Wednesday, April 26, 2017

the road from here to work is steep - almost 6000 feet straight down for about ten miles, but then, i get to the town, alamogordo, and turn south and follow the edge of the mountains around the back side of town. that little road goes just up on the ridge enough so that i can see the mountains tower up against me on the left, and see the whole wide tularosa valley, white sands and all, to the right. and the town itself looks very low-slung, adobe-like, shining in the morning sun. usually in the morning the sun hasn't quite gotten totally over the mountains yet, but it's made daylight in the valley, and it's definitely one of the nicest times of day down there - cool, a little shady, sometimes even the tiniest bit of dew on what generally is the harshest of deserts.

alamogordo is my new town, so i always take that back road so as to have a better view of it, and ease into living here. i actually live up on the mountain, but i work in alamo, and by virtue of that have seen, if not know, almost every kid in town. sure some of them get segregated off into the special school, because they got into fights or got arrested or whatever. most of them though are right there in the high school, a big cross section of a town of about 30,000 - which includes a major air force base by the way - everybody 15-18, roughly.

i try to adjust to the town in my own way - "embrace tiger, return to mountain" is my motto. as a sub i see lots of the trouble. it's disheartening to see whole classes refuse to work, refuse to think, and then flunk all the tests. this is not how it's supposed to work. i tell myself, actually, it's "refuse to work for the sub," not just "refuse to work." but talking to the teachers, i know that sometimes it's "refuse to work." the nation is getting steadily dumber. we sometimes blame it on the middle schools - but down there, really, it's the same problem. i don't know the solution yet. in fact, i have no idea. but i can tell you, a sub probably isn't going to solve it.

it's a small town that, like many of them, is somewhat self-absorbed. in other words, you're more likely to hear people argue about the local cat shelter, than about trump. but i kind of like that. people in lubbock had strong opinions about lubbock, but i never heard them. they were too busy working, keeping up a busy lifestyle, driving around town. here, the drive never takes you more than five or ten minutes, unless you live up the hill, and people hang around talking a lot. they know each other too well. the teachers know the kids too well, and even know their parents too well. i'm the only one, really, that doesn't know anyone.

it's actually somewhat isolated geographically, more by desert than by distance itself. las cruces is fifty or sixty miles straight west, across the tularosa basin and the white sands; it's mostly white sands missile range, and it's very dry. the road is four-lane all the way, and people go eighty, ninety, whatever they want. but it's still a long haul, very hot in the summer, and i find it takes all day to go to "cruces" and back. el paso is even worse. it's maybe eighty or ninety miles, straight south, across desert as well (this time it's called the otero shelf, but still is mostly missile range) - and el paso has the advantage of being much larger, a major city, and you can walk to mexico from there. el paso has 6 or 700,000 people, to las cruces' 100,000, but las cruces is a college town, which makes it slightly more desirable in some people's eyes; las cruces is also in new mexico. always an advantage.

el paso is built on steep hills that come right down into the river; no matter where you are in el paso, you can see mexico. this is interesting, and has an effect, definitely. it's a bustling place, good economy, people are busy. traffic is especially busy. i've taken to avoiding it, but it has minor league baseball and a good waterpark. so they say.

back on the mountain, here it is april 26, and we're still talking about a frost. it's cold up here. i planted peppers and they might die. in fact, there may even still be snow in places. we are the only place in the whole southwest where this is possible; but, what did i know? i planted them anyway. i got them for my birthday. first time in my life, i got past my birthday, and there was still frost. but unlike most north country environments, we still enjoy the long days. the sun is still slowly setting; cold as it is, it's still sunny. and clear, and fresh. we're doing our best to adjust.

Friday, April 14, 2017

the latest trip was to ruidoso; this one goes through the mountains, the mescalero reservation, and it's still a bit cold up here with a little snow, wild horses and elk all over the place. most of the elk were in the ruidoso high school parking lot when we got there. they looked a little scruffy from a long winter but they ambled out of our way and were gone when we got back out of the high school.

the thing i like best about ruidoso is this river that runs right down through the center of town, rushing and gurgling; it's very small, but makes a lot of noise and is wonderful to play in. we passed over it somewhat quickly and followed the canyon up to the high school because we had to go to the doctor's; he was at the high school, and it was friday morning, but good friday, so the students were gone. a number of cars were in the parking lot, and when we came out from the doctor, we noticed that someone had marked on all the cars. not ours, just the rest of them; perhaps they had been marked the night before. in fact, perhaps the band had left town, or maybe the baseball team, and everyone marked up their cars as a gesture of school spirit. it was very nice, actually. i wouldn't mind driving around town with a marked up car like that.

the woman at the doctor's said that the elk pretty much had the run of the place, and had, for a couple of years; before that it might have been deer. the elk started out in the elementary school, she said, then went over to the soccer fields, then came down to the high school, and pretty much did it whenever they could. they were safer in town, she said, than they were out in the country, and they knew it.

on the reservation they have wild horses, too, but the people on the reservation own them, you could say, even though as far as anyone can tell they just run wild all over the place. they're gorgeous. a lot of times you see them out at the edge of the field, where the trees and the mountains start, and it seems like maybe you could just go over there and befriend them, but then again, probably not. the people themselves, on the reservation, are pretty nice, they wave at you like most country folk. they seem to take care of their land. some guy at the doctor claimed that the mescalero had actually introduced the elk as a money-making venture, hoping to get hunters up there on the reservation, many years ago. i know the state introduced ibex and oryx for the same reason, hoping to bring in some revenue from hunters, and they have all taken their place in the food pyramid with human hunters at the top, what there are of them. people here hunt a lot of elk, and when they seem to be overrunning the place, they loosen up the hunting restrictions, and they hunt even more of them. they actually prefer elk meat to deer meat; i wouldn't know, myself. maybe they just prefer hunting animals that are slightly bigger, more powerful, more contemptuous.

this one road, elk canyon road, runs right down through the reservation and had hundreds of elk on it, especially at certain times, like sundown, in the summer, when they want to be out on the road for some reason, perhaps to like up the salts that the roads collect. one night my son-in-law was driving back from ruidoso and i forgot to warn him. he tends to want to go sixty or seventy even on a mountain road, but i'd never do that, at sundown, in the summer. i think the elk kind of got to him that night, though he didn't hit any of them. they gave him a scare. they're kind of surly, and don't get off the road too quickly. they're kind of like moose that way. perhaps they find the apples, late in the summer, and get a little drunk before they go out to the road. in any case, i wouldn't mess with them. they're too big, and i don't have a gun.

i often joke about maybe getting the elk to jump in my van, and come home with me. and then, maybe i'll talk them into just laying down in the fire and being my dinner. but i don't have a fire that big, and i don't think they'll do it. i think i have to go the gun route like everyone else. hunting permit, truck, meat bag, major knife, camos, i guess you need the whole outfit. not sure i'm ready yet.

but we do occasionally see them in town, on the roads, all over the place, even coming up behind our house. elk and deer both. i think people are right, the elk are somewhat dominant; the deer jump more lively but stay out of the elk's way. both of them like the apples, and the local fruit. i think only the elk get drunk, being a little more like the moose.

you talk about wide shoulders, colorful bi-color jacket - they're really impressive. and they drop their antlers, this time of year. some people go out to where they are, and just pick up the antlers. others, like this one guy i met, do taxidermy and just mount the heads. like at the propane store; they have three of them. largest racks i've ever seen; they dominate the propane store. the guy hunts the biggest ones, and stuffs them, and mounts them, and if you walk in there an pay your propane bill, there they are.

the taxidermist said he did a cougar, too, which is at the barbecue joint - it had been hit by a car in the winter, and he went back around and got it and stuffed it and mounted it. impressive, i say, that you can do that kind of stuff. guess somebody has to. he says he learned the trade from some guy who was about to leave the area, and now he, after thirty years or more, is getting restless. maybe he needs somebody to learn how to do taxidermy. interesting.

Monday, April 10, 2017

spent part of the day in tularosa, which is called tulie around here, because my wife was gone, and i had to take my daughters out to a horse barn, on what i would call the subway sign road, just this side of tulie. had to go out, go back, go into tulie, go back, that kind of stuff. and we went into alamo a time or two, and up and down the hill. lots of new mexico's dry desert washes, pistachio farms, pecan farms, dry ranches, and litter by the side of the road. it's busy down there; that's a main highway. some policeman was out there patrolling but people were still going about eighty. that was a kind of new mexico thing.

the truck stop had a kind of pistachio-store annex along with a restaurant; it was independent, but very tied in to pistachios and pecans in the region. this little stretch is all about pistachios and pecans; what do they have water? i'm not sure. but that's kind of what they do around here. it's all pistachios, pecans, and military, with military being maybe two thirds, or three quarters, of the economy. military people come here with their fat pensions, and they notice: it's livable, you don't have to take care of your yard, the sun shines all the time, and, as a medium-sized small town, it has two wal-marts and at least three subway (fast-food) outlets. all a person could ask for.

the fact is, at night, it's downright pleasant. you can get on a hill on the outside of town, and look out over the valley, and sometimes you see the moon over the white sands; it's quite dramatic. actually, even in the day, if your window is open, and the sun is not directly on you, that's pleasant too. the air is dry. you don't sweat. you can sit out, and enjoy the breeze - so, in fact, it's pretty pleasant year-round, even in the desert. but our car's air-con is broken, and this leaves us in a bad position on long trips across the basin, either across white sands to las cruces, or down across the otero plain on the way to el paso, to the airport, as my wife just did.

it's kind of a stark environment. even tulie has mountains on both sides - on the one, the highway up to ruidoso, that goes through the mescalero reservation, covered with trees, elk all over the place. tulie sits in the tularosa basin though - that wide, flat dry desert that holds the white sands, on the one hand, and just about nothing else but desert scrub. this desert scrub is some kind of very hardy plant, green at this time of year, but mostly a lot of hardy, and not much beauty. it's tough. and there are washes, very dry, that hold the water when it rains - apparently it does, maybe once or twice a year. i know there are rabbits out there, and there are probably other things too - the horses could tell you - but mostly there are these spactacular views of mountains in every direction. alamo itself is tucked up right against them. the sun hits them sometimes, and makes an incredible view. it's a dinky town, alamo, and tulie even more so, but they are spectacular towns. and there's this wild sunset, every night.

the sunset, as i often tell my friends, is nothing, compared to the sunrise. with the sunrise, the sun comes up in the mountains behind us, and daylight shows up before the sun itself. then, with a spectacular turn, it inches over the highest mountains and casts a pink glow on the white sands and the mountains beyond them. the white sands, the purest of white, become pink, when the sun glows on them. but the contrast between the white sands and the rest of the tularosa valley, is what you want. it's like there's this huge gypsum field, glowing white like toothpaste, and there's a pink ribbon as the sun starts to glow on the purple mountain.

and all of this happens generally, while i'm shooting down the hill, one foot on the brakes, at about seven a m on my way to work. i sometimes have people tailgating me, or even passing me, in a hurry as they are, and not apparently concerned about "safety corridor" signs marking double the fine, or whatever. i think you have a lot of people in the army, or army retired, or police retired, or whatever, who just think they can talk their way out of anything, and maybe they can. but i'm always worried about the speed limit. and the winding roads, which, if you take your eye of them for a minute, will send you hurtling over the cliff. i literally can't watch this pink-glow business unless i pull over, and if i do that, i lose precious time, and risk getting tailgated again, as i can't pull back into the road without doing it gradually.

so i stick to the speed limits, tear around the curves, watch out for falling rocks, and mountain animals, and i'm aware of all this pink stuff happening, but in general, i figure, well, i live here, and i'll probably see it again.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

april rocks!

happy birthday!









april rocks!

tradition

Saturday, April 01, 2017

new story:
Spring Forward, Fall Back
enjoy! comments welcome