Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Here in New Mexico

The Road to Santa Fe
Yes, I finally made it, weeks late, and I can only stay until July 4th when I have to scoot back to California. Then plans are under way for another expedition to NM in August, then back to California, then the Big Move sometime before the end of September. Of course, we've been moving bit by bit for the last several years.

Meanwhile, the effects of the continuing drought in NM are obvious. Drought and not-so-dry periods alternate around here, but droughts can go on for a very long time, and not-so-dry is never wet to any substantial degree. This is really high desert country, and the severity of the desertification waxes and wanes. Our place is technically in the East Mountains, but we're actually about 10 miles from the Manzanos and Sandias in a valley that was once a lake. This is farming and ranching country, and there is a good deal of land under irrigation around here. So the farms are green. Most of the rest isn't. When this area was first settled around 1900, the pioneers set out to dry-farm beans, relying on summer rains to water their crops. It worked OK until the drought that brought on the Dust Bowl. There was no rain, thus no crops, thus no way to survive, thus a rather rapid depopulation -- not that the population was ever very high. There was a sort of recovery in the 1940's, but then there was another drought in the 1950's, which led ultimately to nearly everyone leaving. Now the population hovers around 1,500 more or less (mostly less lately) and it is the metropolis of the county. People have to commute to Albuquerque or Santa Fe for employment, and that's rough when gas prices are as high as they are (the supposed drop in gasoline prices really depends on where you are. Around here they're pretty much as high now as they were in April.)

Ground water pumping is available for irrigation which has stabilized the farming and ranching community somewhat, and there is a fairly constant trade along the interstate, so there is a sense of economic stability for those who are adapted to that sort of thing.Those stabilizing factors have to be juxtaposed with the effects of the Endless Recession, however, and those effects have been severe. Many people we became friends with have left; it cost them too much to live here. Some have just walked away from their homes. Others found better places in town. This sort of population churning goes on all the time, of course, but in a small town like this, it's very stark.

There's a somewhat romantic Wild West story that serves as the foundation of current settlement in this area, and I doubt more than a few historical specialists know about it. The better known past is that of the Pueblos round about that were finally abandoned in the 1600's and 1700's due to drought, disease and predation. But there's another more recent story -- a number of them, truth be told -- that I might play around with.

Stories upon stories...

And for history buffs, yesterday was Little Big Horn Day, the 136th anniversary of the Battle of Little Big Horn. When I'm driving, as I was yesterday, I tend to listen to the Native American broadcasts on the radio when I cross over into New Mexico. And the Native American program I listened to yesterday featured  a recording of the story of Little Big Horn told from the Indians' perspective. It was pretty good!

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