If you are wondering why I did not use my Microsoft Word yesterday instead of writing on my blogsite, well, I guess it was arrogance and stupidity. I don’t usually get bumped off my computer anymore, so it has been easy to just type directly on my blog. I was not planning on a storm blowing in and blipping my electricity and computer. That was the arrogant part. Here is the stupidity part. My new computer came with a 6 week trial program that I sometimes used to write my blog, but it had expired. I was not sure if I wanted to pay and install the Microsoft Word. I was just not sure what to do there, and I did not look to see what else I had on the computer. See, stupidity, arrogance and maybe a little laziness thrown in. And it caused me to lose my story yesterday. So today, I am using the word processor on my computer - it still looks stormy outside and I would rather be safe than sorry.
Now for my Susie Story…When we moved back to Red River in 1986, I did not know Susie personally, but I heard stories about her. Lots of transient young people come through RR looking for fun and excitement. Susie was originally from Massachusetts and was traveling with friends that came through NM. They moved on, but she stayed in RR. She eventually married Darwin McHand, who is a story all to himself. Darwin was a trapper/hunting guide. He was known as a hard worker, but he was a bit of a hermit, a real loner. He was also an alcoholic. Susie and Darwin lived up Mallet Canyon in an old cabin without electricity or running water. Susie gave birth to two sons while living in that cabin. One time, they were traveling up the canyon in their truck pulling their mule Jed behind the truck. Darwin looked back to check on Jed, but the mule was not to be seen. Darwin threw the truck in reverse to go look for Jed, but ended up running over Jed who had fallen and been dragged for a ways. They were pretty upset at the loss of their mule, but being ever practical, Susie and Darwin butchered Jed. A few days later, Susie invited the preacher and visiting evangelist to dinner at their mountain home. We were all holding our breaths, but no, she served chicken instead of Jed.
One of the first times that I ever spent any time with Susie and her boys, we were at a baby shower in one of the group rooms of some lodge. The kitchen had a little sink for washing hands - it was just child-height. Susie's boys were running the water in the sink and playing and giggling as if they had never seen a water faucet in a house - and they hadn't. They were so funny. Susie said, "You should have seen them when they discovered ketchup."
At some point Susie became a Christian and attended Faith Mountain Church in RR. This is where I got to know her. She was shorter than me and a little stocky. She had a Hobbit look to her with her soft brown hair curling around her face. She had sort of a ruddy/outdoor complexion with rosy cheeks and never wore makeup. Her brown eyes were much too large for her face, but her wide, easy smile made it all come together in a very pleasant way. She could play the guitar and sing with a beautiful alto voice. Susie was a genuinely nice person and maybe sometimes a bit naive. Early one morning we were driving to Taos together when we passed a man walking down the road. He was tall and slim. He had long brownish blond hair that was stringy and unkempt. He was wrapped in a blanket and barefoot. Susie said, “Oh! He looks like Jesus! Lets give him a ride.” I responded with, “He may look like Jesus, but I bet he does not smell like Jesus, and I don’t want him in my truck.” Susie laughed, but I think she really would have given the guy a ride.
Susie and Darwin moved their boys to a house in Questa. It was still fairly isolated, but it did have electricity and running water. She still cooked on a wood stove. Darwin bought her a washing machine of sorts. It was an old fashion thing that you had to wring the clothes through a wringer. Susie was so proud of it. She had a big garden and Darwin built her a rustic greenhouse. She was a real naturalist. I was just amazed that Susie could cook on that stove, wash in that machine, and live as she did. Jesse and I loved to go to Susie’s house for tea and cake. Susie would go out into her garden and gather mint or whatever, ground up some rosehips she had dried, and make tea for us. She would bake a cake in that wood stove - awesome. She would get out her guitar and sing. We would laugh at the differences in how we were raised - she in Massachusetts and me in Texas. She called feeding a horse a portion of a hay bale feeding it a “biscuit.” I called it a “flake”. Our views of the Civil War were totally different. She would tell me about skipping school to attend a Janice Joplin concert, and time spent with her siblings skating on a pond in the winter. Spending time with Susie was always an interesting and fun experience.
Her boys, Trapper and Jesse Hunter, were handsome young men. They were always polite and easy to deal with, but they were mountain boys like their father. They played with Bo and Jes, and I kept them from time to time. My kids were greatly impressed that Trapper and Hunter could climb pine trees as if the needles and rough bark were nothing. Those boys could trap small animals like mice and rabbits. One time, they finished butchering an elk when their dad passed out after drinking too much.
It was Darwin’s drinking that was the downside to life at the McHand home. I think Darwin was basically a good man, but he had had a bad childhood and sent off to a work farm. It gave him a great work ethic, but not much love. He eventually ran off from the work farm. I think he loved Susie and the boys, but the alcohol was too much for him. He would go off for weeks at a time and Susie would not know where he was. When he came home, he would sleep for days and be surly. Then he would be great for a while. Just when Susie thought all was well, he would fall off the wagon again. Darwin was such a loner that it was difficult to know him, but I did visit with him occasionally. I liked him. One of the greatest compliments that I ever received was when Susie told me that she and Darwin had discussed their future. If anything were to happen to her and Darwin, they wanted me to raise their boys, because they knew I would love them as my own. Theirs was a hard life and eventually Susie gave up and moved her boys back East. I had moved to OK by then, and we lost track of each other. I lost her and the boys. It is one of my biggest regrets.