Rancho Armadillo

Judith Stephens


Communes? Free food, free housing, free love. Cool.

Not at Rancho Armadillo, in northern New Mexico. The Armadillos moved from the coasts, hoping to escape the evils of city living, but they wind up with a food order - paid, a garden - hard work, houses they built with purchased lumber, and strict rules of behavior. On the side of a mountain not Mt. Olympus, as one man believes life and love and death rest heavily on the shoulders of some, but seem hardly to touch others. City dwellers recognize the problems alcohol and drugs pose and the madness that may overcome anyone. But transporting chickens under a full moon? Delivering a calf and then milking the new mother? Filling a cistern in the snow? Hilarious, sort of.

And love well, is love ever free?  

ISBN: 978-1-60489-055-6 Trade paper, $16.95                Sale $8.50

ISBN:  978-1-60489-054-9 Library binding, $27                Sale $13.50

 Pages 190

About the Author: 

Judith Stephens was born in Washington D.C. She grew up in California, Washington state, and the mountain west. She graduated from the University of California in Berkeley, where she worked as a forensic anthropologist at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Her MA is from San Francisco State University, where she taught creative writing. She has worked as a legal secretary and a technical writer. Along the way she raised two sons and wrote three novels, two of them now published, dozens of poems, and a number of short stories, many of them published in literary magazines, such as the Marin Poetry Center Anthology, the Liar's Craft, Gallery Works, Green River Review, Transfer, and Berkeley Poets Cooperative Anthology.  She worked on a commune in New Mexico, where she completed her practice novel. Currently, she lives happily in the Bay Area with her dogs and cats, has a vegetable garden, and takes time off to make quilts. She now enjoys what she had no time for as a full time worker: daily dog park walks, writing novels, and taking classes in acting, play-writing, and improv. She sees many plays, and she relishes every day.


 Excerpt From the Book:


Berna left her husband on her fortieth birthday. It was also her daughter's twenty-first birthday, and Berna could feel the twenty-second anniversary of her marriage to Brad closing in fast. She didn't look or feel forty; she looked thirty-five and felt fifty-five. So in the midst of the party, before she opened any of her presentsshe knew what they were anywayshe went to their bedroom with its lovely bedroom set and three-hundred-dollar quilts, packed a lightweight suitcase, picked up a straw hat and the padded Chinese jacket she had bought and headed north in her Mazda RX-7.

She arrived in Taos on the fifteenth of August and spent the night in the Kachina Lodge. She ate breakfast surrounded by people from Amarilloshe was from El Pasoand headed north again. Lindy would be surprised to see her. It was four years since her last visit to Rancho Armadillo, but she had no doubt Lindy would be there and would welcome her with open arms the way she did everybody.

Sometimes Lindy's warm-hearted openness was risky, of course. Brad had never stopped talking about the people she gave their El Paso address to. Epidemic Ed and Spanish Joe headed Brad's notoriety list. Ed had arrived on their doorstep one Thursday night on his way to see his aunt, he said. He brought a few joints from Lindy and they stayed up until eleven talking to him. He sniffled and wiped his nose on the back of his sleeve all evening.

They gave him some vitamin C and offered him antihistamines, but he didn't seem to understand about the antihistamines; he kept asking what kind of high they produced. He coughed all through the night and left the next day after breakfast. Brad offered him a lift to a place where he could hitch a ride across the border. Berna felt some guilt at her relief that she would not be left alone in the house with him.

Spanish Joe arrived that night. He too had a couple of joints from Lindy. Berna and Brad were relieved that he didn't sniffle and cough like Ed had, but they were glad Belinda was at school in Austin because Spanish Joe had a hard mouth. The first thing he asked them about after dinner and the first puff of the joint was if they had seen Epidemic Ed. Berna snickered when she heard Ed's nickname, but Brad frowned. He disapproved of Lindy, and he could be reasonably sure that Lindy knew Ed's nickname and had sent them a chronically sick man. Brad stared speculatively at Spanish Joe when he passed him the joint of mild Armadillo homegrown. What, if not a disease, was Spanish Joe carrying?