Words from Audrie Clifford:
You might find it interesting that I had written many of these little stories that turned into chapters while living in Reserve, and they just sat quietly in the computer. After moving to Socorro [New Mexico] and joining the writer’s group, I read several of them to the other writers and they suggested compiling them into a book. I said that I wouldn’t know where to start, and someone suggested that I start by writing the last chapter. I did that and then everything just fell into place.
Title: Another Damn Newcomer, Confrontational Politics, Environment Issues and Fun in Rural New Mexico
Author: Audrie Clifford
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Publisher: Sunstone Press (November 25, 2011)
Even in the most civilized countries, there is still a reluctance to accept strangers into small communities. Another Damn Newcomer tells the story of a couple moving to a tiny town where the wife is eventually elected as mayor, but is despised by the other governing body members. One would think that being the mayor of a small town would enable you to make changes that would benefit both the town and the residents. Not so if the village councilors don’t like you. During this time, the county had to contend with the environmental issues of the spotted owl and reintroduction of the wolf. Despite the problems encountered, the book is full of laughter and the delight of living. Enjoy the funny story of a middle-aged couple moving to an isolated New Mexico village where they find friends, love, opportunities and challenges–but never, ever total acceptance.
New Mexico Reader reviewed this book on December 17, 2011 (Amazon.com quote)
Ms. Clifford knows of what she writes. Having worked in this part of western New Mexico intermittently for many years, I can say she hits it bang on within every page of her delightful book. She recognizes all aspects of small town community life, the good, the bad, the funny, the grim, the beautiful, and the sometimes downright ugly truth.
She chronicles the strange irony of having to put up with closed mindedness in such an expansive landscape, but that there can still be generosity, friendship, and hope despite it all. That sometimes it just takes time, but twenty years may not be long enough to overcome the label of “newcomer”, even if you somehow manage to become mayor of the place.
Read it and you will not be disappointed!
About the Author: Audrie Clifford was born in California, grew up in Colorado, spent several years in Arizona but loves New Mexico most of all. ”We are the state without pretense,” she says. ”Many of our beautiful homes and buildings are actually made of mud. We eat a lot of beans and chili, and delight in our gorgeous blue sky. How much more real can it get?”
My Thoughts: I came to this book with a little knowledge of Audrie Clifford. I was gifted her fiction book Maggie Whitson on GoodReads last summer. As I got to know Audrie I found that she wrote a bit of herself in the main character Maggie Whitson. It was extremely well written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. When I found out she was 79 years old, she blew my mind. We have emailed back and forth a couple of times—she as a person strikes me as someone of great worth. So when she asked me to review a book very close to her heart, I readily agreed.
It hasn’t been long since she lost her husband, the spring of 2011. This particular book is dedicated to him and I can see why. This portion of their lives, 21 years, was lived in a little New Mexico town, Reserve spending many wonderful days of building a life together.
She begins the memory moving into town. Now most of us would think, oh, a town, at least 25,000 people. But Reserve had a mere 500 people and eventually dropped to 350 after the Mexican spotted owl was listed as a threatened species.
Audrie talks about her husband’s and her passion to make things better in town. She became the town’s mayor, only to be considered an outsider by the village council and could do very little to improve town conditions. Can any of you relate with passion to improve or help only to find yourself working alone–where nobody gives a damn?
She talks of people she grew to love, parties were particularly grand at Halloween, Christmas and occasionally Independence Day. She has stories of bees, spiders, ringtails, snakes, gophers and scorpions. How she managed to live there for 21 years, I can’t imagine. She and her husband were made of much stronger stuff than I am.
She devotes a portion of the book with her articles and fun times while working for the local newspaper. She allows us to see the joy of living simply and delight from small everyday occurrences.
From the cover of the book you see what the town looked like on Main Street. Most of the time Audrie and Mike lived just across the street from Black Gold, Mimi Mart.
For a year they lived on a ranch property south of Reserve near Negrito Creek. Very few people visited them then, but does she have some wonderful stories to tell us about her care of animals while living. She remarks in her book that this time was the happiest period of their lives.
Both she and Mike were real pioneers and had hearts of gold when it came to helping. She shares special moments with us, some happy, some funny and some outright irritating.
As I closed the book, tears were in my eyes. It was a lovely time with Audrie in Reserve, experiencing small town life, reliving her happy times and sad. I came away from her memory with a bit more understanding of human nature in all it best and worst moments.
I’d like to quote here what Rick Hendricks, PhD, New Mexico State Historian said about Audrie Clifford’s book.
“Audrie Clifford has written a delightfully personal portrait of the challenges and rewards of trying to become a part of the small town of Reserve, New Mexico. At times painful, at times humorous, Clifford is uncommonly poignant in expressing her love for a community that will always remain dear to her heart.”