He was a good man.
Intellectual, Socialist, Dreamer.
Dad was a caring man but,
he could be stubborn and willful.
He hitchhiked from a small farm in New York state to New Mexico when he was 19 (about 1935) because he’d seen pictures and thought it looked beautiful. He made that trip three times, once on an Indian Motorcycle (He said that his hands were numb for days).
In Albuquerque, he audited classes at UNM in psychology and philosophy and ended up getting a job on a survey team in the southern Jemez (pronounced Hay-mess) Mountains.
There he found the New Mexico that he wanted and fell in love with. It is a rugged, ancient land where the spirits still wander in deep canyons and high mesas.
He met an old cowboy named Hank who, with his wife and daughter, had a horse ranch up in the high mountains, in a place called Bear Springs. Hank needed a hand on his ranch and hired Dad. This was probably the only work that my Dad ever really loved.
In 1942, he received his draft notice for WWII and served in Italy. I believe he was seriously changed by the death and killing.
After the war, he came back to New Mexico, got a job in Los Alamos and married my mother, a refugee from the Texas Panhandle.
Los Alamos was where I, my brother, and sister were born (in that order). He was back in the mountains that he loved (the horse ranch had been abandoned after he left) and he now had a family, community, and a decent job. He spent much of the time at home typing on his old Royal Typewriter, he had a lot to say but never got published. He also started home-brewing beer.
The political climate of the early to mid-1950s and my Dads’ inability to stay with a line of work for long ended up bringing us down to Albuquerque. He went through a series of jobs and started drinking more.
He was never a ‘mean’ drunk, but my mothers' rage at his spending money on drinking kept him from being home regularly as time passed.
I remember him as a good man; intelligent, kind, and loving to me, though not a good ‘family man’. He and I bonded.
When I was 18 he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and tried to reconcile with my mother. She had had enough and they got a divorce. (Something that we kids had wanted for years due to the loud arguments.) They were very different souls with very different views on life.
Dad helped me get a job after I graduated from high school (which he also convinced me to finish), hugged me when I was rejected for military service (he’d offered to get me to Canada rather than be sent to Vietnam), and, at 19 helped me get a cheap apartment. We also started spending Sundays in the mountains exploring. He was a wise man for all that he had dealt with in life.
He remarried and moved to Houston, Texas in 1971 and came back to visit sometimes. And we would go out to “Gods Country”, as he called it.
In August of 1980, he had to come back for my sisters funeral, she had suicided. The last time I saw him, he was walking into the airport in his dark suit, looking tired, after I dropped him off. He was murdered that October by his wife with a gun that he had bought for protection. He was 64.
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He was not a ‘perfect’ man. And, there are things not said about him or others. And there are unknowns.
I write this in memory of the man who taught me. I don’t feel like he ‘raised’ me as he was mostly absent from my growing up. He gave me a myth and unconditional love. Such is the legacy of a Dad.
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Thank you for reading.
Dana Sanford ~ 1/28/2019