Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Boot Scootin' for a Good Cause

 When I learned about the dance in Magdalena, over 700 miles away, I knew I had to go. Not for dancing and drinking, but to find out if I could do anything to help the ranchers fight against another assault on their efforts to preserve the tradition of family ranching; one of the last remnants of the Old West. The most recent challenge comes from an Italian investor who is trying to rob their water.
 Besides, My grandfather used to live in Magdalena and I really do love that part of the world. I'll use any excuse I can to be out that way.
 The route to Magdalena took me to Ruidoso first, then after a night’s rest I headed west again. When you come down out of the Sacramento Mountains and pass through Carrizozo, you cross the Valley of Fires. It is an ancient lava flow (malpais) that was impassable before highway 380 was built.  Before then, folks afoot or on horseback had to go seventy miles out of their way to get around this natural barricade. The jagged heaps of basalt stretch for miles forming an unearthly landscape.
 About 40 miles farther down the road you cross the Rio Grande just east of San Antonio. You can’t go through this little village without stopping at the Owl Bar and Grill. They serve the best green chili cheeseburgers in the world; stacked high with grilled onions and chilies. I’m talking about decadence. Those burgers are greased so good you don’t even have to chew them. They pass through you so fast,  all you have left is heart burn.
  Next, Socorro is ten miles north on I25. That is where you get on Hwy 60 for the 30 mile uphill drive to Magdalena. Magdalena used to have a railroad spur and was the shipping point for all the cattle raised in a 150 mile radius. There were a couple of years when more livestock was shipped from there than any other place in the states. The railroad is gone now and the ranchers have to truck the livestock to Belen.
 West of Magdalena, on the edge of the Plains of San Augustin, is the Very Large Array radio telescope facility. The VLA was featured in the movie Contact with Jody Foster. I think it may bet one of those SETI hangouts.And yes, they are still trying to contact life forms outside our solar system. They may have been successful but nobody will admit it. The VLA is the largest facility or job source in that part of the Earth. The Plains of San Augustin was also the site of a UFO crash on July 8, 1947.
 People in Socorro and Catron Counties of New Mexico have survived some hard times due to legislation without representation. Most the voters in New Mexico live in two of the most liberal cities in the nation: Albuquerque, Santa Fe. A good number of these people are transplants from California and New York. They couldn’t care less if the ranchers in the Gila have their grazing rights tampered with; they think the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf is more important than the livelihood of hard working people; they don’t like guns, and most of them are ignorant to the fact a foreigner is trying to steal water rights from lifelong residents of the least populated counties in the state. The Democrats think people who live in rural areas aren't smart enough to make it in the lousy flea bitten rat race in the big city. In my opinion, the folks who find a way out of that mess are the smart ones.
 I decided the best for me to help was to educate more folks about the battle over the water in the aquifer beneath the Plains of San Augustin. Seems the best idea I could come up was to wrote an article and get it published in a magazine with nation-wide circulation. I decided Range should be the first publication to contact for an assignment because the scenario of the water heist is right in line with their mission statement. Luckily, Range gave me the assignment and I needed to go to Magdalena.
 Another good thing about this whole deal is the fact that, Stephen Bodio, a writer friend of mine lives in Magdalena. To be honest, I was a little worried about meeting the deadline, so asked Steven if he would like to write the article. When he said he was too busy I went to work right away interviewing people who would be affected most by the water caper. I got a lot of help from folks I have never met in person. Every one of the folks I spoke to on the phone was very gracious and articulate.
 The article will be out in late May.
The "VLA" Radio Astronomy project searches for extraterrestrial life.

 Inspecting the water tank. 
  Photo by Ray Pittman

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