Two weeks ago, a cashier at Albertsons in Taos had barely finished getting one customer's bags in the cart before she moved on to the next. But something caught her eye. It was a stack of letters.
The person who left them was gone and didn't come back.
It was clear the letters weren't this month's bills or a birthday card to a grandchild, crisp and freshly stamped. The letters, bound by a single rubber band, were a little faded and a little tattered, but not in bad shape for being more than 70 years old.
The 14 letters were all penned by a young man in the Navy in 1944, a year before the end of World War II.
Adriana Abbate, a customer service representative at the Albertsons, talked about the letters turning up at her store.
"My heart just went out when I read them," she said. "Clearly the letters meant so much to someone, being taken care of like that."
From January to July, Robert M. Potter sent 14 letters via air mail with six cents of postage to "Miss Margaret Nickelson." Some went to Northfield, Minnesota. Others to an address in the small town of Landford, South Dakota.
Potter was posted on the U.S.S. Y.M.S. 193, one of hundreds of "minesweeper" ships built for the war. And a couple times a month from March to July in 1944, he poured his heart into letters heavy with the language of love.
"My dearest darling Margaret," one letter began. "I have to write this darling before another word, because there isn't a thing in all the World that could come before it, loving you as I do."
"He loved her so much," said Abbate.
She's asked around town, done a little research and posted on social media to try to find "darling Margaret." So far, nothing.
Abbate is still searching for someone in the family. She's asked that any family or descendants of Potter or Nickelson reach out at (575) 779-5568.