Some twenty years ago one of my sons gifted me with a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd puppy named Kaci for my birthday. Kaci’s mother, Katie, belonged to my son, and Kaci’s sire was a Red Heeler. Kaci was only six weeks old and a beautiful bouncing ball of fur.
Kaci began her life with me sleeping every night against the top of my head on my pillow. During the day she rode with me in the pickup truck everywhere I went. In warm weather, she loved to ride in the truck bed, running from side to side, with the wind blowing in her face. In bad weather she rode up front in the passenger’s seat, watching the road ahead without moving a muscle and a very serious look on her face. I accused her of not trusting my driving.
Kaci grew up with me at a time in my life when I sorely needed her kind of company. She and I lived in a log cabin on the side of a mountain. Our nearest neighbors were deer, elk, bear, and cougars.
On warm evenings, when the moon came up full, Kaci would lie outside the cabin and watch it slowly rise over Mt. Nebo across the valley. Watching her take it all in made me wonder what she was thinking, and I wished she could tell me.
Kaci has been gone for several years now. I still miss her and have a difficult time talking about her. Conversing with people about La Puerta Natural Burial Ground has given rise to discussions about what to do for animal companions like Kaci. In answer to that question, Natural Burial New Mexico has established a pet cemetery adjacent to La Puerta. All those we love deserve our respectful care in life and in death.
For thousands of years coyote has observed the comings and goings along the arroyos and canyons surrounding La Puerta Natural Burial Ground. He has been one of the most adaptable, cunning, and ubiquitous life forms that inhabit this diverse landscape. He has been man’s closest neighbor, unafraid to help himself to dinner at the expense of the sheep herder or rancher, and vocalizes his assessment of conditions in a very taunting and audacious manner. He has gained status in folklore, with human qualities attributed to his character by one who knows him best, the Native American.
Coyote’s flexible character, comical antics, and ability to survive those who would put an end to his kind has contributed greatly to his unabashed lifestyle amidst all the chaos and controversy around him. He dances to a unique musical expression with infectious laughter that demands an outlet.
To join Coyote in the experience of life in this landscape is to join a long journey through time surrounded by the spirit of all those who were here before and who live here now. The awareness changes us; causes us to see the world differently, and to look not only at the past, but at the present. Looking at the present through that lens forces us to consider the impact of our lives upon those who will join us in the future. It also causes us to look for ways to dialogue with all those along the endless path.
La Puerta Natural Burial Ground is a special place, dedicated to memories, myths, and transformations.
Memories: In 1933, when my father was eighteen years old, he jumped a freight train in central Texas and rode an empty box car to Mountainair, New Mexico to work in the bean harvest. In his free time, he explored the Manzano Mountains, Abo Ruins, and Abo Canyon. I remember the many stories he told me about that time when I was a boy.
Myths: Before any of the ruins were excavated and preserved there were local myths about mournful sounds produced by the winds as they passed over small openings in the buried rooms of the Ancient Ones.
Transformations: The railroad continues west, dropping into Abo Canyon on its way to California. For years this single tack caused a bottle-neck where trains moving through the canyon had to wait on each other to pass. Around 2008 a second track was built through the canyon, transforming the flow of freight moving along the line.
La Puerta lies at the base of the Manzanos where Abo Canyon empties out into the desert. The burial ground is bounded on the north by the railroad tracks and Abo Wash a short distance to the south. It is arguably one of the most peaceful places on earth. And, for me, the one place I feel closest to my father. For those reasons, it is my final resting place. Bury me out on the lone prairie, where the coyotes howl, and the wind blows free. Cowboy Ballad, 1910