Neno Carillo

Adelina in front of the cabin built by Neno

Excerpt from Sol, Sombra y la Tierra by Adelina Ortiz de Hill

"Neno Carillo was a workaholic and an alcoholic. He was a genius with a disability. He was gassed in France in World War I. He was one of the most influential people in my life, an indomitable spirit you are privileged to know. He could not stay sober in town and preferred the country. When he first started working for my father as a stone mason, my father would pay him and take him into town on Friday. Monday morning he would pick him up at the drunk tank in the jail. His family was nearly starving, his patient, long-suffering wife Seniada asked my father to give her his salary. While she was out shopping, Neno sold the furniture and was back in the drunk tank Monday. Finally it was agree he could stay and the ranch (Rancho Pancho) and Seniada could come too, but she prefrred town where children were in school. Neno could always find something to do. Peeling logs and stripping bark from oak saplings, he designed an intricate herringone ceiling in the rock house. He made corral fences, bridges, graden walls, terraces, furniture, cabinets, bookcases, fireplaces and did other work on our four houses. Our country home soon took on the trappings of an estate. Even the chicken coop, made of salvaged adobes with oak roosts, had a certain elegance. One could not suggest anything that Neno was not soon working on it. Our adobe garage was soon transformed into a second story guest home with a balcony. I needed a room of my own, so he enclosed a patio and built a new entry way along with a large courtyard with an outdoor fireplace. I said it could be nice to have stairs leading to the fields, corrals and orchards, and behold, there were stone steps leading to the fields in the spring. In the summer this thin, wiry guy had a shadown --me. I watched him hammer and saw, mix cement and plaser, select stones for cutting and setting, all the while asking and answering questions (he spoke Spanish, English and some French), selecting tools, the reason and purpose and being a gofer. I almost lost my hand when I saw a bucket of cement to be hauled to the second floor and decided to pull it up. Midway it seemed to heavy, and in trying to ease to down over unplastered lath, I mangled my hand. The cure was more painful that the injury, as they poured kerosene on it. With the patience of a saint, he would show me how to cut boards, nail and use the level. His favorite expression was 'El nivel no miente' (the level won't lie). In 1996, when I inherited the log cabin he had built, I reverently resotred it, marveling at what he did with a handful of tools. I used some of the skills he taught me, all the while remembering 'el nivel no miente'. How elegantly simple. I salvaged the hand-hewn logs, the wide boards and beams he and my father made with a sawmill they set up. Despite his experiences in France and his disability, he lived with a cetain grace and built monuments salvaging something from the ruins. He staggered and fell, but set a hight standard. Alcoholism was his undoing; he knew it ad had a sense of humor about it. One extremely cold day when we were making apple cider, he said he cold stand the cold because he had antifreeze in his veings. That and sterno, apple jack and capulin wine --he could ferment anything. I was living in California when I learned of his death when he was in his seventies. My father wept delivering the eulogy. Like Quijote and Sancho, they were a pair, no dream too impossible." (pp. 82-84)