Pueblo goes 'biomass,' con man gets stung, World War I vet gets his due

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- 10 YEARS AGO - 'Taos Pueblo fires up county's first biomass heating system' , By Rick Romancito, March 13, 2008

Rick Romancito reported on his brother, Jeff, who was then Taos Pueblo Tribal Sheriff, as he lit up a biomass heating system for the first time to warm the Red Willow educational center, the indoor market and two greenhouses during the winter months.

A check with Red Willow officials indicates the system is still heating the facilities today.

The system was the culmination of a five-year process that began with a 2003 Encebado forest fire in the mountains above the Pueblo. It was then that Pueblo leaders got the idea that they could substitute wood for propane in its heating system, thus reducing a rising cost and its dependence on fossil fuel. At the same time, the Pueblo could use up the small-diameter wood, or trimmings that had fueled the nearby fire.

Thus began the project that resulted in the Pueblo receiving a three-year Forest Health Collaborative Grant that would produce the wood to burn in the system and getting $60,000 from the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to install the system.

And, if you think this is simply a giant woodstove that belches smoke into the atmosphere, you are wrong. The system, built by Garn, makes such efficient use of wood fuel that Garn dealer Bill Althouse promised that it would emit little if any smoke from its chimney.

As Rick Romancito reported, "The heating system was seen as an important addition to the infrastructure being developed for the [Pueblo's] sustainable agriculture initiative, which is centered on the Red Willow Education Center, and 'whose purpose is to revitalize community agriculture at Taos Pueblo, including improving its food security.' "

- 25 YEARS AGO - 'Con man stung by prison time, probation', By Jess Williams, March 18, 1993

This week a con man who had bilked 16 Taos County residents and a church pension fund out of more than $430,000 was sentenced by District Judge Joseph Caldwell to 54 months in prison, three years in a treatment program for his "bipolar personality disorder" and 19 years of probation.

Steven Moore would also have to attempt to pay restitution to his victims.

Jess Williams reported that Moore, 29, "showed no emotion" at the trial to which he wore dark sunglasses and a double-breasted blazer. Some of his victims were in the courtroom for the sentencing, Williams reported.

Prosecutor John Paternoster called Moore "an animal" who deserved to go to prison for 24 years to make up for what he had done to his family and the citizens of Taos County, Williams reported. Most of the money, the prosecution claimed, was spent on gambling, cocaine, travel, cars and women.

According to a chart printed with the story, Moore swindled anywhere between $66,000 and $1,000 from his 16 victims, but more than half of the victims' losses were in the five-figure range.

- 50 YEARS AGO - 'Medals due for an old soldier', March 14, 1968

Scott McCullough reported that Abenicio Romero of Ranchos de Taos would receive two medals March 31 that were 50 years in coming.

You see, Romero was, a private in 1918 who fought with American forces in some of the bloodiest and decisive battles of World War 1: Somme, Belleau Woods, St. Mihiel and Meuse Argonne. He was one of only five men who were not killed or wounded in his unit, Company C of the 118th Infantry.

His steadfastness at the front and a wound from a machine gun in the waning days of the war earned him a Purple Heart and the Silver Star, but he had to wait until 1968 to receive them at Taos' Montezuma Barracks due to some inattention to paperwork at the end of the war November 11, 1918.

McCullough's story should be a must-read in every American history class. Romero gives a firsthand account of the carnage and confusion of the trench warfare that the U.S. and its allies faced in "the war to end all wars."

"The hardest was the first offensive at Somme," Romero recalled. "I didn't think I'd come back again, but I got used to it. I see some boys crying and running back - others say, 'Let them go; they're nuts.' "

Romero also remembered the chemical weapons that both sides used: the Germans used mustard gas; the Allies used chlorine. The only defense were gas masks. "It was awful," he said. "If the mask had a hole in it, or they didn't put it on in time, they died. The mustard--it would burn you."

Romero and his wife raised four children in Ranchos and watched others go off to other wars. One of his sons came back from World War II with six medals.

Romero received the Victory Medal, which listed the four campaigns, when he was discharged.

But he earned the Purple Heart when he was wounded by machine gun fire on Oct. 9, 1918, about a month before the armistice.

He spent the night in a trench until the medics found him the next day. Then it took three days to get him to a field hospital because no truck was available.

He was in the hospital when peace was declared.

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