Many times I've told stories about our cabin that my dad built up Bitter Creek Canyon in Red River. As a kid, it was paradise. We had the whole mountain as a our playground. Did you know that there used to be bumper stickers that said, "Red River, NM, Mountain Playground?"
Dad started building that cabin in about 1958 - the year I was born. He never did finish it, but that did not stop us from living in it every summer until we sold it to my Uncle Gene and bought the Green Mountain Lodge in town. The cabin was built on US Forest Service land with a 99 year lease. Back then the lease was about $25.00 a year. It has gone up since then. Also, this year the people had to sign a new lease - a 20 year lease with lots of stipulations. I blame it on Obama :)
The cabin next door to ours belonged to the Shortes family - specifically Elmer Shortes and his wife, Willie. They had an old Willys Jeep and as a little kid, I thought it was odd that Willie's name was on her jeep. To my brother and me, the Shorteses were known as "Papa and Shorty." They had two daughters who were probably a little younger than my parents, and they had five grandchildren who came to stay at the cabin during the summers and became playmates to my brother and me. Although they had their own grandchildren, they really belonged to Craig and me - for the summer anyway.
Papa was a tall, slim man. He was usually quiet, but I remember his smile and his laugh. He reminded me of Buddy Ebsen - only Papa wore an old fishing hat. My favorite memory of Papa was when he took all us kids down to the creek and dammed it up so that we had a little swim hole. I still remember playing in that muddy, sulfur creek. For a mountain girl, it was great fun. Speaking of mud, the Shortes cabin had an old wood cook stove in the back yard. They actually used it for cooking out, but they let me play with that stove as if it were my kitchen. I made many a mud pie in that stove.
Most of my memories are of Shorty. She was a tiny lady with a big heart. She didn't seem much bigger than us kids. She laughed a lot, but it was really more of a giggle, and I remember her putting her hand up to cover her mouth when she laughed. She loved to fish the creeks and lakes around RR, and she always took Craig and I with her. It seemed most normal to climb into the back of Shorty's Willys Jeep for a day of fishing, or for me, playing in the river. She would give us a fishing pole and bait and sit us down somewhere while she did some serious fishing. Craig may have been a better fisherman, but I was a bit restless and rarely sat there for long. I do remember catching a little trout out of the river south of town. I squealed with excitement and began shouting for Shorty. She came running - thinking that I had fallen in the river or was in some sort of trouble. There I was holding my trout, and she laughed and laughed. I have lots of other memories of playing while Shorty fished. Now when I look back and think of her carting around two young kids that were not her own, what an amazing lady she was for that!
There is also a funny story about my little brother. He was just a baby when we built the cabin up Bitter Creek. The summer he was just over two years old, we had a babysitter - a teenager from Questa named JoAnn Gonzales. She was very silly and taught me to dance - the jerk and monkey and other silly things. Pete was not found of her and did not want her to change his diaper. He would get his diaper and take it next door for Shorty to change him. Of course Mom decided that if he was old enough to take his diaper next door, he was old enough to be potty trained.
Shorty also took us to the Community House at night where Craig and I learned to square dance at a very early age. That is where I met my friends Kathy, Joy, and Janetta. I could tell you lots of CH stories, but that is for another time. I want to focus on Shorty right now. You see, she was also an artist. She would set up her easel and paint the mountains. My mom has one of her paintings hanging above the fireplace. It made a big impression on me. I still love that painting. It is a great reminder of special childhood memories in RR and of Shorty.
I have another part to this story coming.