In the Rearview: An Amtrak incident, an author's milestone birthday and an archaeological excavation

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As part of our weekly series, The Taos News dug into the newspaper's archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago.

10 years ago: 'iPod derails Taos teens' train trip,' July 26-Aug. 1, 2007, By Andy Dennison

It seemed like an ordinary trip aboard Amtrak - until a set of serious accusations led four unaccompanied minors to be ejected from a train.

The teens - Carley Maestas, 15, Anthony Maestas and Zackary Sharfin, both 13, and 12-year-old Chris Sharfin - were heading home to New Mexico from Fresno, California, where they had visited Carley Maestas' mother. They were traveling alone.

"According to interviews with the persons involved, the unsettling incident began Saturday (July 21 [2007]) when one passenger accused 13-year-old Zackary Sharfin of stealing her iPod portable music player, and another said he took her cell phone and inappropriately touched her daughter," Andy Dennison of The Taos News reported. Two passengers separately accused Sharfin of both the thefts and "touching" the child, incidents that reportedly happened while in transit between Needles, California, and Kingman, Arizona.

The boy reportedly denied the thefts, claiming that he had picked up the iPod and had intended to return it.

At around 3 a.m., train conductors reportedly pointed flashlights in the eyes of the four teens and tweens, asking them to disembark the train. When Carley Maestas asked the conductor what they should do, the conductor reportedly replied, "I don't care."

"I wanted to beat him up," Zackary Sharfin said. "I was scared."

Carley Maestas called her father, Paul Maestas, who immediately got on the road to Kingman with Peter Sharfin to pick them up.

"I was furious," Peter Sharfin said. "I think they were wrong, plain and simple, to put those kids off in a strange time at 3 o'clock in the morning."

In the meantime, Kingman police brought the kids to the police station, where they waited for 12 hours until their parents arrived.

At the time, Taos attorney Alan Maestas, who had no relation to his clients, had been hired to pursue a possible suit against Amtrak. "Couldn't they have called the parents and had them meet in Lamy (the end of their trip)? And settle it there?"

Amtrak spokesman Vernae Graham said that Amtrak had a policy to remove disruptive passengers, but qualified that "they had to be pretty disruptive for them to be removed. It's one of those things where it had to be pretty bad."

25 years ago: 'Frank Waters celebrates 90th birthday,' July 23, 1992, By Rick Romancito

On July 23, 1992, celebrated Taos author Frank Waters turned 90 years old. In honor of this occasion, Eloy Jeantete, then the mayor of Taos, proclaimed July 23, 1992, "Frank Waters Day."

The author of more than 20 books, many of which concerned Native American culture, Waters was well known for his novel "The Man Who Killed the Deer," which is about Taos Pueblo, as well as his "Book of the Hopi," a book that explored the mythology of the Hopi people. He was nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Initially after Waters' publication of "The Man Who Killed the Deer," religious leaders of Taos Pueblo accused him of disclosing the tribe's religious secrets. Later, however, members of the tribe were grateful for Waters' book for documenting ideas and traditions that might have been otherwise lost.

"I had no criticism from the tribal council whatever, and then several years later I would have young people say, 'It's a good thing you wrote that book because we learned a great deal about our life and ceremonies,'" Waters was quoted as saying.

In his interview with Rick Romancito (nowadays the editor of Tempo), Waters also discussed his time as an adviser to the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, a position in which he witnessed the detonation tests of perhaps as many as 100 nuclear bombs.

"I'll tell you there was one test that really brought it home to you," Waters was quoted as saying. "They built a house that was completely furnished and they had mannequin characters: a mother working in the kitchen, father sitting listening to TV and children playing on the floor. Everything was so realistic. Then that bomb went off and that whole house disintegrated. That just brought home to you just how destructive this damn thing was."

In his later career, Waters also became an activist, helping to found the Taos Land Trust in 1988 above Arroyo Seco so as to preserve the land's natural beauty and prevent rampant development.

Waters passed away in 1995, just two weeks short of his 93rd birthday.

50 years ago: 'Students study settlers of 1,000 years ago,' July 27, 1967, By Leslie Bottorff

On a site near the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, the former estate of the British author, an archaeological dig led by Dr. Jerry Brody from the University of New Mexico sought to better understand the culture of the Taos County pit dwellers, the ancestors of the modern Taos Pueblo people, who lived in the area around 1050 A.D.

Sixty students participated in the excavation, which was speedily investigated over six weeks to meet a contract with the U.S. Forest Service, the owner of the land.

The excavation site was along a trail that winds through the Taos Pueblo, Turley's Mill and Colorado. Several pit dwellings surround a large meadow that may have once been a cornfield.

"Brody believes, through studies of the various sites, that the Indians who settled there were originally nomadic, hunting and gathering berries," Bottorff reported. "He feels however, that they settled at the present site to begin an agricultural culture and passed through the various stages of 'civilization' in a span of about 150 years [sic]."

Given the pit dwellers' late conversion from nomadic hunting and gathering to agriculture, Brody thought that these ancient people were well behind in development compared with other Native American groups in the area.

Initially, members of the team thought that they were excavating a pit house, but they came to realize, after discovering a bench on the pit floor, that they were digging in the main kiva.

In total, 14 hearths were discovered. Potsherds, arrowheads and tools were also unearthed. Significantly, Bottorff reported that a skeleton had been found in an excavated garbage heap.

Brody stated that since their contract with the U.S. Forest Service was in its final week, the sites would soon be buried with the dirt that they had dug out. This, according to Brody, was standard practice due to the expense entailed in preserving the sites.

In this way, the sites were once again buried by the dirt that had hidden them.

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