Down in Albuquerque’s South Valley, along the river, is an old piece of vacant land sandwiched between a housing development and one of the last close-in farms. To the south is a lovely grove of cottonwoods that until recently was a horse pasture. To the north is a field of chiles, still hanging red on the dead plants this year. To the west is a narrow ribbon of bike trail. There’s some sort of hazardous contamination on the site, which is why nothing’s been built there and no one farms there. But when I first started riding the bike trail years ago, there was a little homestead back in the scraggly shrubs, a homeless guy who had built an elaborate home for himself out of scrap wood and tarpaper and bits of metal.
The camp disappeared a long time ago. If I remember right, it was about the time the U.S. Postal Service bought a big chunk of the land for a regional processing center back in 2000. I assumed they kicked the guy out and came in and tore down his “home”. The postal deal fell through, but the deed was done.
Yesterday, Miguel and I were on a bike wander and pulled up by accident next to the old camp. I’d always been zipping by, so I’d never given it a close-up look. I never noticed the little cemetery.
LIES MY BEST FREND
THE KING PIN
There are five gravestones: “Princess (and pupy)”, “Duke”, “Big Bear”, “Lil Bear”, and “Skitter”.
Whoever lived there loved his dogs very much. Whoever came in and knocked the homestead down understood this, and left the gravestones standing. There are chunks of wood and a little wire garden border fence around it demarcating the sacred space. Each gravestone has little stuffed animals at its base. And there is something I didn’t notice until I was working the pictures this morning – there is not much in the way of weeds marring the dirt. Now I imagine Snoopy Snoop’s owner coming back year after year to take care of this sad sweet solemn place.