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Home from the 2013 Arizona-New Mexico Joint History Conference

It’s good to be home. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my week in New Mexico. The sun was out, and the air ranged from pleasantly cool to even more agreeably warm. I headed north from Las Cruces to Santa Fe in time to miss a heat wave. I likewise missed the wind and sandstorm that closed I-10 for 100 miles, as on that day I was tucked inside my hotel room, fully occupied preparing for giving the next day’s conference opening address.

The opening address, on New Mexico’s role in the El Paso Salt War of 1877, was well received. Curiously, only one hand went up for the Q&A, but when the session was over and nearly everyone left, at least a half dozen people stayed behind to ask questions. The one-on-one discussions were enjoyable, except that in a couple of cases I wondered, where were you with this wonderful info when I was writing the book? It’s always so, and we can hope for a 2nd edition, if the first ever sells out.

My second day began with a panel on rustling in the Twin Territories of New Mexico and Arizona roughly during the years 1878-1883. Together, the panel’s three talks presented a kaleidoscopic picture of the various roles played by  Bob Palmquist of Tucson spoke about the lives and usually violent ends of the “Cow-Boys,” the often saddle-bound rustlers who made SE Arizona and SW New Mexico a paradise of crime, usually at the expense of ranchers in northern Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico. Paul L. Johnson of New York, biographer of Frank and Tom McLaury, explained how these two brothers came to be associates and middle men for the worst criminals in the region, and how their logical-but-unwise choices led to their deaths at the hands of the Earps and Doc Holliday  at the O.K. Corral in 1881. I focused on the criminal organizational skills and deeds of New Mexico’s John Kinney, who made the mistake of being so successful that government was forced to destroy his enterprise.

On Saturday, the third and last day of the conference, I took the role of “Judge Warren Bristol” in a mock trial, actually an imagined extradition hearing, in which El Paso County sought the extradition to Texas of New Mexicans John Kinney and Jesse Evans for their crimes during the Salt War. The ever-reliable Bob Palmquist kept us grounded in territorial law as he played District Attorney William Rynerson. Nancy Lewis Sosa of Tombstone was our Mrs. Salomé Telles, El Paso’s Keith Wilden was our handcuffed Jesse Evans, and New Mexico’s State Historian, Dr. Rick Hendricks, served as the “friend of the court” and Territorial Historian. But we were a half dozen witnesses short until Dawn Santiago of the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum saved my bacon, putting me in touch with Sherry White Mitchell, artistic director of Las Cruces’s own Flying Cloud Theater. Just 3 days before the “trial,” Flying Cloud breezed in with a remarkable a remarkable group of actors who stepped into the roles of Kinney, Colonel Hatch, sheriffs Kerber and Gonzales, and merchant Amelia Rohmann. Working without a script, very few props, and plenty of acting chops, the whole crew helped put on a dramatic, humorous, and historically plausible presentation of how such a hearing might have gone down. Boy was I relieved!  Flying Cloud can be found at

I was so distracted by the preparation of these 3 presentations, that I saw little else during the conference, but I did catch a panel on the making of a documentary on Arizona’s controversial 1919 “Power shootout,” in which four men died and two went to prison for 40 years. The filmmaker is Cameron Trejo.  Mr. Trejo has made films for National Geographic, PBS, and other channels. This is, I think, his first documentary. A trailer can be found at:

The conference organizers anticipated every one of my needs, the Las Cruces Convention Center was first rate, and the book sellers had plenty of space, as far as I could tell. Shelly Dudley of Guidon Books of Scottsdale, Arizona ran the author signings. She and Gordon Dudley corralled the folks who wanted to meet and chat with the author.

Then off to Santa Fe, stopping at the Albuquerque Hyatt Place, the quietest airport hotel I have ever stayed in. Did not hear a single jet all evening, night, and morning.

Found some great stuff on Kinney at the NM State Archives for an article in a trade magazine and the biography I am considering. Then a long drive back to El Paso, and a comfortable flight home, where my lawn is screaming for equal attention.