, as the troops have discovered on...

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A Good Day to Live

The hoof falls sounded measured as time, sixty beats to a minute, 3,600 to the hour, stretching out behind and ahead of them, inexorable like the past, like the future unforeseen, perhaps inevitable.  Time neither slowed nor accelerated in approaching the good or the bad, though sometimes you could swear it did one or the...

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How the West Was Won—Again

Richard M. Weaver, in his discussion of forms and the concept of the formal in Ideas Have Consequences, has this to say about the custom and culture of the American frontier: The American frontiersman was a type who emancipated himself from culture by abandoning the settled institutions of the seaboard and the European motherland.  Reveling...

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Ten Years Later

The Hundredth Meridian is now a decade old in conception, though a year short of that in reality.  It had its origin in a biweekly column I was hired by James Hill to write in the winter and spring of 1993 for the Sunday Perspective section of the Arizona Republic, which James was editing at...