The girl lifted her skirts away from her feet and eased toward the small brown-mottled duck on the creek bank. It was busily investigating a small marshy area where water had seeped past the bank. Alma wished she’d brought her bow and arrows, but she’d been sent out to collect greens, not meat.
The duck had its back to her. Alma eased forward and crouched, getting into position. Her right foot pressed her skirt into the mud, but she didn’t notice.
The duck turned slightly. Alma lunged forward. As her hands touched the bird’s smooth feathers, her foot ground into her skirt, yanking her off balance. The duck flew off with a panicked series of quacks and Alma pitched foward into the mud.
“Hell and damnation!” she said angrily. “I hate dresses!”
She got to her feet and looked down ruefully. Her mother was not going to be happy.
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“Where’d that damn pup get to now?” Old Pete muttered as he and the mule reached the rocky outcropping that overlooked the southern part of the valley. He could see through the ponderosa into a good stretch of grassland below, but there was no evidence of the curly-haired black Indian dog. Pete shook his head in disgust, jammed his rabbit-fur hat farther down on his head, and snapped the mule’s lead rope impatiently.
At least the mule didn’t need voice direction. Which was more than could be said for the dog, but Pete wasn’t callin’ the damn thing, no matter how aggravated he might feel. There’d likely be Jicarilla Apaches roamin’ the valley for elk, and Pete was taking no chance of being found before he wanted to be. The dog could go to hell, for all he cared. He grunted irritably as he worked his way down the hillside. Idiot pup.
He paused at the tree line, getting his bearings, the air crisp on his face. A light snow powdered the ground. A good-sized elk herd was bunched on the hillside to his left. He squinted. They seemed a mite restless. Then he saw the wolves, eight or nine of them waiting downwind while two big ones trotted the herd’s perimeter, checking for weakness.
Then he caught the sound of a low whine emanating from the prickly ground-hugging branches of a nearby juniper. As Pete watched, the black pup eased from the tree’s grip and came to crouch at his feet, tail between its legs. It looked anxiously toward the elk and whined again.
“Not as dumb as I took ya fer,” Old Pete said, readjusting his hat.
In April 1909, the Cimarron Valley Land Company filed a lawsuit to condemn land that was destined to lie under what is now known as Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico’s Rocky Mountains. The land in question seems to have belonged entirely to widow Mary Gallagher and her eight children, the youngest of whom was 16.
Mary’s husband John had purchased the property with proceeds from his 1870’s gold mining days in the Elizabethtown area at the northern end of the valley. He was a committed farmer: he’d constructed canals from both Willow and Cieneguilla Creek to irrigate his crops.
When the Cimarron Valley Land Company in Springer requested a State permit to construct a dam at Eagle’s Nest that would back up water onto her and other landowners’ property, Mary Gallagher took action. In January 1908, she filed a formal protest against the proposal. However, the State Engineer approved the permit in early July and the Company began negotiating with the three property owners affected.
But Mary Gallagher held out. Eventually, the Cimarron Valley Land Company realized that only a condemnation suit was likely to dislodge her. So they went to court in April 1909. And that’s when the real delays began. Initially, there was no Judge in the County to take up the matter. Even when that issue was resolved, the proceedings moved at glacial speed. There were appeals, demands for a jury trial, a commission established to determine the value of the property, and so forth. In fact, the process took so long that it didn’t formally end until after Mary’s death in 1916. Work on the dam and its related reservoir began the following spring, after her children had been paid off.
Oddly enough, in April 1915 the Company had requested an extension of the State permit, citing “unprecedented financial conditions” which made the Company “unable to procure the necessary funds.” The application for extension didn’t mention the land condemnation suit. Perhaps the Cimarron Valley Land Company was a little embarrassed by the fact that a little old widow lady (Mary was about 62 at the time) was blocking their progress so effectively. It must have seemed simpler to blame the delay on the international crisis of World War I.
Sources: Sept. 1, 1909 Charles Springer letter to NM Territorial Engineer Vernon S. Sullivan; Sept. 16, 1909 Charles A. Spiess affidavit; Jan 27, 1908 letter from Mary Gallagher to NM Territorial Engineer Vernon S. Sullivan; Jan. 31, 1908 protest from Gallagher family to NM Territorial Engineer Vernon S. Sullivan; March 30, 1915 application for extension of time for construction, NM Territorial Engineer Permit # 71.
Suzanna looked doubtfully at the tall, thick-bodied tan dog facing her. The man at Mora had generously loaned Gerald one of his three English mastiffs to test the theory that it would keep the deer from her cornfield.
“His name is Duke,” Gerald said, stroking the black-muzzled head. The dog’s tail wagged slowly as it studied Suzanna with sleepy brown eyes.
“He seems very docile,” she said.
“They were bred to hunt and are said to be very protective.” Gerald shrugged. “I guess we’ll just have to see.”
She nodded and watched as Gerald and the dog headed toward the cornfield, their own two mixed-breed dogs romping alongside. The mastiff majestically ignored the other dogs and Suzanna’s lips twitched. Then she shook her head and went back inside.
The barking began at daylight the next morning: high yips from their own dogs and a deeper, more solid sound. Suzanna rose and went to the window. The mongrels were at the edge of the corn patch, dancing around each other. As she watched, Duke appeared at a steady trot, circling the field.
Suzanna grabbed her shawl and went out onto the cabin porch, where she could see the entire patch. There were no deer in the corn. Duke circled the field again, stopping occasionally to mark its boundary, lift his head toward the hills above, and bark menacingly. There were deer on the hillside, moving steadily upward.
Suzanna turned toward the house. Gerald was standing in the doorway, watching her.
“How long will it take a puppy to grow to Duke’s size?” she asked, and he chuckled triumphantly.
On Thursday, February 28, 1867, Charles Kennedy married Gregoria Cortes at the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Church in Taos. Gregoria was the fourteen year old daughter of widower José Cortez of La Cordillera del Rancho, about two miles west of Mora. Charles was the 28 year old son of William and Fanny Canady (aka Kennedy) of Tennessee. Gregoria and Charles settled in the Moreno Valley at the foot of Palo Flechado Pass, on the road from Elizabethtown to Taos. There they kept a way station for travelers, and Charles Kennedy became embroiled in a series of lawsuits: one for selling liquor without a license, another for assaulting an Elizabethtown merchant with a deadly weapon, and still another for embezzling an Elizabethtown laborer’s money and goods. Kennedy was suspected of other nefarious activities, but nothing could be proven. Then, one day in the fall of 1870, his then seventeen year old wife appeared in Etown and denounced Kennedy as a serial killer. The subsequent Elizabethtown trial and lynching would make the Santa Fe, Silver City, and Indianapolis newspapers. The Silver City report said Kennedy claimed just prior to his lynching that he’d killed twenty-one men.