By Angela Peacock
Editors Note: Just Passin’ Through is a weekly feature profiling the interesting people who stay only briefly in the community.
When Gene and Judy Fortune Herr Fritts’ of Evansville, Ind. decided to honeymoon in New Mexico it never crossed their minds they would discover a culture which would enable them to meet two new friends who’d touch their lives, and leave them with a highly cherished memory of the Land of Enchantment.
The Fritts came through Tucumcari last week on their way to visit Judy’s adopted cousin who is a full blood Zuni Indian. The trip from southern Indiana to Albuquerque can be made in 48 hours, but the fact the trip took the Fritts’ five days one way was just half the excitement.
Judy said her and Gene spent almost an entire day touring Tucumcari’s historical Route 66 on their way to Albuquerque and couldn’t help but revisit Tee-Pee Curious on their way home Thursday morning.
After arriving in Albuquerque the Fritts’ visited various Indian ruins and learned a great deal about New Mexico’s various Indian tribes and their traditions. During this adventure they met a older Native American man and his wife who went out of their way to be generous and kind to the inquisitive newlyweds.
The couple said not only did they Native American family invite them to their home, but asked the Fritts’ for their address so they could send them a Christmas card while insisting the next time Judy and Gene visited Albuquerque they made time to visit their new New Mexico Indian friends.
Though the Fritts’ took countless pictures during New Mexico’s annual balloon fiesta they said their photos won’t truly captivate their experience.
“It was absolutely awesome,” Judy said. “The one thing I wish could have been different was that I would have had my loved ones back home would have been able to see the balloon fiesta because no matter what I say I won’t be able to tell them how amazing it really was.”
Aside from meeting new friends and having the opportunity to share in their culture and traditions the Fritts’ made a discovery while visiting a Vietnam War memorial museum that they said left them in awe.
Gene is a retired U.S. Army air born ranger who worked in special forces during the Vietnam war. He and Judy recently searched for a particular Vietnam war painting but discovered it was too pricey so instead they purchased a print by D.J. Challenger titled “From Ashes to Dust,” which currently hangs on their living room wall.
“When we bought the painting someone told us the original was donated by Challenger to a museum, but when I walked into that war museum entrance and saw the original “From Ashes to Dust,” it gave me cold chills,” Gene said. “I never would have imagined the museum where the painting was donated would be the same museum I’d be visiting on my honeymoon in New Mexico.”
Of all the site seeing and people meeting the Fritts’ did during their trip, what stood out to them the most was the concept of cultural pride.
“People here are proud of heritage and aren’t trying to change who they are,” Judy said.
Gene agreed with his wife and added how much he appreciated visiting a place where people make time for one another and never appear to be too busy for a friendly chat with a neighbor or the tourists simply passing through.
“They accept you for who you are even if they don’t agree with you they don’t try to force you to be like them,” Gene said. “Here people are friendly and their gesture is just open. That’s something people need to hang onto because it’s sad how some big city people could live next door to each other for 25 years and not even know each others name.”