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2019 Galisteo Street, Suite N-10 A  
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505  
505/ 982.2448  •  877/ 982.2448  

Recollections on the Closing of Martin's
Edward Crocker

I saw in last month's Real Estate Guide that Martin's Store in El Rito closed for good on August 31st. I admit to a wave of nostalgia because as a child I spent a lot of time in El Rito. Tom Martin, brother of Greg (the most recent owner), was my best friend and each summer we would spend time in each other's domain. I have gone through El Rito occasionally for the last fifty years or so, and I imagine Tom has passed through Santa Fe a time or two, but we just lost touch. Sometimes close friendships don't survive; no fault, not even harebrained disputes over Monopoly games, is involved -- it's just attrition. The closing of the store did prompt some very personal and fond memories, among them part of the reason I have so much reverence for mud.

My mother came to El Rito in 1944 and lived in an adobe apartment behind Tom Sr. and Katy Martin's house catty-corner from the store. Her job was just down the road at the Maternal and Child Health Center as the receptionist. The Center was supported, in part, by Georgia O'Keeffe and run by the Martin family matriarch, a nurse who was always referred to as Dambo. The sprawling, marvelous adobe home owned by Dambo and George Martin senior was opposite the clinic and was the center of the large family's life.

The house was, is, one of the finest examples of northern New Mexico earthen vernacular still standing. Long, L-shaped with a full-length wooden veranda facing south, contiguous rooms accessed by a connecting door or, for privacy, by coming and going via the portal. The property has a pond, a barn, corrals and, significantly, a cottonwood-bounded acequia.

As it happened, Tom Martin and I were best friends and Cam Martin and Alex, our respective older sisters, were also best friends. The two sets of friends had quite different approaches to fun; Cam and Alex rode horses bareback and, on rare occasions, made futile attempts to be refined, while Tom and I dammed the creek, caught snakes, built a raft for the pond and were generally dirty but well behaved. There were some exceptions.

During one of Cam and Alex's rare moments of refinement they set up a little table and chairs and had a tea party on the bank of the acequia under a magnificent cottonwood. Tom and I lurked and spied and thought what a precious little tableau was unfolding and, during a short hiatus when our sisters were gone, tipped the whole works into the flowing ditch.

This is a vivid recollection because it resulted in one of several monumental whoopings that I received as a child. The rod was not spared in those days. Worse than the whaling was the dressing-down by Dambo who, when disapproving, could not only take the bloom off a glorious victory, but convince you unequivocally that you were beyond reformation and hell-bound for sure.

I noted in last month's article that the store had closed on my birthday. What a gift, I thought, not that the store closed, but that it and the Martins had provided me with such an enduring connection. I've lost touch with that family except in my old earthen heart, half of which at least still resides in El Rito.

Crocker Ltd
2019 Galisteo Street, Suite N-10 A  •  Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
tel 505/ 982.2448  •  fax 505/ 995.9877
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