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Our judges were torn over which of Phillip Parotti's entries merited the Grand Prize, so we opted to break with tradition and publish two pieces by the same author. In this runner-up tale, Parotti blends fact with fiction to serve up an irresistible stew of stories.

 

Rattlesnake Stew

A brush with history and Pancho Villa leads to a history lesson and some good grub.

By Phillip Parotti

 

"Ha," the old woman grunted, showing me three teeth and a sharp pair of eyes from a height of about six feet, "that Pancho Villa don't scare me none. I was here in '79, boy, when the Apaches made their raid. Now, git down off that mule, and I'll give you a biscuit and a piece of fried steak. You look to me like you ain't had nothin' to eat all day."

Marthe Keller, whom I had once seen bite the head off a chicken outside Dean's Market in Columbus, was 84 years old on the day I rode up to her ranch, and the warning I carried didn't impress her much. Earlier, during the dark hours of the morning, Villa had attacked Columbus, burning several businesses and killing a number of American citizens. At the time, we were living in Florida Station — that's pronounced Floreeda, just like the mountains — a few miles from the Deming-Guzman Road. Florida is gone now, but in 1916, it was a growing town: Fowler's Mercantile; Dalhart's Grain and Feed, which my father managed; The Sundance Cafe; a saloon; about 10 frame houses; and an adobe church that also served as a schoolhouse and as an assembly hall. Florida didn't have a history — not in so far as I knew. It had been in existence only for a decade or two, but by 1916, business was beginning to thrive and prospects were good. But within a matter of two hours, Villa scared life out of the region, and after that,
Florida didn't take many years to die.

News of the raid must have reached us early that morning, no more than a couple hours after the fighting stopped. As soon as we heard, every man in town armed himself, and Florida's entire population assembled in the church. We knew about the raid, all right, but that was as much as we knew. The fear was that Villa's army might ride deeper into New Mexico and attempt to attack Deming, and that would have put us near the path of his march. The church, with its thick walls, was thought to offer the best protection for withstanding an assault, so for the next half-hour, alert, well-armed men ran back and forth between town and the church, carrying in water, bedding, provisions and every round of ammunition that they could find. Columbus might have been caught napping, but our citizens had no intention of suffering a similar fate. They prepared, and they intended to fight.

In the midst of those preparations, someone — my mother, I think — said that the surrounding ranchers needed to be warned. My father and Wilson Fowler, Florida's two leading citizens, talked it over and decided that while adult males could not be spared from the town's defense, a few grown boys could be spared to spread the warning across the surrounding landscape. Volunteers were not called for; instead, as soon as the adults reached a decision, every grown boy in the church was volunteered, by his mother. Our mothers believed that Villa would attack, and they wanted us out of town. In 1916, only five grown boys lived in Florida Station, and all five of us were sent: Pete Lyons and his brother to the northwest, Simon Grant and Huff Little to the north and northeast, and me. I was sent east. At 12, I was the oldest of the five, and it was thought that I could best handle the risk. Some of the adults thought that Villa might elect to retreat; if he did, everyone in Florida expected him to retreat east i
n an attempt to fall back on Juarez.

Fifteen minutes later, I was astride my father's mule, watching from the shadow of the church as Pete Lyons and his brother disappeared between the mesquite thickets at the edge of town. They were heading toward the Circle-M while I was still waiting for my father to come out and give me final instructions.

"Jed," he said, coming through the church door and handing me the $1.45 mail-order revolver that he usually kept in the till, "put this in your pocket, but don't take it out unless you absolutely have to. You're no match for a Villaista, son; if you run into trouble, turn the mule loose, go to ground, and hide. Understand?"

"Yes, sir," I said.

"All right," he said, "you've got water and grub, so ride straight from here to Augustus Sloan's place. From Sloan's, make for the Bar-Star, and from there, you go on to old Marthe Keller's. If Marthe Keller wants to come into town, you help her. If she doesn't want to come in, you bed down on her porch and spend the night. Your mother and I don't want to see you back here before noon tomorrow. By that time, troops ought to be rolling through here, so don't get shot when you ride back here out of the desert. And Jed . . . "

"Sir?" I said.

" . . . your mother says to keep that coat buttoned up, at least until it warms up."

I made Sloan's place by noon and rode through the Bar-Star an hour or so later, but Marthe Keller's ranch was 12 miles out, so I didn't reach her gate until the afternoon sun was already about halfway down toward the horizon. When I finally rode up to her porch, I could see Marthe Keller standing behind her door jamb with a shotgun in her hands. As soon as she got a good look at me, she put down the shotgun and stepped onto the porch.

"You're Matson's boy," she said matter-of-factly. "Whatcha doin' way out here?"

That's when I gave her the warning, and that's when she asked me to get down and take a biscuit with her.

 

Marthe Keller's house was old, built of hard adobe, and stout, and inside, it was plain. What you saw was what you got: one flat-roofed house containing one rectangular room. Everything Marthe Keller owned was old but sturdy. She had a table, I remember, and two chairs, handmade, and her bed was handmade, too, with ropes holding up the mattress. In place of a stove, she had a fireplace with three Dutch ovens sitting in ash. She stored her cooking gear in a box that looked like it had once belonged to a chuck wagon. At the foot of her bed, she kept a trunk, an old one, and in that, she stored everything else she owned, save for her stock and her guns. She had a lot of guns, sidearms as well as rifles and shotguns, and all of them looked clean and well-oiled, but there wasn't a frill anywhere.

"Sit yourself," she said, pointing to a chair. "That there is Mr. Woodrow's chair, so mind you sit straight. Meanwhile, I'll rustle us up some grub."

"Yes'm," I said, pulling back the chair and getting into it. The chair was high and hard, and I was a little worried about Mr. Woodrow. I'd never heard of him before, and I wondered what he might say if he came in and found me sitting in his place. "Mr. Woodrow won't mind if I sit in his chair?" I asked.

"Ha," said Marthe Keller, heaving the lid off one of the Dutch ovens, "not likely, he won't. Mr. Woodrow's been dead since '83, so that makes you about 34 years safe. Mr. Woodrow ain't comin' back, son. You can sit yourself and relax."

From the chuck box, Marthe Keller took two tin plates, and onto those, from the depths of a Dutch oven, she popped two brown biscuits that were about as large as a man's fist.

"This here's my birthday," she said, putting the tin plates on the table, "so you've got your choice — molasses or gravy. Which'll it be?"

I elected molasses, and so did Marthe Keller, and while the steaks were frying in the bottom of another Dutch oven, we ate and didn't say much. That biscuit, I remember, tasted good, with or without molasses.

"Was Mr. Woodrow your father?" I asked when I had finished my biscuit.

Marthe Keller's eyes got skinny. "You're not too swift 'bout some things, are you?" she said.

"No'm," I said, feeling stung. "I'm sorry."

"Don't 'pologize," Marthe Keller said. "What a body don't know, a body don't know. The short of it is this, boy. My pa weren't nothin' but a no-account drunk from St. Jo, Missouri. His breath was so bad it could've knocked over a skunk, and he had the hardest tongue that was ever put into a head. He used to beat my ma somethin' terrible, until she upt and run away, and then, he started beatin' on me. I upt and run away, too. That was a long time ago, way back in '57. My ma's sister took me in. She had a husband who was in the army, and 'long 'bout the spring of '59, we moved lock, stock and barrel from St. Jo to Santa Fe, and from Santa Fe to Fort Craig on the Rio Grande. Woodrow Keller was a sergeant of dragoons at Fort Craig. I met him there and married him three months later.

"We had a good life at Fort Craig until the winter of '62. That's when Sibley and them Rebs come up the river from Texas, but they was afraid to attack Fort Craig and rode north. Woodrow's troop fought 'em at Valverde and fought 'em again after Sibley got whipped up at Glorieta and then tried to retreat down the river. Soon as them Rebs backed outta here, Woodrow went to fightin' Navajos, but when the war ended, he took his discharge, and that's when we moved here and commenced supplyin' horses to the army. What you see here now ain't much, but in those days, this place was surrounded by corrals, and we was runnin' regular strings to all the forts in this area. Them places is all gone now, but Fort Bayard, up there by Silver City, is still goin' strong, and they did business with us regular 'til I sold off the last of my strings back in '98. Now, how 'bout that steak?"

 

Marthe Keller was a good cook, but the cow from which she cut those steaks must have had tusks rather than horns, and on the day that I ate it, I pretty near figured that the Chihuahua desert was short by at least one javelina.

"This is a good steak," I said.

Marthe Keller's eyes narrowed. "Maybe you know somethin' after all," she said. And that was all she said, because fried steak is pretty hard to chew, particularly when the cow that it comes from has been browsing on rattlesnakes and cactus, and as I said earlier, Marthe Keller didn't have too many teeth left with which to chew it.

I finished my meat first and waited for Marthe Keller to finish hers. When she did, I finally asked her, "Did Mr. Woodrow take sick?"

"What?" said Marthe Keller.

"I was wonderin' if Sergeant Keller had took sick," I said, "back in '83?"

"Ha," said Marthe Keller, "that what I thought you was wonderin'. You can bet he did, son. He took real sick, and he took sick real fast. He got arrow poisonin', and it was fatal."

"Geronimo?" I ventured, my eyes widening.

"Chato, we think," Marthe Keller spat, "the murderin' skamp. Same day as the McComas massacre, and not far from it. That was in March, right 'fore the cholla bloomed. Mr. Woodrow had gone down to Janos in February and brought back a string that he'd bought from the Hacienda Mondragon. We give 'em three weeks of good feed, and rested 'em, and then, right before the ides, Mr. Woodrow and two of our hands headed 'em north toward Fort Bayard. Mr. Woodrow sold that string to the army on the 27th but kept back a bay that he wanted to sell to Court Jackson in Lordsburg, so after sendin' the hands back to me with the money, he headed for Silver City, trailin' the bay. He put up at the Timmer House that night. The place was new in '83, and he said that he wanted to see it, and I know he was there 'cause he signed the register, but my guess is that he left out early, headin' south through the Burros toward Jackson's place.

"Mr. Woodrow couldn't have been more than an hour or two in front of the McComas family, for not long after Heff Baker — he was the stage driver — found Woodrow, he also come up on the bodies of Judge McComas and his wife, an' all three of 'em wasn't two miles apart. Mrs. McComas was found 'bout a hundred yards closer to town than her husband; their buggy had turned over, and her skull had been smashed by a rifle butt, they thought. The Judge had been shot several times. Baker found him dead in the road. I think he'd jumped out of the buggy and sent her and the boy runnin' back toward Silver City while he tried to hold them devils off. Nobody ever found that McComas boy. I'd guess he either died in some Apache rancheria or got sold to the Yaquis. Woodrow was kilt by arrows, one in the side and one through his neck. He took 'em on his front. Heff Baker told me that he thought Woodrow had drawn blood, maybe more than once. Heff said he'd seen sign in two different places 'bout 30 yards from where Woodrow had ho
ld up in some rocks. I think he made 'em pay. I wisht that he could've sent the whole passel of 'em straight to Hades.

"I was two days down here 'fore I got the word. When I got it, I hitched up that wagon out there, drove up to Silver City, and fetched Mr. Woodrow home. He's buried out back of the house, on that rise to the east above the old corral. How'd you like some coffee?"

 

My mother didn't allow me to drink coffee, but Marthe Keller had changed the subject so abruptly that she'd caught me off guard, and I said, "Yes'm."

From the chuck box, Marthe Keller took two mugs, the kind they make in Mexico with a glaze around the rim, and filled them with coffee from a pot that was sitting on the fire. When she set the mugs on the table, both of them were steaming.

"I like a little molasses in mine," Marthe Keller said. "What about you?"

"Yes'm," I said.

Marthe Keller dipped a spoon into the molasses pot and stirred it into her coffee, and after she finished, I did the same thing, using the same spoon. Even so, my first sip tasted bitter, so bitter that I must have made a face.

Marthe Keller showed me a shrewd gaze. "Ever drink coffee before?"

"No'm," I said

"That's what I thought," said Marthe Keller. "Your ma let you drink coffee?"

"No'm," I said.

"Hmm," said Marthe Keller. "Decided to strike out independent, have you, now that you're away from home?"

"Yes'm," I said after a pause.

"Independence is a good thing," said Marthe Keller, "but what do ya plan to tell your ma?"

"I think I'd better tell her that I broke the rules," I said.

"That's best," said Marthe Keller. "A little independence never hurts a body, but you tell your ma the truth."

I said I would, and Marthe Keller and I sipped our coffee.

"If that's too bitter for you, you might try another spoonful of molasses," she said.

A second spoonful of molasses took the edge off the coffee, and I began to enjoy it.

"Ma'am," I said, "my father says I'm to help you get into town, if you want to come."

"Ha," said Marthe Keller. " 'Spose you tell me what your ma said."

"She didn't say, exactly," I said, "but I think she told my pa that she wanted me to spend the night. My pa said I might outghta ask if I could bed down on your porch."

"That shows some sense," Marthe Keller said. "If I thought that Villa was comin' up the road, I wouldn't want you nowhere near Florida Station neither. But what your pa knows about my front porch ain't worth tellin'. We still got a couple of rattlers 'round here that the pigs ain't et yet, and yesterday night, a puma run through here trailin' an antelope, so you sleep in the house. When the time comes, we'll make a pallet in front of the fire. Now, 'spose you finish that cup of molasses you're drinkin', go out there in the yard, unsaddle that mule, and stash the beast in the corral. Tote your saddle up here, and when you're done, we'll go out and see if we can't bring in a quail or two."

 

I finished my coffee and went out, spurred by the idea that Marthe Keller might let me borrow one of her shotguns so that I could bring down a quail for myself. It took me about two minutes to corral the mule and another five minutes to rub it down and drag the saddle onto the porch, and then, about as soon as I could start back into the house, I met Marthe Keller coming out. She was wearing a stained Stetson and carrying a gunnysack. Around her waist, she had strapped on a pistol belt and the biggest Colt .45 I had ever seen.

"I didn't know you could shoot quail with a pistol," I said, wide-eyed.

"Ha," said Marthe Keller. "Whatever give you the idea that I was gonna shoot quail? This iron's for varmints," she said, slapping her holster with the flat of her hand, "the kind your ma is worried about. Ain't that why your pa sent you off with that pistol in your pocket? I got me traps for quail. Shotgun shells cost money, and what with the lizards and snakes bein' 'bout the only real stock I can run around this place, hard times is barkin' at the door. I save shells for things that need killin', son. Quails can be snared easy."

Marthe Keller didn't actually snare quail; she trapped them in wood and wire traps, using figure-four triggers upon which she deposited beads of chicken feed. When the quail came in and pecked at the feed, even the slightest pressure was enough to cause the box to fall shut on its base, trapping the quail inside. The box was ventilated and so heavy that not even a coyote could have budged it. Marthe Keller set her traps near clumps of mesquite, all of them within sight of the house.

"In the evenin's, I throw out a handful of feed," she said, "just enough the keep the quail comin' in but not enough to make them dependent on me."

Within 15 minutes, we collected four quail from five traps. From three other traps, we let quail go.

"Four ought to be enough," said Marthe Keller. "What with two quail each, beans, and another biscuit, we ought to make a good supper. Won't do to stunt the supply. I had three quail last week, and with these, that make's seven in 10 days. 'Round here, that's all that nature can bear. Next week, I'll give 'em a rest and rustle up a rabbit stew or even a rattler or two. Ever eat rattler?"

"No'm," I said.

"Oughta try it," Marthe Keller said. "Good rattler tastes just like chicken. I cook 'em with plenty of chili, a few onions and a spud or two, and they make a fine meal. But if a body wants good rattlesnake stew, it's usually best to wait until the middle of summer after they've come outta their dens and fattened up a mite. Mr. Woodrow and me ate 'em regular when we first come down here, but that was before the pigs. Once I bought them pigs, the snake population around here got trimmed, and a half-et rattler that the pigs have got to . . . well, it don't make much of a meal."

 

By the time we got back to the house, Marthe Keller had told me everything I didn't want to know about catching and stewing rattlesnakes, and after that, I wasn't altogether sure that I wanted to eat again any time soon. What kept me going was wondering how she was going to deal with the quail. Having seen her dispatch that chicken in Columbus, I was anxious to see if she would do the same thing with the quail, but when the time came, she didn't. In Columbus, when she had dispatched that chicken, she had been trying to pay money to W.T. Dean, the grocer, and the chicken had made the mistake of giving her a couple of nasty pecks. The quail, on the other hand, were in the bag and not pecking anyone, and this time, Marthe Keller took their heads off with a cleaver, almost quicker than the eye could see. I wasn't too disappointed about not getting to see her bite their heads off because, while I sat there watching her, it occurred to me that when she'd done that trick in Columbus, she'd had more teeth.

"You're mighty quiet," she said, after a few minutes.

I was. I'd spotted something wrong with the top of her bedpost.

"Yes'm," I said.

Marthe Keller had her back to the bed, but she seemed to know exactly what had caught my attention.

"That's a bullet hole," she said. "The Apaches left that when they raided through here in '79. Mr. Woodrow rasped it a mite, but he never got the chance to replace it. Slug's still in there."

"Chato?" I asked.

"Victorio," Marthe Keller said. "Probably not Victorio hisself, but some of his bunch. Three of 'em's still here. That Mr. Lieutenant Gatewood and 30 of his scouts come through here the next day, all of 'em tuckered. They was workin' down toward the Tres Hermanos range. He come ridin' in here, and I talked to him. I pointed out the line of retreat I thought them scamps had taken, and that Mr. Gatewood told me he thought I'd been lucky. He said Victorio's main band had passed about three miles to the east. He said they'd killed four men up at Cooke's Peak and three more, miners, somewhere up north. He put the main band at 75 bucks and said that women and young-uns was movin' with 'em. Well, whether he had 75 or 175, the skunk had three less when he got past here. I showed Mr. Gatewood the proof."

I was so excited that I could hardly sit still. "What happened?"

"When I showed Lieutenant Gatewood the proof?" Marthe Keller said.

"No'm," I said, making myself slow down. "I mean, what happened here when Victorio passed through?"

"A lot," said Marthe Keller. "That bullet hole in the bedpost, for one thing, and about three or four others that you ain't spotted yet, and those are the rounds that got inside the house. Take a look at the door frame next time you step onto the porch; there's a few holes in that, and there ain't a one of 'em was made by a mouse."

"Did Sergeant Keller shoot 'em?" I asked.

"The Apaches?" said Marthe Keller.

"Yes'm," I said.

"He might have," said Marthe Keller, "if he'd been here, but he weren't. Mr. Woodrow was at Ojo Caliente with a string of horses that he was supposed to be taking to Lieutenant Gatewood, and most of our hands was up there with him. The only two I had here were Esteban Lopez and his son, and the Apaches killed them right off, out back of the corrals. I was sittin' here, just like this, pluckin' a chicken, when I heard the shots, and the next thing I know'd a bullet come whizzin' past my face and slammed straight into the bedpost. And then a few more come right through behind it. By that time, I'd dropped the chicken and barred the door, and then, I grabbed Mr. Woodrow's Navy Colt and waited, and not two seconds later, one of them skunks leapt up here onto the porch and tried to come through the window. I shot him right in the head; at that range, the impact knocked him straight back into the yard. I know'd he was dead 'cause his blood scattered everywhere, and I had a hard time fightin' down my stomach.

"Soon as I could, I fetched a gander out the window, and as soon as I did, I saw more Apache down around the corrals. There was four of 'em down there, tryin' to git at the horses, but they weren't gonna have an easy time of it 'cause I kept them gates locked and chained when Mr. Woodrow was away. We had only five horses left in the corrals, but before them devils could get 'em out, they was gonna have to shoot off the locks or take down the corral rails, and we'd wired those rails in place. Whatever they was gonna do was gonna take 'em more than a minute, so I snatched up the Henry and cut loose, and that's when they know'd they'd made a mistake. Their mistake was sendin' only one varmint up here to finish me. I shot that one dead, and from then on, I had the rest of 'em right under my sights not 40 yards away, and them corral rails didn't afford 'em no protection. Soon as I got the Henry up, two of 'em ducked for cover behind the horses, but the other two stayed exposed. First shot I squeezed off hit one
of 'em in the chest and knocked him down, and in the next second, the only mustang we had left in the corrals spooked — probably from the smell — and kicked another of them devils so hard that he was lifted clean into the air and throw'd backward into a gatepost. I could hear his spine snap all the way up here in the house. That broke 'em. The two that was left cut an' run, and I'm pretty sure I winged one of those as he scuttled into the mesquite."

"I stayed hunkered down here with the Henry for about five hours, waitin' for 'em to try again, and when they didn't, I tracked 'em out beyond the corrals to where they'd stashed their nags. I found blood on the ground — not a lot, but enough, just enough to make me think I hadn't missed when I'd fired my last shot. Those two down in the corrals was dead, like the one in the yard, so before sundown, I buried 'em, and then I buried Esteban Lopez and his boy. When the army come through here the next day, I showed Lieutenant Gatewood the proof, the medicine bags each of them scamps was carryin'. Mr. Gatewood showed 'em to his Apache scouts, and the scouts said they was from the Warm Springs band, Victorio's bunch. How Woodrow missed 'em, we never know'd. He was ridin' north with the string at the same time Victorio broke out and headed south for Mexico. Somewhere out there, they musta passed each other. Mr. Gatewood told me that I'd been lucky. I told Mr. Gatewood that a Navy Colt and a well-oiled Henry made for pretty good luck. Mr. Gatewood allowed that I was probably right. He rode out quick, then, followin' his scouts, and I never saw him again. Now, mister, lift the lid off that middle Dutch oven, and we'll cook us a mess of quail."

 

Marthe Keller cooked good quail. Her beans weren't half bad, either. She also gave me another biscuit to eat and, after the meal, a second mug of coffee with plenty of molasses to take off the edge. After we'd cleaned our plates, we sat at the table and looked out the window toward the new moon that was rising from the direction of Mesilla, and that was when she told me about coming down the Santa Fe Trail from St. Jo. She told me that the Plains had been hard. She also told me about a band of Kiowa that had trailed their wagons for more than a week, about what Santa Fe had been like in those days, and about life at Fort Craig.

"Boy," Marthe Keller finally said, "I'm tuckered, and I've got chores to do in the morning. And seein' how far you've got to ride to get home, I think we'd best turn in."

About the last thing I wanted to do was to turn in, because listening to Marthe Keller talk about the New Mexico Territory when she had first come into it was about the most exciting thing I'd ever heard. Even so, we bedded down, and I didn't say a word in protest because I calculated that an argument with Marthe Keller would get me about as far as an argument with my mother.

Marthe Keller was up before dawn, but she didn't wake me until she'd come back inside from doing her chores. When she did, I rolled quick off the pallet to my third cup of coffee with molasses and to two big hen's eggs that she scrambled for my breakfast. When the sun came up, I went out to the corral, caught the mule, and led it back around to the front of the house where I could saddle it below the porch. After I saddled the mule, I went back inside and told Marthe Keller that I was ready to leave and thanked her for the food and for letting me spend the night.

"You come back any time," she said.

Then she popped the lid off a Dutch oven and handed me two biscuits, one for each of my pockets. With my father's mail-order revolver already in the right pocket of my coat, getting one of Marthe Keller's biscuits into the same pocket took some doing, but I wiggled it, and Marthe Keller smiled.

"That's right industrious of you," she said, "but be sure you eat that one first. Won't do to have sourdough gummin' up the works of that iron."

"Yes'm," I said, stepping down from the porch and mounting the mule.

"Keep the sun to your back," Marthe Keller said, "and you oughta strike the Deming-Guzman track in five or six hours. Tell your pa I'm fine. And thank your ma for sendin' you. Tell her I think she's been right smart. The next time you come, we're gonna have rattlesnake stew."

With that, Marthe Keller gave my mule a slap on the rump, and I was off. I turned back once, and she waved to me from the porch.

The ride home took around six hours. Heeding my father's advice, I rode slowly and kept my eyes and ears open. When I finally approached the road, I could see plenty of traffic, all of it army, moving down toward Columbus, and that's when I knew for certain that Florida Station was safe. Half an hour later, I reined in before the house and saw my folks come through the door at once.

"You all right?" my father asked. My mother, looking nervous, stopped at the door, but her knuckles looked white.

"Well?" said my father.

"I'm fine," I said. I felt like I'd been gone for a year.

"No trouble?"

"No trouble," I said, "and Marthe Keller is fine."

Stepping down from the mule, I hitched the reins to the rail and started up the steps.

"She wouldn't come into town with you?"

"She said to thank you for sending me," I said. "She said Mother was 'right smart.'"

Mother raised an eyebrow.

"You think Mr. Fowler and I ought to ride out and get her?"

"Ha," I said, "Marthe Keller told me that General Villa didn't scare her at all. Marthe Keller ain't afraid of nothin'."

"Isn't," my mother said deliberately, "isn't afraid of anything."

"Yes, ma'am," I said. And that was when I decided that I would put off asking my mother if I could drink coffee with molasses after my meals. As it turned out, I put it off for about three years, and then, it was another year under discussion before she would let me do it.

Marthe Keller died in September of 1917 — of old age and heart complications. I never did get to taste her rattlesnake stew, but sometimes, like tonight, with all that noise coming off the freeway, I still wonder what I missed.

 

Silver City native Phillip Parotti has recently retired and come home after a long teaching career at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

 

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