In Oñate’s dust

I don’t want to tick off everyone over at Acoma by even writing about the guy, but for years windy springs in New Mexico have brought Don Juan de Oñate to mind, particularly when I’m driving up the Camino Real.

I can’t help but imagine several hundred Spanish soldiers and their leader, with grit in their teeth and down their collars, struggling up the Rio Grande toward Ohkay Owingeh through billowing gales of New Spain dust.onate

I know it was an important mission for the crown, and I’m sure has a lot to do with why I’m here now, but in my experience few things are worse than working outdoors in the spring. The worst job I ever had was building fence in the Owens Valley in March. I’m guessing that trekking 350 miles up the Rio Grande for King Phillip II between April and July was a bit more of a chore.

Now, I admit the roughest of my experiences this weekend, four centuries later, was driving last night in a Honda Element to Santa Fe for a reunion of near-colonial journalists at the even more historic Tiny’s Restaurant and Lounge. Both hands grasped the wheel of the bulky vehicle even before I got to the wind-warning signs at Tonque Wash on San Felipe Pueblo. I think most of Algodones already had blown by me on its way to Tucumcari. Today, Cooper and I put off a hike for a mere drive to the grocery store in the truck, with even Cooper seeming glad that the windows were rolled up. Even so, with much of Arizona moving through eastern Sandoval County, my sinuses are throbbing and my thoughts are again drifting to the probable miseries of an expeditionary force long ago.

We’ll go out for an evening walk if the wind settles down, but for now we are in full retreat.

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