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Historical Anecdotes


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‘The Silver Lining’ — stories of and by Daniel A. Storm

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

Dan Storm was a rancher, musician, writer, folklorist, along with many other titles. He also was a friend of my husband’s family. Many may know him from the reenactment of the Lincoln County war. Dan was the longest-running actor in that reenactment, playing the roll of Buckshot Roberts.

My husband grew up fishing the river on Dan’s place — some of his favorite memories. Dan would cut fresh Christmas trees from his property. He would bring several to one of our houses, including for my husband and me, usually to my husband’s aunt, one for each of us. Then we’d choose the one we wanted.

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Though he never married, Dan gave his time and talents to the community, friends and his church. He was a longtime contributor to the Ruidoso News. His column was under the heading of “The Silver Lining.” I love his inspiring life lessons he shared in these columns, so I thought I would share a few here with you today, and more in future articles from time to time.

Dan was born in 1909, educated at the University of Texas, and died in 1998. He was brilliant and most definitely one-of-a-kind.

“Ruidoso News

“Dec. 16, 1955

”The Silver Lining

“By Daniel A. Storm

“This Wonderland of Birds

“In this little mountain land, set off on every side by deserts, prairies, and plains, we have a sort of paradise for birds. It is far enough south so little birds do not have to go when the north wind starts driving the snow along.

“The favorite North American birds are like the rest of us. They do not like hot weather much but are fond of a cool climate. So here they come every summer by the thousands of thousands.

“In most parts of a continent, the birds make long journeys north and south following the seasons of the year. But here in this mountain northland away down in the south, more and more birds are finding out they can stay up among the spruce, Douglas fir, balsam, hemlock, and quaking aspens during the hottest weather and then later on go down among the pines, to drift still later on, even lower, down among the piñon and cedar.

“If they possibly can manage it, they stay the winter out up here — especially during the last few years when the winters have been mild — going down toward Tularosa and La Luz when the very cold weather comes out of the North, only to fly right back as soon as the cold snap breaks.

“A few hardy little fellows stay right on through the winter, no matter how cold it gets. You can be coming home late at night sometimes, through the snow, and happen to brush against a cedar branch tufted over with snow. Out will fly a bird from his little winter house with the snow roof, and go flying around in the darkness looking for another.

“The cedars are wonderful havens for birds in the winter. The other day, outside my window, just when the sun was showing rose and golden light on the hilltop across the river, the thick cedar tree out in the yard was still. Then the minute the sun shone upon it out came two piñon birds, a waxwing, three robin redbreasts, and a bluebird. And all began eating the purple cedar berries. Soon a chipmunk joined them, climbing out on the ends of the limbs and knocking off the snow so the birds could eat more of the berries. The birds appreciated his work.

“We are finding out more and more what real friends we have in our birds. They help us with the fruit trees and in many other ways. But this is only the small part of it.

“Birds live in the air and on the earth. They are little links between us and the World of the Spirit. They live between the world and heaven. They sing as they fly through the blue sky, and from the tree tops. Hidden in the bush, they send their songs out echoing through the land. The sight of their silken feather colors flashing through the air makes your heart leap with delight. They are little messengers of joy. They bring us happiness. Let us remember our little bird friends.”

“Ruidoso News

“The Silver Lining

“Jan. 6, 1956

“By Daniel A. Storm

“Our Second Wind

“Somehow I have always loved to run. I can hardly remember back when I have not been running foot races. A few years ago, when I was at the University of Texas, I used to run cross country in the fall, three and eight tenths miles; and the two-mile in track in the spring. I don’t think anybody ever tried harder than I to be in good shape, but no matter how good a condition I might be in, there would always come a time — say about the first half mile when it seemed I could go no further. My lungs would be on fire and bursting, and my limbs all felt paralyzed. It seemed the world was going to turn black. The feeling would come over me of how insane I was ever to get started in something like this. I would have given anything to pull over and lay down on the ground forever.

“But knowing I could not do this, I pushed on in a rage that after my lifelong conditioning for running I could feel as if I were going to come apart with the race hardly started. And then, there would always come a sudden and miraculous transformation. This feeling of insufferable exhaustion and suffocation was gone. My breath came easily; life flows back into my body and my feet were light. We used to call this our ‘second wind.’

“Now, at this time of the year many of us have a feeling of exhaustion and discouragement.

“Between each day we have a night for the restoration of mind, body, and soul. No matter how hard and trying the day has been, after the blessed night’s rest we wake up refreshed and ready to start all over again in a bright new day. Thus, each day is a little lifetime in miniature.

“But between the years there is no period of rest. One year takes up right where the other leaves off. It seems the new year can hardly wait to elbow the older out of the way and take over. And instead of there being any let up right after New Year’s so that a fellow can sort of get his breath, a thousand and one things come up to attend to — all kinds of headaches and problems are ready to come at us all at once. At this time of year we are reminded of Shakespeare’s lines:

“‘Woe follows woe.

“‘One treads upon another’s heels

“‘So fast they follow.’

“It is true that there is something like a lull between the years — between Christmas and the New Year — a little space of time in which we wander back through the old year and other years, and ahead through the new year and the years on ahead. But all too often, we take the dark side of the picture. We think: ‘Here is another year about gone and I have not done this and that and this other that I had hoped I could do.’

“Then in the first few days of the new year we say, ‘Here a lot of days have already gone by, and I don’t seem to be able to get started.’

“Of course, for the trees in the orchard and along the creek, the winter is sort of a night time for slumber. And the bears sleep all winter snug and warm in their caves in the vastness of the mountains. Maybe we human folks would sleep all winter like the bear if we could, but when we were made the Lord had different plans for us.

“A Great Lesson To Be Learned

“Hardly is there a greater lesson than that I learned back in the days when I used to push on and got my second wind.

“I have found that all life is along this pattern. Just when things seem their worst they are ready to turn for the better. ‘It is always darkest just before the dawn.’

“So remember, at this let-down in spirits that comes around the New Year, just hang on. And then, wonder of wonders, after you get your second wind, everything will clear up for you, and you will have a good laugh about the time you thought you had troubles.

“All of you let me know if there is any way I can help you during the New Year.”

“Ruidoso News

“The Silver Lining

“Nov. 18, 1955

“By Daniel A. Storm

“By the Pinon Fire

“A fireplace makes the winter time all the more a joy. Did you ever notice that the different kinds of wood burning in the fireplace make flames and embers that are a little different in color from each other? There is a little difference in the way that the wood warms you, too. Each wood has its own smell as it burns, and the fire has different voices.

“On a winter evening, or in the late fall, as you sit by the fire watching the blazes play among the glowing logs, you are lulled into dreaming and remembering. And the spell that each kind of wood casts upon you is a little different.

“It may be that people who live in lands of long winters are dreamers. Quien sabe? I am sure of one thing. A fireplace is a source of comfort, mental health, and spiritual awakening that is more far reaching than we think.

“Cedar and juniper wood are cheerful to the lonely dreamer by the fire because they pop and chatter, playfully sending off little sparks. As Elfago Polaco says, this kind of wood is lots of company because it ‘talks.’ (Polaco was born Feb. 10, 1865 and was a New Mexican (gunman) turned law-abiding lawyer and politician. His status as American Hispanic folk hero began when Walt Disney featured his legends in the late 1950s in a TV series, comic books and a feature film.)

“It is ever so pleasant to watch the snowflakes falling, and swirling outside amongst the piñon and cedar, and listen to the little voices of the fire inside.

“The oak sends out a mighty heat against which the whistling north-wind and the zero weather are of no avail. The wild cherry brings into the room an aroma that is a sweet wild incense of the cherries themselves, calling back like magic into winter time a little breath of the warm and mellow summer.

“Of all the woods, to me there is none like the piñon. It casts a light deep orange flame and sends a soft caressing heat. It makes no cracking, popping sound, but burns softly. And you have to listen closely to hear it’s voice whispering from the fireplace. It may be the color of the flames and embers, or the aromatic incense of the wood. It may be this quiet burning, or something else. Anyhow, when I am warming … by the piñon fire, my dreams seem more real and wonderful; the golden thread of memory reaches far, far back; in the gentle rising and falling of the flames, the fading and glowing of the coals, my cares are charmed away. I feel more kindly to my fellow man. And I am grateful for the little piñon tree.

“Lots of people say they dread to see winter come on. But just stop and think. Winter is one of the most joyful times of all.”

“Ruidoso News

“The Silver Lining

“July 6, 1956

“By Daniel A. Storm

“The Magic of the Rain

“Somehow, the clouds floating in the sky all gray and white make the heavens send down their blue from above just a little closer to us in many lovely shades — and lend a glowing new enchantment to the green of growing things all around about us. Overnight the new blades of grass appear on hill and dale and high among the rocks. Tender new leaves with the light shining through them, spring out on the ends of the limbs. Everywhere the world returns to life. The fresh smell of new growth of the piñon, cedar, oak, apple, wild grapes, wild four o’clocks, and the blue forget-me-nots along the streams are all mingled in the air.

“Thunder and Lightening Over the Hill

“Back along through the summer I think it was drier down at my place than I have ever seen it in the many long years that the Lord has let me live in this blessed spot. I had seen the creek dry in many places along the valley in every summer; but through the driest years the little stream, though it might get mighty low, would always keep running through my place.

“From the very first day of summer, from day to day I could see the soft outlines of clouds appear over the mountains to the south, the north and up the river and down the river. The thunder would pound and echo, and the lightening would flash across the sky, light gold in the daytime and a soft red at night. This has always been dear to my heart, a thunderstorm approaching on the horizon. And to us who live in a land where everybody loves the rain, there is double joy in the sight and sound of this source of life itself drifting nearer through the sky.

“There were times when I wondered if the weatherman had forgotten me. The creek got lower and lower. The grass dried to parchment. The trees wilted on the hillside. But it rained every day all around me, over the hilltops. Every day or so, and every other night or two I could see the lightening’s quick, brilliant stroke amid the distant clouds, and then hear the thunder’s roar. Still the little world of grass and hush and trees around me grew ever drier. But I didn’t care. The rain would be all the more welcome when it came.

“But more than this: I am the world’s wealthiest man in friends, which are the true wealth. These friends live in every direction from me for hundreds of miles. So when I saw the rain, I would rejoice to myself and think:

“‘Well there is good rain on Wilber McKnight and Charlie Fuller. The Mescaleros are getting a wonderful shower. Elzy Perry, Wilber Coe, Kenneth Nosker and Adalado Chaves are getting almost a cloudburst. The folks in Roswell are getting some moisture today. The folks out in West Texas are out of the drouth now.’

“So you see, anywhere we see rain over the hill it is a joy to us, because it is raining on our friends.

“Now, the second of July, my mother’s birthday, there came the most marvelous rain I have ever seen on my little home-place. The night before, the river had gone down to a tiny trickle — almost stopped in it’s tracks for the first time in the long part of my life I have spent here.

“Now the grass is green, the apples are growing before my very eyes on the trees. And low and behold, for the first time in a long, long time, there are some bright green cones on the piñon trees. There will be piñons this year. What do you think of that?”

Historian Janice Dunnahoo can be reached at jdunna@hotmail.com.

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