Thursday, January 9, 2014

THE CURIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF SEAMUS MULDOON- JUST THE FACTS MA'AM

My personal story of Jack Gordon's disappearance was put forth in the book entitled The Curious Disappearance of Seamus Muldoon (available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon.com).  I would like to share the first chapter of that book here, for any who might be interested. Ultimately, for me and my wife, the story is about the life of Jack Gordon more than his unseemly disappearance.

Enjoy!



Chapter 1- Just The Facts Ma'am



On the morning of October 2, 2008 seventy-seven-year-old Reverend Jack Nels Gordon vanished from the face of the earth.   I mean he literally vanished.  Here are the facts of the case as we know them.  Jack had lived in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado for about 12 years with his fourth wife, a Filipina barely half his age, and younger than most of his children from previous marriages.  Life had thrown Jack and his wife a curveball 6 years earlier when against all medical odds they became pregnant.  Not just once, but twice in two years Jack’s wife gave birth.  The life of quiet solitude and contemplation that Jack had expected in his elder years gave way to the chaos of a house filled with the joyful sounds of two vibrant young children.  Jack’s biggest project in this stage of his life was the almost single-handed construction of a permanent home for him and his young family.  This was taking place on a five-acre plot of land in the Forbes Sangre de Cristo Ranches, a large, remote rural subdivision at the southeastern extreme of the San Luis Valley. 
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            The San Luis Valley is a quirky geographic accident.  Flat as a cast iron griddle, the floor of the valley is almost exactly 7000 feet above sea level.  The terrain is flat and the vegetation is sparse.  Sagebrush, prickly pear cactus and prairie grass, interrupted occasionally by potato farms, carpet the floor of the valley, grey green merging into brown. The valley is bounded on the west by the San Juan Mountains and on the east by the Sangre de Cristo range.  The roughly triangular valley is bounded on the south by the Colorado-New Mexico border and the north end funnels into Poncha Pass, which leads north to the Arkansas River at Poncha Springs.  The valley is roughly 60 miles wide at the level of the main east-west road, Colorado Highway 160, and 90 miles from north to south.  The geographic fulcrum and population center of the San Luis Valley is the town of Alamosa, so named for the large groves of cottonwood trees (or Alamos) that once lined the banks of the Rio Grande as it emerges from its headwaters above the old mining town of Creede and creeps across the floor of the valley starting its long journey south to the U.S.-Mexico border.  Costilla County is the easternmost, least populated and poorest of the five counties that make up the San Luis Valley.     

            Jack’s property is situated in the Trinchera Ranches subdivision at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo range.  Formerly owned by the well-known Forbes family, the Trinchera Ranches (or just the Ranches), consists of approximately seven thousand 5-acre lots or ranchettes.  The Trinchera Ranches are crisscrossed by hundreds of miles of dirt roads, creating a web that ranges from the floor of the valley at about 7,500 feet elevation up to 10,000 feet above sea level at the crest of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.  Jack’s building site is located at the eastern end of Luke Road, which Jack had always found significant because of what he saw as a connection to the gospels of the New Testament. He referred to the property as ‘Luke’.  “I’m heading out to Luke” he used to say.  Or, “Stop by Luke for a cup of coffee and help me put up some drywall”.       Being in his seventies, Jack was not making very rapid progress on the house.  After 8 long years the exterior was roughly framed in what Jack always referred to as Amish style.  As far as I can figure out, Amish style meant that there were no parallel lines of structure or 90-degree angles in the entire structure.  Jack literally put the ‘shackle’ into the word ramshackle.  In spite of the rustic look however, the house was sturdy and weatherproofed.  The interior remained a work in progress, to say the least.  Aside from those two young children, Luke was Jack’s pride and joy, the culmination of lifelong playful experimentation with design and conceptual construction.  For years he had been well known for finding a structural element of some sort such as a door, or window or even just an odd piece of lumber and thinking to himself, “That would go nicely in the great room, next to the stairs”.  He would then keep that item for indefinite length of time until the right moment came along to incorporate it into his building. 

            Let me give you an example that may help you to get a feel for Jack. In his house on Luke, adjacent to the stairs are two pieces of drywall that apparently had been adjacent to each other in a stack that got exposed to water at some point. Mounted edge to edge, the water stain presents the appearance of a Rorschach inkblot test.  I think Jack probably psychoanalyzed anybody who commented on the stain.  I personally always thought that it looked a little like a man in a long flowing gown, Messiah-like. I suppose it eventually would have been painted over, but in the interim it was a conversation piece.

            Jack’s favorite way to spend an idle morning was to take a cup of coffee with him, drive out to Luke and spend the morning thinking, reading, praying, writing or just conceptualizing.  I suspect that sometimes when the rambunctiousness of the kids got to be a little too much Jack would find a reason to go out to Luke by himself for a few hours.

            That brings us to the morning of October 2, 2008.  Jack awoke at the usual time and announced that he was going out to Luke for a while.  He walked out to the driveway of their duplex Section 8 apartment in Fort Garland, coffee cup in hand, and climbed up into his old white van.  Pulling out of the driveway at about 8:30 a.m. he waved goodbye to his little family.  Little did they realize that was the last they would ever see of husband and father.  As usual, Jack pulled in at the post office down the street and picked up the mail.  Outside the post office he chatted briefly with one of his neighbors from out on Luke Road and then got back in the van.  Heading south on Highway 159 he next stopped in at a local mechanic’s house to discuss some upcoming work he needed done on the van.  He left the mechanic’s house at roughly 9:00 a.m. and headed on down the road.  That is the last confirmed sighting that we have.

            When lunchtime rolled around and his wife had not heard from Jack, she began to wonder whether she should fix his lunch or wait.  As the early afternoon progressed she began to wonder what was keeping him, then the wonder gradually turned to worry.  Jack rarely stayed out at Luke past lunchtime.  A good lunch followed by a nap was his favorite way to spend an afternoon.  Two-thirty came and went and she started to really worry.  Jack had never been out later than 2:30 without letting her know.  She called some friends to see if someone could drive out to Luke Road and check on Jack.  Nobody was available at that time of day, but by 4:00 she convinced one of her neighbors to take her on the 10-mile drive out to the property. 

            The two women pulled up at the house on Luke Road and saw immediately that his van was parked in the driveway in his customary spot.  She walked over to the house and poked her head inside.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or misplaced, with one rather large exception.  Jack was nowhere to be seen.  Her pulse pounding and her breathing rate increasing to the point of gasping, she ran upstairs and searched the entire interior of the house, calling frantically for Jack.  Nothing.  Knowing that Jack tended to lose his balance easily, she took a quick walk around the house, thinking that he may have taken a fall or injured himself.  Nothing. She looked inside the van to see if Jack was inside, or to see if his keys were lying on the floorboard.  Jack’s usual habit in the past had been to drop his keys on the floor when he pulled into the driveway rather than putting them in his pocket.  Jack was not inside the van and the keys were nowhere to be seen.  Nothing. 

            The closest telephone was a quarter mile away at one of the neighbor’s.  In a near-panic she rushed over there and placed a call to 911 to report Jack missing. It took nearly an hour for a Sheriff’s Department deputy to arrive at the house.  During that seemingly interminable hour a small handful of neighbors helped expand the search on foot around the immediate vicinity of the house.  They found not a single trace of Jack or any evidence of what might have happened. 

            Those are the known facts of the mysterious disappearance of Jack Nels Gordon on October 2, 2008.  The following chapters will explore some of the various theories about his disappearance, whether realistic or bizarre, plausible or outlandish, serious or comical.  These theories have been put forward by various family members, authorities, friends and neighbors.  These scenarios are based partly on fact and partly on speculation. My purpose in writing these vignettes is not so much to solve the troubling mystery of Jack’s disappearance, but to celebrate the fascinating variety of his life.

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