Monticello is such a place for me.
Growing up in
Truth or Consequences, I had a friend who lived in Monticello, in
the orange house on the left in the picture above. That house seemed
to me then, and it still does. My friend's bedroom was about the size
a studio apartment. The kitchen was big too, and most of the cabinets
the storage space under the table were stocked with food, in case a
kept my friend's family from getting out to T. or C. for food. There
an attic, and at least three other rooms. Even the porch was enormous.
When I spent the night, we usually started a
fire in the
old Franklin stove in my friend's room. I'd fall asleep to the sharp
of burning wood, studying the patterns in the ornamental tin on the
and wondering if his dog Barney, who was also huge, would come sleep
During the day, we found plenty of ways to get
The church next door was usually left open. We'd climb to the choir
where the old pump organ waited in the dark, and one of us would pump
the other pounded on the keyboard. The organ's keys were brittle and
(whether from overuse or lack of use, I never knew). Over and over we
the organ's lungs to capacity and bellowed notes into the dark church,
afraid of stopping because we knew the silence that would come after
be far too somber and disturbing.
My friend told spooky stories to keep me up at
Maybe they were true. One was about a man who tried to rob that very
until he looked up and saw the statue of the Virgin Mary nodding her
"no." Another was about the "Monticello Light" - a
ball of light that once followed his Dad home at night. We were
to find the Light for ourselves, and planned one evening to stake out
the back roads of Monticello until we caught it. But we made those
in the safety of daylight, and when night fell, we conveniently forgot.
When we got thirsty we went to Rosie's
Cantina, just across
from my friend's house. Not much of a cantina really, but the only
in town to get a soda. Rosie was remarkably mean, or maybe it just
that way to my young and easily-shattered ego. She'd yell at us when we
asked for Cokes, and shoo us quickly out after we paid for them. A
was all she charged. Despite her temperment, Rosie must have been
The old school was a favorite place to spend
a shell of its WPA glory days, the school had burned "because a
experiment exploded in chemistry class," my friend told me, and
I never thought to question it. We climbed on the crumbling walls,
secure in the childhood belief that gravity was our friend. We never
from the walls, but my brother fell one time from our makeshift
in an old cottonwood alongside the arroyo running down to the school.
ruptured his spleen when he hit the ground. Ah, the good old days.
My friend is now a successful software
salesman in California.
We keep in touch through e-mail and the occasional visit.
Do I believe in ghosts?
(click on the
image to see a larger picture)
We bought Cokes from
Rosie's Cantina, 25 cents
The old schoolhouse,
through not in use when
we played there, still
managed to teach me