Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The lost family

It may not be an earth-shaking mystery, but where did they go?

This weekend, we looked at a couple of properties Dino has in Sierra County. There’s one place not too far from the place we’re currently renting from him, which he has brought some workers up from El Paso to renovate (and he also hired a guy who was standing in the hardware store parking lot with a sign that said “need work” – apparently this guy really meant that, rather than “want handout”). It’s a large house, and the workers are really doing a great job of rehabilitating it.

Then there’s another property Dino just picked up that he showed us this weekend. Much of Dino’s business could be characterized as schadenfreude. He buys properties that the owners need to sell fast, which generally means some sort of misfortune is involved, such as death, divorce, or serious illness. He tells the sellers up front that he’s paying less than the property would sell for ordinarily, but the sellers choose to get the money right away rather than getting full price.

This particular property was a bit different. It was an estate, and the heirs had not been in a hurry to sell, so it took Dino some months to negotiate a deal. But it still had some characteristics of a rush sale, in that a lot of the contents came with the property.

This property came with two houses: a large, relatively new doublewide mobile home and a small, older cottage. The doublewide was really nice, and in great condition. It didn’t have furniture, but the kitchen was fully equipped with dishes, pots and pans, and small appliances. To make it even more ideal as a sailing club clubhouse, it even had a wind meter mounted on the roof with a readout near the back door.

The older cottage, however, was much more personal. It seemed more like a museum than a dwelling. My guess is that it was originally built in the 1920s, shortly after Elephant Butte Lake was constructed. The original portion of the house was tiny, with a long narrow front room facing the lake, and behind it a Pullman kitchen (complete with icebox) and a tiny bunk room. Off the bunk room was an addition containing a small, 1940s bathroom, and at the rear of the house was a much newer den addition. What was interesting about the house was what was left behind in it – some furniture, and some photographs. The most interesting of those was a portrait of a handsome young soldier, World War I or thereabouts, in a large oval frame with a glass bubble front that made the image look three dimensional. In the kitchen were snapshots, one of which had the date “May 1954” written on it, of an older man (possibly the young soldier many years later?) and some children (I’m guessing grandkids) showing off stringers of large fish. Further evidence of the family’s avid fishing was that crammed into one end of the Pullman kitchen were both a modern refrigerator and an upright deep-freezer suitable for freezing up large quantities of fish. In addition, there were several cross-stitched pictures on the walls, and some fishing memorabilia.

My mind has formed a story about the family: The couple building their lake cottage, expanding it over the years, sharing it with children and grandchildren. As the older couple gained prosperity, they added the doublewide, but they also kept the old cottage with its memories. It reminded me of the lake house in Arkansas that my mother’s family had, where all of the relatives would gather during the summers. It was a funky place, but it was also special.

What puzzles me is that the heirs would leave so many family memories behind to be disposed of by strangers. During the six months that the heirs had the place on the market, did anybody realize the photos and other stuff were there? Where are the family members all now? What happened to all of those grinning kids with all of those fish?

The Geronimo Springs Museum in downtown T or C has a lot of memorabilia of this sort, and it has an old miner’s cabin that was moved onto the museum premises to show part of the region’s history. It strikes me that this lake cottage also would fit into the museum’s collection, to represent the early history of Elephant Butte. But it would probably be even more meaningful to someone related to the handsome young soldier, who knows the family history.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sister Rosybutt discovered a variety of different tobacco's, in several containers, inside a freezer in the garage. It was being used for storage rather than cooling. Your mystery man must have used a pipe, or rolled cigars.

Wed Dec 20, 09:58:00 AM MST  

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