Archive | November 2014

If Not Now, When?

teepeeNovember 25, 2013

Mescalero, New Mexico

If Not Now, When?

If not now,
Then when?
It does not mean
I should reject constraint
For frivolity
But neither
Need I sacrifice
For convention
I am too old
For that
And life becomes
More fleeting
With each
Passing year
I will not
Be judged
By a jury
Of strangers
But rather
Be my own
Of decisions
That my life
Be lived
By my own measure
Of fulfillment
And necessary
If not now
Then when?

Chris Prinz met me as I exited the door from work. I had watched him out the window, drifting by as he watched the door, walking slowly, watching the time as well. He knows I get off of work at 4:30, and also that I will be glad to see him. Still he hesitates, especially when he is sober. These men are tentative, and respectful, and just a little afraid of me, as most are, but for different reasons. I am Anglo, and I am different that the rest, but we share a direct honesty which so attracts me to them. These people are honest in a way that most of us are only honest to ourselves. These people are direct in the same way, a trait I treasure in myself but too often cannot share with others more like myself. I am Anglo, and they are Native.

When I interviewed for a job recently which would have seen me working with numerous Native American Tribes, the interviewer, an Anglo, asked me, “How do you get along with minorities?” I said, “Yes.” My reply is in keeping with my dry sense of humor but it also illustrated my direct honesty. Yes, I get along better with minorities than I do my own people. It is why I have lived my life as I have and I prefer it that way. It had also made me a near hermit, one who knew a lot of people but who has so few close friends. That has changed since I came here to Mescalero and it is one of the things which will keep me here. I have more friends and people who I truly love here on the Rez than anywhere else I have been since my childhood. I feel I am at home here and have no desire to sever the ties. In fact, I have every desire to strengthen them which I have already begun to do.

Chris and I met on the sidewalk and when he told me he was walking around I asked if I could join him. There were several reasons for that. I could feel his discomfiture even as he had sought me out, and I wanted him to stay. I also needed a walk as I have done too little of that lately and I love the motion and the effort. I also want to walk with him and to wander the paths he wanders daily and gain a better understanding of whom he is and why he is as he is. He intrigues me enough to want to do that and I offer him the same, we both have something the other desires in the simple way we live our lives. This is spiritual, not physical, though the warmth of the others presence is also a comfort, we are what friends are supposed to be.

So it is that I came to walk the trails this evening and into the darkness of the Mescalero night. The evening air was, at least for a while, warmer than the afternoon had been, perhaps because the wind lay still. The clouds erupted into a brilliant sunset and we commented on its beauty as we circled the Agency and wandered to the west. The conversation came easily and we spoke of all matter of things, all of them simple. We shared stories and insights as two new friends can do, and we talked of ourselves also. We never ran short of words though we walked for an hour. There were many others walking in the evening, for any number of reasons, as people walk here all the time and we spoke of them also. I would not walk these paths by myself, or not many of them anyway, and none of them at night. With Chris I am safe, we both know that, we are friends and I trust him as much as I would anyone else, and more than most.

I stepped onto a new path this evening and took a much needed walk. There are those who will question what I was doing and why I was doing it. There are others who will nod in agreement and approval, I have been made welcome here and I have been accepted. The ones who might judge me have no understanding, the ones who will accept me understand fully, and I will be the decider for myself. I have been made welcome into the realm of those who I have watched from afar. I have now walked at least a few of their trails and I will walk more of them before too long. Something has shifted, in myself and in the place I have come to call home. I move closer to it now. Chris met me as I left from work today, and I went walking, with him.

Riding Roughshod


thistleNovember 23, 2014
Bohemian Grace
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico

Riding Roughshod

It occurred to me today that I have been riding roughshod for quite some time, perhaps much of my lifetime with few interruptions. Even as a child I had an unruly heart and by the time I left home I was wild as the hills. I have never really relinquished that and now, as my age becomes a stronger factor, I am even more inclined to seize the bit and run as I will. In so many ways I have succeeded, alluding only to the necessities of convention but taking to the rougher trails at every chance I find. I have long run with the wolves and even now when the wind rises and the cold currents of winter bring a bite to the air I flee to the forest. I have never been quite tame but rather than settling with age I have regained some vigor and looked for a release.

Roughshod, as with incorrigible, reckless, spontaneous seems to pose some negative connotation, even if they also define freedom and liberty as well, words which so quickly evoke a sense of pride and delight instead. I have always been a free spirit and I suppose I will be an intractable old woman someday because of that. Nobody and no thing has ever convinced me of the merits of acting otherwise and even if there have been times that I have envied those who have settled into a more sedentary existence I have never been content with the same. Instead I thrive on adversity and seek it out in whatever form most pleases me, chopping wood, hauling water and living on the fringe of civilization rather than in the midst of it. I joy in the drives to the woods, the roar of the chainsaw, the crack of the axe against a log as much as I do the armloads of wood I carry inside and the fires I build in my stove. Even tonight with the true winter winds howling at my door I would retreat further into the wilderness if the opportunity presented itself. Give me the challenges of physical survival over the mental stress of conformity anytime, I will not weaken but instead grow strong. It is only in the confinement of convention in which I languish and it has never been clearer than it is now.

There is a great deal of irony in this last statement. It is not that I am unaware of the recent challenges I have imposed on my life but in the midst of such a struggle it is easy to overlook the same. It is far too obvious to address and instead it took my father, who was once so quick to impose the necessity of conformity, to point out the reality to me. He told me, in not so many words, what I realize to be the greatest truth. So often it has been been the times which appeared to pose the greatest struggles in my life, when I lived hand to mouth in an almost literal sense, when the wind and the windmill and the watering of pastures ruled my existence, that I was most content. In pitching my efforts against nature herself and riding roughshod across the hills, making a sparse living on my own talents, I found the greatest happiness. Given a conventional job and good pay, a full forty hour week and a guaranteed income which meets all my needs and I am just as apt to be miserable! Structure, routine and stability have never quite suited me and instead I seek out adversity at the most basic level, I have been hardwired for the same!

There are those of us who are best suited for simple and comfortable lives, and there are those who are not. I was not, it is that simple. I have made every effort to conform at a given moment but it has never worked for me. The question that then arises is this. After a lifetime of bucking the system, and then trying to conform and failing miserably at the same, what is the solution? There is no way to reach that evasive goal of complete freedom without some measure of conformity and yet it is the conformity which shatters the peace which those such as I require. The trick is to never get roped in and I am as guilty as anyone, needing more than wanting some measure of comfort, some partial assurance of a warm dry bed, some sense of stability and a safe haven to retreat to. Having achieved that to such a great degree now I only require some place to sustain it, but that, as with all else, poses yet another challenge. As the years dwindle and the hopes of attaining that goal stretch further and further into the distance I wonder at the worth of the effort. I have yet to weaken but I am weary of the struggle, such as it is.

Give me the wind and the windmill. Give me a saw and a stand of wood, I will make good on all of it. Let me till the soil that I might pull weeds, and then glory in both the harvest and the effort to preserve it, I will gladly stay the course. I worry not about cold or chill, I can carry in my water and build a warm fire, cover the doors and windows and I will be warm. I would retreat to the wilderness and never return if I could only find the path to that sacred place in the forest, it is reaching there which seems to take such an effort. I have been there, but I was forced to return and my heart aches from the distance. I languish amongst luxuries others will never have while I thirst for the simplicity which has defined their lives. Oddly enough I find myself in a community which faces a similar dilemma and yet fails in so many ways to recognize it. On the Indian Reservation all the immediate needs are met but the inertia is deadly. I ride roughshod with the wildest of them, our kindred spirits somehow finding some common ground, but still lacking the answers to our most basic questions. The answer is we both need the sort of challenge which this modern life has all but canceled out, and if we cannot find it neither one of us will survive. Somehow it is a more brutal challenge than anything a natural life could ever present! I will ride roughshod until I find the answer, or else I will likely die trying!

Winter Arrives

11.16.14 Snow on adobe11.15.14 Snow in BentNovember 16, 2014
Bohemian Grace
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico

Winter Arrives

Winter was slow in coming this year, creeping over the mountains with the heavy wet clouds which shroud the high peaks and roll slowly down the slopes. He brought with them the cold chill of dampness and the biting winds which carry the dusts of the drought high up into the sky before they return in the raindrops and fog. That same dust covered my windows and blocked the sun but even as I thought to clean them today they are streaked now with the morning rain.

Rain, yes, here in the lower elevation and coming down in sheets as it is so cold as to be on the verge of becoming hail, already turning the ground white in but a brief barrage. It will be snowing in Mescalero, just miles up the road, and Sierra Blanca, the White Mountain, will live up to its name by evening. This is good, the ski run will open on time this year and there will be many reasons for the Thanksgiving Day celebrations. Even the golden leaves of the cottonwoods have dimmed this morning in the heavy grey haze of winter, and the green leaves of the elms will have shriveled against the cold, they stayed late this year also.

Winter; such a burly, grouchy man he is. I can see him walking down the slope of the distant hills, the one where the fog has settled deep into the canyon and the days light barely illuminates the curve of the mountainside he descends from. He is grizzled and old but not yet past his prime. His midriff is broad with a hearty store of fat but his arms and chest are still solid muscle and hard to the touch in an almost inhuman way, too hard and solid to be mere muscle yet dense with the same. I would like him, even if his hard blue eyes would show not even a twinkle of humor, I would still believe it was there. He is a killer and has so little compassion or tolerance for weakness. Still yet I admire the same, he won’t allow any weakness in himself either so I can forgive him his coldness, even if he really means it. I have loved other men like him, and barely anyone else!

How can I caper to such meanness when I am myself Summers’ child? I was born into the heat of the summer but as much as I joy in the freedom of that season so I await the cool of fall and savor the deeper cold of winter, even if I shiver more than I used to. I would still brave the cold given the choice, I can bundle up against it while summer forbids shedding all of my clothes and even that is a futile effort as it leaves tender skin bared to the sun. Nakedness leaves no protection, and also offers the answer to my previous question. Winter requires mindfulness and protection and one must protect herself from his onslaught, a practice I have honed since my childhood days, and it is the adversity which keeps me strong. This is why I like him so well, so long as he is a threat to my safety I will not chance to weaken.

Two summers ago I made this old school bus my home. The summer was hot and I had no means to cool the air but for the meager breeze off the nearby creek. I slept with the doors open, my mattress and box springs set on the floor at the rear of the bus. I was struggling financially so I put very little towards any improvements, bathing outside within a curtain I strung off a nearby pole and trying to do so before sunset when the wind began to cool. By the time Winter came close I had chiseled off the remaining bolts where the seats had been and had begun laying in a wood floor, but I was by no means prepared for his arrival. The warm days of summer had lulled me into contentment and I had given little thought regarding anything else. Winter arrived before I had completed my efforts and he barged in the door with a frigid blast which I thought might in fact kill me. I woke that October morning to a 12 degree cold in which my Bic lighter would not even flare to light the gas stove, my only true heat source at the time. I thought about the movie, “Into The Wild” and how close I was to the same, in spite of the close proximity of civilization. I finished the floor soon after, forfeiting any other investment short of food and gas.

I stayed cold that whole winter, adding what comforts I could as money allowed, paneling the walls with Styrofoam and wood, covering the windows with blankets, but still chilled by the bare glass and metal which my home is made of. I chuckle to myself as I am at this moment too warm, stepping over to damper the wood stove and watching as the rain turns to snow and hides the nearby mountains with its haze. Winter would have it that I was still struggling but he has turned his back on me to threaten other more vulnerable victims. Only the strong are meant to survive and for the moment I have proven myself. Still, he will come back to check, often, and I am reminded that I cannot weaken. I didn’t fully disappoint him either, both of my kindling buckets are nearly empty and I will brave the cold later to refill them!

If winter were my worst adversity I should be content, it is a goal is have sought after all of my life. I would have it that he would love me also. I seem to desire such a man as that. He is cold and steadfast and consistent, but Fall has already sidled up beside him and won his favor and Spring is there to flirt with him after his self imposed confinement. I am most like Fall, loving the same colors and the cooler days which accompany her, but I am neither as strong nor as beautiful as she, even if I aspire to be. She and he, along with the other seasons, are more God-like and eternal and while I shall age and pass one day, they will carry on. Instead, as is my human lot to live with, I will track their journey and love them for what they are.

Even now Fall and Winter paint the scenery together and I pause to record their progress. I rise to put another stick of wood in the fire as the air has cooled quickly since I dampered the stove. The rain turns to snow and the storm comes in earnest, already piling snow into the cracks and crevices of the rocks and dirt. I think of Winter and his cold shoulder as Fall’s colors begin to fade, the dampness sinking in and buffering her brilliance. I would that my colors stay bright and think I will seek a slightly warmer partner, but someone who will still help me to be strong. I can no more relinquish my freedom than Fall can, she has turned and walked way. She paused hesitantly and looked back over her shoulder before she was gone, checking to see if he was really serious. He ignored her and then threw another blast of wind in her direction. She pulled her cloak a little closer around her shoulders even as the snow began to whiten her hair and she left, looking for greener pastures to paint. Winter growled deep in his chest and threw his white blanket over her most recent landscape; he will paint his own picture before darkness falls. I will enjoy his artistry also, and must thank him for his lessons; this year I was prepared for his arrival! So was she.

A(nother) Lesson In Reverence

DSCF0184September 30, 2007
Nogal House
Indian Divide, New Mexico

A(nother) Lesson In Reverence

A fall wind whistles across the side of the house today, calling out a promise of pending winter winds, though the day be warm and dry. The water tank fills and overflows quickly with a steady spin on the windmill. Sunday chores: Clean the globes and fill the kerosene lanterns, which once more finds me on my knees, as does the wood stove when winter comes. I kneel also to open the faucet on the tank to water the horse, which is an improvement on carrying buckets, which I did before the tank was repaired.

All of these chores are performed with reverence. I think back to doing these tasks with Ronnie, who taught me so much in the time we shared, the good memories now safe to recall in his absence but also more painful than when he lived. There is no recourse now! I was safer from the pain when he was alive for I had to protect myself from it, now it is laced with the regret and the uncertainty of knowing we could never try to again displace the anger that always flared between us.

His presence; his love of the ritual of the simple joys and tasks, the clank of the windmill, the polishing of the globes that the lantern light be bright, the full lamps and trimmed wicks that guaranteed light. Then there the buzz of the chainsaw and the wood gathering that we shared back when I watched him and dragged the branches while the boys carried and loaded the wood. Now I go alone but still savor the effort and the reward and I silently thank him for the teaching. Every fire that I build, rather than paying a gas bill, is a tribute to him who furthered my dreams into a reality with the log cabin that we lived in and raised our children. He was the long dreamed of mountain man, with his knives and his guns and the skills to use them which he passed on to our children. He was all the things that I dreamed of, and far more than I bargained for and the phrase “Be careful what you wish for” echoes resoundingly in that memory!

Reverence, a feeling of profound respect, to regard with honor. I thank God for all the small favors, for the rituals I perform in the simple tasks that bring water, food, warmth and light to my home, my life. The peace and beauty I have sought since my youth surrounds me in the mountains, the sky, the sun and the stars. Even when I step outside my door in the darkness of mid night, as unwilling as I am at times to slip from beneath the blankets and brave the cold of the night air, I am always grateful. I can recall standing outside our cabin in the Capitan Gap and marveling at the Milky Way, so brilliant in the darkness, unadulterated by any artificial light and I find the same wonder here. That was my introduction to true country living, where I honed the skills that I still rely on now by choice and not circumstance.

There is a valuable lesson in all of this, of how our attitude towards things can so influence the very essence of our lives. I revere in the daily ritual of my survival and the performance of the tasks that one could easily grumble about if unwilling to perform them. Rather than complain that the knees of my jeans wear thin and white from the time I spend kneeling, planting and tending my garden, stoking the fire, taking out ashes and filling lanterns….I smile and thank God for the reminder of how kind he has been to me, and how fortunate I am to be so blessed with a willingness and the ability to perform these tasks. They are a reminder of the things that are most important for our survival, in mind, body and most of all, spirit. I have warmth, shelter, light, and nourishment of every sort. My efforts are rewarded directly, and not exchanged for anything else. I am reminded daily of how little else I need when I look on the splendor that surrounds me, and I cannot help but ask why I would even desire anything more………….

The Best Man I Never Knew

grand canyonDecember 8, 2011
Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Best Man I Never Knew

I just said goodbye to one of the best men that I never knew. We met, as we so often have, in passing. It is one of the ironies of life that I have come to accept and to even be grateful for, we might have never met at all otherwise. We paused for moment to say those parting words which inevitably always come too late, the honesty complete and coming easily with the knowledge we will not have to follow through on it. I am leaving and the odds are that we will never meet again. It will be simpler that way, for both of us.

There are things that we never learn about strangers. It makes it far easier to bestow upon them the qualities we would like to believe they possess. For a minute our hopes and dreams can appear in the flesh and it is heartening to allow them do so. If I have yet to be disillusioned, I have become somewhat discouraged. The sort of man who I have dreamed of all of my life has yet to be a part of mine, even if one or two have come close. I can now add one more to that list. He affirmed it as we said our goodbyes.

The words we exchange now evade me, but the message was clear and I will take away from it all that I wanted him to mean by them. As with the qualities which I have decided that he has I am free to do this and he is welcome to do the same with me. Having only met him in passing I was uncertain as to what his opinion of me was. He was never forthcoming with anything more than brief and almost formal conversation, he being a married man, and professional as well. That served to heighten my respect for him but gave me no further clues. I felt that he was ok with me but nothing more and even wondered if he was all I thought him to be.

We said our goodbyes, briefly and honestly. I told him that it was a pleasure to have not had the chance to know him. He knew exactly what I meant by that and it was spoken with the deepest sense of regret. He in turn acknowledged me and paid me the highest compliment that I could have hoped for. He told me that he figured I would leave and that he thought that I had more integrity than most of the people that I was working with. He surprised me with that, as I felt the same thing about him. He went on from there and somehow managed to add that I looked a lot like Katherine Hepburn. Geez, he knows how to get to a gal, all in one breath!

After taking a moment to recover my composure, having been flattered beyond words, I returned the compliment. I told him, “You are the sort of man that I believe a man should be,” and I meant that. He responded in much the same way that I had, caught off guard by the complete honesty that can only be shared by two strangers, in that instant more intimate than many relationships that we have in our lives. We parted as friends. He thanked me and I thought I heard a quaver in his voice. There was the trace of a tear in mine. We broke the spell quickly.

He left me with an invite to visit him and his wife in their new home. They are both retiring from the Park Service. It was a long career, I am sure. I left him with an affirmation equal to the one that he gave me, the knowledge and understanding that we as individuals stand for something we both believe in and have remained faithful to. I am glad that we recognized each other and had the chance to share that. It was more than enough, though I walked away wishing for more.

When I was a young girl I developed image in my mind of what sort of man I believed a man should be. I drew that picture from the books that I had read and the passing glances of those broad shouldered and ruggedly honest hard working individuals who occasionally crossed my path. I have been fortunate to meet them on occasion but it seems they were always married. The ones that are not have somehow lost their way, shadows of the man they could have been, alcoholics all. They are married to the one mistress I would never be able to compete with, as faithful to her as the others are to their wives. I have come to accept that and to provide myself with the resources that are necessary for my own happiness. I am a better woman for all that.

Solitude is a funny thing. It can be frightening if we allow it to be but it can also open many doors which we might never pass through otherwise. I was once a needy and co- dependant woman who required the affections of a man to feel secure. Imagine that! Because of that failing in myself I allowed my imagination to bestow qualities on men who in the end were undeserving of that. I devoted myself to trying to change them but was unable to do so. What I didn’t know then I have come to understand now. It was the only way that I would ever discover my own strengths. Adversity has a way of doing that. Now I see as well the discernment that I never would have developed. I just met one of the best men I have never known and had to question my own judgment before I was sure. I am so glad that I was right! There is one other blessing. If I was wrong I will never have the chance to know that. Neither will he.

Coyote Dawn

DSCF1238April 18, 2011
Nogal House
Indian Divide, NM

Coyote Dawn

There is so much I might have missed this morning if I hadn’t got up early! I awoke at 5:45 am and hit the snooze until 6:00 before I got up to start a fire for my tea. This is but the second morning that it was simply too warm to have a fire in the house and given that there is a burn ban I rushed to fire the outdoor hearth before dawn. Though it is unlikely that I would have a problem with the small fire in the stone hearth, even if they saw the smoke, I prefer to err to the good. Why test that if I don’t have to. The fire quickly came to life and as I stood up and took in the first glimpse of the day I saw the full moon, golden in the dawn, just as it readied to slip behind the mountains to the south. The moonset is always a thrill and a rare treat to behold. Too often it has disappeared before I find it and this morning, in its fullness, it sheds an even greater beauty on the moment and I stayed there to watch.

Even as the moon left the sky, pausing to glow on the rim of the mountain before it was gone, the light of the dawn began to paint the northern sky. Two ravens passed silently on their morning flight and a lone dog coyote, his bark sharp and brief and too masculine to be mistaken for the high long call of the females, announced the day. His bark went unanswered. Still in my robe I wandered down to the garden, savoring the peaceful dawn and not ready to retreat to the house. The morning air stood at 50 degrees and it was nearly as warm as last night when I watered the garden by the moonlight, unwilling to go inside even then. This is spring and winter is losing its final hold and even if we are due one more cold chill perhaps it is past. The fruit trees froze early this year and the damage is already done and this will be the year that there should have been fruit.

I flood the garden again for good measure as the seeds I planted last week are breaking ground and I want to give them good purchase. They will know the drought later on. Once the plants have started and gained their grasp on life, I will let them dry a bit so they will drop their roots into the ground for that deeper moisture and then all will be well. My son said I need a booster pump so I can run a sprinkler and soak the ground but he doesn’t know the time I spend doing just that by hand, or the pleasure that comes with it. What else have I to do in the evenings, or the early day when I don’t even need an excuse to be out of doors and so gladly perform such tasks. What greater joy is there than to listen to the rattle of the water against the hollow leaf of the garlic, and later, the rustle of the corn. I would plant corn just for that, to listen to the scrape of the leaves against each other in the wind and to sit and watch it grow. Later on I will savor the crisp sweetness of its ears when they are done.

There is a list in my mind of all the joys that surround me here and I wonder how anyone can live without them for I surely cannot. In just this morning there has been moon and sky, ravens and coyotes, the bright green of garden and trees against the golden brittleness of the drought stricken hills. With it came the brilliant splash of purple from my iris and the warm breath of wood smoke coupled with my honey sweetened tea. Such are my mornings here, all before I dressed or even made my bed. I stood outside in the early dawn, clad only in my warm robe as the cool breeze touched my bare legs, new neighbors be damned. They will have to get over it or look somewhere else, I was here first! I prefer my solitude but will have to come to accept their presence and in the end it will be I who goes away in search of greater solitude I am sure. It will be the views that I will miss the most for I imagine I will go to Candy’s and the relative security that it will have to offer; or not? As transient as I have always been I yearn for a sense of permanence and have yet to find it though I must believe there is a reason for that beyond my own fickle nature. Only time will tell. One thing is for certain, wherever I am there must be mountains, coyotes and the wide open sky that I may greet the dawn as I have today and that it will be there to meet me as well.

A Clear And Present Danger (Book Exerpt)

Sa Plains Water TankMay 22, 2011
Eagle Guest Ranch
Datil, New Mexico

The study performed by New Mexico Tech, which took me to the San Augustin Plains and led to me to the adventure which my book ‘Washed In The Blood Of The Plains” is based on was a result of the issues I address in this article.

A Clear and Present Danger

This article is written in support and appreciation for all of the members of the San Augustin Water Coalition and for all of the presenters who took the time and effort to attend the May 21, 2011 Annual Meeting in Datil, New Mexico.

The water resources, the very livelihood of the San Augustin Plains and Catron County are being threatened. In fact, if one looks at the broad reaching consequences, all of rural New Mexico is threatened by a clear and present danger; the potential to lose any and all of the water that is not being put into a ‘beneficial’ use. Certainly there are regulations in place to limit and control this threat but just as powerful is legislation that will in fact support it in the future as the needs of mankind evolve and change.

This is not a new concept. Over the last few years more than one bill has been introduced in an effort to lay claim to waters that reside in rural areas that are not being currently utilized and move their point of use to the urban areas that have created shortages through rampant and unplanned growth. In other words this has been an attempt to fill a void created by greed and speculation of the few that stood to profit from it with no consideration of future needs of the outlying communities. Neither is it unique to New Mexico for if one does a little research it reaches nationwide. The lack of foresight and the failure to anticipate the urban sprawl that would occur over the last fifty years as a result of greater mobility and longevity of our populace has begun to take its toll. The lack of planning and protective ordinance has left our flanks open for attack and the onslaught has begun.

Catron County, amongst others in New Mexico, is under direct attack by individuals who; having seen the opportunity and being obviously shrewd business people, have grasped the potential to capitalize on it. I cannot bemoan that effort; it is typical of our society to do such things, even at the behest of one’s fellow man. More than likely in this man’s eyes what he stands to profit from will also benefit a huge swath of our nearby population as opposed to a scattered few who are currently not making full use of the resource. That it may not only compromise the future livelihood of those in Catron County but also prove to not be of long range sustainability for those he is offering it to is likely of no concern to him; the immediate profit is all that he is interested in. As was pointed out in the meeting of the San Agustin Water Coalition which I attended it may well be that he is gambling on the future odds alone. If he can establish the ‘water right’ the paper right itself will be worth a fortune and he may well leave the development of the project to some future speculator; buyer beware! There is nothing ethical about this deal but there are many who will gamble on its value; our current society has been built on the same.

Water is life, we cannot live without it. Historically battles have been fought over the right to use whatever water was available; be it a small pool in a hollowed rock or a lake or a river; men and women have died for it. Here in the arid plains of Catron County one sees as clearly as anywhere else the effort that has been applied to gather and hold this life giving resource in order to support people’s homes and their cattle. The dirt tanks; built from logs hauled from the mountains and bermed by hand with the soil of the plains to hold the meager flow from a windmill, supported by hand hewn logs, speaks clearly to that. The crumbling remains of the old homestead cabins illustrate the effort and the hardship that was required to sustain it. Why then was there not a man who could see the future clearly enough to find a way to protect that; here or anywhere else? Most likely they were too busy with the effort to survive to ponder that; who would have thought that a thousand gallons of water would ever be worth even a dollar let alone eight or ten; that we would pay a dollar for a gallon of it, gladly? Or that a shotgun would no longer be powerful enough to resolve the argument?

True to their heritage the populace of Catron County have responded to this threat in genuine western fashion; they have banded together as they have done throughout their history to protect each other and all they depend on for their survival. They have established the San Augustin Plains Water Coalition for the purpose of defending their water resources and protecting the future of the generations who will be born into their long standing traditions. The resilience and the loyalty of these folks stood clear last night in a meeting that was well attended and beautifully presented; the support that they are receiving from all angles is admirable. For this to occur in such a rural setting makes it enviable; I have seen far less devotion in more progressive settings.

Folks in New Mexico want as little governmental regulation as possible; myself included. We are, for the most part, well able to rule our own lives but we are not powerful enough, individually, to control the actions of anyone else; neither do we wish to in most circumstances. At the same time we must not only recognize the need to create a mechanism to protect the future of our resources, land, air and water, before it is too late, we must also embrace whatever means necessary to meet that goal. We must also be an active part of the effort to succeed; no one will do it for us. Regulation; ordinance and government were all created for this purpose; it is its highest and best use of it and if we wish to preserve this precious way of life and all that supports it we had better get with it; it is almost too late already!

If you are interested in learning more about the ongoing battle to protect the resources and the livelihood of the San Augustin Plains please go to their Web Sites @ and