“Nobody gave them nothing.” — An Interview with Brent Dietzman and Frank Nuanez: Part 2 of 2
By Bob Rosebrough
“It (the McGaffey power plant and sawmill) is still there.” The day before they were interviewed, Brent and Frank took a drive up to McGaffey on motorcycles.
Frank says, “He took me over to a place I didn’t even know was there. What was it?”
Brent says, “Well, there was a power plant and sawmill there at McGaffey. There’s still a bunch of…”
“It’s still there,” interjects Frank.
“… concrete foundations there where they had the power plant and the saw to cut the lumber. McGaffey got power before Gallup did from that power plant. And one of those piers up there . . . I think it says 1917,” says Brent.
“It’s marked on there,” says Frank.
“It’s right where all the homes are there just below the lake? Right across the road you can jump over that fence and walk up and down in there, north of the road” says Brent.
Frank says, “Yeah, it’s on the lakeside below the lake. Once the pavement ends, it’s just maybe a block, a city block to the north and there it is.”
Brent says, “There are concrete piers where the light plant sat, where the boiler sat. It ran the generator. There’s also a bunch of concrete piers where they had the sawmill set – the carriage and everything that they used to run a sawmill. It wasn’t a circular saw; they used band saws. But there’s pieces of those saw blades lying up there. You can see them. They’re about this wide.”
Frank says, “It’s amazing.”
“They even had a float pond in there where they dumped the logs and they floated them,” says Brent.
Speaking of the cabins south of the road after the pavement ends, Brent says, “Some of them were there when the mill was going.”
“All these years that I’ve been going up there in the Zuni Mountains, I collect rust. That’s one of my hobbies. And I’ve got chunks of rust from some of the old engines, cars, and railroad cars. I even have pieces that come off of one of those Minuteman missiles that blew up over McGaffey,” says Brent.
“Those people (McGaffey settlers) were poor, poor.” Brent remembers a story two of his friends told him about the old school at McGaffey. “Well Gil Yovanovich and Lawrence Berger, they went to school there where the McKinley County Wildlife building is now. That building used to be across the road down close to where the lake is. You know where the sled hill is? It sat right in there. There was a one-room schoolhouse and one teacher. Gil would always tell me about their recess. They’d go out and play around and they would always get out there and they would yank on the rope on the school bell so the bell would flop over so the teacher couldn’t ring the bell to get them to come back in after recess.” Brent and Frank laugh.
Brent continues, “I remember him telling about that.” Brent pauses in thought and then says, “O course, those people up there, they were poor. They scratched for every penny that they got. You look around up there at some of these old cabin sites, I mean those people were poor, poor.”
“We called them El Barkos.” Frank remembers a story Brent told him once and says, “Tell him about the time you guys used to make cigarettes and smoke.”
Brent laughs and says, “Yeah, we like to go to where the drive-in theater was near the hogbacks. We’d get our .22s and go out there and plink all day long. We’d carry our .22s out there and shoot even where Mossman is now. We always made sure that we put some hamburger in tin foil, some onions, and I would always put in a brown paper sack. When we got out there, we could peel bark off cedar trees and crush it up and roll it up in the paper bag and we’d called them El Barkos.”
Frank laughs and says, “These guys used to do a lot of stuff when they were kids.”
“It (George Bubany’s Chrysler) wasn’t going to stop.” Frank and Brent begin talking about how hard the generations before them worked. Frank says, “My dad started out working for the city and that’s when I was still young. He swept the streets in a three or four block area with big ol’ brooms they used to use.”
“Yeah, they’d push their wheelbarrow around,” says Brent.
“He would start about 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning sweeping the streets. It was 66, Coal, and I think he did Aztec too. Then he would go home and then in the morning he would go back to work picking up trash – he would do the garbage collection. That’s when they used to do it in the alleys,” says Frank.
“My dad hurt his back doing that, but he struggled on with that. Then he started working for Mr. George Bubany. Bubany Lumber Company is still in the same place. I can remember when my dad was working there. He worked for him until Mr. Bubany couldn’t drive anymore. He had been in a lot of accidents, so he picked my dad as his chauffeur. That’s what my dad did for the better part of Mr. George Bubany’s life. He drove Mr. Bubany around.”
Brent says, “Mr. Bubany drove a Chrysler and if you saw that Chrysler coming . . .”
Frank interjects, “You better get out of the way.”
Brent continues, “… get out of the way cause it wasn’t going to stop.” Both Frank and Brent laugh.
Thinking back to Mr. Bubany, Brent says, “He was successful because of hard work.”
Frank agrees, “Most everything in Gallup was like that, I think.”
“Look at Frank and his family – where would they be if they hadn’t worked hard? Nobody gave them nothing. They worked hard,” says Brent.
“My dad is an example to me and I take that into mind a lot. I think of my dad, out at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, in the cold weather. I don’t know if they did it when it snowed or not, but I know during cold weather, he was out there sweeping the streets and then going home and then getting ready to go back to work for the city again. I can’t even imagine how difficult that was, but there wasn’t going to be anybody there to give him anything. He was going to have to raise it on his own.”