16th Century Relics Have Stories in NM By Marc Simmons
he Ladrόn Mountains are a small, isolated range southwest of Belen and are easily visible from most high points between Albuquerque and Socorro. The Spanish word ladrόn means “thief,” so these heights were well named. Long ago, Apaches used the mountains as a base for launching raids against Spanish towns in the Rio Grande Valley and upon caravans traveling the Camino Real. One warm spring day, in 1917, a New Mexican cowboy gathering cattle on the east slope of the Ladrόns suddenly spied the narrow opening of a cave. Dismounting, he entered and found a large hide trunk. Inside, he discovered only a handful of old books, all dating from the 16th Century. One was a Bible in Hebrew and Greek, published at Antwerp, Belgium, in 1584. It also contained a volume of sermons and a small book of verse with a poem on the silk worm and another on the game of chess. What the cowboy had stumbled upon was a “treasure cave,” once used by Apaches to stash booty. After a raid, the Indians would bring their stolen property to such a place and hide it until needed for their own use, or until it could be disposed of at a profit. It is likely that the trunk also had contained other valuables that were long since carried away. I obtained more information on this story a few years ago from Jim Nance, whose ranch is southwest of the Ladrόns. He told me that the ancient trunk was brought into Socorro by the finder and turned over to the priest at the local San Miguel church.
A committee was formed to deal with disposition of the trunk. It was decided that, owing to the great antiquity of this “treasure,” it and the books should be donated to the Smithsonian Institution. According to Nance, “My greatgrandfather, being a master carpenter, built the crate the items were shipped in. And he was on hand when it was sent.” He added, “The last we heard, the books were in the Newberry Library of Chicago and the trunk had vanished.” We next pick up the tale in April 1922, when a Chicago book collector by the name of E.J. Goodspeed published an article on these same New Mexico relics, which had recently come into his possession. The vaunted Smithsonian obviously kicked loose the gift from Socorro. In his article, Goodspeed described the trunk in some detail. It was a typical New Mexican rawhide chest, decorated with appliqué and lined with soft buckskin. Heavy wrought-iron hinges and a great round lock plate gave it the appearance of a strongbox. Evidently, after Goodspeed’s death, the books were sold or given to the famed Newberry Library. The trunk, as indicated, disappeared. From Nance I gathered that he and his family still doubt that donations to public museums are safe, considering that even the Smithsonian cannot guarantee the gifts will not end up in private hands. .
Library Features Work of Landscape Artist The Loma Colorado Main Library will host an exhibit of oil canvas and acrylic-on-wood paintings by artist Matthew A. Kear and a reception for the artist Dec. 2-29. “I enjoy being in the elements of nature and witnessing the beauty of the earth’s creations,” Kear says. “When I first moved to New Mexico a few years ago, I visited the magnificent rock formations in the Jemez National Forest. These remarkable formations grabbed my attention and inspired an exploration of the color and textures that make up the landscapes around me. This body of work is a small display of some of nature’s elements, textures and colors that have imprinted upon my mental imagery of the New Mexico landscape.” Mr. Kear moved to New Mexico from Arizona and is a student at the University of New Mexico. He will soon be graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. The exhibit, to be held in the library auditorium, Loma Colorado Dr. NE, Rio Rancho, is free and open to the public. Call (505) 891-5013, extension 3033, for more information. The reception will be held Dec. 5 from 2 to 4 PM.
Doctor-Assisted Suicide on the Docket Join the Albuquerque chapter of Compassion and Choices for an interactive discussion on the topic of doctor-assisted suicide. Speaker David A. Bennahum, M.D., a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, is a scholar in residence at the Institute for Ethics at the University of New Mexico. The meeting will be held Dec. 5 from 10 AM until noon at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, located at 202 Harvard Dr. SE in Albuquerque. Bennahum’s topic, “Should Physicians Participate in Assisted Suicide?: A Conversation,” will be followed by a question and answer period. Thoughts and concerns are encouraged. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (505) 275-1827.
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