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  • A month before my boyfriend died, his grandmother began to appear in his hospice room. In his less lucid moments, he would look into a corner and smile and then he would mention her.

    “Grandma.”

    “Is she here?” I would ask.

    He would softly nod yes, smile, stare and point, and look back at me as if to say,”

    “Don’t you see her?”

    I would nod back yes.

    She had been dead for over twenty years.

    Moments like this drive me. I am driving to Colorado, which is home. Home is hard for me. I will get there, but I will stop. My first stop? New Mexico to see my best friend who lives in Santa Fe. Riverside CA to Santa Fe NM? Too long a trip. I stop off in Gallup for the night. Motel Six. The Navajo woman behind the counter asks for my ID. I show it to her.

    “Gurley?” she says.

    “Yes.”

    “Like Gurley Ford just down the street.”

    I nod yes.

    “Clare Gurley was my great uncle.”

    “Do you know Pat?”

    Pat Gurley is Clare’s son who runs the Ford Dealership in Gallup. I have never met him, but I have heard plenty of stories. My favorite is the rumor that he liked to drink and fly planes. Give a Gurley some cash, a drink and a plane, this is what Gurleys will do. .

    “Never met him,” I smirk, “ But I know Murrieta, his sister.”

    The woman behind the counter smiles big.

    “Small world,” she says.

    “It is,” I reply.

    I sleep and wake. I have driven through Gallup a million times and have never stopped to see Gurley Ford. I will today. I mapquest the address. I drive through Gallup’s downtown; it is hub for many tribes. This is where they meet and trade.

    I suppose this is what led my great Uncle Clare down to Gallup shortly after World War II. Clare was from Armour SD, but NM found him at just the right time. Gurleys can smell cash.

    At the tail end of World War II, Clare opened a car dealership in Gallup. Navajo men were coming back from the war with cash in their pocket. One of the first thing they did was buy a Ford Truck. This is where Clare fit in. He made a mint.

    Clare was also a nice man. At some point, he encouraged his brother, my grandfather, Zenas, to come down to NM to help with the dealership. Zenas, although he shared Clare’s intellect, had not yet found success in South Dakota. He was a bit of a drunk. Therefore, Zenas gladly accepted this geographic and he loaded up his red headed wife, Jane, and their two little girls, Barbara and Karen, and headed down Route 66 equipped with a dream of something better, somewhere else.

    Things must have been better in NM for awhile for Zenas and his clan, because my father, Zenas Gurley the Seventh (and no, I am not making this up and yes, he has had to have therapy…so don’t ask), was conceived and born in Las Cruces. However, this was a drunkard’s dream, so eventually the bridges were burned and the car was packed back up. The Zenas clan left Clare and NM and headed east on Route 66, a sign of defeat.

    Back in SD, my red headed grandmother Jane gave Zenas one more thing. A divorce. This was the fifties, so she spent the rest of her life considered a marked woman in South Dakota. She dealt with this by climbing into the bottle herself.

    She had sobered up by the time I was born in the seventies. She had to; she drank herself into diabetes. So, I can never remember my grandmother as a picture of health; however, what I do remember is she loved me a lot. I was the only Gurley grandchild that was a girl.

    When my mom and dad would drive from Colorado back to South Dakota to see their folks, they would often drop me off at my grandma’s house where I would spend the night.

    We would always do the same thing. Watch PBS in the evening where she would instruct me on how an orchestra worked. She had been a concert pianist before she had been swept off her feet by Zenas. I would then go to sleep. I would wake to the smell of Pall Mall’s and Puffed Wheat. As I ate my breakfast, she would show me the treasures of her time in NM. She would explain how the Navajos often trade for cars. Thus, she had Native furniture, dresses, blankets and more. She would explain how the Navajos would make each piece. The attention they would use. Even as a child, I could sense something special about that time for her. Then, she would then tell me to look away; It was time for her to shot her insulin.

    I think of all this as I pull into the Gurley Ford parking lot to take this picture. Although I have never lived in New Mexico, my blood begun here.
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