Tag Archives: Colorado

King’s Manassa Turquoise

King’s Manassa Turquoise (photo by Jack Matthews)

Some of my current writing involves turquoise extracted from mines close to Taos, New Mexico. I purchased this 25 carat piece of turquoise that came from the King’s Manassa mine near Manassa, Colorado, that is just over the border from New Mexico north of Taos. The lapidary had begun to polish the turquoise and I bought it in this unfinished, but impressive, state. It was not expensive in its unrefined state. The provenance was documented by the jeweler at the lapidary in Taos. Notice the golden matrix (not gold, the color gold) and slightly greenish cast along with the cerulean blue. The Manassa mine is not worked anymore. It was originally a mining site by Ancestral Pueblo peoples. L.P. King in 1890 found stone hammers and mallets about the site. King’s descendants still own the claim on private land.

The purchase of this King’s Manassa turquoise is an object of inspiration for my writing, like an old photograph or piece of music that is played. I think you know what I am writing about, don’t you? When you write a letter or email to a close friend, do you not have a photograph to remind you of your connection?

I have a close friend in Amarillo, Texas, who is in poor health, but when I write him, I have in front of me a group picture of us (with other friends) to remind me of when we were young and robust and had years (we hoped) in front of us.

So it is with this blue-green turquoise with golden matrix that is placed to the left of my word processor when I write of northern New Mexico mining claims. The stone helps me start thinking. Below is a photograph from Joe Dan Lowry and Joe P. Lowry, Turquoise Unearthed: An Illustrated Guide, that shows King’s Manassa turquoise in jeweled splendor.

From Joe Dan Lowry and Joe P. Lowry, Turquoise Unearthed: An Illustrated Guide (photo by Jack Matthews)

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Update: saving the sage grouse

Saving the Sage Grouse – NYTimes.com.

The following quote from The New York Times is a letter about NOT putting the Gunnison sage grouse on the Endangered Species Act, reminiscent of the nineteenth century effort to eliminate the buffalo along the transcontinental railroad routes to California.

Re “Newly Discovered, Nearly Extinct,” by John W. Fitzpatrick (Op-Ed, March 7):

The proposed federal listing of the Gunnison sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act would devalue state and local efforts already under way to conserve the species while simultaneously undermining energy development — both renewable and conventional — in the habitat region.

A federal listing would affect wind energy projects in the Monticello, Utah, area, oil and natural gas production in San Miguel County, Colorado, and potential geothermal development in the Gunnison Basin, Colorado. Agricultural interests would also be greatly affected, as 90 percent of the bird’s habitat sits on federal and private land grazed by domestic livestock.

Energy producers — from wind to natural gas — and local landowners are already working with state agencies to provide protection of the bird, while also providing domestic energy and hundreds of jobs. Placing the grouse on the endangered species list will not only undermine these efforts but will also halt energy development in the proposed region — a devastating, job-crushing, unintended consequence.

BARRY RUSSELL
President, Independent Petroleum
Association of America
Washington, March 8, 2013

From a post on my blog, Poprock Hill, February 22, 2010.

Fat-Takers

Buffalo Skulls at Michigan Carbon Works (1895) Detroit Public Libarary

The Sioux have a name for the white men.  They call them wasicun–fat-takers.  It is a good name, because you have taken the fat of the land.  But it does not seem to have agreed with you.  Right now you don’t look so healthy–overweight, yes, but not healthy.  Americans are bred like stuffed geese–to be consumers, not human beings.  –John (Fire) Lame Deer, in “Lame Deer Seeker of Visions: The Life of a Sioux Medicine Man,” p. 44.

Life is out of balance when people trespass into nature with two notions:  there is a superabundance of resources and nature can be harvested because man has dominion over nature.  Neither are true.  What teachers instructed the men in hats and suits to stand arrogantly on top of a carefully-stacked pile of buffalo skulls to be ground into fertilizer?  Life is out of balance when the photograph above was taken, the men standing on skulls and the teachers and preachers that taught that man has dominion and rights to harvest indiscriminately.  Lame Deer calls such people fat-takers and they are not human beings.  Life is still out of balance when coyote hunts are contests for pelt count and young persons shoot prairie dogs for blood sport.

Photograph above of John (Fire) Lame Deer (1974) Heyoka Magazine, November 2006.

So much to learn by going and sitting down in the woods.

So much to learn by walking the mesa.

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Filed under Sage Grouse, Sagebrush

The drumming lover: the plight of the Gunnison sage grouse

Grouse

SEVERAL springs ago some friends and I arose before dawn in Moab, Utah, to witness the sunrise mating dance of the Gunnison sage grouse: a surreal display of nine ornately plumed, chicken-size birds tottering about amid the sagebrush like windup toys, fanning their spiky tails and uttering a magical sound — “pop … pop-pop!” — as they thrust yellow air sacs out of their snow-white chests.

The Plight of the Gunnison Sage Grouse – NYTimes.com.

Read the rest of the article and support adding the Gunnison sage grouse, the drumming lover, to the endangered species act.

On the matter of we people expanding into the wild, the veld, we decide whether to deep clean and cultivate assiduously the earth or whether to leave unturned and uncultivated the earth upon which we trod.  In between this binary choice–turning or not turning the soil–there is no middle ground.  This choice is one of those locked-down moments of either-or, either alive or dead, nothing in between, either turning the soil for cultivation or leave it alone.

Therefore, to keep alive and robust the biota of this good earth–the Gunnison sage grouse, for example, –we must as a people, as temporary tenants of this space, here and now, leave sufficient areas of territory for species to live, to roam, to rest, to raise families.  Yes, we need to cultivate land as well, but large tracts of it?  At the expense of destroying major habitats?  In response to all living things, therefore, let us ratchet down, pin down less tightly, our clearing land and cutting trees and brush, so that we as a people can rise early in the morning and attend the dance of life in those spaces we have tenderly set aside.

(To be continued, The post-industrial order.)

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Juniper: an evergreen for all my seasons

Juniper in Flying Hat Ranchito grove, often referred to as cedar (J. Matthews, 2011).

(As a disclosure, I use “cedar” and “juniper” interchangeably.  See notes below from Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia.)

I grew up with cedar all around me, but cedar posts for building fence predominated.  T-posts (the steel ones) may be making fence construction faster these days, but I hold to the cedar post as a primary building material.  Allergies from cedar congest the lungs of Texans, particularly central residents who weather the Mountain Cedar every year.  A website dedicates itself to, “Cedar: The Allergy Plague of Trees.

All of that being said, the cedar or juniper holds personal value for me beyond the descriptions, quotes and links I attach in this post.

Of all the flora about me as I grew up and the plants about me now, the juniper radiates scent and memories, even beyond the majestic pecan in my far pasture.  I burned juniper in a Folger’s coffee can to sweeten the air at campsites and even in my apartment from time to time, placing the coffee can at the edge of the hearth.  I have taken cedar bark and twisted it into fine pieces and lit a single match to start a campfire, and I have carried cedar tinder in my backpack to start fire along the trail.  I cut cedar staves and posts one Christmas vacation to earn extra money and to say, I once worked as a cedar chopper.

Green juniper groves along the Colorado River near Bend, Texas, contrasted with bleached white-gray rock outcroppings, and I found old campsites of roundups in pastures about the river, the blackened rock, not the red, holding the remains of cedar fires.  My grandmother once pointed out a cow camp firepit near the Colorado that she had cooked for the crew and her husband-cowboy Jake, before his accident on the horse Hell’s Canyon.

I have camped near cedar breaks many times, but the one time I remember was on the Zuni Reservation, out in the middle of the reservation, by myself with junipers and coyotes through the night.  I built a small fire of cedar and munched on a juniper berry for its bitter effect.  I had sped to the reservation from Grants, New Mexico, and hastily set up camp, sleeping in my bedroll beside the fire the night through.  I was seeking a medicine man, but he never found my camp.

More often than not at Christmas time, my family cut a juniper tree from the ranch to place in the living room.  The tree may have been as short as three feet, at other times, five-feet tall.  I loved the aroma of the juniper as it filled the house for Christmas.  Tinsel drooped from the branches with those bubbly lights all aglow.

Near Abilene, on the road to Coleman, there is a park on the east side of the highway at Buffalo Gap, a broad cut in the hills that buffalo and migrants used to go into southwest Texas from the High Plains and Caprock.  The park has a large grove of junipers that have trunks three to five feet in diameter.  I have rested there many times and note the broad-deep shade the junipers provide in the Summer and windbreak during Winter.  From the Juniper Park — as I have taken to call it — one can see into Buffalo Gap and off in the distance the plains to the north.  This Juniper Park has been a lookout, a redoubt of some sort, for a long, long time.  I think I stopped there one time when I was traveling to Brownwood to take care of my aging mother, or it may have been another time, and I rolled the windows down to smell the juniper and place my hand on the fertile greenery I had known all my life, or that other day anew in late Spring.  I thought then, as I do now, that I will remember this day for as long as I live, for although my mother lay dying and I was teaching in a foreign land, the evergreen of juniper and its effect transcended my sorrow and sense of alienation from this world.  I have found home and peace and love beneath junipers for all my seasons.  To me, its fruit is never bitter.

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

Some juniper trees are misleadingly given the common name “cedar,” including Juniperus virginiana, the “red cedar” that is used widely in cedar drawers. True cedars are those tree species in the genus Cedrus, family Pinaceae.

In Morocco, the tar (gitran) of the arar tree (Juniperus phoenicea) is applied in dotted patterns on bisque drinking cups. Gitran makes the water more fragrant and is said to be good for the teeth.

American Indians have used juniper to treat diabetes; such treatments by the Navajo, for example, are under clinical study.[3] Clinical studies have shown that treatment with juniper may retard the development of streptozotocin diabetes in mice.[4] Native Americans also used juniper berries as a female contraceptive.[5] The 17th Century herbalistphysicianNicholas Culpeper recommended the ripened berries for conditions such as asthma and sciatica, as well as to speed childbirth.[6]

“Juniper,” Wikipedia, accessed December 25, 2011.

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juniper, any of about 60 to 70 species of aromatic evergreen trees or shrubs constituting the genus Juniperus of the cypress family (Cupressaceae), distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The juvenile leaves of a juniperare needlelike. Mature leaves are awl-shaped, spreading, and arranged in pairs or in whorls of three. Some species have small, scalelike leaves, often bearing an oil gland, which are pressed closely to the rounded or four-angled branchlets. Male and female reproductive structures usually are borne on separate plants. The reddish brown or bluish cones are fleshy and berrylike and often have a grayish, waxy covering. They mature in 1 to 3 seasons and contain 1 to 12 seeds, usually 3.

Common juniper (J. communis), a sprawling shrub, is widely distributed on rocky soils throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Many ornamental cultivars have been developed. The berrylike megastrobilus of this species is used to flavour foods and alcoholic beverages, particularly gin, which is named after Juniperus through the French genièvre. Juniper “berries” have a fragrant, spicy aroma and a slightly bittersweet flavour. Used with venison, they remove the gamey taste. They are also used to season sauces and stuffings, in pickling meats, and to flavour liqueurs and bitters.

An important ornamental and timber tree of eastern North America is the eastern red cedar (J. virginiana), whose fragrant wood is made into cabinets, fence posts, and pencils. This species is an invader of glades, pastures, prairies, and other open grassy areas in parts of its range; thus, it is considered a troublesome weed by some botanists and land managers. The savin (J. sabina) of central Europe, Chinese juniper (J. chinensis) of eastern Asia, and creeping juniper (J. horizontalis) of eastern North America are other popular ornamental species with many horticultural varieties. The wood of incense, or Spanish, juniper (J. thurifera), of Spain and Portugal, and of Phoenician juniper (J. phoenicea) of the Mediterranean region sometimes is burned as incense.

Oil of juniper, distilled from the wood and leaves of several species, is used in perfumes and in medicines such as diuretics. Galls produced by junipers as a reaction to fungal infection are known as cedar apples. This fungus, cedar apple rust, completes its life cycle on members of the apple subfamily of the flowering plant family Rosaceae, which contains numerous species of trees and shrubs commercially valuable as fruit and ornamental plants. The growth of junipers around apple orchards and plantings of related genera is thus discouraged to avoid disfigurement or loss of these important cultivated plants.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “juniper,” accessed December 25, 2011, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/308301/juniper.

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Spring to Summer in central Texas

Mustang grape vines on southern fence of Pecan Tree Pasture (May 2011).

Emergent flora signifies the arrival and maturation of Spring into Summer in central Texas.  Mustang grape vines climb trees and follow fence lines without fail.  I collect buckets of ripened grapes in late June or early July.  Daily observations of ripening grapes must take place or birds pluck the deep ruby-red berries and in over-consuming they fly dizzily, drunkenly away, first to the harvest, leaving my mouth and bucket empty.

Mesquite and mustang grapevines often intertwine and when harvesting, the mesquite thorns force the cost of harvesting painfully upward.

Mustang grapes with mesquite (June 2011).

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Two stands of Big Bluestem grass (May 2011)

When rain falls, grass flourishes.  The top of the stems reach six-feet or more high.  Big.  Native.  Bluestem.

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The final exhibit of Spring in this post is prickly-pear cactus with its brilliant yellow cactus flower.  I note that many varieties of insects clamor and dive into the flower, bees especially.  Cactus is destroyed as nuisance flora as a regular chore on small ranches and farms.  Yet, its fruit is edible, the flower yields pollen for honey and in drought, propane torches burn thorns and cattle consume the paddles.  The roar of burning pear signals drought upon the land.

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For the moment, propane torches rest against barn walls.  Yesterday, west of my ranchito about a hundred miles, and northwest of Abilene, Erin Rea reports prairie fires near her farm.  The drought has descended brutally on her area and in a line stretching to the southeastern corner of Colorado,  the land reminds old-timers of the dust bowl days.  @Tuckertown tweets, “Wildfire in Southern Colorado fouls the air along Colorado’s Front Range. Very tender dry in the SE corner of Colorado. Very bad.”

The Spring to Summer in central and west Texas is endurable as we live with the land whether mustang grapes emerge or prairie fires burn.

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Filed under Field Log, Weather

Gunnison Sage-grouse: Newly Designated Species

Gunnison Sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus), Western State College of Colorado Website

Click on the link below for breed characteristics, description of habitat and directions to the Waunita Lek Watchable Wildlife Site near Gunnison, Colorado.  The viewing is only April 2-May 10.

Gunnison Sage-grouse — Western State College of Colorado — for breed characteristics and habitat.

Waunita Lek Viewing site for Gunnison Sage-grouse courting rituals — you must arrive before sundown and have a Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp.

I never knew what a lek was until I read up on the grouse.  A lek is a breeding area, a place that males display their feathers, wing beats and air sac thumping — quite similar to teenage rituals at a high school dance.

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