Local author tells the tale of the Ladrón Mountains

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Contemporary New Mexico and the Ladrón Mountains are the setting for the recently published novel, “The Ruminators,” written for young readers by local author Laura Wacha.

Inspired by local legends and UFO conspiracies, it is a science fiction adventure story that takes place mostly under Ladrón Peak, where the teenage protagonists search for buried gold and the legendary chupacabra.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Laura Wacha, an art teacher at H.T. Jaramillo Community School, recently authored two novels written for middle to high school age children. Available now is “The Ruminators,” and “The Lingerlings” is due out at the end of the month.

Wacha, a resident of Bernardo, begins the tale with the mysterious disappearance of Frank Mater. He is a zoologist who works at the Albuquerque BioPark and has been missing for a year, Wacha said.

He is the father of the two main characters, Marsha and Shawn Mater.

Their mother, Trudy, invites the children’s cousin, Philo, from Chicago, to visit in order to divert the children’s attention from their painful loss.

The teenagers begin an adventure to find the lost gold rumored to be buried in the mountains.

In their search for the gold, they fall into a sinkhole from a previous earthquake and end up under Ladrón Peak, where they stumble upon strange creatures — the ruminators.

They are mutated goats that have been exposed to radiation from nuclear testing down at the White Sands Missile Range and slowly developed hands and feet where their hooves should be.

They also developed the capacity to think, and eventually the ability to speak, Wacha said.

“The ruminators actually know where the gold is, so they get the gold in the end, too,” Wacha said.

Behind Ladrón Peak is a science research facility that Wacha turns into a secret military installation working on controversial experiments the children will become entangled with.

“There’s stuff about the nuclear testing, and there’s a lot of stuff just about New Mexico in there,” Wacha said. “There’s stuff about the flood plains, little weird facts about the horned toad and rattle snakes, and general stuff about New Mexico. It’s full of little facts for teenagers who don’t know, little factoids about New Mexico, and a little bit of history.”

A few of the goats were captured by a rogue researcher and taken to the military installation where he’s doing covert experiments.

So, when the teens meet the ruminators, the goats become attached to their family dog, because they want the dog as a protector from the deranged scientist.

Later in the story, the youth will get a dog at the Valencia County Animal Humane Society as an alternative to give to the ruminators.

“Everything is based in some sort of fact,” Wacha said. “But it just takes off from there.”

When the mother, Trudy, goes looking for the kids, she ends up falling down the same sinkhole and finds them.

In the end, the mystery of the missing father will be solved, as well as the mystery of the chupacabras.

The story is filled with intrigue, bio-region factoids and engaging characters.

“It’s interesting writing dialogue for people,” Wacha said. “It’s hard, because if you’re used to being very correct grammatically, and then you’re trying to write language for somebody who maybe isn’t … it’s kind of funny and the spell check just goes crazy.”

Along with dialect, Wacha, who is an art teacher at H.T. Jaramillo Community School in Belen, uses the same method of growing childrens’ vocabulary in her book as she does in her art classes.

She introduces words just above the students’ common language, then uses the word in a sentence or in a description to help them gain an understanding of the definition and the usage of the word.

“It’s a little bit of a challenging vocabulary for young people,” she said.

The book is written for middle to high school students.

A second book with the same characters is forthcoming. It revolves around a tiny, lemur-like creature that lived in Texas 65 million years ago.

“It’s cute and looks like a flying squirrel, but it isn’t too nice,” Wacha said.

The children go in search of the prehistoric animal in the new book titled, “The Lingerlings,” which should be out by the end of the month.

For an autographed copy of “The Ruminators,” go to Laura Wacha’s website at www.LauraWacha.com, and the book can be purchased at www.Amazon.com.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.