Category Archive 'New Mexico'

24 Oct 2018

Lieutenant Bourke’s 16th Century Spanish Armor

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The helmet.


The gorget.

John Gregory Bourke (1846-1896) enlisted in the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry at the age of 16, and was awarded a Medal of Honor for “gallantry in action” at the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee, in December 1862. He also fought at Chickamauga under George H. Thomas.

After the war, through Thomas, he received an appointment to West Point where he graduated in 1869, and was then assigned as a second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Cavalry. He served with his regiment at Fort Craig, New Mexico Territory, from September 29, 1869 to February 19, 1870.

Bourke was an enthusiastic student of Indian ethnology, on which subject he published a number of studies, and a copious diarist.

He compiled, from his diaries, a military memoir, On the Border with Crook, published in 1892, which is one of the key primary sources on the Indian Wars.

His quarters in New Mexico were simple and rough, he tells us, but they were decorated with a set of three hundred year old Spanish armor.

My assignment was to one of the rooms in the adobe house, an apartment some fourteen by nine feet in area, by seven and a half or eight in height. There was not enough furniture to occasion any anxiety in case of fire: nothing but a single cot, one rocking-chair — visitors, when they came, generally sat on the side of the cot — a trunk, a shelf of books, a small pine washstand, over which hung a mirror of greenish hue, sold to me by the post trader with the assurance that was French plate. I found afterward that the trader could not always be relied upon, but I’ll speak of him at another time. There were two window curtains, both of chintz; one concealed the dust and fly specks on the only window, and the other covered the row of pegs upon which hung sabre, forage cap, and uniform.
In that part of Arizona fires were needed only at intervals, and, as a consequence, the fireplaces were of insignificant dimensions, although they were placed, in the American fashion, on the side of the rooms, and not, as among the Mexicans, in the corners. There was one important article of furniture connected with fireplace and which I must make mention—the long iron poker with which, on occasion I was want to stir up the embers, and also to stir up the Mexican boy Esperidion, to whom, in the wilder freaks of my imagination, I was in the habit of alluding as my “valet.”

The quartermaster had recently received permission to expand “a reasonable amount” of paint upon the officers’ quarters, provided the same could be done by labor of the troops. …

It goes without saying that the work was never any too well done, and in the present case there seemed to be more paint scattered about my room than would have given it another coat. But the floor was of rammed earth and not to be spoiled, and the general effect was certainly in the line of improvement. Colonel Dubois, our commanding officer, at least thought so, and warmly congratulated me on the smug look of everything and added a very acceptable present of a picture—one of Prang’s framed chromos, a view of the Hudson at the mouth of the Esopus creek – which gave a luxurious finish to the whole business. Later on, after I had added an Apache bow and quiver, with its complement of arrows, one or two of the bright, cheery Navajo rugs, a row of bottles filled with select specimens of tarantulas, spiders, scorpions, rattlesnakes and others of the fauna of the country, and hung upon the walls a suit of armor which had belonged to some Spanish foot-soldier of the sixteenth century, there was a sybaritic suggestiveness which made all that has been related of the splendors of Solomon and Sardanapalus seem commonplace.

Of that suit of armor I should like to say a word: it was found by surgeon Steyer, of the army, enclosing the bones of a man, in the arid country between the waters of the Rio Grande and the Pecos, in the extreme southwest corner of the State of Texas, more than 20 years ago. Various conjectures were advanced and all sorts of theories advocated as to its exact age, some people thinking that it belonged originally to Coronado’s expedition, which entered New Mexico in 1541. My personal belief is that belong to the expedition of Don Antonio Espayo or that of Don Juan de Oñate, both of them came to New Mexico about the same date —1581-1592—and travelled down the Concho to its confluence with the Rio Grande, which would have been just on the line where the skeleton in armor was discovered. There is no authentic report to show that Coronado swung so far to the south; his line of operation took in the country farther to the north and east, and there are the best of reasons for believing that he was the first white man to utter the fertile valley of the Platte, not far from Plum Creek, Nebraska.

But, be that as it may, the suit of armor — breast and back plates, gorget, and helmet — nicely painted and varnished, and with every tiny brass button duly cleaned and polished with acid and ashes, added not a little to the looks of the den which without them would’ve been much more dismal.

For such of my readers may not be up on these matters, I may say that iron armor was abandoned very soon after the Conquest, as the Spaniards found heat of these dry regions too great to admit of their wearing anything so heavy; and they also found that like cotton batting “escaupiles” of the Aztec served every purposes as a protection against the arrows of the naked savages by whom they were now surrounded.


Parts at least of Bourke’s Spanish armor have survived, and I found some discussion on the Internet in a discussion thread at Above Top Secret:

    The few records of the armor that exist came from U.S. cavalry officer and anthropologist Capt. John Gregory Bourke, who was given the gorget, helmet, and a breast- and backplate in 1870, from an army doctor who claimed to have found them “enclosing the bones of a man in the arid country between the waters of the Rio Grande and the Pecos.”

    Bourke took the armor with him from post to post throughout the West during his career, losing the breast and backplates to thieves in Arizona along the way.

    But before his death in 1896, Bourke gave the helmet and gorget to a judge’s wife in Nebraska, and by the early 20th century, it was in the possession of an Omaha attorney, in whose family it remained until it was donated to a museum in 1961, and then to the state historical society.

The assumption is the armor is Spanish, that would be the most likely scenario as it dates to the appropriate period.

    Historical records describe the equipment used by Spanish soldiers at that time, but the team found that it included little armor, the Spanish instead having used mostly padded leather or shirts of chain mail.

    “It just is not very much like armor known to have been used by colonial Spanish forces,” Bleed said of Bourke’s armor of iron scales.

    “The Spanish apparently had some (chain) mail, but the idea of taking a fabric and attaching little fish scales to it, this is not something they did.”

It’s too bad the breast plate and back were lost as they would shed more light on where this came from.


20 Sep 2018

People Recently Attacked (or Killed) by Mountain Lion, Black Bear, Grizzlies, Cinnamon Bear

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see bottom story from New Mexico.

Hiker found dead on Mount Hood was likely killed by cougar. (ABC News 9/12):

The hiker who went missing on Mount Hood in late August and was found dead at the bottom of a ravine Monday was likely killed by a cougar, authorities said — a shocking twist in the missing persons case.

The body of Diana Bober, 55, was found Monday at the bottom of a 200-foot embankment on the famous Oregon mountain’s Hunchback Trail, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Bober was last seen on Aug. 29 when she went for a hike on the trail. Her backpack was found by two hikers on the following day and her car was left in a parking lot at the base of the mountain.


Ginseng hunter killed by black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, bear still at large. (wbir 9/12):

The body of 30-year-old William Lee Hill Jr. of Louisville, Tennessee, was found Tuesday afternoon two miles north of Cades Cove off Rich Mountain Road, according to a news release from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Park officials began searching for Hill when they were notified on Sunday that Hill was missing. He and a close friend had gone to the park on Friday to look for ginseng and were separated during the day, and Hill had not been heard from since. …

An adult male bear remained in the area where Hill’s body was found and showed aggressive behaviors for multiple hours as rangers recovered Hill’s body throughout Tuesday evening, the release said. Evidence of wildlife scavenging of Hill’s remains was visible.

Wildlife biologists reportedly came to the area, trapped the bear and recovered human DNA from it, the release explained. At that point, park officials said they decided to humanely euthanize the bear out of concern for public safety — but on Friday it was revealed the bear had not, in fact, been euthanized yet and was fitted with a GPS tracker.


Wyoming grizzlies kill hunting guide, maul client. (Jackson Hole Daily 9/16)

The grizzly bears suspected of fatally mauling outfitter Mark Uptain were trapped and killed early Sunday near the elk carcass that caused conflict on Terrace Mountain.

“We killed two grizzly bears up there a little bit ago, and we have every reason to believe they are the offending bears,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department Jackson Regional Supervisor Brad Hovinga said around 10:45 a.m. Sunday. “They fit the description.” …

[W]ildlife managers are not releasing all the details about what they believe occurred when Uptain and his bow-hunting client, Corey Chubon, were aggressively attacked by the pair of bruins Friday afternoon.

Hovinga surmised that the bears involved were a sow and its grown cub.

“The behavior exhibited by these bears is abnormal behavior for a family group,” he said. “It’s not typically how we would see family groups behave.”

Chubon, who was airlifted out of the Teton Wildness with leg, chest and arm injuries, reported to investigators that of the two grizzlies involved, only one was the aggressor. The Florida resident, who flew back home Saturday, told authorities that he was unable to fire a shot from a handgun he retrieved during the attack, but he threw the firearm to Uptain before departing the scene.

Late Saturday, Hovinga declined to discuss evidence collected at the scene, but he did say that bear-deterrent pepper spray was among the things the guide and client possessed. He said he “didn’t know” if the handgun was with Uptain’s remains. The gun was not recovered immediately around where the attack took place, at the site of an elk Chubon had struck with an arrow Thursday. The guide and client did not locate and start to retrieve the elk until early the next afternoon.

The elk carcass was “undisturbed” when it was located by Uptain and Chubon, which suggests that the bear was not necessarily food guarding — a common behavior that often leads to conflicts with humans, especially hunters.


New Mexico hunting guide kills attacking bear with Glock, deceased bear remains attached to his leg. (All Outdoor 9/14):

When a New Mexico hunting guide reportedly found himself the target of a bear, he dropped his phone and reached for his pistol. It would turn out to be one of the best decisions he ever made. An earlier decision, though, threatened to cost him his life.

He’d been working out his dogs in preparation for the upcoming hunting season when they’d struck a bear’s trail. The only way to put an end to that was to catch up with his dogs, so he pursued, with family members following. As he approached the fight, he grabbed his not-fully-loaded pistol as he left his UTV.

    As an afterthought, he took the GLOCK 20 10mm pistol from his vehicle and shoved it in his waistband behind his cowboy belt. It was loaded with 175 grain Hornady Critical Duty FlexLock loads. The magazine only had 10-12 rounds in it. A few months earlier, he had heard the theory of “spring set” and decided not to keep the magazine fully loaded.

He approached the melee, expecting the bear to run at the sight of him. And when he spotted the bruin, he grabbed his phone to take some video of its unusual cinnamon coloration. But the bear had other ideas.

    Bridger’s first thought was to get video. It would be an incredible image. Big cinnamon bears aren’t common. The bear would run at any moment, once he saw or smelled the man. Bridger grabbed his phone.
    That bear never read the rulebook. It didn’t run. The bear saw Bridger, turned toward him, and flattened its ears back along its head. Its eyes had locked on Bridger. He’d watched hundreds of bears in similar situations and he knew he’d been targeted. He dropped the phone and snatched the GLOCK from his belt.

    A lot happened very fast, but for Bridger, everything slowed down as he went into tachypsychia. It’s a common occurrence in high stress life-or-death situations. The mind speeds up and events appear to be happening in slow motion. In reality, the person is acting faster than they ever have before.

    The bear was coming for him. Bridger elected not to aim for the head. He didn’t want to hit one of his dogs. He triggered two or three shots aimed at the bear’s body. The bear started to spin, snapping at the wounds, about six feet away.

    Bridger decided to retreat. He turned and hopped to the next boulder, then the next. He was mid air to the third when he saw dogs moving past him.

    In his fast mind-state, he realized this was bad. As he landed and turned, the big GLOCK in his hand, and saw the bear coming at him like an over-sized NFL linebacker with claws and big, pointy teeth.
    Before he could fire again, the bear hit him. They went over the edge of the shelf together, tumbling down a steep, rocky slope in mortal combat.

Although he has no memory of shooting as they fell, empty shells were later found along the path of their descent.

    Bear and man stopped downslope, wedged into brush and boulders. Bridger could feel the bear and frantically attempted to disentangle. The bear reared erect, jaws ready to strike. Bridger shot him again, in the front of his chest before falling/sliding further down the slope. The bear pursued him. He screamed at Janelle to stay away.

    Bridger tried to kick the bear away from him as it tried to get at his upper body. He couldn’t shoot for fear of hitting his own legs.

    The bear dodged a kick, and grabbed Bridger’s right inner thigh in its jaws, lifting him like a dog lifting a rabbit. Bridger shoved the muzzle of the GLOCK against the bears neck, trying to shatter its spine and shut the bear down. He fired.

    The bear released his lower thigh, then grabbed his calf, just below the knee. The shot missed the spine. Man and bear are still moving fast, but in Bridger’s hyper-aware state, time slowed. He saw an opportunity for a headshot and pressed the trigger on the GLOCK.


    Later, Bridger found bear hair between the guide rod and the slide of the G20 pistol. The hair prevented the slide from returning into battery. Bridger knew he should still have ammunition left in the magazine, so he racked the slide and saw a live round eject in slow motion.

    Fractions of a second later, another opportunity for a head shot presented itself. The bear ripped at his leg. As the bear tried to tear off his calf muscle, Bridger saw his chance and pressed the trigger.


    Man and bear went down together, rolling and sliding a bit further down the slope.

Although the bear was dead, its teeth were still hopelessly tangled in Bridger’s calf muscle. When rescue personnel arrived — quickly, thanks to his family’s close proximity at the time of the attack — they struggled and failed to free the meat from the fangs. Only after cutting the bear’s head off with a pocket knife could they transport Bridger and his now-gray leg muscle.

05 May 2017

Steve Bodio

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John Muller profiles Steve Bodio in New Mexico Magazine.

There are a lot of reasons people might want to call Steve Bodio. For just about any question on the world’s wild places, the living things you’ll encounter there, and in particular how one might go about catching or eating them, he’s as knowledgeable as they come. If a hawk’s been snacking on your chickens and you need to find it a good home, his might be the only adobe in the state with a raptor roost in the dining room. If you’re a gun gal, he’ll talk your ear off about the craftsmanship of English antiques. He’s written volumes on pigeons and coursing dogs, both of which have a place in his rambling menagerie. More than anything, though, the man can talk about books.

Bodio is what can only be called a writer’s writer’s writer. Callers to his far-flung office include a roster of authors that could rival any nature-writing prize committee’s Rolodex. He and Annie Proulx go back to Gray’s Sporting Journal in the seventies, where she made her name publishing short stories and he wrote a book review column that’s still talked about in reverent tones among the cognoscenti. He keeps letters from people like Jim Harrison, who died last year, and Thomas McGuane, one of his heroes, who checks in occasionally from Montana. Helen Macdonald, the author of H Is for Hawk, summed up her admiration in an introduction to one of his books: “You might have come across Bodio’s elegant book reviews. … You might have read Querencia, his great and moving meditation on love and loss and home. But if Bodio is new to you, then know that the book you are holding is by one of the great modern sportsman-naturalist-writers.”


01 Sep 2016

Garbage Truck Bear



Garbage truck driver in Los Alamos, New Mexico finds a way to allow the bear riding his truck to make his exit.

1:42 video

03 Aug 2016

Missing Treasure Hunter’s Body Identified, Apparently in Completely Wrong Location

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The late Randy Bilyeu and Leo

Last January 5th, 54-year-old Randy Bilyeu launched an $89 inflatable raft and set off down the Rio Grande, accompanied by Leo his nine-year-old poodle-terrier-mix, to find the 12th-century Romanesque chest, reputedly containing 42 pounds of gold coins, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, ancient jade carvings, pre-Columbian bracelets, and gold nuggets, stashed deliberately for the benefit of treasure hunters by the colorful Santa Fe art dealer Forest Fenn in 2010.

His ex-wife filed a missing persons report after not hearing from him for several days, and on January 15th Leo and his raft were found seven miles down river.

Bilyeu’s remains were finally found in the same general area last month.

Robert Sanchez, of Denver’s 5280 Magazine, talked to Forest Fenn:

Fenn seemed perturbed at the thought of Bilyeu and his dog going onto the Rio Grande in a sporting-goods-store raft with no training and in the dead of winter. “I’ve said that people should not search in the winter,” Fenn said. In the past, he also said the treasure isn’t in a dangerous place. He said he made two trips from his vehicle in one afternoon—the first to carry the chest, the second to deliver the contents. “I don’t want anybody searching where an 80-year-old man couldn’t have made two trips,” he said. “Randy’s raft was very far from his car. Randy was going to go down the river, somehow get back, and he was going to do that twice? The chest is 42 pounds. What was his exit plan?”

That, he said, is just the beginning of his disappointment with Bilyeu’s strategy. “The treasure is in the Rocky Mountains, at least eight and a quarter miles north of the north city limits of Santa Fe,” Fenn said. “Frijoles Canyon is not in the Rocky Mountains. Why was he looking in a place that wasn’t in the designated search area?” To Fenn, Bilyeu’s poorly organized plan, and the area he decided to search, “point to the fact that maybe he didn’t care. Maybe he wanted to disappear.”

Read the whole thing.


13 Dec 2014

Don’t Mess With Texas

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12-Year-Old Alyssa Caldwell and the lion

Mississippi Rebel reports that a New Mexico mountain lion tried stalking a young girl from Odessa, Texas. Unfortunately for the lion, the little girl was deer hunting and carrying a .30-06.

A twelve-year-old girl killed a mountain lion that was threatening to attack her on a hunting trip in New Mexico.

Alyssa Caldwell was hunting elk with her father in October when he left her alone to gather some gear. Almost immediately, she noticed that something was wrong.

“I already had a feeling that something was watching me or something, but I didn’t see the cat until it was close,” she said.

Just feet away, a mountain lion crouched ready to attack. Although she had never shot anything bigger than a white tailed deer, Caldwell knew exactly what to do. She raised her brand new .30-06 and fired, killing the animal instantly.

“I just raised up my gun and shot it point blank long ways through the body because it was facing me when I shot,” she told CBS News. “The cat instantly flopped over right there, of course I kept my gun on it just in case it got up or something like that.”

Her father came running back, thinking she had downed an elk. When he realized what had happened, he fell to his knees and “got emotional,” Alyssa says.

“I definitely could have died,” she added. “It was probably like seconds away from pouncing on me.”

26 Mar 2012

On the Bumper of Steve Bodio’s Girl Yoga Instructor’s Car

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30 Jan 2012

Steve Bodio, Video Star


The illustrious sporting author Steve Bodio, alas! now suffering from health problems, was a principal star of this video promoting the University of New Mexico Clinical Neurosciences Center.

Amusingly, the notorious troll Pat Burns does some major up-sucking in the comments section of Steve’s own blog.

25 Jun 2008

Man Killed by Mountain Lion in Southern New Mexico

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A mountain lion attacked, killed and partially ate a New Mexico man, authorities said on Tuesday.

A search party found the body of Robert Nawojski, 55, in a wooded area near his mobile home in Pinos Altos, New Mexico, late last week, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish said.

Investigators concluded that Nawojski had been attacked and killed by a mountain lion, or cougar, at a spot close to his home, where he lived alone and was known to bathe and shave outdoors.

Spokesman Dan Williams said the lion subsequently dragged the man’s body a short distance into nearby woodland and ate and buried parts of it.

Nawojski was reported missing by his brother last week. A search party found a mountain lion lurking near his home, and reported it to the Department of Game and Fish, who shot and wounded the animal.

06 May 2008

Vietnam Veteran in Wheelchair Puts Mugger in the Hospital

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In one corner an aggressive panhandler. In the other a disabled, wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran who turned out not to be the underdog.

When the two met up five days ago in northeast Albuquerque the attacker became the attacked.

Gary Gould said the attempted mugging had him fighting for his life reminding him of what it was like fighting for his life in Vietnam.

“I can’t walk; I’m paralyzed,” he told KRQE News 13 today. “I got blown up in Vietnam.

“I’ve been in a chair for 38 years.”

Gould, 58, is safe at home now miles away from the Billiard Palace where he took a break from playing pool last Thursday. He said he went out back to smoke a cigarette when a man approached him asking for money.

“He put his hand out like this,” Gould said. “I said, ‘I don’t have any money. Get out of my face, man.'”

Melvin Romero should have listened he didn’t. Instead he then demanded money and repeatedly stabbed Gould with a pair of scissors, according to a criminal complaint.

Gould has some marks and bruises now, but Romero’s the one who ended up hurt the most.

“When he stabbed me, I grabbed him, and I wrestled him to the ground,” Gould said. “Every time he kept trying to get back up, I had to knock him back down.

“They transported him, and I heard he lost a pint of blood.”

Romero wasn’t booked into jail until Monday four days after the attack because that’s how long it took him to recover in the hospital.

15 Mar 2007

Bill Richardson Bans Cockfighting

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Jean Alexandre Joseph Falguière,
Le Vainqueur au Combat de Coqs
(Victor of the Cockfight), 1864
Musée d’Orsay

The sport of the cock fight is said to have been introduced into Ancient Greece by Themistocles. The latter, while advancing with his army against the invading Persians, observed two cocks fighting, and, stopping his troops, inspired them by calling their attention to the valor and obstinacy of the feathered warriors. In honor of the subsequent Greek victory, cockfights were thenceforth held annually at Athens, at first in a patriotic and religious spirit, but afterwards purely for the love of the sport.

In England, cockfighting rivaled horse racing in popularity. The prohibition of the sport by Cromwell during the Protectorate was traditionally viewed as a high water mark of Puritan tyranny.

Cockfighting has an extensive literature and sporting tradition, and its own technical language and ethos. Cockfighting was historically one of the few sporting activities where the different classes of society mingled. The ground on which matches between gamecocks were conducted was traditionally referred to as “the sod.” An old saying holds that: “On the turf and on the sod, all men are equal.” Implying that only there does such equality exist, of course.

Cockfighting was extremely popular in early America. The founding fathers, including Washington and Jefferson, were devoted to the sport. Andrew Jackson bred gamecocks. Even Abraham Lincoln refereed matches. But the spirit of Puritan intolerance has always struggled for the suppression of all of modes of the expression of humanity’s fighting instincts and natural love of sport.

Cockfighting was banned in Massachusetts in 1836, and the bluenosed bigots gradually got their way in every US state, with the exception of Louisiana and New Mexico where the sport remained protected as a highly prized cultural property of local non-English-speaking communities.

The sport now has been sacrificed in New Mexico, however, to the calculating political ambition of the current governor, Bill Richardson, who decided he needed to get in-line with the Puritan left on an “animal rights” issue, and who feared being identified in a campaign for national office as governor of a state so primitive and retarditaire as to tolerate the existence of a fighting sport. Richardson broke campaign promises to constituents that he would protect the sport as long as he remained governor.

Let’s hope that Richardson’s scheming treachery is not rewarded.

Jean-Léon Gérome, Jeunes Grecs Faisant Battre de Coqs (Young Greeks Conducting a Cockfight), 1846, Louvre

Petition to Legalize Cockfighting in the US

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