On finding my inner New Mexican-ness

The other day while having lunch at Chili Hills, and our waitress came up and showed us her phone. It seems one of our 50 was missing yet again. The picture was a map, and in between Texas and Arizona, someone had put Utah!

After living here 57 years, a transplanted Iowan at 15, I have heard it all, from, “Are you folks going to have enough water?” to “Is there an international charge to mail packages?” The only thing that saves us is Roswell.

In 1947, my husband Bill says aliens dropped me off in Iowa and crashed in New Mexico later that month. (He may be right!) We had Lions Club exchange students from Belgium and England. We took each group to Santa Fe, Carlsbad, Alamogordo, and all over Albuquerque—the only thing they really wanted to see was Roswell. Way to go, Space Cowboys. To quote Dangerfield, “We don’t get no respect!” Or do we?

Since the statute of limitations has elapsed, I am about to reveal a payback that I hope will tickle your poor misunderstood New Mexican heart.

Setting: Albuquerque, 1969.

Time: Riots on Central, (for that matter all over the U.S.)

Who: Hippies and Avid, Large Sports enthusiasts (Football players.)

What: They got into a tussle in front of the statue of the Lobo at Johnson Gym.

Outcome: University of New Mexico closed the campus and the semester five weeks early.

Rioting on Central had broken out windows and the A.P.S. film library by Roosevelt Park was torched. That was a pity. They had priceless, irreplaceable film that is gone to this day. My mother packed me up and sent me to live with my Aunt Margaret, a Nurse Anesthetist in Memphis, Tennessee.

Memphis State and University of New Mexico credits were interchangeable. I needed about 15 hours to graduate. (It took me six years for a four-year degree, go figure.) I had never lived down south, and Tennessee is very beautiful. That summer I went from green chile to grits and greens.

After a brief trip home for a Mexican food fix, I decided to go back for the fall semester. When I arrived back on a campus that was now filled up with fall admission there was absolutely no place to park. I even took a picture of a car on a no parking sign as a joke for the local newspaper. I was very much the new girl, even with my graduation looming. If I spoke with other students about the Southwest it was about High Chaparral, a television show filmed in Arizona.

At the end of the semester, somehow (?) my white ’68 Mustang with New Mexico plates ended up with 68 parking tickets from campus. I did not expect my Aunt, who had paid for my tuition to pay for them, but I had gone to school full-time and did not have a job. If I did not pay them, Memphis State would not send my credits to UNM so I could graduate in the spring. What to do?

Soooooooo, I put on my best and only Fiesta dress, a large squash blossom necklace, two bracelets of silver and turquoise, four rings a silver concha belt and two combs for my big hair, (It was the 60s!)

I took my tickets to the campus police, laid them on the counter, and SMILED.

“Pardon, I believe you’ve made a mistake.” [Smile].

“These tickets are for my car, but as my driver’s license will show, I am from New Mexico and I have diplomatic immunity.” [Smile]. AND THEY BOUGHT IT.

I got the credits, graduated in May from UNM, and went on to teach for 25 years or so. Got ya!

As we like to say, “Not New, not Mexico.” A proud state since 1912, we are not missing—you just have to look.

Roaring Mouse, weighed down in New Mexico silver jewelry, out.