Missing an entire upper row of teeth, he greeted me in his El Rito yard surrounded by piles of firewood and friendly orange cats.
I pulled up to the pile, nose first; “you might not believe this, but we are putting the wood in the front”. “I know”, he said, “it’s a Tesla”. And he reviewed what he had heard about the battery plant that might have gone to Albuquerque but went to Reno instead, about the falling out between Musk and Fiskar, about Elon’s rockets and how they didn’t use Russian engines and didn’t blow up like the Virgin Galactic flight this month, and about the high-performance battery research going on at Los Alamos. All this with his sonorous, New Mexican-hispanic voice, big smile, and warm, lighthearted eyes.
As we worked together loading the wood, he told me about competing with Olguin’s in Taos — where I was going to get wood, but who was sold-out — over a big latilla and viga job. It was clear he didn’t think much of them. While we finished loading the wood, the kitties finished putting muddy prints on the car.
“Would you like to go for a ride?” “Sure!” As we drove a circuit through El Rito, he noted how quiet the car was, except for the tires on the chip seal surface. I said, “yes”, and noted that earlier in the day I had gotten to drive on 285, and it was smooth as could be. He said, “yes, they put a great surface there because of all the truck traffic. They did it as part of Obama’s Recovery Act a few years ago, along with a bunch of bridges that have needed repair for 50 years. It was good. It put a lot of folks around here to work.”
As we headed back to his house, I missed it and went too far. We stopped a few hundred feet further on, and I asked if it would be okay to back into the nearby driveway. “I don’t want anyone to have to bark at us…” “If they do, I’ll bark back”, he said softly, easily, and warmly, still wearing his excited, unpretentious smile.
I told him I’d be back.