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family—four kids, plus Darlene’s mom, grandmother, and several nieces and nephews. Back then, Darlene was a self-employed jewelry maker, crafting earrings and other pieces out of silver. As the kids got older, though, she grew tired of being a silversmith.

selling firewood, the family cobbled together a living. “We had our own house—all we needed was to pay for water, electricity, and propane for cooking. We made it through,” she says. It was a difficult, frustrating time, “but there were more blessings.”


Darlene’s favorite part of the job: Visiting her clients, like 89-year-old Nina Garcia.

In 2002, she told Tom she wanted to work as a school bus driver. He went with her to an employment office, where she signed up to earn her commercial driver’s license. Driving home, the future looked bright. But one week before her test, a horse fell on top of Tom while he was training it, and he died of his injuries. Their oldest child had just graduated from high school; their youngest was 8. The burden of providing for the family rested squarely on Darlene’s shoulders. She took a job driving a water truck for an Albuquerque, New Mexico–based construction company, which laid her off after a few months. She went to a similar job at another company, only to be laid off again. Between Darlene’s unemployment benefits, her eldest daughter’s income as a heavy machinery operator, the younger children’s survivors’ benefits, and the extra cash that her two sons brought in chopping and

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She knew that St. Bonaventure Indian Mission offered help to people in the community, including house repairs, food, clothing, and utility assistance, “but I thought it was for people who really needed help.” It wasn’t until the family couldn’t pay their electric bill that she finally went to ask for assistance. While filling out the paperwork, she gave her CDL to the receptionist, who immediately called executive director Chris Halter. A new diesel-powered Chevy C8500 had arrived just one month earlier. It was custom-fitted with a food-grade water tank, as well as a special suspension system designed to mitigate the wear and tear brought on by the reservation’s rocky terrain. But Chris hesitated to send it out for delivery. “I needed someone to take care of this water truck and make it last for a long time.” Watching how roughly his drivers—all men—handled the old truck and the mission’s other vehicles

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01/11/16 4:57 PM

Profile for Southwest: The Magazine

February 2016  

The Happiness Issue: Jack Black reflects on his ongoing quest for authentic happiness; a guide for mapping out your ideal day from start to...

February 2016  

The Happiness Issue: Jack Black reflects on his ongoing quest for authentic happiness; a guide for mapping out your ideal day from start to...