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  • Jennifer Z. Major

Thoughts from a prison camp and launch day winners.


Far off the beaten path, in the little town of Fort Sumner New Mexico, there is a well marked grave.

Apparently, and there's quite a debate about this, the outlaw Billy the Kid is buried there. If you ask me, there's LOTS of fuss made over one person.

Down the road a ways, is a far worse place. But a place far less known.

The Bosque Redondo memorial.

I've been there 3 times. Each visit hit me somewhere different. Somewhere raw.

Notice the tipi shape? That's to pay homage to the 500 Mescalero Apaches who were held there as well.

It's a visually stunning place. But it was a prison camp.

Not a reservation, per se. Although those places still infer that "we, the victors, reserve this spot for the trampled and broken. Be thankful and hush up."

But Bosque Redondo? It was an experiment.

So...

Let's go beyond the buildings, onto the flat, scrubby plains.

BUT...slight problem. While I'm not one to drop cans and wrappers on the ground, that fence was chained.

As Scooby Do would say. "Ruh roh."

Ahem.

There wasn't a sign that said "No Canadian women are allowed to climb over this fence."

Heh.

The view from the heights of my climb.

My VERY nice rental upgrade.

I will have you notice that I am actually OFF ROAD.

(Preens and fixes hair).

Notice also, the chains.

Waaaaaaay off road.

Waaaaaaay past the chains.

As I walked, all alone, through this uhh, area, I watched out for nature's revenge. As I AM a wimp.

Then?

A SNAKE!!!

Known by its Latin name "Itsashoelace Youareanidiot".

"And we're walking...."

I wish I could communicate the sounds I heard.

Wind, and about 4914 grasshoppers and bugs.

Oy, the BUGS!!

Each step I took, about 300 grasshoppers shot up out of the tall dry grass.

I chose to focus on the trees. And not the flying bugs.

Did I mention I HATE HATE HATE bugs?

Such a pretty tree.

Then finally, I made it to the river.

I mean, with the 10,000 people here, they needed water, right?

At least it had water.

Lots and lots of water.

Trickling, flowing water.

Water means life, right?

Wrong.

This is the Pecos River. It is alkali. Poisonous. The people who went looking for a spot to put the prison camp knew this, and recommended another setting. The people in charge? Built it there, knowing the water was foul.

I took the next two photos in November of 2013.

It's so beautiful, and watching and hearing it meander along is so soothing. For a woman in 2015.

Not so much if you were a prisoner in 1864.

Here is where you either drown, get dragged down river, or have no choice but to drink poison.

This shot, I took in September of 2015.

I debated climbing this fence to go down to the riverbank.

But with my luck, I'd get stuck on the barbed wire! And when one is entirely alone with nary a soul having any details of one's location?

Going any further is stupid.

But the wind was blowing, so I anchored my hat. All artsy like. Ooooh, fanseeee.

Isn't the river pretty? Pretty...toxic.

Trees like this wouldn't have lasted past 1868, when everything combustible was torn down and used for firewood.

Oh, and the wire? I guess the current locals don't want people drowning in the river, not like the prisoners did in the 1860's.

A shot from inside the wire.

Panorama of the wandering Pecos. Back in the years of the prison camp, wandering off would get you shot. But after a few years , people did wander off, and wander back.

I stayed there, pondering and praying, for quite a while.

I imagined the place, teeming with prisoners. Exhausted families doing whatever it took to stay alive. Elders trying their best to inspire their people. Warriors fighting hard to stay out of trouble all the while keeping their people safe from slavers who'd raid the outlying areas of the camps.

(Yes, slavers.

Lincoln emancipated the black slaves, but none of the rest. In 1868, there were an estimated 10,000 Navajo slaves throughout the Southwest. That was just the Navajo slaves. All kinds of tribes were represented in the slave markets.)

Thousands of people died in this place.

Hundreds were captured.

Disease raged through the camp.

And the crops failed year after year.

Hope was as tough as the dry ground.

Before I left, I made a little inukshuk (in-ook-shook), a traditional formation of rocks made by Northern Innu and Aboriginal peoples. There are several uses for them, but one use, is that they are a way of telling whoever comes that across this stone statue will know that someone was here before them.

That someone noticed that this was a place of importance.

Back in the rental Jeep, of which the acquisition is a story in and of itself, I sat and pondered some more. As you can tell by the look on my face, I was weary in mind and heart.

WHY capture 10,000 people? Why bring ruin on women and children, the elderly, the weak, and the broken?

We'll discuss that next week.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Step away from the sadness and back into 2016.

See the beauty for what it is now: beauty.

Who wants to know who won what ???

It feels cold, doesn't it? Pondering such a beautifully deadly place, and then chatting about bling and books?

But, it's necessary. And it's a way to thank you all for such a great launch last week!!

So, without further ado...

The winner of the literature and livestock is??

Susan Sullivan!!!

Of this?

Susan Snodgrass!!

How about this?

Deanna Stevens!!

And last but not the least of the blingiest!!

Linda Horsman!!

Susan, Susan, and Deanna, please send me your mailing addresses through the comment page.

Linda, I think I know where to find you.

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Thank you ALL for helping my launch be such a success!!


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