Across the Purple Sage – Jerry Barksdale

Part 7
Jerry BarksdaleOne day my quest for eating less cholesterol is going to result in my nose getting busted. I rose early at the Kachina Inn at Taos and went for early morning coffee. The two red-heads had arrived road weary from Athens the previous evening and were sleeping late. After coffee, I decided to eat breakfast and was told to go across the hallway to the buffet. No one was present.


An obese Indian with long braids emerged from the kitchen scowling.

“What ‘ye want?”

“Sir, I eat low cholesterol. Would you be kind enough to scramble two egg whites for me?”


A white dude with a pony tail, who I’d seen riding a Harley walked in and inquired about the gravy.

“It ain’t gravy. It’s grits!” The cook said angrily and mumbled something derogatory. The biker set down his tray and cussed the fat cook who quickly retreated back into the kitchen. I felt guilty. Just because I wanted to lower my cholesterol, I had triggered violence.

Several years ago, a cook at a restaurant in Ardmore told me in no certain terms that he wouldn’t scramble egg whites no matter what my cholesterol level was. Recently, I had a similar experience at an expensive hotel in New Orleans.

My, how times have changed. It used to be calling someone an SOB would get your nose busted, now it’s saying “low cholesterol.”

As I had predicted, the redheads, Pat and her niece, Penni, defamed my pick-up. The driver had to slide the bench seat forward in order to reach the clutch pedal, causing the passenger’s knees to touch the dash. They blamed it on my truck. I said it was their short legs.

Later, we drove out to the Pueblo where scroungy dogs were lying in the shade, flapping their tails in hot dust. Many people continue to live in the Pueblo, where jewelry, paintings, pottery, homemade bread and pies are sold. The bread is baked outside in an adobe horno, which resembles a large ant hill. After hot cedar coals have heated the inside walls, they are removed, the bread is slid inside pizza-fashion, and the opening is sealed with a flat rock. It isn’t cornbread, but it’s good. Robert Mirabal, a tall, slim Native American with long braided hair was selling CDs. He’s a Grammy winning flute player. In the movies you usually hear Robert’s flute music while some Indian maiden gathers berries or bathes in the river. I purchased a CD for Pat, hoping to make amends for the short leg comment and later asked Robert where Tony Luhan had once lived. He pointed out the location. Luhan, a big handsome Indian, had left his wife and married wealthy heiress Mabel Dodge, patron of the arts. Shortly after, she moved to Taos in 1917 in search of self. I walked over to where Luhan had lived, and met his cousin. “Mabel took Tony away from wife and paid her alimony,” he said. “She got big deal out of divorce. She come out real good.”

Ummm, I wondered if some desperate woman would pay my monthly alimony? After a moment’s reflection, I decided no woman was that desperate.

Shannon phoned and invited us to lunch at The Bavarian, high in the mountains. The narrow pavement snakes 18 miles upward along the rushing Rio Hondo, and ends at Taos Ski Valley, (elevation 10,000 feet). The Bavarian is several miles farther up a dirt road. During the winter ski season, people ski up and have lunch on the large sun drenched deck. Thomas and his wife, Jamie are the owners. Thomas is from Bavaria, and Jamie is a full blooded Cheyenne from Montana. Shannon, office manager and sometimes hostess, had reserved a table for us on the deck. The air was cool and the sun warm. Someone pointed out an elderly and stooped man and said: “There’s that grumpy old actor again.”

“Who is he?” I asked.

“Dean Stockwell.” I remembered him. He was a big shot actor in the 1960s, and appeared with Marilyn Monroe – I think.

Unwilling to incur a busted nose in front of my friends, I didn’t ask for the low cholesterol menu. Instead, I ordered a buffalo bratwurst hot dog, French fries and a German beer. Wow! Cholesterol sure does taste good.

Late afternoon, we headed across the sage brush and down a rutted dirt road to Shannon’s “off the grid” adobe house on Wild Horse Mesa. Near a tee-pee, Shannon pointed to a five gallon plastic bucket on the side of the road where a “live music” sign was nailed to a fence post. “Sometimes a guy is out here in his underwear jumping around and playing a guitar,” she said. “That’s his tip bucket.”

We passed the junkyard with goats in the road, turned left at the boot on the fence post, and pulled up near a green outhouse in Shannon’s front yard. The red heads got out and looked around in silence.

The sunset was breathtaking. A chill fell across the mesa, and 12 year old Leslie built a fire in the pit. We sat around its warmth and watched as a storm approached from the west.

That night, I squirted Afrin up my nose and went to bed serenaded by coyotes, then the rain came. Bonnie and Penni, who slept in the dog’s master bedroom woke wet and chilled when water poured in from an overhead light socket. There was a bright side – Penni didn’t see the dog hair on the sheets until daylight.

But heck, it was a new day, and that promised more adventure.

-To Be Continued-

Speedy Legal