In the Rearview

A fiery crash, a tribal police chief accused of battery and old advertising focused on text


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 - 'Taos pilot survives fiery crash landing at airport', Oct. 4-10, 2007, by Andy Dennison

Taoseño Jim Grainger was 8,000 feet in the air and flying over the Río Grande Gorge when "finger-sized flames" leapt out of the airplane's front console. "Fuel ignited in the turbo, burned up the engine, then the plane," Grainger later told reporter Andy Dennison. "The engine ran out of fuel."

Grainger, an experienced pilot, managed to steer the burning airplane back to Taos Regional Airport and "control-crash" it into sagebrush about a mile from the runway. He freed himself from the plane as it slid to a stop. His collie, Jade, also scrambled free. He grabbed his luggage and his passport from the burning plane, shortly after the fuselage caught fire. "I lost my billfold, glasses and cellphone," he told his wife, Nele Grainger, when she arrived at the airport.

Grainger didn't know what caused the plane to catch fire. "No pilot error, for sure," said Grainger, who had logged 2,000 hours of flying time before the accident.

- 25 YEARS AGO - 'Tribal police chief on leave as battery allegations investigated', Oct. 8, 1992, by Jess Williams

The Taos Pueblo acting tribal police chief in 1992, Lawrence Miera, was charged with assault and battery, alongside Chris Lefthand, a police officer, for kicking and beating a Taos Pueblo woman, Ethel M. Lujan.

Lujan claimed that she was speaking to two other officers about a warrant she wanted placed on the man accused of murdering her son about three years beforehand. Then Miera and Lefthand allegedly arrived and started to abuse her, verbally and physically, proceeding to put her in handcuffs, according to Lujan. As the assault was happening, Lujan said that the two other officers did nothing to stop the abuse. However, they told the court later that they stopped the alleged assault immediately.

Miera admitted that the situation took place - but not in the way Lujan described it - and Miera filed charges against Lujan for "disorderly conduct, escape and assault on an officer." Miera claimed that he was just doing his job, and if he had actually assaulted her, she would be in the hospital. This was not the first time Miera had been accused of assault, but he had full confidence that these charges would be overturned, as he was a well-respected officer. Even if Lujan succeeded in proving Miera and Lefthand guilty, these charges would have most likely been dropped, since tribal law then prohibited charges from being filed by a citizen against a police officer.

- 50 YEARS AGO - "It's been replaced. A 1967 Volkswagen advertisement."

In the 1967 Taos newspaper, there was an advertisement for the "new" 1968 Volkswagen. There was a simple picture and a short article written about what made the '68 Volkswagen superior to the '67 Volkswagen. This type of advertisement was common about five decades ago - a simple picture with a short article.

However, in 2017, the advertisements for a Volkswagen Beetle have significantly changed to a detailed picture, the name and logo of the company and maybe a short description of the car. Though the detail and quality of the image significantly increased, the amount of words has also significantly decreased.

Ad companies are always trying to appeal to the public, and it seems like the public has an easier time paying attention to something when that thing has fewer words. Studies have shown that the average American citizen reads only four books per year now, while about four decades ago, the majority of Gallup Poll respondents read more than 11 books per year. More than a fourth of Americans didn't read a book last year, and three decades ago, it was 8 percent. These facts may have something to do with our attention spans, which are only eight seconds long now. Four decades ago, they were 20 minutes, according to studies.