Let it be known that I was up in the mountains of New Mexico with my four year old son Michael trying to find a cowboy of interest. I had had it up to my proverbial chin with intellectual puffballs and ineffectual lazy hippies. In order to survive up there I had roomed in with a group of guys who were working construction in a nice rustic cabin with a kitchen, bathroom and one huge open room full of beds. We had strung up dividers and it was sorta working. The town was Jemez Springs. I call it a town out of not knowing what else to call it. The place had a bar called Los Ojos, a gas station with 3 shelves of groceries, a cafe that was not open much, an American Legion Clubhouse/bar, and a Mineral Springs bath house. Outside town about a mile was a laundramat of sorts. The times were the early 70's.
I did anything I had to in order to survive. I cleaned cottages, cooked and bartended at the Legion, and worked as a mineral bath employee helping folks in and out of the bathtubs and wrapping them in army blankets and plastic to sweat. This was not a romantic spa but a way of life for many to get these baths for health. Actually I was having the most interesting time of my life up til then. Summer was fun there. Hippies, tourists, cowboys and Native Americans made for a strange and intoxicating mix.
It just so happened that there was a steam well being drilled on that mountain and the roughnecks and drillers were living in Jemez. There was a motel and apartments available for rent.
The Los Ojos was a kind of strange place. It was technically a bar but all the community met there to play chess or checkers, pool or just to sit and gab. Kids and dogs were underfoot all day and then they trickled out as it got later and the night crowd would show up. I stopped in often and had my son in tow as there really were no reliable sitters in this community and I couldn't have afforded them if there had been. Once in a while the guys on the road crew would watch Mike while he slept and I would descend from the hill above the bar to have a drink and see who was passing through.
On one of these occasions I met my future husband. He was playing pool, quiet but full of smiles. His friend, however, was on the lookout for a lady to bed. He hit on me and I told him cockily that I preferred his buddy. Jack grinned at how I handled the hand off and we talked a few minutes before I climbed the wooden stairs to the top and crawled in with my adorable son Mike. This was, however, the start of something...
I didn't think much about him until we had run into each other several times and I learned more about him. He drove an old green Ford in mint condition with a clothing rod across the back seat, He carried all his possessions with him in that '59 Ford. These roughnecks followed the jobs all across the west. As he had a car and I did not I was not shy to ask him to take me to the laundramat and he was happy to do it. He often watched Mike when I had to work late and couldn't have him along. We were officially buddies. Later his fellow roughneck Steve's wife showed up on the scene. They all lived
together in an apartment in the motel area. Looks like they had been friends for awhile. Steve's wife kept him in line when she was around with the kids. (Actually they survived the oil-field days and are still together but I am getting ahead of myself here. )
Jack wore a wedding ring and I wasn't gonna get involved with a married man so we were destined to be just friends and buddies, or so I thought. During the summer a young teenaged boy showed up for a week with his "step-dad" Jack. I didn't see too much of him during that time as I had developed an interest in a tall construcion worker who roomed in the cabin on top of the hill. After the young teen went back to wherever he lived I spent some time talking with Jack and learned he really actually wasn't married but had a long term relationship with a woman in Nebraska and that they had recently split the sheet. I asked why he still wore a ring and he just shrugged and said it kept the girls at bay. I laughed.
I had asked Jack how old he was but he was reluctant to tell me. One night he left his wallet on the bar and I checked for age. He was at least 5 years older than he admitted to. 'These roughnecks were here today and gone tomorrow' I thought...I tumbled for one of his fellow workers once or twice but he was soon gone back to wherever the oil was running. Drilling for steam was dirty and different from the regular oilfield they were all used to. What a strange fate it was to bring us all together in that little mountain town.
To be continued