Sunday, July 27, 2008

Excerpt from book, Fly With The Mourning Dove
Dance At The Sagebrush Inn

That winter was bitterly cold and snow fell day and night until the only way to get around was by sled.
The phone rang one evening and Edna answered.
“Hi, it’s Imogene Patchen. How are you?”
“We’re fine, and you?”
“The same. Listen, we’ve been invited to attend the grand opening of the Sage Brush Inn in Taos. You know the one Tony Lujan and Mabel Dodge built . . . or are still building?”
“Oh, my. That’s exciting. Are you going?”
“Of course, and we want you to go with us.”
Edna caught her breath, unable to answer for a moment.
“You there? Did you hear me?”
“Yes . . . yes. Wow, that would be super. Are you sure it’s all right?”
“Oh, yes, they said we should bring guests. It’s a huge affair, and you’ll want to dress up.”
Mabel Dodge and Antonio Lujan were the best party givers in New Mexico. Writers and artists, famous people like Thornton Wilder, Thomas Wolfe, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, Edward Hopper and Mary Austin often dropped by. Once Mabel Dodge had a dinner party for the writer, D.H. Lawrence. It was said she hoped he would write a book about her. So far that hadn’t happened.
Antonio Lujan had been Mabel’s chauffeur, but eventually she had married him, even though he already had an Indian wife by the name of Candelaria. He himself was a Tewa Indian, and Mabel immediately embraced his culture.
Edna hung up the phone and danced around the room. Once she settled down enough to explain, Pop said:
“I guess we’ll have to figure out a way to get you to such a splendid affair. Wouldn’t want you to miss it.”
Outside, the snow had piled up so deep that the Chevrolet couldn’t plow through it.
“What will you wear?” Mom asked.
“The emerald green transparent velvet dress I bought in Albuquerque last summer. It cost me ten dollars. You remember, I showed it to you and you asked where I ever thought I’d wear that. Certainly not to a Saturday night dance in Tres Piedras.”
Mom nodded, a frown creasing her forehead. “Well, I don’t know how you’re going to get there.”
Edna knew Mother would like to be going to the party as well, and felt bad that she wasn’t.
Pop, who’d gone back to reading Zane Grey, glanced up, marking his place with a finger.
“I gave Tom Lowance a milk cow for part of his wages. He’s been wanting to get it home. We can load Edna and that cow onto the sled. The mules can pull it and take them into Tres Piedras. Tom will get his cow and she can go to her party.”
Excitement building, Edna pirouetted. “I’ll call Florida and make sure I can stay there overnight so I can catch the train to the Patchen’s in Taos Junction the next morning. Oh, Pop, thank you. Thank you.”
She threw her arms around her surprised father, then circled around the room once again. Everyone would be dancing. What a wonderful time she would have. And no telling who she might get to meet. Mabel Dodge and Tony Lujan. Wow.
Once safely delivered to Tres Piedras on the sled, along with Tom Luance’s cow, Edna spent the night with Florida and rode the train over to Taos Junction. From there she traveled with the Patchens by car to Taos.
The Sage Brush Inn had been built about halfway between Taos and Ranchos de Taos. There was a huge crowd at the grand opening. People from Santa Fe to Questa came. They bought their supper there and then there was a dance with live music. Oh, it was a great affair, and she could hardly believe she was there.
Dance after dance, she went from one man’s arms into another’s, whirling under the twinkling lights, scarcely pausing between sets.
Tony and Mabel Lujan took the crowd on a tour of all the finished rooms of the rambling abode. Edna was fascinated with Mabel, who as a white woman, had adopted the Pueblo way of dressing. She wore her thick chestnut hair as they did, with bangs covering her forehead to frame wide gray eyes wide. The couple appeared devoted, though it was an odd pairing. Mabel had all the money, but Tony appeared well-to-do and comfortable around her friends.
Edna returned eagerly to the dance floor after the tour, dancing on into the night.
Leaving a partner, she glanced over the crowd and saw the Patchens, motioning to her. They were ready to leave. She took a step and came face to face with Antonio Lujan himself. Over six feet tall. Adorned in colorful Pueblo attire, he wore his ebony hair in two plaits. She felt so tiny standing before him. Shivers ran down her back and she just kept smiling up at him like an idiot. Such a handsome man.
Say something. Anything.
She tried, but she couldn’t.
Then he did. “Might I have this dance?”
He held out a hand, large and broad and brown.
She swallowed, dragged in a deep breath. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, unable to recognize her own shaky voice. “But we were just leaving. Thank you. I . . . thank . . .”
With that she whirled away from him and shoved her way through the crowded dancers.
She approached John and Imogene Patchen and knew her face was flushed red. “Oh, dear. Oh, my goodness.”
“What in the world is wrong?” John asked. “Are you all right? Did someone—?”
“No, nothing like that. I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe he—”
“Child, stop babbling. What is it?”
“Tony Lujan . . . he asked me for a dance.”
“He did. That’s wonderful,” Imogene said. “ . . . isn’t it?”
“Well, yes, of course, but I . . . I can’t believe I told him no.”
“You didn’t. What were you thinking?”
“I guess I wasn’t. He’s so . . . large . . . and imposing . . . and he’s married to Mable Dodge.”
“Yes, so?”
John, who had stood by in gruff silence, said, “Well, come on, let’s go. And Edna, I’m going to make you walk the canon. Tony owes me fifteen dollars and he thought you were one of the Patchens. Now I’ll never get it.”


Marsha Ward said...

Nice excerpt, Velda. I hope John eventually got his fifteen dollars back!

Anonymous said...

No, he never did get his fifteen dollars back. Funny, hmmm?