In Philadelphia today, they still remember Muldrow. They may not remember
his name, but they certainly remember his deeds. " He was an old crook, he
really took them for a ride. He was going to build a railroad. He got some
grading in but he never finished it. "
The speaker is Henry Rhodes, also known as " Hank" and " The Bull. " On this
Sunday afternoon, as he stood under the portico outside the Country Corners
Cafe, where he had just finished his dinner, Rhodes, 61, a burly, barrel-
bellied man, was wearing a pair of denim bib overalls, a faded blue work
shirt and some heavy-duty work shoes. In his cheek was a well-masticated chaw
of Red Man chewing tobacco, and atop his head was a faded green tractor cap
whose emblem proclaimed: " I'm from Missouri and I help feed America. "
A lifelong bachelor, Rhodes has a 150- acre farm outside of town where he
grows corn, wheat and soybeans. His roots in the area go way back. His
grandfather was a country doctor, trained at Jefferson Medical College in
Philadelphia, Pa., in the days when there were water troughs and hitching
racks on Walnut Street. " He delivered practically all the people around here,
" said Rhodes. " If you look in his ledgers and see a $10 bill, you can bet a
baby was born. "
Rhodes probably knows more about Philadelphia than anyone else around, and
he's proud of his home town. " We got running water just like Philadelphia,
Pa.'s got," he said, pointing to the town's water tower. But Philadelphia
today is a pale replica of what it once was. " This place was really hoppin'
on Saturday nights," Rhodes recalled. " There were ice cream socials and
everybody came to town to shoot the breeze. There were old Model T's all over
the street. There ain't nothin' here any more. Everything's closed up.
" What's tearin' up your towns are these goddamn shopping centers," he
continued. " Same as in Hannibal; it's a goddamn ghost town. Miles don't mean
s- any more. In 45 minutes from where I live I can be in Quincy without
breaking the speed record. Hell, this is Wheel World now. When I was a boy,
going to Quincy was a big deal, like going to California or Pennsylvania. "
Rhodes stopped, walked around the corner of the building and spat out a big
gob of tobacco. " Here, we got the same problems like everybody else.
Everybody's bitchin' and moanin' about the high cost of livin' and inflation.
" I picture you're a city boy and don't know much about this farmin'
business, but it ain't all gravy. Wheat was getting $4.30 a bushel last year,
now it's $3.40. Last year, it was 80 or 90 cents a gallon for gas on the
farm, now it's $1.25, and diesel is just about likewise. Fertilizers and
chemicals all went up, and we're getting less for what we got to sell than
last year. What in the hell are you going to do if you got a $150,000 loan
for farm machinery and such?
" They used to call farmers dumb, but any more today, farming is big
business. It really keeps you guessin'. Hell, you've heard of the Wall Street
Journal? Those big wheels predict that by 1990 the United States is gonna run
out of food. For every 10 farmers who leave farmin', only two are comin' in.
What's a young guy gonna do? It takes $150,000 to $200,000 to start a farm and
buy the equipment. And the government ain't no help. This handout business is
about over with. This goddamn 'Jellybeans' has just about got it all caulkered
In the air-conditioned cab of the new green and yellow, $83,000 John Deere
6620 Turbo combine that his family had just bought, Dave Neisen, 23, a sinewy
man whose shirtless torso was tanned the color of caramel, commanded a wide
view of the wheat field he was harvesting. The terrain was bumpy, and the
combine swayed from side to side as its huge tires sank into muddy spots, but
Neisen, comfortable in his plush bucket seat, handled the machine with
aplomb, checking its speed, its r.p.m.'s and other functions occasionally on a
computerized digital read-out panel.
" We should have the wheat harvested by now," he said, as the blades of the
combine drew in the stalks, which were blown out again as straw after the
wheat grain had been threshed and separated. " We've had too much rainy
weather. Wheat is kind of a dry crop; it doesn't take too much rain. "
It was a Sunday afternoon, and Neisen, who is in partnership with his father
and brother, had been working since early morning. " There's a lot to farming.
Long hours, seven days a week, but it gets in your blood," he said. " There's
a satisfaction, I guess, that comes when you harvest the crops. You're your
own boss. You don't have to sit behind a desk and you don't get a certain time
for dinner. "
Neisen lives on a dairy farm a couple of miles from Philadelphia. His dream,
he said, is " to get on my own, to get to a point where I don't have to worry
about debts. " He is angry at the middlemen and commodities speculators who
" are making all the money," but he believes that " farming's gonna get
better; prices have to get better. " For the moment, he is happy to be living
" It's just a friendly little country town where not a lot happens. I'm not
much for big towns. A lot of crime goes on there. Here, I know a lot of the
people. I like living around my friends. "
That sentiment was echoed by Craig Spratt, 17, a rangy, personable youth who
was helping his mother check groceries at the family store in Philadelphia.
Besides baseball and basketball games, there isn't much for young people to
do in Philadelphia, said Spratt, who is one of 10 children and whose forebears
on his mother's side were Lancaster County Mennonites. Those with hot cars
often spend Saturday nights cruising the " Miracle Mile" in Palmyra. Other
youths go to the beer bars.
For those who find these activities mindless and boring, the alternatives
are few. For example, the nearest movie theater is in Quincy or Hannibal, both
about 25 miles away. When the cost of gasoline is figured in, a movie date
and meal for Spratt and his girlfriend, Karla, could mean a $25 outlay.
Furthermore, said Spratt, " if Mom and Dad didn't own this store, I'd have to
go to town ( Palmyra, Hannibal or Quincy ) to find a job. " Nevertheless,
Spratt likes living in Philadelphia. " It's a rural area," he said. " It's
quiet and the people are good. When I go to a city like St. Louis, I don't
like the noise. I don't think I could ever sleep there. "
Across the street, in the Philadelphia post office, acting postmaster
Loretta Bevill conceded that living in the country has its drawbacks. " If you
want to go out to eat or buy something nice, you've got to drive 30 miles.
" It would be nice, she said, if Philadelphia had a Hardee's or some other
fast-food restaurant, for when the Country Corners Cafe is closed " the whole
town is dead. "
But these inconveniences are minor compared to the privilege of living among
country people, said Mrs. Bevill. " I think farmers are the best people in the
world. You don't meet many phonies or crooks. They're basically good
Americans. When you get out of the cities and into the rural communities, I
think you'll find the real backbone of America. I don't know why. Maybe it's
because farmers are closer to the earth - and to God. "
PHILADELPHIA, NEW MEXICO
From the summit of the thickly timbered slopes of Mount Taylor, an extinct
volcano that rises to a height of 11,389 feet - a geological pituitary case
that the Navajos called " The Mountain of Sacred Turquoise" - the eerie,
tortured features of New Mexico's lunar landscape roll, buckle and surge to a
vividly clear horizon a hundred miles away. Below is a strangely barren
wonderland of flat-topped mesas and buttes, weird lava tubes and cinder
cones, sharp-edged craters and teetering sandstone sculptures, rocky canyons
and muddy arroyos studded with cactus, bushlike wild cedar trees and tufts of
hardy sagebrush and tumbleweed.
About 10 miles to the south, at the foot of the igneous upheaval over which
Mount Taylor presides, is the Rio San Jose valley, a corridor of level
rangeland that is traversed by an interstate highway and the tracks of the
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, which follow an old cattle-drive route
and wagon road.
The railroad cuts through the heart of the 500,000-acre reservation
belonging to the Laguna tribe of Pueblo Indians. About 7,000 Laguna Indians
live on the reservation in six villages, with the tribe taking its name from
the mother village, which was named Laguna, or " lake" in Spanish, because a
lake was once nearby.
A friendly, pacific, Christian people, the Laguna seem to harbor no
resentment toward whites, or " Anglos. " Several years ago, in fact, when
militants from the American Indian Movement tried to recruit among the Laguna,
they met with little success. " There's no reason to recruit out here because
nobody has ever done anything to us," said one Laguna woman. " Our revolt was
against the Spanish in 1680. "
One of the six Laguna villages is Seama, a settlement of sun-bleached, one-
story adobe-style houses of brick, stone and stucco that hugs the protective
slope of a mesa. Off in the distance is the majestic purple profile of Mount
Taylor. Across the rangeland below, semitrailers drone by on the interstate,
and on the parallel railroad tracks a periodic freight train trails its
colorful, toy-like cars from one end of the panorama to the other. About a
mile east is one of the " suburbs" of Seama, the tiny hamlet of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia, N.M., is too small to appear on any map. It consists of seven
houses, six of which are made of stone and stucco and one of which is made of
wood. There are also a couple of ramshackle storage buildings, a family
cemetery, two outdoor beehive ovens, some dilapidated chicken and sheep pens
and an old outhouse. Philadelphia's " Main Street" is a rutted dirt driveway
that leads to the residence of Helen Dailey Luther, 91, the community's
To call Philadelphia a village is a misnomer. It is actually more a family
compound. Most of its 18 inhabitants, who span four generations, are related,
and Mrs. Luther represents the oldest living limb on the family tree. " This
is just like a big family," said Daisy Siow, 56, one of Mrs. Luther's
daughters. " This is the place we all come to. It's just like the Kennedys in
Hyannis Port. "
Mrs. Luther is a lifelong resident of Philadelphia. Today, her face is
wrinkled, her hair gray and wispy, her body frail and bony, her eyes cloudy
and weak, but her mind is sharp. She still bakes bread in an outdoor oven and
insists on using a wood stove in the kitchen. As she undertakes her chores,
she hobbles about in colorful flowered dresses and aprons printed with eye-
catching geometric designs. Her neck is adorned with beads, her wrists
with jewelry of turquoise and silver.
It was Mrs. Luther's father who founded the settlement that became
Philadelphia. A sheepherder and cattle rancher, George Dailey moved out of
Laguna and erected a house where Philadelphia is now, to be closer to his
livestock and grazing land. " He was a well-to-do man, with over a thousand
sheep," said Mrs. Luther. " We never went hungry. " Dailey also served as an
Indian scout, keeping tabs on bellicose tribes of nomadic Apache and Navajo,
and he helped survey the state in the days when it was still a frontier
How Philadelphia got its name is a question shrouded in apocrypha. According
to one legend - the version favored by Mrs. Luther and her family - a Pres
byterian missionary, who had come to the reservation around the turn of
the century, was having difficulty keeping track of Seama's satellite
settlements. So, as a mnemonic device, she named them after cities in the
East. Thus, today, in addition to Philadelphia, there are tiny hamlets near
Seama called New York and Harrisburg.
Other Laguna Indians, though, tell a different story: In the late 1890s and
early 1900s, several young men from Seama were sent East to attend the Indian
School in Carlisle, Pa., about 20 miles west of Harrisburg. When these young
men returned, partly to show off their worldliness and partly as a joke, they
decided to dignify Seama's anonymous neighboring communities by naming them
after Eastern metropolises.
As the big-city names of Seama's " suburbs" illustrate, the pull of the
outside world is strong on the Laguna reservation. While Mrs. Luther adheres
to many of the old Indian ways, her five children, 18 grandchildren and 15
great-grandchildren have become thoroughly " Anglicized. " Their houses are
equipped with all the latest conveniences: running water, electricity,
telephones, radios and televisions. The youngsters in town idolize TV stars
and sports heroes; one of Mrs. Luther's daughters, in fact, has a picture of
Roger Staubach attached by magnet to her refrigerator. " These children don't
talk Indian no more," lamented Mrs. Luther, as she sat at her kitchen table
one afternoon surrounded by frisky young relatives. " My grandmother said when
I was young, 'Your children will lose the language because they have tasted
the white man's food. ' "
Near the bottom of the dirt drive leading to Mrs. Luther's house is an
attractive stone and stucco ranch house belonging to the Sanchez family. One
morning recently, Karen Sanchez, 33, one of Mrs. Luther's granddaughters, was
tidying up the living room while game shows and soap operas filled the screen
of a color television. On a shelf behind a bar was a display of the numerous
trophies her husband has won in local long-distance races. Ralph Sanchez, 35,
a welder at the Anaconda uranium processing mill in Grants, runs about eight
miles a day, often with his son, Jonathan, 15. The Pueblo are noted for their
running ability, and Ralph's brother, Meldon, was a three-time state cross-
country champion who was once featured in Sports Illustrated magazine.
Mrs. Sanchez believes tradition is important, but she also believes Indians
can't afford to be isolated, for economic as well as social reasons. " After
high school, it's not usual for boys around here to go to college unless
they're really pushed," she said. " I will encourage my children to leave and
not stay here. I feel it's better for them to get an idea of how it is to live
among other people. " For several years, while her husband was attending
welding school, Mrs. Sanchez lived in California. She has seen some of the
world and is glad of it, but she also appreciates the special qualities of
" We enjoy it here, mostly because it's secluded and because we can have as
many animals as we want," said Mrs. Sanchez. " We have six or seven dogs now,
but we once had 20 dogs and 18 cats. In the village, it's crowded. Here, you
don't have to worry about the kids making too much noise and bothering
everybody else. You can just have your freedom here. "
Her son, Jonathan, a personable basketball enthusiast who was wearing a T-
shirt, shorts and a blue Dodgers batting helmet, said that he too enjoys
Philadelphia. He likes the wide-open spaces and the giddy sense of
independence he feels when climbing the mesas. When he went to basketball camp
in Albuquerque, he said, " I got headaches because there was too much noise.
" Nevertheless, after high school, Jonathan said, he will leave the
reservation. " I want to find out what the real world is like. Philadelphia is
not the center of the universe. "
For the past 28 years, the foundation of the Laguna economy has been
uranium. In the northwestern corner of New Mexico are said to lie some of the
largest reserves of the radioactive element in the United States. About 20
miles west of Philadelphia, the city of Grants proudly calls itself " The
Uranium Capital of the World" and " The Pittsburgh of the Uranium Industry.
" In the center of the logo of the town's newspaper, the Grants Daily Beacon,
there is a representation of electrons orbiting a nucleus, the symbol of
atomic energy, and the attitude toward nuclear power is boosterish, to say the
On the Laguna reservation, the Anaconda Copper Co. has carved out the
world's largest open-pit uranium mine, a monstrous chasm that is spectacular
even in the midst of New Mexico's spectacular landscape. The mine has
provided jobs and income for many Laguna Indians, and the royalties it has
generated have enriched the tribe's treasury, so that today the Laguna are
among the most affluent of the Pueblo, " a multimillion- dollar tribe," in
the words of Laguna Pueblo Gov. Harry D. Early.
Unlike other Indian tribes, including the neighboring Acoma Pueblo, the
Laguna have embraced the future with a bear hug. In the view of most Laguna
Indians, the economic progress made possible by the mine has more than
compensated for the dust, the noise, the potential health hazards and the
damage to the environment.
" The mine has provided good housing for our people. It's enabled them to
buy cars and appliances," said Early. " It's put money into different accounts
for the Pueblo. I think the Laguna have looked at the uranium here as more of
a gift from Father Almighty, a blessing from Mother Earth. "
Currently, the uranium industry is in a severe slump, owing in part to
restrictions on the construction and expansion of nuclear power plants.
" Yellow cake," the bright yellow uranium-oxide concentrate that is produced
at the Anaconda mill, is now going for not quite half what it did a year ago.
As a result, Anaconda closed down its huge open-pit mine in February, throwing
400 persons out of work, most of them Laguna Pueblo. Some, like Ralph
Sanchez, were transferred to jobs at the mill; some were hired by the tribe;
some were forced to look for work off the reservation; still others are
So far, the shutdown has not had a serious impact on tribal revenues because
Anaconda continues to operate an underground uranium mine, and is expected to
do so until 1985. Between now and then, the uranium market could recover.
Nevertheless, the Laguna are hedging their bets by seeking to broaden their
The tribe is negotiating with a Colorado company that is interested in
exploring for oil in the southwestern corner of the reservation. In addition,
the Laguna, with the help of the Raytheon Service Co., are converting an old
electronics plant into a facility for the repair of military generators,
motors and other electro- mechanical devices. Eventually, this overhaul depot
is expected to employ 300 to 400 persons.
Also, over the past five years the Laguna have added 45,000 acres to their
ranchlands, a move that insures the continued health of the tribe's
traditional means of subsistence, the raising of cattle and sheep. " We don't
want our people to have a doomsday mentality," said Early.
A handsome man with an angular face, thick light-gray hair and a taut,
compact physique, Harry Early, 55, the governor of the Laguna Pueblo, was
talking about his people one morning in his spacious mobile home in the
village of Encino. Early, son of a Welsh-Irish father and a full-blooded
Laguna mother, is a Marine Corps veteran who won a Silver Star and a Purple
Heart for saving the lives of two soldiers in Korea. He is also a former
railway postal clerk and local postmaster and the father of four boys.
The Laguna are determined, he said, to become economically self-sufficient,
but essential to achieving that goal is education. Early, who attended the
Albuquerque Indian School and later earned an associate's degree in business
administration, is devoted to providing his people educational opportunity. He
has journeyed to Washington frequently to lobby against the Reagan
administration's cuts in health and education funds, and he is in the thick
of a battle to upgrade the quality of schooling at home.
On the Laguna reservation, there are two elementary schools and a high
school, but the education Indian children are receiving is second-rate, Early
charges, and does not address their special needs. For that reason, the
Laguna are endeavoring to split from the school district administered in
Grants and form their own locally controlled district.
The Laguna also have a $500,000 scholarship program, but many Indians who
begin college never finish, partly because of inadequate preparation and
partly because of homesickness and the lure of the buck. " The kids know that
the mine pays $10, $11, $12 an hour," said Early. " That's a big temptation.
The kids want to go out and see the world, but eventually they come back. "
There is nothing wrong with coming back, said Early, but he wants them to
come back well educated, to come back in some instances as doctors and
lawyers, to come back to a community that is progressive and prosperous.
It was late afternoon and the sun was still brilliant, but inside the thick
stone walls of the Waconda house in the village of Seama it was dark and cool.
In the main room of the house, which is adorned with baskets and iridescent
rugs and weavings, Lloyd Waconda, 21, an easygoing man with a stout, loose-
jointed body, a broad brown face and jet-black hair parted in the middle,
was lounging in an easy chair.
He wore a light-brown military shirt, jeans and heavy work shoes. His lip
was swollen from a punch thrown in a bar fight the night before. On the color
television set across the room, the stars of " Hogan's Heroes" were cavorting
through some ridiculous adventure. Unemployed since last February, when he was
laid off from his job at the mine, where he had worked as a drill helper and
truck driver, Waconda, who quit high school after his junior year, was to
begin work the next day as a cook at the Big T Family Restaurant in Grants.
" Nothing but old people live in Seama," Waconda griped. " There's no
action, there's nothing to do around here, except play baseball, basketball or
go get drunk. It would be nice if we could at least get a movie theater or a
bowling alley or a Pizza Hut up here, but this tribe isn't into that. It would
be nice if we had a disco place where we could go dancing, but this tribe
doesn't like dances because there are always lots of fights. I don't know
about this tribe. They don't have all their stuff together. They don't have
any recreation for older kids. "
While he appreciates Laguna culture and tradition, Waconda would rather
listen to Jefferson Starship than an Indian ceremonial dance, he said.
" Nowadays the young people really don't understand the Indian language. I
can speak it once in a while when I have to. "
His ambition is to move to Albuquerque, " where I wouldn't mind driving
trucks. " At the moment, he has little interest in marriage. " I think I'll get
married someday, but I don't think to an Indian. There are a lot of Indian
girls around here, but I don't know. . . . " His voice trailed off just as
the buxom figure of a busty blond Anglo filled the TV screen. " I wouldn't
mind a woman like her," said Waconda, laughing.
The last place one would expect to find a warm and wonderful human-interest
story with a strong local angle is Philadelphia, N.M. But there is one. And,
in a neat coincidence, the local connection is to Bucks County, which was a
favorite place of the founder of our Philadelphia, William Penn, whose country
estate, Pennsbury Manor, overlooks the Delaware in Falls Township.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, when many Indian youths attended the
Carlisle Indian School, it was customary for them to spend the summers working
for local farmers. One of the Indians who attended the school around that
time was Mrs. Luther's husband, James Reid Luther. In the spring of 1905,
Luther was sent to the farm of Ira H. Cornell on Swamp Road in Newtown, Bucks
County, where he become fast friends with Cornell's son, Raymond.
Today, Raymond Cornell is 88 years old. He still lives in Newtown on a farm
on Buck Road where for over 40 years he raised annually more than 600,000
gladiolas and peonies, which he sold to florists in Philadelphia and Trenton.
His once- tranquil Llenroc Farm has been cut in two by the noisy Newtown
Bypass, and his father's old farm, a mile or so away, is now covered by
One afternoon recently, Cornell, who is nearly blind, sat on the porch of
his house with his companion, Ruth McKinney, 75, as an approaching
thunderstorm darkened the sky. On his bald head was a straw Western- style
hat, and on the ring finger of his trembling, spotted left hand was a silver
and turquoise ring, gifts from his Indian friends in New Mexico.
" I was about 12 years old at the time, and ( James Luther ) was about 18,
" Cornell recalled. " I only had a sister, so I kind of looked up to him as a
big brother. He was a mild, very friendly fellow, and I was an American boy
who was very impressed with Indians. He taught me how to make a bow and arrow
and we'd go out to the woods and shoot at targets. "
James Luther stayed with the Cornells for two years, helping with the
farmwork and attending classes with Cornell at the West School, a one-room
schoolhouse that still stands at the corner of Newtown-Richboro Road and the
bypass. Frequently, Cornell was tempted to play hooky so that he and his
Indian friend could whoop and splash in the Neshaminy Creek or set off on
other boyish larks, but generally Luther was a dutiful, responsible lad.
" My mother had been after me for some time to clean up the woodhouse," said
Cornell. " The day before ( Luther ) was supposed to go back to Carlisle, he
said to me, 'Why don't we clean up the woodhouse and make your mother happy? '
Well, we did clean it up, and my mother was so overjoyed that she always loved
him ever after. "
After Luther returned to New Mexico, he and Cornell corresponded for several
years. When Luther's first son was born, he named him Raymond after his friend
in Bucks County. In 1926, Luther sent Cornell a letter saying he was about to
enter a hospital in Albuquerque for an operation. The next letter Cornell
received was from Mrs. Luther, informing him that her husband had died.
At Christmastime that year, Cornell and his mother sent Mrs. Luther a large
package of clothes and toys for her five children. They continued the practice
every year thereafter, and when Cornell got married in 1928, his late wife,
Edna, helped prepare the annual gift. In time, Raymond and Edna Cornell, who
never had children of their own, came to regard the Luther children as an
adopted family, and the children began calling Cornell " Uncle Raymond. "
In 1975, two of Mrs. Luther's children, June Sarracino and Eleanore Ghahate,
along with Mrs. Sarracino's husband, Lawrence, journeyed East to visit
Cornell. While here, they visited the historic sites in Philadelphia and had
dinner at Bookbinder's on Walnut Street. Then, in June 1980, Cornell took his
first plane ride to attend the wedding in New Mexico of Mrs. Ghahate's
daughter, Raymona, who was also named after him. On that trip, Cornell met
Mrs. Luther for the first time.
" There's only a few years between us," said Cornell, his eyes sparkling,
" but she calls me her son and I call her 'Mom. ' We were both wiping the tears
out of our eyes. "
During that trip, Cornell was invited to dinner at Mrs. Sarracino's home in
Laguna, where he tasted for the first time chili stew and Indian fried bread.
" At the table," Cornell recalled, " were Ruth and I, whose ancestors treated
the Indians pretty shabbily, a Japanese woman whose country fought a war with
us, and Lawrence ( Sarracino ) , who helps mine uranium, which is used to make
atomic bombs, like the one that was dropped on Hiroshima. And I thought, here
we all are now, smiling at each other and eating together. Why can't it always
be like this? "
The thunderstorm had broken now, and torrents of rain poured from the
pewter-colored skies. On unsteady legs, Cornell lifted himself from his chair
on the porch and retired to the dining room, where, over a large bowl of
vanilla ice cream topped with fresh peaches from his own tree, he fondly
recalled more high points of his pleasurable relationship with the Luther clan
of Philadelphia, N.M. Now his eyes danced as he exclaimed how wonderful it
was that a writer for a newspaper only 30 miles away had traveled all the way
out to New Mexico - some 1,600 miles as a jet flies - to find one end of a
rainbow of friendship that arced all the way back to Bucks County, Pa.
" You know," said Cornell, with a smile that made the cliche seem important
and profound, " it really is a small world."