Still Waters: To the mattresses!


No, I don’t plan on going to war with the mafia, but I did “go to the mattresses” in a more literal sense this week.

Sleeping on an outdated mattress for far too long, and finally taking the hint from my folks bringing pieces of foam to try to get a good night’s sleep when they came to visit, I decided part of my tax refund this year would go towards a new mattress. I was not in a hurry necessarily (after three decades, what’s the rush?) until the city offered its spring large-item pick up and graciously hauled off my old mattress and box springs for free a week or so ago.

Bless their hearts! It’s such an awesome gesture to help citizens with spring (and fall, they do it twice a year) cleaning. I can’t thank them enough!

As I pulled all the padding and bedding off the old mattress I encountered a strange sentimental feeling I hadn’t expected. I’d spent a lot of nights on that old thing … and I mean old! The tag was still attached (I have become much more daring in recent years and tear tags off things in spite of the warnings not to), and it was dated 1985! That’s older than many people I know, although I try to maintain friendships with folks in their 80’s and 90’s to even out the average.

I found some treasures under the bed including a nickel and a penny, a few figurines, a dog’s tennis ball (daddy thinks it might have belonged to “chewy mouth” Kathy who died in 2002) and several dust bunny condominiums.

This week I bought a new mattress and box springs, and what a difference it makes! I might not be ashamed to invite family over now for visits.

I might even replace it before 2047, if time (and I) last that long.
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Speaking of old furniture, and I know this is a strange segue, a couch was about all that was left at the scene of a fire in remote Costilla County last week. In not one of my more lucid moments, I decided to go get a picture of the scene since I had heard it was a fatal fire. It appears that was the case, although last I knew, the identity of the person was still unknown.

I was going to Fort Garland anyway to get photos of Sierra Grande’s boat races. The school hosts them at the neighboring community center pool every other year, and I had covered them two years ago for the first time. It was a blast, even if the humidity at the pool gave my hair the frizzies. High school students design and build boats of cardboard and duct tape — lots of it — and see how many can make it across the pool and back without sinking. Some of the boats sink as soon as they hit the water. Others are quite “sea worthy.” There’s a lot of cheering from the crowd, laughter and good-natured splashing.

Well, I thought I had gone that far, and the fire was only in Mesita, which to my latest recollection was “near San Luis,” which is just down the road from Fort Garland anyway, so I headed out with good intentions, if not a good map. I drove south from Fort Garland to San Luis and then farther south and farther south and farther south. I’m surprised I hadn’t reached New Mexico by the time I finally saw the sign signaling the metropolis of Mesita. By then my gas gauge, which had seemed pretty healthy at the start of the afternoon, had dropped dramatically, and I was a bit “peckish” from not having had lunch yet.

But I had come this far already, and stubbornness runs in my genes, so I left the paved highway for the road less traveled, and headed towards Mesita. I figured I would just look for the burned out building when I got there. Except for one church and the county shops, there are not many buildings in Mesita, burned out or otherwise. Fortunately, there were a couple of accommodating gents at the county shops who told me which road I needed and even drew some lines on a platted map for me to follow, just like they get visitors all the time needing directions to Seminole Road.

Costilla County is one of the most platted areas of the state, but that does not mean it is one of the most developed. There were many roads leading all over the place, many without road signs, rhyme nor reason except many were named for Native American tribes (Apache, Cherokee, Shawnee and so forth.) Fortunately, the kind gents at the county shop had pointed me to the “main” roads so I could find the one where the fatal fire had occurred.

I kept going and going as storm clouds gathered above and my stomach growled beneath. But I had come this far …

When it seemed I might have to admit defeat, I finally happened upon the road where the coroner and sheriff’s deputies were investigating what little remained of a “residence,” if it could be called that. There were other makeshift dwellings scattered around the “subdivision,” but as my friend Demetrio Valdez so appropriately described another part of the Valley one time, this was a place where “the jack rabbits have to pack a lunch.”

A deputy and the coroner came up to me like it was the most normal thing in the world for someone to show up at Blackhawk Road just off Seminole on a Wednesday afternoon, and they were gracious and polite, although they were not able to share much information at the time. I took some photos and felt badly for the person who lost his or her life there that day.

Then I tried to figure out the best route back to paved roads, a gas station (my gas gauge never wavered until I was able to fill it up, a miracle in itself) and something to eat. As I paused by a bridge, a vehicle belonging to the park-wildlife service drove up, and another gracious gent told me that yes, if I took that road I would hit Antonito in no time.

My mother thought the gent might have been an angel sent to guide me out of yet another scrape.
Considering how the day developed and how it ended up, I think she just might be right.

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