Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sketch #2 George McNaughton

It must have been George McNaughton who turned us on to the place.  George lived in El Rancho, just down the road from the trailer house.  He would have known about it, and now that I think about it—George—who spoke some Spanish—introduced us to the landlady, Pablita Gallegos.  Now the image is distilling—George, telling Pablita how he knew me from working together in the Honda shop, George, describing Mary Ann as my wife, Pablita, gently correcting his pronunciation.

I wish I knew where he is now.  If there was any one person who helped me shake off my demons and mellow out a little, it was George.  He was only a fair mechanic, but his world was larger than a 350cc engine. 

He was renting a shotgun house on a sliver of land—it couldn’t have been more than 25’ wide.  You had to go through the house to get to the lot in the rear, where he kept his goats.  I’d leap the neighbor’s fence and find him sitting on some straw in the pen, nursing a kid in his lap with a baby bottle.  He loved their milk, and would bring some in a mason jar with him for lunch.  I tasted it, and was shocked at its gaminess.  He apologized, explaining that there was a billy goat in the adjoining field, and his odor was enough to rankle the milk. 

I borrowed his truck once, to pick up my own truck engine from the machine shop in Santa Fe.  It was a ’55 GMC, and George was intensly proud of its big Pontiac 287 V-8.  The rear fenders were rusted through, George warned me that the one on the driver’s side lofted outward at highway speed.  “So stay over to the right, now.  If you roll the window down, roll it all the way down, hard, so it doesn’t rattle.”  Even then, it was getting hard to find replacement glass.

He told me how the truck had cost him his last job as a butcher.  “I’d have to fiddle with the carb every morning, to get it started, and my hands would get greasy.  Of course, the fat from the beef would dissolve it, and by lunch time the grease would be gone.  But I guess the boss couldn’t handle it.”

But George had an uncompromising sense of dignity.  I recall him, tall and towheaded, blond hair sweeping over blue eyes.  When we’d go out, he wore a dapper three piece suit of pale blue denin.  His dream was to build a home on some property he owned with Cynthia, somewhere up there between the Chama and the Rio—La Madera, maybe.  In some high valley, miles beyond the power lines. 

He was crazy about Cynthia, and would speak of her in terms that would make a gynecologist blush.  But their stars were crossed, and she wound up marrying some guy from Santa Fe.

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