Thursday, July 04, 2019

ok i protest. i protest the tanks. i protest the kids in cages. i protest the pretense of glory for our country. i protest the undermining of democracy and civility.

many years, we go out and watch public fireworks displays. people who supposedly know what they're doing set off firecrackers and hopefully nobody gets hurt. some years they make mistakes. often people go on their own, and make all kinds of mistakes. animals get spooked. people lose fingers.

this year, i'm way out on the edge of the country, where the civilized world turns into the dry canyons of south central new mexico, not far from the apache mescalero reservation. i want no part of fireworks. i am not into celebrating.

it is the end of the driest season here - from february to july fourth, sometimes no rain at all, and a hot dry wind evaporates any water you even apply to your ground. on the fourth it turns, to what they call the "monsoon," and this season, july and august, provide us with most of the few inches we get every year - an average of twelve, actually - by raining regularly. this year the rains came just a couple days early, as it's a kind of wet year, thank god. it may not be as treacherous as it usually is.

but generally, people are out there blowing these crackers off, and the locals are getting angry. everything is so dry. the forests are dry, the yards are dry, the grasslands are dry. it's like seeing someone drive up the hill with a lit cigarette in his mouth. you feel like cutting him off, getting out of your car screaming. what the living f--- do you think you're doing, trying to set our world on fire. one year hundreds of thousands of acres burned. the area went up in smoke and there wasn't much people could do. it's a dry place, and also windy.

the bone spur brings his tanks into washington like this is russia or something. might as well bring russian tanks. he's all proud of being in a military parade like he has to show firepower, and how he's in charge of it. it makes me angry. he has kids in cages. he's stolen billions and redistributed it to his friends.

out by the reservation, the woods goes up a long steady hill, with a dry canyon down in the middle of it, mountains up each side. i followed the path this morning, and it curved me around so i wouldn't come to the reservation fence; i stayed in the national forest, where dry trees waited for the monsoon season. occasional piles of deer turds would be in the path. down at the bottom, toward where the people are, there were some bones; people had been hunting here. the new mexico sky, clear blue as always, beat down. it was hot already, even in morning, on a cloudy day.

it gets cloudy, but then it doesn't rain. this also, i find characteristic of this season. they are like teaser clouds. it appears that it might rain, and that the dry season might be ending, but it doesn't. it's like "june is the cruelest month." it's cruelest, if you care about rain most of all, and if it teases you, and if it never rains. june is dry, yes. grasslands turn to brown. dry sticks sit around on the forest floor like matches on a stove. everyone watches the sky hoping that the clouds will bring the real thing.

so close to the apache reservation, i feel almost like i'm at the edge of the u.s. i know the apache have a different view of the fourth of july, but they actually have moved in and taken it over, and started to have their big apache welcome celebration on the fourth weekend. i'm not sure, this year, which weekend that would be, or if it is today. i rarely talk to the apache, although i see them sometimes, and a kid that my son befriended was apache. this may be more than most of us, who live in this kind of white mountain enclave where people fly the american flag on the back of their trucks. they have their opinion. i have mine. i am way back, beyond their homesteads, where they'll have to come way out here to see if i fly that flag or not.

my dogs, i feel, fall down on the side of animals who are spooked by your average firecracker. they get spooked if i clap above a fly, or if i come down on the table with a newspaper, trying to swat one. they are not big fans of violence, and i don't blame them. one year i was hit in the temple with a firecracker, and i was lucky that it didn't go off until it landed on the ground, because i was deaf for about an hour afterward. if it had gone off when it hit my temple, i might not be telling this story. it was the bicentennial year.

in this area, there are two places where they set off fireworks legally. one is on the mescalero reservation, at the inn of the mountain gods, where they have a lake, and set them off over the lake. the other is the town of alamogordo, only eighteen miles down from cloudcroft but almost forty miles from here. at those, they set them off over some dry mountains and a parking lot, and keep plenty of firetrucks on hand in case they miss. i'm passing on those too.

we did, however, have a fourth of july parade in our town, and it was last saturday, at four in the afternoon, on a day much like this. not too many people went, in spite of the fact that it's a busy season in a small tourist town, and there isn't a whole lot to do. they said the congresswoman, who is a democrat, was coming, but i didn't see her, and neither did i see a few people who said basically that they'd come just in order to boo her. perhaps one of them said a little too much, or it sounded like a threat, and she got wind of it. it could also be, she being busy and all, that she had something else to do. for whatever reason, she didn't show up, and it was an uneventful parade. i saw two of my students from down the hill, two very different ones, who had the luxury of riding in cars at the parade. i was in the audience, my little daughter darting out into the parade to grab the candy they'd throw out at us. the firetrucks made their sirens go, just to show that they worked, and that this was their presence in the parade.

a little while ago, we had a controlled burn on our property. the whole neighborhood knew it, and lots of people came to see; they wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing. one mistake, and you lose the whole valley. it's just the way it is, and they've seen it before. things are growing back, yes, even down in the burn scar, but, it takes years to recover a forest, and it's often not in our lifetime. you lose it, you see it burn, it'll take forever to see it come back. a delicate thing, a garden, an elm grove, a democracy, these things are gone in a flash, and then you wonder why you didn't do more to keep it hanging around.


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