Wally, a Mexican-American friend at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, it was 1968. He was a neat guy alright, but I did not yet know where he gained his nourishment, where his roots were. I was soon to find out.
One day, Wally invited me to go hunting with him. I had my 303 British Infield with me at school; everybody had their guns, but remember this was 1968 when you saw rifles in the rear window gun racks of most pickup trucks. Nobody went on crazy shooting sprees like they do now.
Today you can be arrested for just making a drawing of a gun; one kid was expelled from school because he ate his snack into the shape of an “L” which his crazy teacher thought looked like a gun. Idiots! The only thing these crazy policies are teaching our young is that there is no more common sense in public education. Oh how far we have fallen into this “lack of common sense hole.” At Harding High School in Oklahoma City, my 1968 yearbook has a picture of a bunch of us in the school parking lot posing with our cars and our guns. This was a time when young people had common sense; nobody pointed a gun at anybody and we dang-sure would never think to shoot anybody. Responsible parents taught their children proper gun safety, and kids were knowledgeable and respected guns for what they could do. The fact that everyone is so crazy today about guns just shows you how far we have fallen as a society.
Anyway, back to Wally and our hunting trip: I was invited to go to Cuba, New Mexico, up in the northwest quadrant of the state. We left the university in Las Cruces in the southeast quadrant of the state and headed northwest. It took a long time to arrive; as I recall, it was around three in the morning. It was so dark when we arrived, I could barely see the house but one could not help but notice how low it was. Strange architecture, something I hadn’t seen before; I would soon be surprised in a few hours at daylight.
We walked through the front door and as my six foot tall body was carefully stepping over three young girls, only visible by the light of the moon, sleeping on the living room floor; my head was grazing the ceiling; a ceiling I would later learn was made of cardboard. After traversing the living room’s human obstacles, we came to a small bedroom. There was no furniture other than a single queen-size bed which left about 18” clear around the three open sides of the bed. I had never seen such a small bedroom, no tables, no chests nor a single chair. We crashed, exhausted into a comfortable bed.
Coming fast, the next morning, was the start of my new awakening (no pun intended). I soon learned that I, a stranger to this family but having obtained the label “a friend of their brother,” was given a gift: the bedroom of those three young girls on the floor – Wally’s sisters – it was their personal gift for an unseen stranger. It only mattered that this stranger was a friend of their brother; what love is this? Wally’s parents were up and being productive, a grand breakfast was started. Wally’s house was also the town’s post office, and as I finally removed the sleep from my eyes the interior and exterior of this home was revealed. I saw a home built from anything and everything, even cardboard. I lost count of the number of additions; lean-tos upon lean-tos. The house was one of thousands of those most often over-looked shacks, abandoned and invisible by most.
The ground around this strange collection of materials was mostly dirt, no landscaping. It was, it was…friends, and it was clean dirt! I mean the outside around the house was ordered, smartly addressed, cared for, and not one piece of trash! Not one piece of set-aside junk; you know what I mean, everyone has seen the really poor homesteads littered with the land’s history and man’s laziness. In September 2012, while riding my Harley through the backwoods of Arkansas, many homes were seen with trash piled all around; what was different about these people? No, Wally’s home was different, very different. What was the power at work with this family? Even at this simple exterior beauty of necessary minimalization, I soon came to realize the real beauty was to be found inside. There was a spirit at work here…where was I, really?
The whole interior of the house was spotless, clean, organized, and well cared for. Wally’s sisters had clean faces and their clothes were clean and pressed. Beautiful. Those kids all had good manners and smiles on their faces! They welcomed me, a stranger from another universe; they only needed to know that I was a friend of their big brother, the first of the family to make it to the state university. I had never experienced before nor since such joy, such hospitality, and such grace from such a poor family.
They obviously loved each other. The parents had obviously raised their children right for they were polite, friendly and gracious. They didn’t have two pennies to rub together; I actually don’t think they thought about being poor. It was like they didn’t have the time to worry about such incidental things, as their focus was on things much higher than stupid materialism. I was the poor person for this weekend. They were such a beautiful family!