Lessons from a stranger on the importance of names

Abraham Villarreal
3 min readJul 31, 2022

I went on a mini vacation to get away. To feel like I would be a lonely figure, hiking the peaks around Pinos Altos, New Mexico in the Gila National Wilderness. Turns out I was reconnecting with people and places that were always important to me.

Pinos Altos is a tiny community, not exactly a ghost town, but a place where the mornings and nights are quiet, and most of the day is too. There’s a main street called Main Street and you could walk it back and forth twenty times in less than twenty minutes. Aside from the tall pines and the scenic views all around, the most picturesque place is an old opera house called the Buckhorn. On one side is a saloon, in the middle a restaurant, and to the south of the building, an opera house that looks much like it did a hundred years ago.

On most nights of the week, the saloon is the liveliest place in town. You could hear glasses clinking against each other. The walls are filled with old-West style decor, and one top corner of the room is a mannequin of a lady performer from back in the day, sitting on a ledge and greeting all visitors.

I stopped to pick up a to-go order, a hamburger with goat cheese. The food is always good and people drive miles to try the steaks and anything with green chile on it.

I walked in and sat on the saloon’s corner stool. Waiting for my order when the gentlemen next to me, who had just finished having a glass of wine or two and a meal, started sharing the importance of names.

“What’s your name?” he said. “Abraham,” I told him. “Ah, what a cool name.” He told me his and then asked if I had a nickname. I told him I never really had one other than Abe. “Mine is Junior.”

And for the next while, as I waited for my burger with goat cheese, he shared about his travels, his growing up, his moving back home, and how he values that he is called Junior because it pays honor to his father’s name. He said other people didn’t get it and thought it was a silly nickname.

Abraham Villarreal

People are interesting. I write about them and what makes them interesting.