The grey clouds were spitting snow and hiding the Truchas peaks as my uncle Mike and I drove up the High Road to Taos one Thanksgiving afternoon. Winter had come to northern New Mexico, and we had left the sanctuary of his Santa Fe apartment to retrace separate paths we'd both taken years before. 9/ll was still fresh on our minds.
We turned off the main road to wind our way to a village named Cundiyo. It's a small place with thick walled adobe homes perched on the hillsides leading down into a valley. Less than 100 people live here. It's unincorporated, inhabited as the result of an 1743 land grant from the governor of Neuvo Mexico in the capital at Santa Fe a few miles south and more than1,000 feet lower.
Pickups of families were parked on gravel and dirt outside the homes where Thanksgiving feasts were underway or where people were watching football games, telling stories. Woodsmoke poured from metal pipes, and beside each door were stacks of split wood for the coming cold season. Corrals held horses huddled against the wind, and the smell of pinion and juniper and smoke filled the air. They have electricity and plumbing, but heating most heating comes from wood stoves.
And on several adobe walls and coyote fences, far from New York and the Middle East and hatred, hung American flags, and the black POW/MIA flags. New Mexico car tags with "Veteran" labels were everywhere.
People may wound America by bringing down the towers or killing at the Pentagon. But those who do so have no idea of the depth and breadth of America's people and country. When the American flag drapes on walls in places the world has never heard of, like Cundiyo, the woodsmoke of a free people will endure.