Thursday, March 19, 2009

Horse Sense



Three weeks ago, I had to make a trip out to Escabosa, a small community to the south of where I live, to photograph another historic church for a magazine article I was writing. As usually happens, I ended up learning more about my subject after I started. Mostly because, well, like most writers, you can give me a lead time stretching into infinity and beyond and I'll still wait until the last minute to start an assignment.

Sure enough, with a week to go before deadline, as I was finishing up research I discovered I had neglected to include a couple churches that formed part of the Holy Child Parish, the main parish that covers over 300 square miles out here in the East Mountains. I sent the photographer out to grab one of them and I took the other, since it was closer to my house than hers.

Cool Church Factoid: San Isidro de Labrador in Escabosa, New Mexico was built around 1932 by local families who each brought in five wagon loads of rock for the construction. Dances were held to raise money for the lumber to build the roof.

Well, if you count 20 minutes over back country roads close. Out here, things aren’t measured in miles. They’re measured in how much of a 64-ounce Big Gulp you can finish before reaching your destination. Californians got nothing on rural New Mexican drivers. Our state is so sparsely populated, with only three communities that officially qualify as cities (and two of those just barely), that we’re all pretty much used to the long stretches of space in between things. We think nothing of driving twenty minutes to get a pizza. Forty-five for a haircut. Two hours for a visit with family.

Unlike Californians, however, our vehicles, regardless of age, make, model, or class, all look like vehicles belonging to some bizarre 21st century subspecies of itinerant. They’re always dinged. Dented. Covered with a thin film of dust or drying mud splatters. The windshields bear evidence to the fact that our highways spit up more rocks per capita than any other state in the union.

And because you never know what a road trip will conjure – a semi-trailer pile up, a freak snowstorm, cattle crossing, never ending orange barrels – our vehicles are always loaded with provisions: blankets and books on tape, sun-faded Starbucks travel mugs and fray-edged maps, crumpled breakfast burrito wrappings and flashlights the size of suitcases. Our glove compartments not only hold registration and insurance cards, but also Leathermen tools and hand guns and discarded stubs of entry to national parks and CDs whose covers have long disappeared to the effluence spreading out from under the passenger seat. Our trunks contain tow ropes and bungee cords and charger cables, full sets of tools and cans of oil and flats of drinking water.

In fact, if you see a bright, shiny, sparkly vehicle on a New Mexico back road? Either it was purchased that day, washed five minutes ago, or it belongs to a real estate agent new to town. Either way, it won't last long.

Luckily, though, the weather is likely to be just terrific about 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent? Are usually days like the one I took to head out to Escabosa. Typical late winter days, with bathwater colored skies, wind-whipped eddies of dirt dancing along the side of the road, the air heavy with allergy-inducing micro-particles of juniper, mulberry, and cottonwood dust that work their way into one’s nasal passages and don’t leave until sometime around, oh, October.

Chicago, it ain’t got nothing on New Mexico’s winds.

Once useful soil turns to talcum powder in the face of our winds:



Anyway. The drive out to Escabosa from my house is really pretty. Land stretching far and wide, juniper and piñon dotted hillsides in front of me, Thunder Mountain behind. The Sandias to the right of me, the American short grass plains to the left.

And these guys:


I got out and took their picture because I was struck by the color of their feed trough. New Mexico's traditional architecture is mostly mud-colored because we originally built most of it with bricks made from mud. Still do in many cases, but today adobe’s pretty expensive, so we keep costs down with wood framing and stucco.

A really, really, really old adobe barn.

Above us, though, the sky shimmers turquoise nearly 319 days a year, so it’s the color with which we accent almost everything. Door frames, window sills, even furniture. And this feeder. I love knowing that even the most hardy, utilitarian-minded people (and you don't get hardier or more utilitarian than a New Mexico rancher) living lonesome in the middle of where-the-heck-fire-are-we are compelled to inject a little color into their lives.

Then there were these guys. I loved painted ponies. If I had the money and the time, I’d own one and ride it every day into the sunrise and back, pretending I'm an Apache Warrior or Indian Scout or Pony Express Rider, but I don’t. Which is why I’ll always stop to talk to a horse, of course.


Anyone who’s ever been around horses knows that there is no diss quite like an equine diss. No flirt quite like an equine flirt. Horses are nothing if not particular about everything in their lives, but most especially about which humans they decide to take a shine to. When they do like you, it’s pretty major.

This guy really liked me:


He followed me up and down the fence line, flinging his mane and whinnying softly. He pawed the ground, he shoved his nose against my neck. So I accommodated His Highness and took a lot of pictures of him. His buddies? Not so much. They were mostly talk to the hoof when it came to my camera.

But I did manage to get a smile from their gate post guardian:

38 comments:

Doris Rose said...

I loved this! well, except for the part about my car, that was embarrassing. It inspired me to documentize some of my travel photos.
thanks.

Big Shamu said...

Now I understand why you didn't bring those boots to the Blog Summit. Someone would have "borrowed" them. Most likely me.
Love the blue sky pictures.

Grew up reading Misty of Chinchoteague and wanted to live on Assateague Island, riding the ponies and eating crabs. Love the little painted ponies.

moi said...

Doris: Thanks for reminding me. I forgot to add: dog nose art on the inside windows :o)

Shamu: eBay, dahlink, eBay. I have always loved horses, although mostly in the abstract. Riding them is actually quite intimidating.

Gnomeself Be True said...

In my travels through NM, I was struck by how much more nothing you guys have than even AZ...and AZ has gots lots and lots of nothing.
491 from Gallup to Shiprock defines dessolate and God-fosaken.
Still, if you're willing to see it, there is a kind of dramatic beauty.

moi said...

Gnome: 491's equal is that stretch north of Flagstaff until right before Page - through the heart of the Navajo Rez. Man. Lonesome. Everything about the desert southwest is beautiful to me, though.

Gnomeself Be True said...

You are correct about that stretch...and the winds! I drove that in a 30ft motorhome one time and did not think I could keep the road under me.

I'm amazed these areas were ever settled. The mules pulling the wagons must have died and stranded people there.

Boxer said...

I'm sooooo coming to visit you. I already wanted to, but after this post,

it's 100%.

and those boots? Marvelous.

kmwthay said...

Moi!!!! These are GORGEOUS photos! That horse sure was a ham! I'd love to see other pictures of him.

Although I am certain that NM is much more dusty and dissolute than OK, believe me when I tell you I can relate to "dust in the wind" .

Sometimes I think that the auto makers should just paint the cars "dirt" color. It would save a lot of car washing.

K9 said...

talk to the hoof! grrrherhahaha.

moi, i loved this post. like the western thereau (i speled it wronge butchoo no whut i meen)

the land the people. the cars -how evocative. i was in the car riding shotgun with you. i can feel the dust on my hands and i so see that bathwater sky.

if your writing for the actual paying job is this good you deserve a bonus. and not one that gets taxed 90% by the people who fixed it so you could receive the bonus. grrhahahaha

loved it. and, are those your OLD pair of harness fryes?

Heather Cherry said...

Are those Fryes?

K9 said...

to gnome and moi:

i drove north with my brand new husband from flagstaff to the grand canyon for our honeymoon. it was feb 14 (natch) and we left hot and sunny to freezing snow. imagine my surprise when i stepped out of the car to sink damn near to my hip in snow! i remember that lonesome road -to me it was full of interesting since it was all brand new.

CHEF TROLL said...

You've got the money and can make the time. Buy yourself a pony or three!

moi said...

Boxer: And, I promise I won't make you eat chile!

kwmthay: Actually, New Mexico's geography is quite diverse – it goes Alpine to Sonoran and everything in between. We even have riparian regions along the Rio Grande. It's the diversity of the landscape – and the people – that keep me here.

K9: No, those are the NEW ONES! They come looking that way so you don't have to feel like an ass the first time you put them on.

HeatherC: See there? That's the mark of a fashionista - they'll pick out the clothing-related photo every time. (And, yes, they are: Number 33, page 94, Nina Garcia's One Hundred.)

K9: Flagstaff is freaky fun! Halfway in to AZ from the NM border on I-40, this big ass mountain – usually snow capped – starts shimmering at the horizon like a mirage. That's Flagstaff. Dropping down out of all that Alpine altitude into the desert? Even more crazy/cool.

Troll: Actually, I don't have the SPACE. Our two acres are pretty sloped. My pony would have to live in S.B.'s workshop. Can't have that.

Boxer said...

I think I told you my Flagstaff story - left Phoenix it was 80 and sunny, drove up to Flagstaff, it was windy and 60. I ran to a store to buy a jacket. What a cool place, however. It was a beautiful drive up.

Heather Cherry said...

"H" yes, my chic sista. I have the harness ones in a different brown. I. Love them. So much!

^5!

K9 said...

OT

did you see that report that missouri did on what might be signs of domestic terrorists and/or militia? ron paul stickers. dont tread on me flags. yeah. libertarians might be on a watch list. no joke. google it, comrade.

K9 said...

the MIAC report

moi said...

Heather: Word. I'm Jonesing for the green ones, too. You see those? Juh tem.

K9: Yes, isn't that madness? There's a petition you can sign at www.campaignforliberty.com asking that the state of Missouri make a formal apology and denounce the report as extremism in and of itself, with an explanation that there's a big difference between reasoned, peaceable dissent and bat shit crazy domestic terrorism!

Fork. I feel a Second Amendment Post coming on . . .

K9 said...

campaign for liberty is on the watch list! grrherhahaha

dissent is only for liberals, comrade.

i guess the fact that the fed lent itself a trillion dollars of fiat money today should be the sign that i should never bother with another post about the gummit or politics cause its...



wait for it...






time to GIT IN YUR HOLE!



grherhahahahahaha

moi said...

Ding dang it. I DO NOT have an outfit for this . . .

Heather Cherry said...

Tay ommo indeed.

Heather Cherry said...

Er... actually...

Loce ommo. (da boots) :p

Boxer said...

I'm ready.

for. the. hole.

Big Shamu said...

As someone who actually works in Missouri and lives next door, let me tell you your car and whatever bumper stickers you might have are safe because Missouri is not exactly efficient at....well...much of anything. That they actually got a memo out is pretty good for them.

Does this mean the Midwest Blogger Summit is to never be?

moi said...

Shamu: What was most surprising is that the memo came from the ol' show me state at all. It's former ruggedly individualistic outlook musta left with Mark Twain. Fork 'em – I'll blob summit where I damn well please. No dumb ass gub'mint is going to rain on my fun.

K9 said...

lets have a summit at the Fed. grrrhahahahaha

Gnomeself Be True said...

Boots (Ok, sneakers) and BBQ.
I thought you'd enjoy this.
http://www.eatmedaily.com/2009/03/stubbs-bar-b-q-stubbs-skytop-limited-edition-supra-sneaker/

Big Shamu said...

I hear the Fed has lots of money to burn. Bet it would make a great flaming bbq.

moi said...

K9: Burn, baby, burn. Disco inferno! (I have outfits for that.)

Gnome: Hey, those sneakers are kinda cute!

Shamu: I do believe you're right. I will, of course, refrain from yet another joke about BBQ-ing pork.

pamokc said...

I loved this post too! Love the photos and it reads like a Tony Hillerman novel. Did Joe Leaphorn come driving past you going the other way? This area is close enough to me that I should have been there but alas, haven't made it yet. Would love to do those long long drives, lonelier than the Oklahoma panhandle.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Gorgeous horses Moi! That one was definitely yours for the taking and doubtless willing to fulfil your every Wild West fantasy.

Loved your description of cars in New Mexico. Reminded me of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath where they were all itinerants in beat-up cars driving across America to find work in the depression. Very evocative.

Big Shamu said...

Anyone order some chickens?

Anonymous said...

Moi, mon Cherie, this is jes a grand post
The writin' is glorious!gives a body a
yearnin' fer the open sky.loved this.
an'I reckon we all agree wif that horse--heh.

moi said...

Pam: I grew up down the street from where Tony Hillerman lived and he used to order his personal stationery from the print shop I worked at in college. Nice guy. Oklahoma has it's own beauty. I love that section along I-40 that goes through the red dirt hills.

Poet: And if we don't get rain soon, we're going to blow on over to California, which would NOT make me happy. Too many fruits and nuts :o)

Shamu: Regular or extra crispy?

Aunty: Thank you for the Louboutin photos! So, are you all fracnophiled now? Post soon about your trip!

Big Shamu said...

Not those chickens, the Bainbridge Island Chickens. I don't think they are scheduled for anyone's stew pot.

Wow, that was awkward said...

Nice boobs, I mean boots!! Sheesh, sorry. Don't know what came over me.

czar said...

This post left me wishing I (a) could write like you and (b) had an interesting life.

moi said...

Shamu: Oops. Once I visited War of the Nuts, I groked to what you meant. Pet chickens! Rescues! But that Tom, I still don't like him . . .

WTWA: You either need to be smacked or given your own television show.

Czar: I dunno . . . Jane Fonda? Hunter Thompson? The Arnetts?