Albuquerque Pioneers, Bernard Shandon Rodey, Imaginative Memoir of New Mexico, Jenne' Rodey Andrews, Minerva Coddington Rodey, New Mexico History, New Mexico Territory, Rodey Dickinson Sloan, Territory Fever, William Coddington
Before their marriage, Rodey had learned much of the Coddingtons and their own tribulations, how they were descendents of William Coddington, himself an early governor of Rhode Island Territory.
And one night in the wake of piecing together his bride to be’s past, ruminating over similarities to his own and that of others coming West, something he would never be fool enough to think about or speak of happened.
He had listened to her intently as the cicadas serenaded the June Albuquerque air.
One Almarion Morrow “A.M.” Coddington, Minnie’s father, an investor/entrepreneur, had come into the Territory a decade before Rodey, shortly after the end of the Civil War. NM Territory had sided with the Union but Taos, Santa Fe and ABQ were all rough and often lawless towns. He had in actuality wanted to see how safe it was before he returned to Topeka, where he was to be delayed by a decade. His wife Hannah was sick after birthing Minnie and it would be some time before he came back with his family at his side.
In any event, the pre-railroad days in the Territory meant spare, demanding lives for all. Notations in A.M.’s hand describe “four prairie schooners coming in with dry goods, enough to outfit the town for the first part of winter.” Clearly ABQwas an outpost then.
Mentions in various archives reveal that my great-great grandfather was the board member of the first bank in the Territory that was stripped of its stores by a clerk who was later hung.
The small town was indeed attracting businessmen and investors; he joined forces after the bank’s failure with a friend who established a “gentleman’s club”, the Montezuma, near Old Town.
It is “imaginatively plausible,” said she, to propose that ABQ’s gentlemen inhabitants had their needs per frontier etiquette. A.M., my grandmother’s grandfather, would likely have had his favorite dame de l’nuit to companion him in the desolate desert nights when the wind that leaves no shadow, as a New Mexican novelist would have it years later, would blow in across the desert.
Minnie had confided this much about her father to Rodey as they walked arm in arm along the Rio Grande, after dinner. Her candor was titillating.
He kissed her goodnight and rode off, imagining how hard the journey West must have been on each and every soul brave enough to cast the dice.
He found himself at the fork that would take him along the Union Pacific tracks back to Old Town. On impulse, he headed Starbright, as Minnie called the stunning black colt, in the direction of the river, down into the cottonwoods.
His handsome black horse began to dance, and toss his head.
What is it.
He stopped, took off his hat, and listened.
Something was afoot, down along the river bank.
He eased Star into the bosque.
There in the moonlight, five or six figures in sombreros were moving cattle from the ABQ side to the East and the open range.
His heart was pounding. He clucked softly to Star, riding toward a rise where he could see.
A woman’s voice shocked him. He pulled up.
He could barely make out in the darkness the slim form of a woman with long hair and a shawl.
Senor. No te vayas. Don’t go down there.
He dismounted. He had practiced a little Spanish; now was his chance.
What’s going on—he found himself quoting Billy. “Quien es.”.
She took his arm and led him back the way he had come.
You don’t want to know the answer to either question. But my father is picking up his cattle.
Good Lord. Now, just minute; I haven’t seen any new brands around here.
She laughed softly, still a shape in the darkness.
No brands. But they are ours, in with your herds.
Rodey stilled himself, something warning him that he should mount up and ride away.
Suddenly, as if a goddess had fallen out of the moon, he was grappling with the shape in the grass, feminine and warm, being shucked of his good pants.
He felt electricity flow through him, into the slim body he held in his arms.
He had had such an encounter when a boy, back in the deeps of the midnight, out on a lark with his friends, going off behind a thatched barn with a young Irish girl.
This is clever. You’re a good decoy.
She laughed again. You will never see me again, she whispered,
The moon climbed and in Irish abandon, swearing under his breath, cheeks still burning from the few after dinner armagnacs he had on the porch on 14th Street, Rodey surrendered to the moment.
Climbing back into her petticoats and skirt, the girl laced up her blouse, tossing her black hair.
He saw a glint of her face in the moonlight, a face he would struggle to call into his memory many years later as he sat next to Minnie whose spent being was fading from him from consumption. Not a religious man, not really believing that he was being punished for his sins, he had still gone out into the halls of the sanitorium and wept.
His liason had mounted her horse, scandalously astride in her skirts, and galloped away. He failed to believe then, or ever, that he would not see her again.