Enough is Enough

This “My View” piece was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican on Friday, May 19, 2023. I wrote it in response to the tragedy in Farmington, New Mexico, that happened on Monday of that week. My husband and I lived in that town for thirty years, and only recently moved to Santa Fe.


Mass shooting in Farmington. My friends there are calling this unthinkable—“We’re a small, quiet town. It’s not supposed to happen here.” And then on Monday morning, it happened. What we know is that an eighteen year old with three guns walked through a neighborhood and fired at houses, cars, and people. Three women were killed because they were driving in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two police officers were wounded. More people were injured.

I lived in Farmington for thirty years. This week it was heartbreaking to watch from two hundred miles away as the details of the tragedy unfolded. I texted friends there to make sure they could answer, and spent time scrolling on social media looking for more “marked safe” notices from my wider circle. I was relieved to find they were all safe, and then felt guilty about the families and friends of the victims who did not escape the gunfire.

Farmington is a community where the majority of people seem to believe in God, guns, individual liberty, hard work, the energy extraction industry, heterosexuality, fast food, and patriotism. Elsewhere, I am fairly moderate. There I was an outsider, a flaming liberal who did Peace Corps service, kept my last name when I got married, and spent too many years in graduate school. I hated the politics there even as I never hated my friends and neighbors who disagreed with me. It was complicated place for me.

Farmington is also a community where people know their neighbors. Everyone in town might not have known the victims personally, but everyone in town knows someone who knew them. The connections are tight and will help the community through this crisis. There are many good things about this community and we are seeing it now as people pull together to support each other.

But I hope for more for Farmington and for all of us. I hope for an awakening that enough is enough. I hope this for all the communities who have suffered this senseless violence, indeed for our country.  No one outside the military should have an assault rifle. People with mental health issues and records of violence should not be allowed to own guns. We keep writing to the newspaper. We march. We sign petitions. We call and write to our representatives in Washington, DC. Nothing seems to make a difference.

Mass shootings can happen anywhere. None of us can truly mark ourselves safe until something changes. What will it take?  I hope and pray we can figure it out and stop the anger and craziness before it kills more of us.

Opening Books

My mother schooled me in the art of opening new books when I was very young. I never heard this referred to anywhere else in my lifelong relationship with books until it popped up in my Facebook feed a few days ago. Thank you, writer friend Del Sheree Gladden.

This brings back memories of the school book fairs at The Lane School in my hometown where I was allowed to pick out two or three books to take home. When the books came home, Mom sat down with me and showed me how to “open the book.”

We read many of these books together, a chapter at a time, usually before an afternoon nap or bedtime. I can hear Mom’s voice reading me the stories of Winnie the Pooh and his Expotitions with friends, magical tales from Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories, and adventures with Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows.

This was the message–books are treasures to be respected, protected, and loved. I haven’t opened a new hardback book in this way in a long time, but the lesson that opened my relationship with books stays with me.

The Story of a Book

“In Victoria, Texas, 1857, a baby was born. From the noise he made, it sounded more like a panther. Long John Dunn raised hell for a long time after, in one form or another.” How can you not love a book that opens like this?

Behold an old, beat-up looking book.
Long John Dunn of Taos, by Max Evans. Published 1959,by Western Lore Press of Los Angeles, California. Great West and Indian Series XV.

I heard about Max Evans from other New Mexican writers. They spoke of him as a classic writer of the Old West, an actual cowboy and chronicler of a past lifestyle. I was reintroduced to Evans when our local PBS station, KNME in Albuquerque, produced a documentary, Ol’ Max Evans,the First Thousand Years in 2020. He was an intriguing character and a good writer, two attributes that made me want to find out more about him.

I went in search of his books. At that time, my local library didn’t have any. I began the online search–all of the books were out of print. I broadened the search to used bookstores. A surprising number of bookstore people in both New Mexico and Arizona had not even heard of Max Evans.

Finally, I found this book in Santa Fe, at an off-the-beaten track used bookstore, Big Star Books & Music on Garfield. It is great fun to read. It is also politically incorrect by standards of our century. But of course, this writer, his subject, and the book are not of this century.

60 year book trail

The markings and the old fashioned library card pocket inside the front cover hint at the story of this book. I can see it was owned by someone whose name is blacked out. At some point, the Christian County Library in Ozark, Missouri, acquired this volume, and some diligent librarian added the birth and death dates of Long John Dunn in pencil. Somewhere between that library and the bookstore in Santa Fe, it was pulled from the shelf and rudely stamped WITHDRAWN. I am left to imagine all the places it journeyed and who read it before I found it with the pencil marking “$7.50 as is” on this same page.

So in addition to the stories of Max Evans, and Long John Dunn, I am gifted with the story of the book itself.

I end on the happy note that University of New Mexico Press has brought two of Max Evans’ books back to print. I can hope that more will follow, although these new editions won’t bring you the extra stories I have found in my 1959 edition.