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RIVER OF TRAPS: A Village Life by William deBuys and Alex Harris (University of New Mexico : $19.95; 237 pp.).

January 06, 1991|Georgia Jones-Davis

If you have ever fantasized about a sweet, simple life in the country (and who hasn't?), you might reconsider after reading this subtle portrait of an old northern New Mexico farmer and his mountain village. East-coast college graduates, writer William deBuys and photographer Alex Harris become the first Anglos to settle among the mountain hispanos who have long regarded outsiders with no small amount of suspicion and hostility. Jacobo Romero--farmer, rancher, cook, bootlegger, miller, miner, sheepherder, Democratic chairman for El Valle--is a pragmatic, unsentimental man, and Harris' stark, black-and-white photos of him at home and in the fields convey the harshness of a life lived in the middle of a splendid landscape. DeBuys supplies what "sentiment" he can in a few occasional cantos--meditations he intersperses in the narrative. He imbues everyday aspects of farm life--building a fence, feeding livestock--with a poetry that Jacobo Romero might have intuited, but never would have spent the time writing down.

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