by Fender Tucker
The six tales in TOTAH SIX-PACK have one thing in common: they take place in a town that no longer exists—and maybe never did, except in my mind. Farmington New Mexico was a city of about 10,000 people in 1955 and 20,000 by 1965. It’s much more, now, and to me, practically unrecognizable. Perched in the far northwestern corner of the state, about 50 miles from the Four Corners (formed by Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico) Farmington is a town of trees and hills where three rivers, the Animas, San Juan and La Plata, meet. In fact, the name “Totah” is Navajo for “Three Rivers”.
The first three stories—Angelus of Doom, The Glowing Green Gambit, and Jicarilla Mud—were published as THE TOTAH TRILOGY and take place in 1955, when the oil business was booming. The Miley Gang, a quartet of oilmen, are the “heroes” of these stories but as you will see, the true hero of these stories is Farmington itself. Making up the Miley Gang are Don Tucker, (my father), Bill Smith and Arky and Neta Miley, the owners of the Miley Mud and Chemical Company. They were real people, and are now, like just about all of the other characters found in the six stories, sadly beyond libel. There is very little of the plot of any of the three stories that has any basis in truth, but the geography of the area is as accurate as I can remember it.
The fourth story, The Naked Trocar, takes place in 1989 as Knees Calhoon, my alter ego, returns to Farmington on a short trip from his home in Las Cruces, a city downstate. I moved away from Farmington in 1975 and by 1989 the town had already slipped far away from me. The events of the story are based on an actual crime that took place in the late 70s or early 80s.
The fifth story, Siege on Main Street, jumps back to 1965, the year I graduated from high school. The two main characters, Willie and Fender, are based on my best friend Geno Jaramillo and me, although quite a bit of liberty is taken with what was happening in our lives in that year. Again, the geography of old Farmington place a major role in the story.
The final story is The Best Revenge, a sort of western story set in 1899, when New Mexico was still a territory and Farmington was a mostly Mormon town, full of orchards and farms. The hero of the tale is never named in the story but some of the other characters are based, in fun, on some musician friends of mine from Durango Colorado.
The first three stories were written in 2005, when I was on a nostalgic kick. The project began as a simple travelogue of navigating through the streets of 1955 Farmington on bicycle, which is how I knew the town, but that grew tiresome really quick, and I decided to flesh out the text with fiction. But since I had already mentioned a few people who actually lived in the town back then, that became the “gimmick” of the stories: instead of using fictional names to tell about real events (what we call roman à cléf) I wrote about fictional events using real people’s names.
The other three stories were written in recent years whenever I got the odd inspiration. Most of The Best Revenge was worked out while I was in the ICU recovering from a heart attack in May 2007. The plot of The Naked Trocar was developed as I walked on the treadmill at physical therapy. Siege on Main Street started out as a fun title, Shootout on Main Street, but as the story mutated in my mind I realized that what was happening was a siege, not a shootout, so I had to change the title to the less rhythmic one.
Will there ever be a seven-pack? Maybe. I’ve addressed most of the places I remember with great fondness from the old days—the bars, the theaters, the bowling alley, the pool hall, the restaurants—and I may remember more. But for now, these six excursions into a time and place that for a brief time existed so vibrantly, then, just like my body, morphed into a wreck of pain and suffering, will have to do.