Socorro writer recounts being a “newcomer” in Reserve

Socorro author Audrie Clifford will be holding a book signing of her just published book about living in Reserve, Another Damned Newcomer, Controversial Politics, Environmental Issues and Fun in Rural New Mexico.

Clifford and her husband, Mike, made Reserve, the county seat of Catron County, their home from 1980 to 2001.

“The title of the book was inspired by prevailing attitudes in Reserve that, as a new person you were welcome to visit and spend a little money, but they didn’t think highly of you moving in,” Clifford said. “Despite that, we made many friends and have fond memories of many of the residents in Catron County.”

In fact, Audrie Clifford, was able to make enough friends and acquaintances that she was elected mayor of Reserve, and served from March, 1988 through May, 1991.

“Even though I became mayor I was not liked by the Village trustees, and had a difficult time with them dealing with important issues,” she said.

During that time protection of the Mexican spotted owl was a contentious issue in the county and the loggers in the Reserve area were restricted from cutting old timber in the Gila.

“One time I had tried to get them to approve a committee for library purchases. It had always been done by the Village Clerk,” Clifford said. “At that time there literally were no reference books in the library. Just fiction. But no one would hear of a library committee. No way.

“When I announced that I would resign as mayor I gave them a date,” Clifford said. “At the end of my last village board meeting I banged the gavel and said meeting is adjourned.

“There was complete silence. No good bye, no good luck,” she said. “And I just walked out.”

About halfway through her term as mayor she started a newspaper in Reserve, the Catron County Courier, which was in publication for three years, from 1989 to 1991.

“It has nothing to do with the Catron Courier that’s out now,” Clifford said.

One of the more popular features of the Catron County Courier was Box Q, which appeared in the classified section.

One example: “Box Q would likie to advise all political office seekers that it is the vegetarian vote that will determine this year’s elections. You never know when you might run into one of those perverts. Be wise. Always carry a pocketful of carrots as a bribe.”
“I’ve loved writing all my life,” she said. “But never tried to get my stories published before.”

Clifford is a member of the Socorro Women’s Writers Group, and it was through that group she got encouragement to write about her experiences.

“I had written so many of the stories about the people I came to know and love, that the best idea was to join them all together in a book,” she said. “I got a lot of help from other members. I ended up editing and rewriting several parts of the book.”
Clifford said along with the contentiousness and orneriness she found in the area, was just as much, or more, humorous incidents intrinsic in the people of Reserve.

She writes: “Sometime in the fifties, a man in a truck with an enclosed trailer came through town. This was wintertime, and the weather was bad.

“It didn’t seem to be a night to continue further into bad weather, so the man parked the truck and went into Uncle Bill’s Bar. After a beer or two, the man wanted to play shuffleboard.

“The local guys were no dummies. Yes, they’d take turns playing the guy, but there had to be a challenge for money. Challenge accepted.
“The driver guy lost.

“More bets. He continued to lose, until finally, he was out of money but he wasn’t out of trying to get it back, so he bet the only other thing he had, which was a sack of potatoes out of his truck.

“He was transporting these potatoes to somewhere, and had a whole big truckload full. As it turned out, he wagered and lost all the potatoes.

“The guys took up a collection to buy the man enough gas to continue on to wherever he was going.

“Reserve people are really good about sharing, and it is said that the grocery store couldn’t sell a single potato all winter long.”

Clifford grew up in Durango, Colorado, lived in Santa Fe, and then Arizona for awhile. She has made Socorro her home since 2005.
“We are in a state without pretense,” Clifford said of New Mexico. “Man of our beautiful homes and buildings are actually made of mud. We eat a lot of beans and chile and delight in our gorgeous blue sky. How much more real can it get?”

There will be a book signing for Another Damned Newcomer at the Socorro Public Library Saturday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m.