Actors revisit the past in Dining with the Dead

Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club brings back annual performance highlighting San Juan County historical figures

Hannah Grover
  • Historical figures who will be portrayed during Dining with the Dead include brothers Ike and Port Stockton, Frank Allen and Earl Morris.
  • The annual event returns to Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington on Sept. 10. Tickets are $25.
  • Proceeds from Dining with the Dead benefit the Kiwanis Club's programs, such as its Coats for Kids winter clothing drive.
Mike Leonard gives a presentation about the life of William Porter "Port” Stockton during a dress rehearsal for Dining with the Dead on Friday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — Mounted on a black horse, cowboy poet Mike Leonard told McKinley Elementary School fifth-graders about Porter "Port" Stockton, a Farmington-area outlaw, during a dress rehearsal this morning  for Dining with the Dead.

"I wasn't a bad guy," Leonard said as he portrayed Stockton. "I was just a sensitive guy."

Stockton allegedly killed at least 19 men during his lifetime before he was killed in front of his house in Flora Vista in 1881.

Local actors will portray area pioneers during the annual Dining with the Dead on Sept. 10 in Greenlawn Cemetery. The annual performance is organized by the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club. Proceeds benefit club programs such as the annual Coats for Kids winter clothing drive.

While Stockton's brother, Ike Stockton, has been a staple of the Dining with the Dead performances since they began four years ago, Port Stockton is a new addition.

"Port had never been in it, and he kind of wanted to tell his story of it," said Jill McQueary, an event coordinator.

In addition to the Stockton brothers, the event features portrayals of Joseph Wheeler, Mary Eldridge, Frank Allen, Richard "Dick" Simpson, Earl Morris, Mabel Woods, Thomas Jefferson Arrington, Lillie Johnson, Jimmy Jarvis and Emma Young Alpine.

Bob Lehmer tells the story of Joseph Wheeler during a dress rehearsal for Dining with the Dead on Friday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

Many of the local actors have been part of Dining with the Dead since its inception. Bob Lehmer, who is portraying Wheeler, has also portrayed Dr. John Brown and Avery Amsden in previous years. He said Brown is his favorite pioneer to portray.

"He was never a really trained doctor, but he was the first doctor in the valley," Lehmer said.

He said Brown worked to settle disputes between the white settlers and Navajos. Lehmer said Brown probably saved lives as a mediator.

This year, he is portraying a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pioneer who opened a trading post in Hogback and learned the Navajo language.

Steve Clark waits for McKinley Elementary School students to arrive so he can give his presentation on Dick Simpson during a dress rehearsal for Dining with the Dead on Friday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

Steve Clark, who is a newcomer to performing in Dining with the Dead, portrayed another trading post owner, Dick Simpson. Simpson is remembered for sharing his knowledge of shepherding with the Navajo shepherds and importing rams from England to breed with the Navajo flocks.

After the death of his third wife, Simpson sold the trading post and moved to Farmington, where he opened a store. The store's building is still standing on Main Street, a short distance from the buildings where Allen started multiple business ventures, including Allen Theaters.

Scott Michlin will portray Allen during the Dining with the Dead celebration. Michlin has been portraying pioneers for the past four years.

"I enjoy learning about the history of these individuals," he said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

Scott Michlin portrays Frank Allen during a dress rehearsal for Dining with the Dead on Friday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

If you go

What: Dining with the Dead

When: 4 p.m. Sept. 10

Where: Greenlawn Cemetery, 1606 N. Dustin Ave.

Admission: $25 at the gate, which includes a meal. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Howard's Cleaners, 1601 N. Dustin Ave. in Farmington.

More info: 505-325-5931 or 505-860-5165