You’ll laugh. You’ll sigh.
You’ll seethe with anger.
You’ll rekindle delicious moments…
and painful memories…from your own past.


 to see Chapter1

Warning! Drive slowly:
1963 Birmingham lurks inside

Soda Springs: Love, Sex, and Civil Rights tells a rollicking coming of age tale that weaves love, sex, and Martin Luther King’s 1963 Birmingham campaign into the previously untold story of a Mexican-American community’s battle for civil rights. It confronts those topics your mother told you to steer clear of in polite company: sex… religion… politics… racial conflict.

Come to a town you’ve never been to… and meet folks you’ve known all your life.

If you ever had a summer fling -– one you’ll never forget –- Rick and Ginny Sue’s unabashed joy will spark a kaleidoscope of memories.

  • How did your grand fling affect your life?
  • If you know discrimination first hand because you’re brown or black or a woman, you know exactly what motivates Sasha and Concha and Lupe and Elias and Scars and the whole barrio.
  • How do you fight back if prejudice deals you one put down after another?
  • If you ever wanted to dip your toes in a Rocky Mountain stream, frolic amid wild prairie aster and erigeron, or cuddle beneath a brilliant night sky, visit Soda Springs in summer.
  • How do you keep passion under control amid these mountain splendors?
  • If you cringe at having mistaken sex for love, Soda Springs will give you hope — you aren’t alone. Are you able now to recognize the difference?
  • If you had it to do over again, would you behave differently?
  • Or apologize for the pain you caused someone who loved you?
  • If you know Martin Luther King mostly as a famous name from history — or as a boulevard, school, or public building — meet him in person at 16th Street Baptist in Birmingham.
  • What does Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream“ hold for your own hopes and dreams?
  • Would you march on Washington?
  • If you have ever — God forbid! — been raped or brutalized, Soda Springs will help you unwrap the layers of denial, shame, fear, and anger that keep the pain alive.
  • If you were raped, would you press charges?
  • Do you have Flor’s courage?
  • If you have never been assaulted, offer up a prayer of gratitude. Then ask yourself,
  • What can I do to aid the women in my life who haven’t been spared?
  • If you have ever been so consumed by a “cause” that you lost sight of reality, you’ll chuckle at Rick “educating” his lily-white hometown on MLK and Civil Rights. Then ask yourself,
  • Is racism still a problem — even 50 years later?
  • What am I willing to do to fight it?
  • If you did something outrageously stupid in your youth, rejoice: chances are it wasn’t nearly as shocking as Rick’s and Ginny’s romp in United Methodist.
  • What would you do if you — or a loved one — were caught violating society’s sacred rules, and now risk being stripped naked in public?
  • If you know 1960s civil rights only as a Black call for equality, join us in the barrio in Soda Springs: the Mexican-Americans battle for justice began well before the grape strike in California.
  • Would you have joined either movement in those years?
  • Do you favor “immigration reform”? “The Dream Act”? Amnesty? Deportation?
  • If you are a small farmer or businessman up against corporate giants, government regs, and labor unrest, you know why Buck Bennett and Jock Sanders work like dogs.
  • What risks are you willing to take to eke out a living with your own sweat?
  • If you were ever a dumb-ass kid who got drunk, then found events spiraling tragically out of control, come spend a night in jail with Diggie Martinez.
  • What could you have done to save Tómas’s life?
Now the work began. Rick yanked off gloves and coat, rolled up his sleeves, plunged an aluminum siphon tube underwater. An icy jolt sucked his breath away. He held the curved, five-foot-long tube under until it filled, grabbed the submerged rubber sleeve, twisted it to hold the water in, then in a single motion swung the sleeved end over the ditch bank. A water-filled tube was heavy as a log. If he jerked it, he could wrench his back. Pull too slowly and the tube would lose its suction. A four-inch flow gushed into the field. He pulled a second tube. By the third one, his arms ached like frozen stumps, but if he didn’t get all twelve, and quickly, the ditch would overflow. He complained once about having to irrigate in the early morning cold. Pops growled, “Farming isn’t for pansies, son.” Rick’s three-month sentence on Devil’s Island had begun.
  • If you’ve fought the good fight only to have your own people side with the enemy, you’ll marvel at Lupe Sandoval’s strength and persistence.
  • When is enough enough? When do you cry, “Ya basta!” and take to the streets?
  • If a night of passion left you as a single mother, and you struggled to raise your child in a cauldron of community shame, poverty, and discrimination, you know the pain in walking in Concha’s shoes.
  • What would you do to make up for education and opportunity lost?
  • If you have ever been harassed or hurt by a bully, come join forces against Odell Andrews. Not only does he strut about like he’s hot–s**t, he’s got the town buffaloed.
  • How do you take on the town’s hero . . . the legendary coach?

Maybe you never had any of these experiences (don’t lie, now), but maybe you know someone who did.
Read Soda Springs and relive fond memories of the ‘60s — or figure out what the heck your parents and grandparents were talking about.

An excerpt

Soda Springs in '63:
Flor views the barrio

They drove the dirt streets east of Main, four blocks by six, abutting the railroad tracks. The houses were crumbling adobe or flaking clapboard, tiny as summer cabins. Waist-high weeds overran empty lots and dirt front yards. Broken glass and rusted car bodies littered the place.

Flor recalled one squat whitewashed home trimmed in turquoise, its miniature lawn as manicured as a golf green. Roses and hollyhocks splashed its white picket fence with yellows and reds. This lone cheery home accentuated the fact that Mexican Soda Springs was a shabby slum.

Bobby’s parishioners called the Mexican enclave Beanville, or simply “over there.” No whites lived there. Only those with a pressing reason dared enter: police chief Zeigler, Doc Milard, volunteer firemen, an occasional road crew.

Flor had analyzed the 1960 Census: 932 Mexicans, fifty-eight percent of the town’s population, crowded like Third World refugees into twenty percent of the town’s land.

On the United Methodist side of Main, 675 whites lived in thirty blocks of bungalows and brick Queen Anne and Victorian homes with trees, shrubs, flowers, and grassy lawns, girded by sidewalks and paved streets.

No Mexicans lived west of Main.
-- Soda Springs, Chapter 6

Meet Flor Hardwick in person