Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sprring 2011

Sun Setting Behind the Capitan Mtns
                            Part I: Crossing the Sacramento Mountains

 Wednesday May 4th, 2011 I began another spring excursion west to the desert and the mountains. I took my time because, whenever it’s feasible, I prefer to travel with no set schedule and a flexible catalog of destinations. The only predetermined goal of this trip was to meet Bill Key in La Mesa, sometime within the next ten days, and go looking for the ghosts of Geronimo and Victorio.
 While some folks find comfort in organized and structured itineraries, others just have a need to wander from place to place by following their curiosity. I fall into the latter category finding comfort and peace as I drift and allow myself to explore both tangible and spiritual geographies. The soul needs to be set free now and then because it has a pliable, perhaps even an ethereal, landscape which changes along with our assessments of the world. After death, when the soul leaves its worldly vehicle, God makes all the decisions for us. While we are alive we should allow our souls to appreciate glimpses of the beauty that awaits us by experiencing and learning to love God’s Earth. Horizons are not only good for the health of the eye through which they are observed, but also provide images that allow our spirits to expand and grow. I’d trade the grand vistas from a mountain peak for the ground clutter of a town any time, so I do, as often as possible. In populated areas people gather in churches where, through the energy created by their collective faith, God opens portals to allow an unobstructed flow of worship and thus, the soul is strengthened and grows.
 The human condition is such that, at times, our emotions cause voids that damage our psyches. Unless the soul is allowed alter its shape, or geography, to fill these voids with positive energy there is usually suffering or disorientation which leads to substance abuse or other destructive behaviors.
Rock House in Ruidoso
 I will get back to my story now:
 I spent the first three days of this trip in the Lincoln County, NM area and slept at the little rock house in Ruidoso. Thursday evening I turned on the computer to find out if anything interesting was going on in the area. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the 2011 New Mexico History Conference was starting at the Ruidoso Convention Center the next morning.
I read about this annual event and found that it is moved around the state each year and is attended by authors and historians from around the country. All I had to do now was figure out how to get in the door and soak up some knowledge about one of my favorite topics. I got up early Friday morning determined to get in to the conference. I had no idea how I was going make it passed the front door but I got dressed and took off to do my best.
 The reception area was packed when I arrived fifteen minutes before the first discussion; I picked up a program and, while glancing through it, walked around greeting the scholarly looking folks as though I knew them. Then I saw a name I recognized. It was Arleen Gaba and she was to talk about John Prather. I had meet Arleen and her son Mike two years prior to this time and when I located them they recognized me. I just drifted into the first session with them and was able to participate in the discussions. After meeting a few more historians I just made my self at home and feel that I not only learned from but also contributed to the discussions. When I went back Saturday I felt right at home and had a great time. I met one writer who was so rich he owned a piece of art work done by Dana Bradley. It’s a drawing of Wyatt Earp and he actually bought it in Dodge City!
 Saturday night I called Bill and told him I would be at his place around noon Sunday but he told me of a place where we could meet for lunch. The reason for having lunch at this particular restaurant was that is located near I10 in the direction of the rifle range. Bill had three guns with him and after lunch we went shooting. Despite the spring winds and the fact that he had not fired a rifle in his fifteen years in Egypt, Bill did some excellent shooting. After we finished at the range we went to Bill’s place and visited with his wife Kathleen and our good friend Anthony Rodriquez.
 That evening we planned the next day’s expedition in hopes of locating the Cañon Alamosa. The reason for our curiosity about this place was the fact that Victorio had requested it for the location of his reservation but was turned down. We just wanted to see what was so special about this place that appeared to be out in the middle of nowhere. Another point of interest was the fact that Geronimo was born about ten miles north of this canyon and for decades the Warm Springs Apaches gravitated back to this area frequently.
Mimbres Pottery
There was one stop along the way at Geronimo Springs Museum. I am really glad we stopped because they had a great collection of Mimbres pottery that dated from 1000 to 1300 A.D. The photo shown is about a tenth of the display. I have loved these kinds of designs forever and found some shards of this pottery in Old Mexico in the mid 1970s.
 Our search for this ancient Spirit Place began by heading northwest from the museum near Elephant Butte Lake toward old sites of Winston and Cuchillo. About five miles after leaving I25 we left the marked road and used our compass in hopes of locating the old town of Monticello for a starting point.
We continued across miles of uninhabitable desert toward the San Mateo Mountains. At one point Bill asked, “Why would anyone want this rough desert area for a reservation?”
 “I don’t know Bill. Maybe there’s some water by the foothills of those mountains.”
 We drove another ten minutes and I noticed some old adobe ruins to my right. That’s when the road started an “S” turn left, then right and dropped down a steep – approximately 8% – grade. When we came out of the bottom of the “S” our entire field of vision filled with green. There were huge cottonwood trees that were hundreds of year’s old and irrigated fields of grass where cattle and horses grazed. The sudden change was refreshingly breath taking.
 “Wow! Look at this valley Bill.”
 “I know. Right out here in the middle of nowhere.”
 There was a fence on each side of the road and lots of signs posting the land as private property. The road was nothing more than the dry bed of an arroyo in the places where the stream ran underground. When the water resurfaced, the banks of the wash served as a road.
 We knew that the water came from a hot springs called Ojo Caliente. This was the home of the Warm Springs Apaches and Geronimo is believed to have been born near the head of the canyon.
 After we followed the intermittent stream bed for about ten miles we came to a spot where the water was too deep to cross. Next time, we are going to start from the north end of the canyon at Ojo Caliente and try to climb up to the top of the canyon walls to take some photographs.
 It was a great trip but I had to get back home and get ready to go to Meagan's graduations (2) in Colorado Springs. Just east of Roswell I saw the billboard pictured below. The folks in the southern part of New Mexico have had it with the transplanted West Coast and New York voters in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and their doing something about it. The best thing that could happen to New Mexico is for it to split into two states at I40. Las Cruces could be the capitol of South New Mexico and El Paso could be annexed as a  penal colony; I'm sure Texas wouldn't miss El Paso a bit.

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