Tag Archives: Santa Fe

Life is a Ditch: Acequia de Llano San Juan de Nepomuceno

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photograph, J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010)

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano.  Water rights since 1789 (Photograph by Taos Properties).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Rio Santa Barbara Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph and data by Taos Properties).

(This new post derives from my previous post, “Not mine, not yours, but ours:  Penasco Upper Llano acequias,” October 2011.)

From Amarillo, Texas, I drove to northern New Mexico in 1968.  I traveled by way of Las Vegas, Mora, and Penasco, making camp along the upper watershed of the Rio Santa Barbara for a few days.  I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by residents and survey crews, but the long lots reflected a community, a meshing of rural families alongside a water greenbelt.  In later anthropological field trips, I took my Amarillo College students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who brought laws respecting community water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other long lots of community property.

This particular piece of property with the house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Several good books and narratives have been written about the acequia culture.  Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that attracts me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year for politicians.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I do not romanticize the acequia culture because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits.  Nonetheless, there exists an association of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant needing water that flourishes from the earth.  Having an acequia culture forces upon us the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision, and we will meet again.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.  Water is life, and in this case, Life is a Ditch.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Taos

Not mine, not yours, but ours: Penasco Upper Llano acequias

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph by Taos Properties).

Forty-four years ago, in 1967, I traveled to New Mexico from Amarillo, Texas.  It was my third and most memorable trip for I dreamed for days about colors and pottery and adobe and silver.  I would lie down, fall asleep and pass into a dream world of silver and blue skies — northern New Mexico.  It was not all pleasant because I became ill from eating different Native American and Mexican foods, but that never deterred me from returning again and again and again.

Aside from digestive and dreaming events, I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora, the unpaved streets about the Taos plaza and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by survey crews, but also reflected a community, a meshing of farmers.  What was there about those fertile strips that drew me in?    In later anthropological field trips, I took my students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who adopted the local customs of water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one automatically gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other strips of community property.

This particular piece of property with the adobe house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture that I admire:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that pulls on me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I shall not be accused of romanticizing the acequia culture — oh, go ahead and accuse! — because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits, but there is an association, a group of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant that flourishes from the soil that is watered.  Having an acequia culture forces the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Santa Fe, Taos

Pasqual’s calendar

At my office at Cisco College in Abilene, Texas, I lean back and put my feet and Ariat boots up on the desk.

My view is nearly always the same when I catch my breath and lean back in the chair.  I have a calendar from Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe — dated back to 2009 — that is of a pajarera (birdhouse).  I like those calendars from Pasqual’s.  I have a calendar underneath this calendar that is from 2008, entitled “Mi Moscata,” showing a boy with a pet squirrel.  Yes, I know, that’s three-years ago and I still have it on the wall.  Further, I have Sage to Meadow blog up on the computer, Dr. Pepper on the desk and behind the Dr. Pepper is a small green box of mild Tabasco sauce — bottle in the box, of course.  I have the red Tabasco there, too, but you can’t see it.  I eat lunch in my office, hence, the condiments.

It is not all boots on the desk, however, for I presented Madison’s influence at the Constitutional Convention to a U.S. History class, and in World Civilization I took the class through the Greek philosophers with a particular aside to the cynic, Diogenes of Sinope: “Alexander, stand out of the way, you are blocking the sun!”  Diogenes could get away with that.

Back when I was growing up, my parents would get a feed store calendar that would have the times of the sun rising and setting and the phases of the moon on each day.  They would use a clothes pin to attach receipts to the calendar until the end of the month when the receipts would be taken down and filed away.  I think some of those calendars had pockets in which you could store receipts.  Maybe not.

At Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe I really like the smoked trout breakfast dish.  What is it called?

SMOKED TROUT HASH
A Golden Gruyère Potato Cake with Two Poached Eggs, a Scatter of Smoked Trout and Tomatillo Salsa 16

Ah, that’s it.

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Acequia and Rough Creek mill race

Acequia Madre of Santa Fe

Throughout the upper Rio Grande bioregion, from the uplands of the north to the more desertic and mesa lands to the south, watercourses and their tributaries stand apart as the most defining features critical to all forms of life, biotic and human.  For centuries, this region has been homeland to the aboriginal peoples, the Tewa, Tiwa and Keres (Pueblo) Indians, and the descendants of the first European settlers, the hispano mexicanos.  These cultures revere water, treasuring it as the virtual lifeblood of the community….Nestled within the canyons and valley floors, tiny villages and pueblos dot the spectacular, enchanting landscape.  Their earthen ditches, native engineering works known locally as acequias, gently divert the precious waters to extend life into every tract and pocket of arable bottomland….

But these systems have also performed other important roles…social, political, and ecological.  As a social institution the acequia systems have preserved the historic settlements and local cultures spanning four major periods….The great majority of acequia villages are unincorporated.  In these instances the acequia institutions have functioned as the only form of local government below the county level.

As biological systems, the acequias have served other important objectives:  soil and water conservation, aquifer recharge, wildlife and plant habitat preservation, and energy conservation.

Jose A. Rivera, Acequia Culture: Water, Land, and Community in the Southwest, pp. xvii-xviii (1998).

In 2007, I drove up Santa Fe River canyon from downtown to the iron gates of the reservoir that held water for the town, including the Acequia Madre.  The acequia no longer irrigated fields, but the channel held water for occasional diversions to small plots in the neighborhood.  For a distance of about two miles, I traced the acequia back towards the center of Santa Fe.  All along the way, I saw some neighborhoods had gleaned the acequia while others ignored it.  At the end of my search near the junction of the Old Santa Fe Trail, the acequia held little water, but it was visible and grasses sprouted about the narrow canal.  It appeared ready, at attention really, to carry water again.

* * *

I spoke with a vintner at Dixon, New Mexico, north of Santa Fe, who also superintended the annual cleaning of the Dixon acequia.  She told me that local inhabitants still work on keeping their canal clear of brush, even if it does not border their property,  a communal behavior extending back to prehistoric times.

* * *

On my great-grandfather’s ranch in San Saba County, Texas, the local inhabitants of Colony and High Valley constructed a grist mill for grinding grain in the late-nineteenth century.  They dug a mill race or channel to divert the water of Rough Creek to the wheel that powered belts to millstones.  My mother often told me she remembered her father coming out of the mill covered in flour, face smothered and sweaty.  As a boy, when I visited my great-grandfather’s ranch, I followed the channel upstream on Rough Creek to where the water diverted.

Today, the mill still stands sans roof, windows and doors; the mill race is visible, though eroded, and no water flows.  On the second story ledge of the mill, a prickly-pear cactus took root in shallow soil, erupting ten or twelve paddles of cacti clearly visible from the ground, its propulsion coming from the prevailing southwesterly wind from High Valley and warmer climes in Mexico that blew seed upwards onto the old mill’s second story.  To this day, picnics and family reunions congregate about the old mill and under the pecan trees nearby.

Although some acequias have fallen into disrepair and the old mill will no longer grind grain, no lament is necessary because these structures symbolize the communal efforts of people to work with the flow of water.  Acequias can be cleaned out and the mill race can be reconstructed to a higher ground so that its flow can be opened to a newly-planted orchard of plum and peach.  The mill race becomes acequia.

 

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Filed under Bend Texas, Colony Road, Recollections 1942-1966, San Saba Texas, Santa Fe

Luminaria Christmas

 

Farolitos

Lights wrapped around tree with mobile art piece.

 

Rios Woodyard luminaria.

Christmas in Santa Fe includes the traditional farolito stroll after dark along Canyon Road, the artistic thoroughfare that delights the eye.  The luminaria is the wood fire.  Farolitos are candles within paper sacks that light up the edges of sidewalks and walls along Canyon Road.  For up-to-date information, consult the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper’s Christmas Day edition.

New Mexican Christmas celebrations rival Italy and Germany.  Alessio Franceschetti, a very good friend of mine, sent me a montage of Christmas scenes in Italy.  Do look at it:  Natale in Italia 2010.  This montage is moving and beautiful.  Thank you, Alessio.

 

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Santa Fe Farmers’ Market

Over the Labor Day holiday, we took a mini-vacation to Santa Fe, stopping on the way to visit my daughter in Lubbock, Texas.

Roasting Peppers

From the first hour we were in Santa Fe, my wife, Brenda, said that we must go to the Farmers’ Market in the Santa Fe rail yard.  I was glad we went because the Santa Fe plaza was  filled with white-tented craft booths and in the evenings we could not enjoy strolling in the plaza.  There was a pleasant display of crafts, but no opportunity to stroll on the plaza.  Another evening, another trip for that.  So it was off to Farmers’ Market early Saturday morning.

The Farmers’ Market meets all expectations for food and merriment and good all-around fun for a Saturday morning!  I took photographs.  Brenda purchased garlic oil, leeks, dried apple chips, basket, a garlic chain and sage-lavender soap.  We put the leeks in our cooler in the room under ice so that we could have leek soup when we returned to our ranch.  Chili peppers?  Well, we had them at every meal in Santa Fe, from Cafe Pasqual’s to Lumanaria.  Oh, boy, how great it is, a movable feast in Santa Fe.

Here are few more photos of the market.  I’ve read some of my blogger friends lately that have hankered for chili and New Mexico.  So, for you, here are some photos to whet you appetite before you book for travel.

Shallots at Santa Fe Farmers' Market

Santa Fe Farmers' Market Stroll

The Chef at St. Francis Hotel looking for fresh ingredients.

Roasting Peppers

Brenda at Cafe Pasqual's before we went to Farmers' Market. Pasqual's did not open up until 8:00 a.m. We were there early, thinking it opened at 7:30 a.m. We went in and had a fine table because we were early.

This is our table at Cafe Pasqual's. We had arrived early and were one of the first to be seated. We like the sparkling water and often take the bottle home to put fresh plants in so as to conserve the bottle and the energy spent to make it. Geraniums. Yes, geraniums. I have always had them around me. Mother grew them for as long as I can remember.

Chili Peppers, Farmers' Market, Labor Day Weekend, 2010

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Sangre de Cristo Notes

Over the past week, my wife and I have encamped near the Pecos Wilderness in the Carson National Forest of northern New Mexico, traveled the High Road of Taos down to Santa Fe and rented a pleasant room at the Inn at Loretto.  Observations noted during field work and retrenchment in the The City Different Santa Fe are listed below, impressionable and subject to interpretive change with further research as well as some drying out and recuperation.

  • Santa Barbara campground, in fact all of the Carson National Forest campground facilities, has been contracted out to a private concessionary firm, Scenic Canyons Recreational Services, Inc. A resident couple permanently camp at the entry point.
  • Vegetation on the trail from Santa Barbara to Pecos Wilderness seems healthy and more intense than I remember in 1968.
  • The Chimayo Restaurant serves a spicy carne adovada, whose effect remains for hours (1).
  • The Trujillos of Chimayo gave us wood for three fires when they broke camp.  Mr. Trujillo has an apple orchard and a V-10 F-250.  Mr. and Mrs. Trujillo had camped beside us.
  • A fisherman from Rodarte, New Mexico, scanned the debris area of the space shuttle Challenger for several weeks.  They formed lines of 1,000 scouts, side-by-side and touching.  When debris was found, the whole line stopped while it was harvested.   He had been a U. S. Forest Service employee at the time of the disaster.
  • Considerable road improvements are being made on the High Road to Taos, straightening out curves.
  • The diamond hitch for roping cargo in our pickup works extremely well.
  • We ate at Doc Martin’s, Osteria, La Fonda, Luminaria, Casa Sena and 315.
  • Don Rael’s margarita at the La Fonda bar is one good concoction and we met Rael who created the drink.  At the bar, I met a young lady who works at the Santa Fe Opera and who once lived in Hurst, Texas.
  • Santa Fe Pale Ale now puts out a wheat beer.
  • Brenda and I danced at the La Fonda bar to the tunes of “Nadine” and “Luckenbach.”
  • Brenda gave me a birthday present: a sage-cornmeal-sea salt exfoliation and massage at the spa at the Inn at Loretto.  I am not given to such follies, but Brenda was insistent.  I have visited in the early 1970s the springs at Jemez after extended field work in the Gila.  The spa treatment was a little different.  Amelia was my therapist whose family is from East Prussia.
  • The Ernest Thompson Seton exhibit at the New Mexico Historical Museum is sad, inspiring and elevating.  President Teddy Roosevelt was wrong to have set Seton aside in developing the outdoor movement.  The Boy Scouts of America did award him, however, the Silver Beaver Award.
  • On the plaza, I hear more variety of music from several directions, sometimes at once, reminding me of  something old and ancient.  I hear dobro, banjo, guitar, mariachi instruments, harmonica, vocals.  This is an increase of variety from years past.  Locals are now coming back downtown in greater numbers to hear local bands and itinerant musicians.  The plaza is a family affair, all ages, reminiscent of older times.
  • On Saturday, the bells of the cathedral of Saint Francis rang for two weddings in addition to regular tolling at 00:15, 00:30, 00:45 and the beginning of the hour.  At one of the wedding parties following the ceremonies, through terrace doors, we saw Mother and Son dancing together in celebration of the marriage to his lovely bride.

    St. Francis Cathederal, View from Inn at Loretto Balcony

______________________________

Notes:

1.  Presently, diacritical markings are omitted for Anglicized spelling because of expediency.

Plaza walking in the late afternoon  and early evening incites the senses.  There are food carts about the plaza, hanging baskets of flowers from the lamp poles, music and young children and grand parents playing.  A few couples are dancing when appropriate.  Some apparently homeless individuals are passing their time.  A number of people are lounging on the plaza grass.  I counted about 200-300 people about the plaza on an early Saturday evening.  People greet and meet, come and depart, lightened.

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Kindred

My Kindred at Las Golondrinas July 2009

I write to put down thoughts, images.

I put it down to not lose it, but to save a fragment.

The fragment demands narration, almost imperious.

And, then there is you to hear it yes hear it.

A holy trinity of me, you and the imperious fragment.

My kindred.

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Happy New Year! What Are We Going to do Next?

In preparation for Christmas and the New Year, stock tanks must be filled to the brim for horses, cattle, and deer.  Olivia Gywn Needham poses while filling the Pecan Tree Pasture water trough.  On this day in late November, she incessantly asked, “What are we going to do next, Grandpere?”  I ran out of chores before she ran out of energy.  Chores are play at this time in her life.  Being with Olivia makes chores enjoyable, festive, and less burdensome.  I have seen, as you have, fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, bring the child into the tasks of the day that must be completed before the dark.  Integrating the child with what we have to do gives them a sense of belonging and purpose to the day, and, I think, it gives us a sense of renewal that the world just might continue to endure with a piece of us after we depart.

This young woman is Jennifer Connell, my daughter-in-law, and she is engaging Star, Sweet Hija, and Fanny (looking over Hija’s withers).  Jennifer is in her second year of law school at Texas Wesleyan University.  Recently married to my step-son, she also works at Wesleyan to help defray expenses.  As we were walking back to the ranch house, she said that she wants horses again in her life, as she had been around them growing up in north Texas.  The New Year for Jennifer will be difficult, attending school, settling into her marriage, and working.  But, beneath the stress and grind, she prevails into the year, performing in class and rewriting her notes for clarity.  The New Year for her and Michael, her husband, will bring accomplishment of goals that will set their path for the future.  Star, the paint, when Jennifer visits, will lower her blood pressure and give companionship that only a horse can do.  “There’s something about the outside of a horse, that is good for the inside of a woman.”  And, a man.

This is Brenda, my wife.  While in Santa Fe she noticed that several shops had closed and that inventory stock was down at several businesses.  Our stay in Santa Fe this year was a rest from teaching and tending our ranchito (anything less than 2,560 acres is not a ranch, see John Wesley Powell).  The New Year for Brenda will be, like mine, sacred and profane, toil and rest, sky-high and ocean-low.  Like Olivia and Jennifer, in the photos above, we will endure and with some deliberation, maybe we can occasionally play through our days and nights, finding a self-loss in the rhythm of nature’s beauty out here in the West.

To my friends, to my fellow bloggers, to my family, to my dogs and cats and horses, trees and grasses, and the wildlife of the American Southwest:

Happy New Year!

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More Santa Fe Blizzard Express

Hermleigh, Texas, December 24, 2009

Hermleigh, Texas, December 24, 2009

Roscoe, Texas, December 24, 2009

Roscoe, Texas, December 24, 2009

Jack Matthews, Roscoe, Texas, December 24, 2009

Farm Fields, Slaton, Texas, December 24, 2009

We had been keeping up with weather forecasts before we left at 5:00 a.m. CST from our home in Mingus, Texas.  The weather forecasts on December 23, indicated that the Arctic snow front would pass through the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma, bypassing our route on Interstate 20 to Sweetwater, Roscoe north to Lubbock, then Clovis, Santa Rosa, Santa Fe.

On December 24, we left Mingus, temperature 37 degrees.  We first encountered snowflakes in Eastland, Texas, but before that, only minutes out of Ranger, Texas, a Federal Express double-trailer had overturned, indicating, perhaps, high cross winds.

The snowflakes would not subside until we reached Lubbock at 2:00 p.m.

We did not encounter snow accumulating on the road until Sweetwater where we made a rest stop.  At Sweetwater, the temperature was below 30 degrees.  By the time we reached the turnoff to Roscoe, Texas, then north to Lubbock, the snow had accumulated on the highway and the wind blew the snow to a white out for a few seconds every so often.  The turn off at Roscoe was treacherous because a white out suddenly occurred at the intersection and I had to “feel” the turn for a few seconds.  At that point, I decided to go into Roscoe and put the cable-chains on the back wheels of the F-250. We also considered staying put and waiting the storm out and Highway Department to clear the roads.

The F-250 I drive is a 2003, the last year they made the 7.3 liter diesel engine.  Our F-250 is maintained precisely to the Ford Motor Company’s guidelines, plus a few of our own.  As a consequence, we have 240,000 plus miles and it pulls a twenty-six foot tack and stock trailer or a flatbed with a DX-55 Case tractor.  We had a full fuel tank, blankets, phones, and food and water.

At Roscoe, I put the chains on and we ventured out again on the highway to Lubbock.  At Hermleigh, we stopped at an Allsup’s for a rest stop but the convenience store was closed.  Our daughter in Lubbock called by cell and said that there was a thirty-two car pileup at Post, so we first decided to go from Snyder to Lamesa, then Santa Fe by various routes, but the latest reports at Allsup’s from truck drivers indicated that the wreck had been cleared.

The wind turbines at Roscoe and Hermleigh were hidden by the snowstorm, but occasionally the wind would die down and we saw the giant turbines, less than a quarter-of-a-mile away, slowly turning in the storm.  Nothing else but snow and the turbines.  We maintained a long distance between ourselves and the car or truck in front of us to give us time to stop.  Yet, we did not have the respect from cars in back of us.  Truckers, however, gave us space.  Since we had chains and traction, I could ease over and let cars and trucks pass us.  Several cars that passed us we later saw in the ditch or median.

Our speed could not exceed 30 m.p.h. with chains.  Finally, at Post, Texas, we stopped and I took off the chains.  Between Post and Lubbock, we were diverted by the Highway Department to tour along the access roads and avoid going over bridges.  In Slaton, a U.S. Postal Service truck was blocking the overpass because it had no traction and was stalled.  We saw several National Guard medical vehicles headed south from where we had come.  We later found out that Governor Rick Perry had called out fifty National Guardsmen to assist in rescue efforts.

From Post, then, we had no chains, but the Highway Department had cleared one lane by the early afternoon on the highway.

At Lubbock, we visited with our relatives and left Lubbock at 4:00 p.m. for Santa Fe, arriving at 9:30 p.m. MST.

Notes

“Postscript by Brenda:  Jack’s writings depict the experience perfectly.  What cannot be conveyed completely was the stress and emotions of the eight-hour drive to Lubbock…but, the picture of him above portrays his attentiveness.  I was never terribly worried because I knew he was an excellent driver and near obsessive over safety.  Yes, I wish we had left a day earlier, but I am happy to be in Santa Fe!  Brenda Matthews, 12.28.2009.”

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