SELECT title FROM cont_articles WHERE id='' LIMIT 1 Santa Fe Reporter

Morning Word: Grief Overcomes Navajo Nation

'This is like an atomic bomb dropped on a community'

Morning WordWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Navajo Nation Mourns Girl’s Murder
Navajo Nation leaders, reacting to the murder of an 11-year-old schoolgirl, say, "This is like an atomic bomb dropped on a community." People attending a vigil for Ashlynne Mike felt some relief after learning the FBI arrested Tom Begaye, 27, of Waterflow, NM, in connection with her abduction and death. 

Criminal Probe Sought in Gold King Mine Spill
Republican US Sens. John McCain of Arizona and John Barasso of Wyoming want the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into the Gold King Mine spill, which dumped millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into rivers flowing through New Mexico and three other states. 

Nashville School District Considers Boyd for Top Job
Now that student graduation rates and teacher retention rates are up in Santa Fe, it looks like Santa Fe Public School Superintendent Joel Boyd is a finalist for a similar job in Nashville. Boyd dropped out of consideration for another superintendent’s post in Texas last year. According to the Commercial Appeal, he’d face a few challenges in the troubled Tennessee district.

Immigration Rhetoric Concerns Archbishop
Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester didn’t name any names, but he is expressing concerns about some of the presidential candidates' rhetoric on immigration issues, according to the Associated Press. He calls some of the candidates' views “deplorable” and contends, "It's scapegoating and targeting people like the immigrant, the refugee and the poor."
Wester also said he hoped the issue surrounding refugees fleeing violence in Syria gets more attention as the presidential campaign moves toward the general election. He said various nonprofit groups and Catholic relief organizations are working to resettle the refugees.
Registration Deadline Nears
Speaking of elections, you have until next Tuesday, May 10, to register to vote. That’s when early voting starts at the Santa Fe County Clerk’s office.  

PNM’s Earnings Shrink
With its earnings plummeting, the Public Service Company of New Mexico might want to take advantage of a federal program that awards millions in grant money to software developers, solar companies and utilities to help accelerate the integration of solar energy into the nation’s electrical grid.

Getting Older
We didn’t know this, but by the year 2030, New Mexico will rank third in the nation in percentage of population ages 60 and older; currently it ranks 10th, according the New Mexico Department of Aging and Long-Term Services. The health department says to avoid mobility issues that come with aging, like arthritis, the best thing to do is to exercise and stay on the move

Sweet Spot
If you really want to move it, head to Pie Town. SFR’s Elizabeth Miller, like us, loves pie, and she has an interesting cover story on New Mexico’s “timeless destination” and Kathy Knapp’s photo project documenting some of the old-timers.

Read the Annual Manual

Annual ManualWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Julie Ann Grimm

Dear Reader,

If you’re reading this magazine, you already know that Santa Fe’s place in the rugged culture of the West is undeniable. People here don’t do things the way they’re done back East, or even in our neighboring megapolis cities along the interstate corridor. Living life your own way matters here—where the moniker “the City Different” has been around since the early 1900s.

We like hole-in-the-wall shopping stops, self-motivated local businesses, unique regional foods and hidden pocket parks. We don’t always build things from the ground up, preferring instead to reimagine and repurpose. That’s why our favorite community theater is in an old mechanic’s garage and why a former military armory is a successful contemporary art spot. It’s why this year’s commissioned Annual Manual tin cover art is a unique blend of traditional and modern styles.

Going DIY isn’t for the faint of heart. Santa Fe Reporter’s 40- plus-year history as the alt-weekly in New Mexico’s capital city is the very definition of the idea. We present this guide to our city for locals and visitors with a challenge for 2016: Soak in the history and culture, and make it your own.

We’re so glad you’ll join us.

Julie Ann Grimm


Pop Quiz

District Attorney

Local NewsWednesday, May 4, 2016 by SFR

Meet the prosecutors. This week, we quizzed the three Democrats vying for the party nomination for 1st Judicial District attorney, serving Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. Marco Serna and Maria Sanchez-Gagne are both running to unseat Jennifer Padgett, the incumbent, when voters hit the polls June 7. The winner faces an unopposed Republican in the general election in November. The rules of Pop Quiz are simple: We record the entire conversation and report the answers verbatim. No research allowed, and if candidates call back later with the right answer, too bad. Listen to recordings of these and previous quizzes at

The Questions

  1. What is the most commonly charged misdemeanor in the 1st Judicial District?
  2. How many inmates are on death row in New Mexico? What are their names?
  3. Describe LEAD.
  4. How many problem-solving courts are there in the district, and what types are there? Where are they located?
  5. What are the potential punishments for a fifth-time DWI offender?

MARIA SANCHEZ-GAGNE is former director of the Border Violence Division of the attorney general’s office.

1. I haven’t worked in the misdemeanor level for some time. I’m going to guess that it could be possibly batteries?

2. I think there’s two, and I know one is Robert Fry.

3. The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program? That is a program which is designed for treatment. It’s a diversion program, rather than prosecution, and it is for nonviolent offenders. And they must be charged or be involved with opiates. And they are given treatment and no prosecution for nonviolent felonies. Nonviolent crimes. And that is sponsored by the Santa Fe Police Department.

4. Okay, you’re going to have to define for me what you describe as problem-solving courts. [SFR: “It is a term that courts use to describe a certain type of court.”] I’m not absolutely clear on the term, but I’m assuming it’s drug courts. There’s drug court and teen court. There are at least two to three drug courts, and two to three teen courts. They’re in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba.

5. Are you saying potential or mandatory? Are you saying a range? [SFR: “Yes, a range.”] It’s for the fifth time, right? [SFR: “It’s for the fifth time, yes.”] I remember the second or third is going to be up to 364 days incarceration and a $500 fine, and let me see, the mandatory. There is mandatory time on this. I’m pretty sure. From what I can recall, it’s going to be 96 hours mandatory time and up to 364 days.

JENNIFER PADGETT, the current district attorney, is running for re-election.

1. Driving under the influence.

2. That’s a really hard question. I do not know the answer to that, except to say that they would all have had to been on death row prior to the repeal of the death penalty, and I don’t know their names.

3. The LEAD Program, it stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. And it is a complete diversionary program that originates and starts with law enforcement. Law enforcement finds appropriate candidates that have underlying issues that involve substance abuse that may be involved in low-level felony crimes. They actually ask these candidates if they will voluntarily participate in the LEAD Program. … The acceptance protocol runs through my office to ensure that, in fact, they are appropriate candidates. They don’t have any other pending cases in our jurisdiction or others. And if we approve of their participation, they voluntarily enter the program. The program is centered around case coordination. If housing is appropriate, obviously outpatient treatment. Sometimes inpatient treatment. And they continue in the LEAD program throughout their recovery. Something unique about the LEAD program is that it is not abstinence based. It recognizes that participants will have ups and downs. And it is also a complete diversion away from the criminal justice system, so the charge does not hang over their head. It actually disappears to allow the person to fully participate and engage in the program.

4. In the district, in terms of problem-solving courts? I’m assuming that that is, generally, the treatment courts. We have drug courts for both adults and juveniles. This drug court is in the 1st Judicial District in Santa Fe. I do not believe there is a drug court in Rio Arriba at this point. There are a number of treatment courts in Los Alamos that are run through their municipal courts that are centered around juveniles. There’s a teen court there. Um, there’s also an active teen court in Rio Arriba and an active teen court in Santa Fe.

5. Well, it’s a felony level at that point, and there is mandatory jail time that my position should be generally served in the Department of Corrections. However, of course, electronic monitoring gives them the credit towards that sentence as well. Their licenses are revoked for life, which generally ensures—well, would be hopeful that they don’t drive anymore. There’s some nuances. Because if they do drive, they don’t have the ignition interlock mandated because of course their license is revoked. They have to engage in treatment and other court-mandated conditions of probation and parole.

MARCO SERNA most recently worked in the attorney general’s office.

1. My understanding, the most commonly charged misdemeanor is probably DWI.

2. You know, I wasn’t aware there were any more inmates on death row, specifically because we no longer have the death penalty.

3. LEAD actually stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, and what the program is, it’s a great program. Only Santa Fe and Seattle have these programs, but what it is, law enforcement, specifically SFPD identify individuals who are habitual drug offenders, and when they identify these individuals, they refer them to a review board who will then decide if they are appropriate for the program, and once placed in the program, they receive some assistance with housing and some assistance with getting a job, but also they are mandated to be in drug treatment programs, and they also will receive certain things like suboxone or methadone to help wean them off whatever drug—and in the majority of the cases it’s going to be an opiate, and heroin, specifically—and what’s great about the program is it’s a long-term program. I was fortunate enough to go to one of the trainings provided by the Santa Fe Police Department. And it has a great, within the last three years, they had a really good retention rate. Of the 70 individuals that have been placed in the program, 60 are still involved and receiving treatment. Also, what I love about the program is it thinks outside the box because, unfortunately, other programs have much lower success rates. What I’ve seen is there is an 8 percent success rate for 30-day programs. So these long-term programs are so successful and very beneficial. [SFR: “I’m going to cut you off there because I feel like you answered the question, and we have limited space in our paper.”] Okay, sorry about that. I really like the program.

4. So my understanding, in Santa Fe, there is the drug court. It is in Santa Fe, and that is the only problem-solving court that I can think of at the moment in the 1st Judicial District.

5. A fifth-time DWI offender, I believe that becomes felony level. Fourth-degree. And that is potentially 18 months of incarceration and up to a $5,000 fine.

Capital Counts

Students organize an event asking the city to reconsider perceptions of the Southside high school

Local NewsWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

Before ever walking through the doors at Capital High School, incoming freshmen hear a lot of things about the school—that it’s rough, that it’s a bad school, that it’s a ghetto school, that there’s a lot of violence and gangs. But Capital High students say that’s not what their experience has shown.

“You could go anywhere and see the complete opposite,” says Kevin Martinez, a Capital High senior. “People here want to go to school. They want to graduate.”

So students and their mentors from Littleglobe’s Youth Media Project have organized “City of Dreamers,” an event at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Sunday, May 8—an effort to change the community’s perceptions using short videos, live radio productions, music and on-stage conversations that show what students from Capital can do and have done.

“It’ll open doors for future generations,” says Nathalie Beltran, a Capital senior who this fall heads to St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. “They won’t see you with pity or shame.”

“It’s always assumed that they’re not worthy,” says Toby Wright, who teaches students in the AVID college-readiness program and has been at Capital for four years. “That affects them. For some of them it means, ‘I’m just going to work harder and do better. I’m just going to be a superhero, because that’s what it takes to get over this.’”

There’s no denying that at one point, the school had problems. Channell Wilson-Segura, who was a student and a teacher there before becoming its directing principal, says a zero-tolerance policy and work with the gang task force cleaned things up, beginning about eight years ago. But the students still face a fair share of issues. Every student is provided with free lunches, because so many families have incomes that fall below the poverty line. At home, Wilson-Segura says, substance abuse may be an issue, and quiet space to study is often not available. Sometimes, she says, people come forward wanting to help, and she has to explain that at times, what the students most need is something basic like deodorant to use while they’re living in a car, or business clothes to wear to an interview.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the kids at our school— they come from severe poverty or they’re not in a place, they’re homeless, or they’re undocumented, so therefore they don’t feel encouraged or excited to graduate and go on to college and get a degree, and therefore they can’t get a job,” says Heather Sellers, coordinator with the student-support organization Communities in Schools at Capital. “There are a lot of factors that are affecting these kids, and I think the more adults they have, the more things that they’re connected to, and the more people that believe in them, then they’ll be able to believe in themselves.”

Sellers brought Littleglobe, a nonprofit that coordinates community art projects with an eye on social change, to the school last year to support kids and provide some extra motivation to stay in school. Students learned how to shoot video, record audio and conduct interviews.

“All of my current students who have been involved, it really has just changed them,” Sellers says. “It really helped them feel like they were a part of something that grew into this big project. They’re super proud. … And these were some students who weren’t coming to school—ever, and now they are, and they’re totally and completely being successful.”

Both she and Littleglobe’s Chris Jonas recall hearing a story of a time students ran a carwash fundraiser and discussed not putting “Capital High” on the sign, fearing that if they did, no one would stop.

The films, radio features, music and speakers such as Estevan Rael-Galvez of Culture Connects, the city’s cultural planning effort, are intended to work together to spark conversations about immigration and equity issues in Santa Fe, using Capital as a framework.

“We talk about equity, but the language we use doesn’t demonstrate equity within our own town,” Jonas says. “For those of us who do seriously believe in social equity, we need to be conscious how we speak about Santa Fe’s Southside. We’re reiterating the same negative predisposition that our values seem to indicate is not the case.”

Opened in 1988 as Santa Fe’s second public high school, Capital has long struggled in the shadow of Santa Fe High.

A wall near Wright’s AVID classroom is hung with photos of seniors and copies of their acceptance letters, many including significant scholarship offers, and some have secured competitive national scholarships, but still, when presenters from those programs visit Santa Fe, they only stop at Santa Fe High.

“Sometimes it’s sad, because they don’t realize how much potential we could have,” says Brenda Zamarron Acosta, a senior who plans to start her higher education at Santa Fe Community College before transferring to a four-year university.

"People are going to have to actually take note of what happens here, and not just assume what happens here."

“You’re the underdog. They don’t expect you to do anything. We were overlooked, but we always found a way to get there,” says Martinez, who has secured a place in UNM’s medical school and a full-ride scholarship. “It’s kind of been motivating to me. People don’t believe you’re going to succeed. They’re like, ‘You went to Capital and you did all this?’ … People are going to have to actually take note of what happens here, and not just assume what happens here.”

Part of the success Wilson-Segura attributes to an individual case-management approach—that the specialized programs they run, like a medical careers track and AVID, allow teachers to build relationships with students over four years. If word comes through the social media grapevine that a student is struggling, even if they’ve graduated and moved on to college, Wilson-Segura will get in touch personally to ask what’s going on and how she can help.

“It’s working with every child, period,” she says. “How do we encourage them to stay in school, to like school, to like learning?”

In the current class of seniors, 55 percent applied to a four-year college and 45 percent now plan to attend.

“Our kids do have dreams, just like anybody else,” Wilson-Segura says. “Our goal is to help support that.”

City of Dreamers
7 pm Sunday, May 8
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 W San Francisco St., $5

The Sweetest Spot

All the adoration of Pie Town has brought business, and change, to a timeless destination

FeaturesWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

Twenty years ago, there was no pie in Pie Town. Now, on any given day, you may have up to four places to choose from—and thank goodness, the proprietors say, because otherwise, any one of them would be overwhelmed and guilted out of ever taking a day off.

The change began when Kathy Knapp and her mother, Mary, passed through the town and read a sign on the door of the old Pie-O-Neer Café, making the sad proclamation that it no longer sold the town’s namesake dessert. Mary declared that if Kathy would buy the place, she’d bake the pies. That partnership worked for a couple years, with Knapp dividing her time between Dallas and her career in advertising there, and the lonely retreat to a roadside café where her mother, yes, baked pies and served three meals a day, usually to locals. Then, it didn’t work anymore, and Knapp had to take over the café while her mother made a doctor-prescribed move to lower elevation.

A Russell Lee photo of Main Street in Pie Town sits near cooling pies, image by Arthur Drooker.

In the decades that have since passed, she’s made the place her own and, in the process, become something of a celebrity chef as Pie Town, a small community in the high desert in western New Mexico, has seen increasing attention, traffic and tourism. She’s had to follow through on her mother’s recommendation—to buy a few magic markers, because she’d be signing a lot of autographs.

But in the back of her mind, Knapp says, she’d always wanted to do a photography project to record the “old-timers,” the remaining few residents left over from early settlers of the town, population now about 60. Many of them arrived in the area after fleeing the Midwestern Dust Bowl to made a go of things as dirt farmers, living in homesteads dug into the ground. So when photographer Arthur Drooker called and asked if she would help him connect with the people and places of Pie Town, she said yes.

Drooker wasn’t the first photographer to be captured by the little town, and he came with a mission of retracing the path carved by Farm Service Administration photographer Russell Lee. In the 1930s and 1940s, Lee made more than 600 images of Pie Town, more than any other single location covered by the government effort to make a photographic record of American life. In an era that saw many photographers decrying color film as lowbrow, Lee loaded up a camera with Kodachrome. The end result is a stunning sampler of color images that capture a place that has long drifted decades behind its counterparts. Visually, Pie Town of the 1930s and 1940s still had one foot in the previous century.

Cutting pies and cakes at the Pie Town Fair, by Farm Service Administration photographer Russell Lee.

What Drooker’s photographs reveal, as captured in his book Pie Town Revisited, published late last year by University of New Mexico Press, is a place for which that’s still largely true. It’s a town of unpaved roads and no stoplights, of lunch tables stocked with ranchers who walk in alone but immediately find someone with whom to reminisce, to trade turkey hunting spots, to recall that year so much snow fell that a snowmobile could simply drive over the top of the fence lines. It’s a town of people who still live like they did decades ago.

Flag and pies still mark the streets of Pie Town.
Arthur Drooker

But some of that is changing.

As Pie Town has been splashed across the pages of magazines, including Smithsonian, and featured on television shows—namely Bill Geist’s CBS Sunday Morning and the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and most recently, the Travel Channel’s Hungrytown, USA—crowds have increased. And, at the same time, some of those old-timers have moved to lower elevations or passed away, and some of the iconic structures erected by early settlers with wood, tar paper and mud have collapsed.

“A little place like Pie Town, you think, Things don’t change,” Drooker says. “Things do change. I have no doubt that if I was embarking on Pie Town Revisited now, it would be a noticeably different book. The people moving into Pie Town now are retirees, people who want to get away from it all, and want to try to see if they really can make a go of being away from it all. … It’s still a very small town, still geographically isolated, still requires a certain amount of grit to make a go of it.”

Pie Town stakes a claim to a hillside along the Continental Divide, at nearly 8,000 feet in elevation, near the buttresses of the Sawtooth Mountains and south of the blackened lava flows of El Malpais, in Catron County, one of the least populated counties in the state. The highway is the only paved road. Locals talk about never needing to lock their doors or take the keys out of their cars, and occasionally finding a note in the kitchen from a neighbor who borrowed some sugar or eggs, the closest grocery store being 80 miles away in Socorro.

Rex Collins Norris Jr. holds a Russell Lee photo of his grandfather, Sam Norris.
Arthur Drooker

The place became known for pie when a prospector began selling apple pies from his general store. When the time came to petition for a post office, locals insisted the name Pie Town stick.

When Knapp first drove through, she says, “There was nothing. It was a ghost town.”

After they reopened the Pie-O-Neer, she took pies to visitor centers around New Mexico and into neighboring states to deliver the news that once again, Pie Town had pie.

For a few years, Knapp recalls, running the café meant showing up, baking a few pies with Nita Larronde (who came on board to help after Knapp’s mother left), and then the two of them sitting down to play dominoes. Particularly January to March, the road that runs by the front door, US Route 60, is basically dead—“in ’95, ’96, we could go all day without seeing a car on this road,” Knapp says.

Tearing down the Pie-O-Neer’s building might have been easier than keeping it, she concedes. Its history includes multiple fires under previous owners that left charred wood in the ceiling—a wood-burning stove in the dining room still provides the only heat—and minimal infrastructure that made for an unreliable water supply and an electrical system so temperamental it wouldn’t tolerate plugging in more than two appliances at a time.

Locals kind of dismissed the operation early on, saying, “Give them until the first hard winter,” and expecting the folks from Texas would call it quits after a few quiet and snowed-in months.

Knapp wouldn’t give up on it, though she twice tried to lease the place and walk away. Each break, she says, let her return with new ideas about how to make the café work.

When an emailed tip to CBS brought the television crew to town, the producer warned Knapp to expect that after the show aired, the phone would ring off the hook, the website would crash from too much traffic and lines would form out the door.

“I thought he didn’t know what he was talking about, but everything he said would come true, did,” Knapp says. “I didn’t think the world would find us.”

But by 10:30 am on the bitterly cold morning after that Nov. 30, 2014, airdate, the parking lot was full. Knapp opened the doors to the crowd at 11 and asked who’d been there before. The answer was, no one. She asked who’d seen them on TV. And that answer: Everyone.

“You come to Pie Town not for fame and glory, but to get away from the masses,” Knapp says. “It’s just kind of surreal.”

Pie Town Hotel, where Russell Lee lodged
Arthur Drooker

She has since rearranged the way the café works to accommodate the crowds and pared the restaurant down to pie, coffee and a simple lunch menu; she also adjusted the schedule to just Thursday, Friday and Saturday. She closes for those bitter cold winter months between Thanksgiving and Pi Day, March 14, deciding to draw the line at going home when the kitchen is so cold she has to thaw the dish soap in the microwave.

The stream of people, and media, allow for no bad pie days and no days she’s not happy to have the doors open and talk to the people who want to meet “the pie lady.”

Kathy Knapp, proprietor, Pie-O-Neer Café.
Arthur Drooker

In addition to serving slices of chocolate chess pie with red chile or pear ginger or strawberry, she tries to hand out a little history. The Pie-O-Neer is wallpapered with Russell Lee’s photographs, pink and pie-covered aprons, and images of the New Mexican landscape. The café is filled with copies of spine-busted books, among them, Far from Main Street: Three Photographers in Depression-Era New Mexico, which includes Lee’s photographs of the town. She puts those books in the hands of children, turning to pages with relatable images of a dinner table set with food or a dentist bracing a child back in a chair.

“I would hope that by coming to little, out-of-the-way places like this, kids will get to peek into the past,” Knapp says. “I know they’re going to get in the car and start thinking about what used to happen in these little towns.”

What draws the parents, though, is a hope for some portion of the life they once knew.

“It’s not realistic for most people to live in a town like this, but I’d like them to know it exists,” Knapp says. “It’s still genuinely 100 years in the past here. It’s simple. It’s challenging. It’s not for everyone. … It’s refreshing to visit an era that no longer exists most places.”

One visitor observed that it’s interesting that a bunch of old hippie-types can live in the middle of nowhere on pie, Knapp recounts, but adds, it’s true: “We are a bunch of old hippies just surviving on pie.”

The wheels aren’t slowing. With the forthcoming commercial release of The Pie Lady of Pie Town, a documentary directed and produced by Santa Fe’s own Jane Rosemont, along with additional television show appearances, Pie Town is likely to see still more visitors this summer. The annual pie festival, which takes place the second Saturday in September, drew more than 3,000 people last year, big enough that it’s become tough to wrangle with a mostly volunteer crew. The weeks up to the festival see every freezer in town filled with piecrusts, and every oven in town is baking pies the day before.

The tour buses haven’t yet arrived, Knapp says, but it’s only a matter of time. More and more, her guest book shows entries not by people who happily stumbled onto a slice of pie and a serving of nostalgia on their way to somewhere else but vistiors for whom Pie Town was the destination.

“It’s a good thing because you want your business to flourish,” Knapp says, “but it brings an element of change you’re never quite ready for.”

Sam Norris and wife, homesteaders, from the original Russell Lee visits to Pie Town in the 1930s and ‘40s.

And then, of course, there’s Drooker’s book, which sports Knapp’s photo on the cover. When he first called Knapp looking for a local contact and introductions to some of the old-timers around town, she says, she told him, “Come quick; there aren’t many left.”

He did, making the first of seven trips to Pie Town within a couple months of their first phone call in 2011, and he caught both buildings and people before they were gone.

"It’s almost like it went from black-and-white to color, and he was right there before it changed."

“It’s almost like it went from black-and-white to color, and he was right there before it changed,” Knapp says.

Most people didn’t really want to be interviewed or photographed. They’re private, proud, a bit reticent and disinclined to open up to pushy producers. But Drooker was different.

“He nailed the pioneer homesteading spirit, the Grapes of Wrath—he got it because he’d been fascinated by these people’s lives,” Knapp says.

Collectively speaking, it’s a record of all of our ancestors, she says. It’s all our families in those pages.

“What Arthur did is, he put us in touch with our past, and I’m grateful because a lot of it is gone,” Knapp says.

Drooker dates his interest in photography—and, for that matter, the Farm Service Administration’s deployment of photographers around the country, where they made some 175,000 images of rural America and the war effortto his teenage years in the 1960s and 1970s.

Only recently, after decades working in television and film, did his mind turn back to that early affection.

Nita Larronde poses at The Toaster House, a hostel for hikers.
Arthur Drooker

“I think most people, certainly a lot of people, when they turn 50, it’s a time to have an involuntary life review, and I certainly had one,” he tells SFR in a telephone interview from San Francisco. “I really had a sit-down with myself to sort of see where I was in my life, take stock and see what I wanted to do with my life in the time that I had left, and one of the questions I asked myself is, what makes me happy? Interestingly or oddly, working in television at thattime did not make the list.”

What did, however, was that persistent interest in photography. He decided to change the balance.

“Instead of being a guy who worked, worked, worked in television and squeezed photography in when he had a chance, I was going to do photography and squeeze television in only when I needed to,” he says.

What followed were two books, American Ruins and Lost Worlds: Ruins of the Americas, which presented haunting images of deteriorating structures. He’d never been happier. He then returned to the ambitions of his teenage years and to a promise he’d made to himself: to someday go where a Farm Service Administration photographer had been. He’d had no specific place in mind, until Lee’s images of Pie Town surfaced while he was working on the film Seabiscuit in 2002.

“He’s photographing these homesteaders who escaped the Dust Bowl and resettled in Pie Town, and they’re living like 1800s pioneers. They’re dirt farming, which is as simple as it gets,” he says.

That Lee shot some images in color, which was rare at the time, made his work stand out.

“That’s when I thought, Pie Town is the place I want to go,” he says.

Visiting the town over the course of four years, Drooker photographed its current residents against the backdrop of their wood-sided homes and dilapidated buildings. In some, he places Lee’s photographs in the landscape, so a gaggle of women and children striding past the Farm Service Bureau building in the 1940s seems to approach a row of pies cooling on a baking rack. A farmer kneels at a pile of pinto beans, the image losing its edges in the weeds just off the side of the highway, and one of the skyward eyes of the Very Large Array peeking over the top of the photo. A cowboy holds a photo of a Pie Town rodeo to his chest, the wooden beams of a corral laced behind him.

The Pie-O-Neer Café is no longer the only stop for pie in town. The Pie Town Café has changed hands, and names, in recent years, but continues to serve pie and lunch. Last year saw the opening of The Gatherin’ Place, a full-service restaurant run by Janine McMurtrey and Brad Brown, and The Pie Source, which Cyndi Fowler runs out of a cabin that’s been restored to look much the way it would have when a homesteading family lived in it.

Drooker’s “FSA @VLA” shows the Very Large Array radio observatory with a Russell Lee photo of Bill Stagg, a homesteader.
Arthur Drooker

The point of these multiple options is, in part, to make sure that on any given day, everyone passing through Pie Town can get pie. They’re not competitive, the restaurant owners insist, instead calling around to let one another know when they’re closing or when they’ve been busy, or even when they’re running low on pie.

The Gatherin’ Place started as a gift shop, McMurtrey says, but people kept coming in and asking if they sold pie. So now, she does. The restaurant stayed open all winter, a rarity in this frigid outpost.

“It is slower, but it definitely paid to keep the doors open,” she says.

The publicity has brought people on the early and late ends of the season, and The Gatherin’ Place intends to catch them. Just since June, they’ve seen visitors lured in by mention of the town in the Chicago Tribune, and people who have come all the way from Spain with Pie Town as their destination. A map of the United States on the wall, for visitors to mark where they’re from, has been up for just four months and already has pins in all 50 states. The wooden doorframes people can sign have signatures from Nigeria, Madagascar, China and Switzerland.

At times, McMurtrey meets them at the door with dough on her hands, taking orders off a menu dominated by BBQ and burgers. Diners sit family style and often share the table with new acquaintances, sometimes exchanging phone numbers.

“Welcome to a time that doesn’t exist anymore,” says McMurtrey, who relocated with her husband six years ago from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “I traded stiletto heels for boots and mud.”

And, for that matter, 3 million people for 60.

“We knew we wanted to slow down,” she says. “This was like hitting the brakes.”

But it just felt right, she says. Their first winter, they weathered 32-degree-below-zero temperatures and three feet of snow. But she claims it was worth it.

“In big cities, you have acquaintances,” she says. “In Pie Town, you have friends.”

The Pie Source Homestead Café sits on the eastern edge of town, behind a forest of windmills. Inside the cabin, alongside an old-style washing machine and a wall hung with yellowing newspapers and magazines from World War II and rows of antique coffee cups, Fowler sells just coffee and pie—including her twist on Southwest apple pie, baked with piñón nuts and red chile.

“If everybody’s closed, I’m open,” Fowler says. “It used to be, if you closed, people were mad.”

Asked what brings people to Pie Town, she answers simply, “What I hear from them all is, ‘I want to be able to say I had pie in Pie Town.’”

Sure enough, a woman and her grandson walk in, take a seat at the one table in the dining room, sip some coffee and each indulge in a slice of pie. She says she’d driven through before and told the skeptical teenager, “I betcha we’re going to find a pie place.”

He appeared doubtful, until Fowler set a slice of cherry pie down in front of him.

No one wants people to leave Pie Town disappointed. But it’ll be authenticity that matters, Knapp says, not the media buzz.

“The Pie Town mentality will keep you humble,” she says. “You’re so busy being a personality, you don’t pay attention, and if I don’t pay attention, it’s not going to be great, and it has to be great. It’s my reputation.”

“There’s this increased self-awareness about the town and its tourism potential, and if that continues, then it’s almost like Pie Town just becomes a different version of itself,” Drooker says. “In some respects, it loses or could lose a certain unvarnished, un-self-conscious sense of authenticity, and that’s something personally I would keep an eye on just to see what becomes of a town as a result of all this attention that’s coming to it. … If you’ve been there before and you go there now, you’ll see some changes. Whether those changes continue, whether things develop more, I think that remains to be seen.”

His advice: “You should check it out. It’s a little bit of a drive, but I think you’ll like it. And if you like pie, you’ll love it.”

7 Days


7 DaysWednesday, May 4, 2016 by SFR


But only if it’s served in tiny cardboard boxes with straws.



At least one thing got built there.



Keep America great with student loan debt.



Anyone else have whiplash? Last week, the city was still broke.



You can get in line right after those Intel people.



When losing the funk is a bad thing.



Now he’s really burning bridges.


MetroGlyphsWednesday, May 4, 2016 by SFR
Russ Thornton is a Santa Fe local who has replaced his first passion, cooking, with a new love interest, the weekly SFR comic he's created called MetroGlyphs. Reach him at


Lifesongs helps and heals across generations

Music FeaturesWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Alex De Vore

We are conditioned to fear the concept and ramifications of aging. The ancient Egyptians would surely find this ridiculous, but it’s true: Aging and dying are mostly terrifying, and we spend the vast majority of our time attempting to either ward these things off or forget about them as best we can. As such, we tend to neglect the elders in our lives and communities, due to our own complicated feelings. All too often, these people are forgotten, shoved into nursing homes or hospice situations and then trotted out to sit in the corner during holidays or family gatherings. This could almost allow us to feel like we’re good people, but at the end of the day, we sweep them back under the rug until the next time we’re forced to interact. Granted, the societal fear of aging plays a much larger role than we might like to admit, but the point remains the same.

Enter Lifesongs, a program from the Academy for the Love of Learning. We’ve talked about them before in brief; Lifesongs’ most basic premise is that composers, singers and musicians work with elders to create original songs based upon their lives and experiences. It’s really only a small amount of what they do, but it is honestly enough.

“It’s connecting to something greater than myself, and it’s such an honor every day I get to do this work,” 35-year-old volunteer Vanessa Torres tells SFR. Torres, a counselor and lifelong musician who has been involved with the program for the last 18 months, echoes a story similar to others who work with Lifesongs, like singer Alysha Shaw or composer Grisha Krivchenia. They each went into the program with the assumption they were the ones doing good but say they wound up feeling fulfilled in unimagined ways.

“This isn’t just a program, it’s a movement,” Torres says. “We are bridging the gap in this conversation about aging and dying. … I was kind of scared of death, but I’ve become more comfortable and aware that it’s no t a bad thing to get older.”

Eighteen-year-old Elle Knowlton learned similar lessons after writing a song titled “Tears for Santo Domingo” with a local woman named Rita Pacheco, 72. “She had this whirlwind of a life, as the only girl in a family of brothers, and her mother, who was her idol, died when she was young; she actually has dementia now,” Knowlton says. “Being able to share her pain has been hard, but this is such soulful work to be doing.”

Knowlton, a member of the Santa Fe Opera’s Young Voices, is just one of many teens who work with the elders and an excellent example of the multigenerational possibilities of the program. The high school senior is also the perfect candidate to illustrate an important side effect of Lifesongs: Teens, like elders, are often written off as incapable or unimportant, and their experiences in going through life are not entirely dissimilar. This allows for an easier connection. “I hadn’t thought of that,” Knowlton says. “But it’s totally true.”

As for the elders themselves, they tend to blossom when they get involved. According to Catherine Sandoval, senior activities director for Santa Fe Care Center, “Lifesongs is a meaningful thing for us because [the seniors] are getting out of the building and going to a safe space, where they’re looked at like human beings, and that changes the culture of how we think about aging.”

“I was relieved of my anger,” 79-year-old Nancy Fresquez, a resident of Santa Fe Care Center, tells SFR of her own experience with the program. “I’m a new person now.” As for her fellow resident Herman Sandoval, 87, he jokingly states that he’s happy to “be spending my time with young people instead of just old people.”

Both Fresquez and Sandoval will appear onstage alongside Torres, Knowlton and myriad others.

“It’s not about just documenting or extracting stories, it’s actually a celebration of what it is to be human,” director and co-founder Acushla Bastible says. “We’re all seeking connection; that’s missing from so many people’s lives, and with Lifesongs, there are these moments of real, meaningful connection.”

I Saw the Mystery: Lifesongs in Concert 2016
7 pm Saturday, May 7. $10.
Lensic Performing Arts Center,
211 W San Francisco St.

The Frugal Carnivore

Sharpen your knife and fill your freezer with filet mignon

Food WritingWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Gwyneth Doland

Last week in reviewing a new steakhouse, The Bourbon Grill at El Gancho, I mentioned that I like to buy nice cuts of beef and cook steaks at home. I do this because a) it’s cheaper and b) I think it’s fun, plus c) I get to drink as much wine as I want while I’m cooking and d) I don’t have to put on real pants to do any of it. Win.

As I said, this doesn’t really work for things like prime rib because a) it requires a Flintstone-sized roast, which b) is quite expensive and c) is just too much effort for a Tuesday night.

Filet mignon is another story. Yes, it’s expensive if you buy two prepackaged steaks in the meat section at the grocery store. But here’s a great secret: You can save a lot by buying a whole tenderloin and trimming it yourself. Last week at Costco, I bought a 7-pound tenderloin (USDA Choice, because Prime wasn’t available) for $82 and turned it into 11 smallish filets, half a pound of what I called stir-fry slices and a pound of cubed meat, perfect for beef stroganoff or bourguignon or whatever you want to do with super tender little beef chunks.

That’s less than $7 for a filet mignon. Not bad, eh?

If Costco doesn’t work for you, ask the meat counter attendant at your favorite grocery store if they’ll sell you a whole tenderloin.

When you get it home, make a little bed of paper towels on the kitchen counter, near the sink. Then, holding the meat over the sink, cut open the plastic and allow the liquid to drain. Set the meat on the paper towels and pat it dry. Move it to the cutting board.

The best bargain in tenderloin isn’t very pretty; it’s a lumpy shape, all covered with weird chunks of fat and silverskin. This is why you paid less than $12 per pound for tenderloin. But believe me, it’s worth it.

Now get familiar with your tenderloin. Notice there’s a flat, skinny end to the meat and a wide, fat end. There’s also a long piece of meat kind of stuck all along one side. We’re going to separate this into three pieces.

First, use your fingers to peel off all the sheathing of fat and connective tissue that envelops the meat.

Pretty quickly, you see the three parts emerge. Pull the membrane away from the central part of the meat and use your knife to gently separate the chain (that long, skinny strip) from the tenderloin.

Put the chain on a plate or a piece of foil; we’ll deal with it later.

Now, remove the other piece—the miniature roast that makes up half of the fat end of the tenderloin— and put it with the chain.

Next, we need to remove the silverskin, that long, shiny piece of tissue that runs the length of the tenderloin. Start at the bottom, and get the tip of your knife under the silverskin. If you’ve successfully removed the skin from a piece of salmon, use that same technique here. Lift and wiggle the silverskin as you gently work your knife underneath it, trying to take off as little meat as possible. It’s not easy to do this well, so you may have some cleanup to do.

Now, you should have a pretty tenderloin.

Lay out another plate or piece of foil for the trimmings you want to keep for another purpose.

I like a little steak (4-6 ounces), and my dude likes a big one (6-8 ounces), plus I’m kind of fussy, so I use my kitchen scale to weigh out the pieces.

I cut the steaks and then weigh each one, wrap it in plastic and then in foil, and use a Sharpie to write the weight and the date on it.

I used trim and portion tenderloins all the time back when I worked in restaurants, and it was important to get them as uniform as possible, so that every customer’s steak weighed as much as you promised, and they all looked equal when they came to the table.

But at home, this is probably not as important, so just cut steaks that look good to you. It’s nice to have a variety of weights and thicknesses to reach for in the freezer.

A good piece of tenderloin is delicious when seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked in a hot cast iron pan. A little olive oil in the pan is good. Cooking the steak in beef fat is great.

If you want to dress it up a little, make a little sour cherry sauce while the cooked steaks are resting. Add some olive oil or beef fat to the pan if it’s dry. Sauté a minced shallot or ¼ cup minced onion over medium heat, just until they’re translucent. Add ¼ cup of port, cognac, madeira, sherry or whatever, and let it simmer until it’s almost gone. Throw in a handful of dried tart cherries and ½ cup low-sodium beef. Simmer for a few minutes while the cherries plump and the sauce thickens. If you have demi-glace in the fridge, drop in a couple tablespoons of that. Otherwise, you can do butter. Or you can leave it. Either way, season the sauce with salt and pepper and pour it over your steaks.

Small Bites

Eat at Luminaria and #SFRFoodies

Small BitesWednesday, May 4, 2016 by SFR


Joy Godfrey
The goods at the Inn and Spa at Loretto are the very definition of scrumptious. Think red chile braised short rib egg rolls ($10), a Maryland jumbo lump crab cake ($10) accompanied by Granny Smith apple slaw and saffron aioli and a signature tortilla soup that’s picture-perfect for a Santa Fe fall. Thanks to South Bronx-born chef Marc Quiñones, you’ll be asking for a late checkout, or at least meander on at your table, making an experience out of every bite. “What matters to me, is that I want to embrace the locals,” Quiñones told me, as my Dirty BLT, which includes a fried egg, got delivered. “It was all about figuring out what the locals here in Santa Fe find enjoyable, and how do I give that to them in a way that’s exciting and relevant, but still something that’s close to home from a comfort standpoint,” he continued. Mission accomplished. Now, someone please hand me a napkin.

-Enrique Limón

211 Old Santa Fe Trail, 984-7915 Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; brunch on Sunday


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Morning Word: Grief Overcomes Navajo Nation

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