Sunday, October 28, 2018

we are restoring some land out in sixteen springs canyon (see picture below), about twenty miles from cloudcroft. it's a remote valley, and my father's inheritance gave us enough to buy about six acres and then put a little house on it; it already had a hunter's shack and some electricity. Now, it's virtually livable, except that the kids are involved in town, and basically unwilling to move unless a place had internet and a little more space. Both of those are possible, but still not to where they want to move out there. it's remote. it's beautiful. it makes my wife and i happy. but we are, to some degree, outnumbered by four kids, five pets and circumstances.

so the road out there is stunning, starting from town, where we turn left at the school and roll on down past big daddy's, a diner that sits on the edge of elk-saturated territory. the road goes around past ski cloudcroft, and various other bucoloc valleys, with the grass very green this year, and the aspens bright against the dark pine background; the colors have lasted unusually long this year, and are still at a kind of peak now, though it's a peak brownish-rust color (my wife says, i've grown a liking to this rust color, and i say, it's been my favorite color all along). we're coming into the high holy days - halloween, saints' day, souls' day - and to me, it's because this is the prettiest time of year. on this drive, you see a horse arena, an old church, horses down in the valley; you come down from cloudcroft's 8700 feet to about 7500, until you turn left and up into the national forest.

my career has taken a temporary detour into welding. a teacher set up a shop with welding equipment, but now has walked out, or left, for whatever reason, and i'm left with six classes of welding students, mostly boys with the need to use their hands all the time, and a bunch of equipment that nobody's allowed to touch. meanwhile i ask them a little bit about their experience. seems welding is a hobby that is common among ranchers, people who have to put together gates, and wagons, and horse bits, and various metal constructions. lots of these kids had as much experience as that teacher, or at least already had the equipment, and didn't have to put down the $250 that most students did just to get enrolled in the class. no telling what happened to the teacher, but there i am, surrounded by welding equipment, and the desire to learn, and no way to take care of either.

so the guy out in sixteen springs, who had a hunting cabin before he died and moved along, leaving us two little shacks, a wood stove, thousands of beautiful rocks and arrowheads - he was a welder too. he had welding equipment, spare metal, old metal pipes, that kind of stuff. moving the old drainage pipes one day we saw a rattler, who'd been living under all that metal, but he's gone now, as far as we know, and so are the bees. the place is downright habitable, and we're working on making it more so, getting our kids out there, becoming full time residents of sixteen springs. we think it's possible.

it's a gorgeous road out there, but quite tortuous. after you leave the highway you go up a couple of miles north, toward the forest, and then it becomes gravel and winds around a lot in the forest; at the top of the ridge, there's cell phone reception for a brief minute (this is called james ridge), and you can see across many valleys, back across the highway, off to the east over mayhill. after a stretch of steep windy gravel you get back down into sixteen springs canyon, and then head off to the east; you end up about ten miles north of mayhill, and definitely squeezed between miles of national forest and the reservation. there are about a dozen families that live out there permanently, maybe more; they have all been nice to us. they take note of whether we're moving out there permanently or not. they would like to see enough kids in the valley to run a school bus out there again.

not that we know them well enough to know that that's what they want; some probably want nothing more than to be left alone. the hunters run up and down the road during the season, which is now; also, there are a couple of rv parks where people apparently enjoy coming out for the summer or for hunting season. lots of deer, elk and bear all over the place. it's remote, and wild, and out there.

so this one day a fog was developing after i left cloudcroft, and in fact, it picked up a little before i got to the turnoff. i was aware, as i snaked up the mountain onto james ridge, that the fog was getting thicker. up at the top, it was thick as pea soup. and there, along the road, came an eleven-year-old boy (or thereabouts) carrying a rifle. i couldn't see at first, but a little behind him was his dad, on a cell phone; being on james ridge, he had to make his call, i'm sure. the boy was an odd sight, in that fog. i was glad he didn't think i was a deer.


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