Palabras Pintorescas - Gathering ‘Palabras Pintorescas’ for future columns

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By Editha Bartley

The calendar says it is fall. That means it should be getting cold, and the winds (and hopefully, storms) of winter should not be far behind. Many of us are securing a stack of firewood, often between baling the last of the hay fields that produced just average yields this year.

Our very old pear tree produced quite a crop this year, so I am peeling pears that will be canned for winter use, when I get a call from one of my Pendaries friends who also has a home in Santa Fe. She is a member of a book club there and the group is coming over to our mountain area for a “talk and read” 24 hours.

Could I review some current books and talk about local history with them one day?

You bet I could! These are two of my very favorite subjects, and because I have lived here so long, I have absorbed some history along the way.  Yes, you, my readers are well aware of that!

Well, I recently attended a book signing at Tome on the Range. I had a fun reason to be there. I have a very good photograph of my doctor father (Carl Gellenthien, M.D.) sitting at his desk, his lab coat on, of course, and he probably is talking to a patient. This black-and- white framed picture was taken by Nancy Wood in 1976, no less and I have always wondered how she came to take the picture.

Turns out she just happened into Valmora one day back when, met Doc and took the picture. I wondered if it had been published in one of her many books. No, it hadn’t but I found her fascinating to visit with. She is a walking encyclopedia about New Mexico and she has written many books about this state. Her “Eye of the West” photography book is a beautiful record of “people watching” as written in the Albuquerque Journal, November 2007. Nancy’s latest book is “The Soledad Crucifixion,” just out. It is a complex novel, many faceted, about life here in the 1880’s. Soledad is a priest who is torn in many directions by his followers and his church. The research alone to write this book must have taken years to pull together. Yes, I have read it, and yes, it is a very telling book about early life here.

“Secrets of the Plumed Saint” by Elizabeth Ann Galligan was shared with son John and me by a neighbor, and it is hot off the press as well. It is “A tale of Intrigue from Northern New Mexico,” in the author’s words. This novel takes place in a fictitious village where a valuable statue is taken/stolen from a Catholic church there. One doesn’t have to read much before one realizes this all takes place near our Las Vegas. Yes, the names and places have been changes, but the story is delightful and will keep the reader busy wanting more. I loved the description of the donuts at the “Span” cafe! This is a story about the 1970s here, and so much of it is true. I remember when some saints were stolen from one of our churches down our road back then.

Yes, I liked this book so much I bought a copy for my library and a copy for a friend’s birthday who lives nearby. My “always reading something” cousin will soon be here for a day or two, and I plan to send her to our bookstore before she hurries back to South Carolina. We also plan a day researching our family gravesites at my old Valmora home. Finally, I’m smart enough to know that I should and will have both my camera and a notebook with me, as will she and any interested family we can drag along. Nope, there is no book in the future with me, just more recording family word pictures, my “palabras pintorescas” for this column.

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