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Palabras Pintorescas - Book needs to be on ‘must read’ list

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By Editha Bartley

I am happy to report my “catcher’s mitt” still fits, and no, I did not have to use it. My doctor father always told us he had his catcher’s mitt with him when he delivered a baby, and he did deliver many babies as a country doctor.

In my instance one of our best cows was in labor, for at least her ninth time. We knew she was near our free-flowing creek, in the middle of the day, so someone should monitor this birth, just in case. In case, in this instance means, accidentally dropping the newborn calf into the creek, or having the calf so near the bank it will fall in the creek when it quickly gets its very wobbly legs under it for the first time. Yes, we have had more than one drown because of those circumstances. That is a tragic and very costly problem when one raises cattle near water of any kind. Some of our dry land ranchers would welcome a stream problem like ours, so we really can’t complain.

This baby heifer literally slid out into the big and bright world totally encases in her placental sack. Within minutes she was almost up on those still soft hooves. And she wasn’t that far from the creek, so son John quickly swooped her up and carried her across, onto the grassy pasture. Her mother may have not approved, but it happened so fast she didn’t have time to do more than moo to her new baby and comfort her. The miracle of birth never ceases to amaze me. I am thankful I have the many senses needed to fully appreciate life in all of its many and various forms on this earth.

Meanwhile, moving right along, there is a new book on my table, and the just told tale above sort of fits into this story. The book is titled “Converso” and it is written by Mario X. Martinez. It was a good read during Lent, I might add. Martinez is a native New Mexican who recorded some old family history, then fabricated a very good, short novel to tell the story. Basically this is an account of the Crypto-Jews that was told to him by his grandparents. Very few Hispanic scholars have recorded their Catholic/Jewish history and many were persecuted, excommunicated, and shunned if the secret ever got out. This is no dry religious book! This is the very personal account of a family’s living through a very difficult time in their lives here in northern New Mexico when this state was a territory back in 1879. It is a beautifully told love story, but with some smaller plots, plus conflicts with the Catholic church and some of its clergy.

I quickly realized when I started reading this story that it would not be easy to put down. I was entranced with the way the author brought in the many subtle, yet not so subtle events that kept the story moving at a rapid pace.

I wasn’t sure about sharing the novel, because even though my son John reads local history with a profound interest, a novel about religion and a love story probably wouldn’t be a high priority on his reading list.

To my amazement he also discovered the easy-to-read educational story should be on his “must read” list as well. And I would recommend it as a reading project for our high school students. They would learn a lot about their very exciting heritage here. Yes, Tome on the Range has this paperback novel, and it even has a glossary of Spanish terms in the back.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.