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Work of Art: What will the people say?

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By Art Trujillo

It’s just my luck to have been raised in a family where appearance might not have been paramount, but it was nevertheless w-a-y ahead of whatever was in second place.

My mother, the late Marie Trujillo, would have been scandalized had we little Trujillos done anything to bring dishonor to the family. A devout Catholic, Mom probably added a couple of beads to the rosary she carried, something that ponders, “Que dira la gente?”

To Mom, who passed away in 2002, her constant concern was “what people might say.” It was a breach of etiquette to leave the house with my shirt half tucked in, half sticking out. The first time I heard the word “shayote,” I almost took it as an as-yet-undisclosed given name. Seeing me heading for school, she occasionally uttered and muttered, “There goes shayote.”

Let me explain that it wasn’t until I reached the age of majority that I discovered the meaning of shayote. True, in Mom’s world it meant “sloppy,” and I’m touched that my mother probably dedicated the word just to me. Actually, it’s a squash that, well, looks like an adolescent boy with a sloppy shirt.

When at Highlands, I was surprised to hear two students, Lily (Jay) Martinez and Linda Lopez, both with Wagon Mound connections, describing themselves as sometimes shayote. My mother was raised in the Wagon Mound area, which makes me wonder whether that term is a regionalism. Another word, “tarugo,” which means “wedge,” but often describes people, also comes from Wagon Mound. Could the ‘Mounders have invented their own language? It seems likely, given the number of strange nicknames of school kids there. But that’s a topic for another column.

I mentioned this once before and even drew a “no way!” response from a reader. But it did happen. Anyone who grew up in the Railroad Avenue barrio in the ‘40s and ‘50s realizes how close-knit neighbors must have been. In short, no wireless, WiFi connection today could ever transmit news with the rapidity of the tell-a-neighbor communication of old.

Therefore, if Arthur got slapped at school — oh yes, Sister Mary Matanza did it once, actually intending to slap my seatmate, Robert, but not wanting to admit she got the wrong victim — the entire neighborhood would immediately have learned about it.    

When I got home, unhurt except for my pride, naturally there was a confrontation that commenced with, “Que dira la gente?”

“Well, Mom I was really innocent. The teacher was aiming for Robert, but I was in the way.” I would have had better luck teaching my grandma to suck eggs, as Burl Ives said in a movie.

The punishment came, merciless and quick. As luck would have it, the elementary grades at Immaculate Conception School combined two classes. My ally, my sister Bingy, would vouch for me, even if my posterior had already become acquainted with the business end of Mom’s belt

Did my sister’s testimony that I had not been misbehaving at school serve to clear the air, to convince Mom I’d been punished — twice, wrongly? No. Mom’s justification was simply that I could have been misbehaving and that nobody would have been surprised.

Fine! In a case of poor aim, my homeroom teacher slaps me, in a way that elicited a grin from Robert, my seatmate, who had been the original target, inasmuch as Sister had swatted him several times before. Well, we tend to forget these injustices as we age. In fact, I’d forgotten all about it, until I was browsing the vegetable section at Lowe’s and noticed a shriveled shayote that brought back memories.

• • •

Que dira la gente? What would Mom have thought if she’d read the paper or watched the news in 2011?

First, we learn of a couple of CYFD workers reprimanded for having taken a photo of themselves flashing a gang sign and pointing a gun at the other’s head. When the photo went viral on the Internet — as they invariably do — the women claimed they were simply trying to show their clients “how stupid it is to behave that way.”

Ostensibly, the workers’ reason was to try to deter kids from falling into crime. Well, I remember reading a treatise by a 12th century writer, Andreas Capellanus, “The Art of Courtly Love,” that provides a fairly specific training manual on how to score. But the piece concludes with Andreas explaining that all the detailed information is merely to list what one should avoid. Yes, quite convincing.

In Santa Fe this week, a substitute teacher was fired after reportedly being found passed out. And in Belen last week, a regular teacher got suspended for allegedly teaching while intoxicated. We’re all familiar with the anagrams DWI and DUI; now there’s TWI for teachers.

And amigos, if you travel through Arizona, especially in light of the new legislation that really threatens immigrants, try not to get stopped and charged with DWH.

In Hobbs, three mothers got jailed for virtually choreographing playground fights for their daughters, allegedly pushing aside those  who tried to break up the tussles. The fights were captured on video.

Finally, under the rubric of “QDLG,” my Mom’s pre-occupation, I think she would have been shocked to discover that in last Friday’s Jail Log in the Optic, of the 21 names listed, 11 belong to females. And these aren’t petty issues, like speeding or failure to appear. We’re talking assaults and battery.

What’ll the people say?

• • •

New Mexico lost one of the most dedicated coaches and public officials we can find. I’m deeply saddened by the sudden death of Henry Sanchez, a mainstay of the morning breakfast club that gathered at the Hillcrest. His close circle of friends — Marty, Jesse, James, Perry, Leo, Ernie, Rudy, Joe, Phil, Patrick, Connie, Willie, Bob, and others to whom I apologize if I have forgotten their names, constituted the long-standing morning coffee klatsch.

I hope the group, which goes back three decades, continues to meet, even if replacing Henry will be a tough job. He’d be proud.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.