“What should I be sure to see before leaving Madrid?” I asked of the six long-haired men sitting at several tables on the porch of the boarding house twenty miles down the Turquoise Trail from Santa Fe.
The ponytail wearing the clean tee shirt answered, “the grave yard.”
“Known locally as the Bone Orchard,” added the soft straw hat with two-inch band of sweat, his bright smile—absent teeth– accomplished with his eyes.
“How do I find it?”
“See that dirt road going up that hill? Take that to the top. It’s a little past that,” said a foot-long white beard with a dark bandanna head wrap.
The Jolly Swag, game as ever, ground her way down onto the unpaved back street, then rocked and rolled over the foot of the hill and up. We curved around the hilltop and came to the yard of graves.
All the graves were covered with mounds of stones. In the old section all the names were Spanish, the lettering etched in the crude stones, weathered. Most of the markers were crosses of wood, only the youngest bore names. Most of the sites had no markers at all.
Only one grave in the new section was marked with a polished granite head stone.
The rest were shrines, unique in their non-traditional markers and ornamentation: baubles representing anecdotes and tales known to a few who’d held these bodies close in life.
Many of those memorialized here were fallen motorcyclists. The eternal words and the whiskey bottles placed lovingly at the sites attested to men who lived fast and hard. I realized many of those buried here were born in the fifties and would have been the fodder of the Vietnam era.
Back at the boarding house I had been able to only stir a few embers of stories from the aging hippies. I believe I was standing in a field where Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome had exacted the final price from those unable to re-enter a society that did not welcome them. Perhaps they welcomed death–already a companion.
And more than one Madroid met death with humor.