Thursday, February 7, 2008



I’ve always admired the southwestern style of architecture, and I’m including some of the photos I’ve taken of the adobe houses that are prevalent here in New Mexico




I drove my rental car into Silver City to the Java Hut on the square, and enjoyed drinking my latte as I plugged into their wireless connection. I’m a figure skating groupie, and just had to find out who won the Canadian Figure Skating Championships held last weekend. I really would like to have seen the competition on TV, but it wasn’t covered here in New Mexico on any station. There were a couple of upsets, with Patrick Chan beating out Jeff Buttle (a favourite of mine) and the pair of Langlois and Hay beating out last year’s champion.

The couple who manage The Java Hut are originally from Canada. Jim is apparently a well renowned stained glass maker, with many items on display in public institutions, including the Parliament Buildings. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his full name. A few years ago he accepted a job at UCLA to teach art. He and his wife disposed of their Canadian possessions and headed for California, only to find that the state of California had cancelled all the arts programs being offered in the universities there. So, he was effectively left without a job and only a severance package. While in the state, he suffered a serious accident requiring many surgeries which ended up costing $500,000 in medical expenses. His insurance only covered half, and he was permanently disabled from doing more stained glass work, so they left California to settle in Silver City and to work at whatever they could. His wife has a few jobs, including working in a florist’s shop which was her profession in Canada. They rent a house for $300/month in Silver City and enjoy life in this laid-back town. They also hate winter, so do not consider returning to Ontario, although the wife’s parents live in Ottawa and her father is ill.

I wandered around the colourful historic section of the city and found people selling crafts from their tables on the sidewalk, and a woman with a guitar singing very badly for money. I stopped at the Western New Mexico University Museum, which houses a large collection of Mimbres pottery, but the doors were locked.

Billy the Kid is said to have spent some time in Silver City (refer to the movie Young Guns starring Emilio Estevez and others). This plaque indicates that he grew up here. Further down the street there is a plaque indicating the location of the jail where he escaped up the chimney after killing a Chinese man, apparently his first murder.

Beside the Visitor Center there is a log cabin, with a sign stating that it was a gift from director Ron Howard after he finished filming the movie “The Missing” on location here in Silver City

I stopped at a bakery to buy a very decadent-looking cream puff (it cost $3.75!) which I took back to the RV park to eat at the picnic table next to my RV in the 61 degree F weather. Ripley and I enjoyed the sun and the environment around the park.

I had bought a USA Today newspaper, which is jam-packed with information on the presidential primaries, sports results and little else. I hope I won’t offend my American friends by commenting that the news media (radio, TV and newspaper) are quite insular in their approach to the world, spending a heavy amount of coverage on the primaries and very little on what is happening in the rest of the world.

With the time differences between the East and West coast, I watched the US Figure Skating Championships originating in St. Paul, Minnesota in the early afternoon. I have to say that the commentary on the American station is far superior to that on the Canadian stations. The competition was covered by NBC utilizing several former figure skating champions including Dick Button, Scott Hamilton, Jamie Sale, David Pelletier, Sandra Bezic and Tracy Wilson. Their commentaries were educational and knowledgeable – a far cry from what I have heard during Canadian coverage.


After the two-hour TV coverage, there was just enough time to drive down to the City of Rocks State Park, 25 miles south of Silver City. The brochure reads “City of Rocks State Park is a geological wonder that rests beneath some of the darkest night skies in the country where the stars truly ‘light up’ the night sky. Born some 33 millions years ago from a volcanic eruption 1,000 times greater than Mount St. Helen’s, mother nature has slowly chiseled her into the rock ‘city’ you see today’. The effects of wind and rain have carved the rocks into unusual shapes and several have been named for what people have fancifully thought they resembled”.

The great thing about stopping at a visitor center is the amount of material that can be collected about the local area. In this case, I came across The Old West Highway Guide and an article about the City of Rocks. Here is a portion of the article:

City of Rocks State Park is in the Mimbres Valley of the Chihuahuan desert and typical vegetation and wildlife abound. Yuccas, barrel and hedgehog cacti, ocotillo, New Mexico agave, desert bird-of-paradise and desert willow are common in the park. ….At least 35 species of birds call this rock ‘city’ their home. These include the bald and golden eagesl, hawks, horned owls, cactus wrens, roadrunners and finches. Many of these birds nest in the cavities and crevasses in the rocks. Ground squirrels, chipmunks, jackrabbits, cottontails, kangaroo mice and packrats also claim the ‘city’ as their home. Coyotes are also frequent visitors to the park.

Jackrabbit at City of Rocks

Ripley at City of Rocks

I still find it so incredibly awe-inspiring to consider the history of the Southwest and the many, many different cultures which have occupied this area over the centuries.

There is a campground there and people can actually camp in designated areas amongst the rocks. As the sun set, Ripley and I took a walk in and around them. The rock formations are very impressive, lending you to appreciate the huge forces of nature that created them.


Before I had left Deming, Doris gave me a clock that has various birds on it instead of numbers. When the big hand gets to a certain bird, the clock chirps in that particular bird’s song. At first, I didn’t want to accept the clock, but Doris said that she was going to throw it out if I didn’t take it, and now I quite enjoy hearing the birds twittering!

The temperature sure changes dramatically here in Silver City from one day to the next. Yesterday the high was 61 degrees F. Today it is 46 degrees F.


Today I have decided to explore northwest of Silver City, but not too far north because of the inclement weather. Bill Evans Lake is located off of Highway 180 about 30 miles north of Silver City, and appeared to be man-made. There is a sign requesting people not to swim in the lake, which is about one-half mile across in circumference, and which is diked at one end where there is a steep drop-off to a canyon below. The scenery as usual in this area is quite spectacular, with vistas off to mountains in the distance. There were some unidentified ducks swimming close to the fishermen sitting and standing around the bank. To one side I found this great blue heron. It’s unfortunate that wherever there are humans, there is garbage, and even in this remote, beautiful area people are ignorant enough to leave coffee cups, plastic wraps, etc.

Ripley enjoyed racing around the area, and I found some more interesting rocks to add to my collection.


Thanks to a guide provided at the Visitor Center in Silver City, I learned of a remote birding area and decided to check it out. With Garrison Keilor on the radio, I headed down a twisting gravel road five miles to the banks of the Gila River. The road took me past ranches where various cattle grazed on whatever they could find, up ridges and around curves as I climbed, passing some washes which would have been quite hazardous to pass if there had been water in them, and eventually taking me down to the bottomland again to the parking area of the Gila River Bird and Wildlife Habitat.

Ripley and I climbed down a bank, through some woods, where we startled some mule deer, to the Gila River. Because it was raining lightly, there were few birds, and only one crow flew over, deliberately having a good look at the strangers entering its territory. After checking us out, it turned around and flew back in the direction it had come from. Meanwhile, I was struck by the remoteness and the magnificence of the area. There was not another soul around for miles, and I stood on the shore for some time, just marveling at the scenery. While Ripley raced around exploring new smells, etc., I collected some more interesting stones and listened to the music of the fast-moving river.

Suddenly I heard thunder, and decided that we had better get back to the main road before the washes became filled with water. I passed only one truck going in the opposite direction and wondered where his home was, as I saw no houses whatever on this stretch of road.


Since it was still only early afternoon, I stopped again at the Western New Mexico University Museum and this time it was open. It is housed in what was once a gymnasium and is in transition to modernize it somewhat, with new display cases and sanded floors. The Museum houses a huge collection of Mimbres pottery, including some very early pieces that are not decorated. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed in the Museum, but as I have mentioned previously, most of the pottery has been retrieved from private collections and the information cards all read “provenance unknown”. It is interesting that the majority has a hole in the bottom of the pot and it is thought that these were pieces that were buried with the dead, and the hole allowed the essence of the person to pour through it.

There was also a miniature reproduction of a typical house indicating that the peoples inhabiting them lived very simply, with mud floors, wood and reed walls and ceiling, with a door in the roof accessed by ladder. These people had no weapons other than arrow points tied to a shaft to make a spear, and used stone tools for grinding maize, etc. The professor of the department of archaeology at the Museum has been excavating one particular site and a diagram indicated what she had managed to uncover in her fieldwork.

As I drove back to Manzano’s, I noticed that the movie theatre still featured the same movies that were offered earlier in the week. Instead, I watched more figure skating, and a movie “First Knight” starring Richard Gere.


The storm that was threatening yesterday afternoon erupted overnight, pouring a great deal of water on this area of New Mexico, along with very strong winds. I understand that the storm devastated parts of California, and in this area of New Mexico, it washed out the bridge leading to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and closed other parts of the highways in the vicinity. I took advantage of the water remaining on the RV to wipe off some of the accumulated dust and dirt.

Since I still couldn’t access my wi fi to the internet at the campground, I drove into the Visitor Center and had a delicious BLT at Nancy’s Restaurant in downtown Silver City.


On my way to the Gila Cliff Dwellings the other day, I had passed quickly through the old mining town of Pinos Altos. This is another town rich in history, and I wanted to explore it more thoroughly. The signs in the town pointed to the church, Opera House (now a restaurant), Judge Roy Bean’s store, the Buckhorn Saloon (still in operation), the courthouse and a museum.

I will quote from a brochure that I obtained:

On May 18, 1860, Colonel Shively, Hicks and Henry Birch, California Forty-Niners prospectors, …made the first tangible discovery of gold in Pinos Altos. Birch discovered free gold in Bear Creek while drinking from the stream.

There was no formal organization nor survey made of the camp until in 1867, when persons desiring to perfect title to improvements, organized the Pinos Altos Town Survey lines.

Growth and decline of Pinos Altos is shown by the census figures:
1890 population 1015
1900 a slight increase
1910 393
1950 225
1960 230
1998 310
“Mangas Coloradas, a Mimbreno Apache Chief, was killed near Pinos Altos in January, 1863. Col. West of the California Volunteers, was in Pinos Altos at this time and was told the Apaches must be subdued and that Mangas was to be brought in by force or strategy. He was tricked with a flag of truce and captured. Prodded with bayonet points that were heated in a fire, Mangas got to his feet in protest and was killed. He was buried but later exhumed and his skull sent to Washington, where it was found to weigh more than Daniel Webster’s.”

“The Gold Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated on May 8, 1898. Mr. and Mrs. Frank bell had given part of their mining claim “Good Enough” for the site of this building.”

Established in 1860, the Buckhorn Saloon has been used as a saloon since its inception.

The Opera House provided entertainment and saw many performers from all over the country. It is now a restaurant.

This store was said to be owned by Judge Roy Bean. (Paul Newman played the part of Judge Roy Bean in the movie)

On January 8, 1869 Pinos Altos was made the county seat of Grant Co. This is the first court house.

The Pinos Altos museum was originally the first schoolhouse in the area, and is operated by the great grandson of the man who originally built the log cabin when he was mining in the area.

Mr. Shafer has accumulated much of his relative’s original belongings, as well as a huge amount of other artifacts, all displayed in one of three rooms, floor to ceiling. I would imagine that many of these are irreplaceable, but unfortunately, he has not preserved many of the items properly (for example, old newspapers put into plastic baggies), and they are deteriorating.

He also had a very large collection of arrowheads, stone tools and some Mimbres pottery,

Mr. Shafer's great grandfather is on the
left in in the oval picture frame

old grinding wheel

medicine bottles, old weigh scales, a pump organ, original newspaper articles and photographs, all covered in dust and I thought it was such a shame that these precious pieces of history were not being preserved better.

Mr. Shafer also had a gift shop filled with things like replica arrowheads, Navajo rugs, postcards featuring photographs of people like Wild Bill Hicock, books about the areas, paperbacks of local authors Tony Hillerman and J.A. Jance, jewelry, etc. etc. I bought an interesting little book about the history of the area penned by a local author.

The history of the Catholic Church in the community begins at an early date. In 1869 priests from Las Cruces began to pay visits to this district. Dr. Ruellan was the priest from 1874-76. Fr. Edward Gerard arrived in Silver City in 1885 and to his endeavor we owe the Church of Pinos Altos, which was blessed on July 17, 1888 in honor of San Alejo.”

Very often cemeteries in these areas reveal some interesting stories about the people who once lived in the region, and so my next stop was the cemetery located next to the original Catholic church.

Ripley and I wandered around, and although I didn’t find any tombstones with particularly interesting inscriptions, I did come across some very plain but obviously very old markers, a swell as some graves surrounded by fences, indicating I suppose a wealthier person.

According to the brochure “the two graves which have the oldest markers are those of the Marston brothers. Captain Thomas Marston was fatally wounded on Sept. 17, 1861. …His brother Virgil was also killed by Indians. He is buried beside his brother.”


It snowed overnight with a light dusting still on the ground.

Lico Manzano, the owner of the RV park, has contacted his computer expert to ask him to come out to have a look at their wi fi setup in an effort to determine why I can’t connect to the internet.


In the meantime, I drove south seven miles to Fort Bayard, the home of the Buffalo Soldiers in earlier times. These were the African American troops, and it is said that they got their name from their Afro hairdos, which reminded the native Indians of the curly hair on buffalo.

I had anticipated seeing the stone walls of what I typically think of as a fort, but instead there were rows of houses and other buildings which have fallen into disrepair, and a sign implored the government to preserve this historic site. Attached at one end is a more modern veterans hospital, as well as a military cemetery.

The cemetery has a uniformity about it because of the nature of the rows of tombstones, ranging from some very early ones, up to the very new.

Down the road is the Bataan Memorial Recreation park, closed for the winter, but in memory of the Bataan Death March which killed so many American soldiers.

The computer expert finally arrived around 4:00 p.m. at Manzano’s and solved the incompatibility problem, with some fiddling around on my laptop. It’s too bad that he hadn’t come earlier in the week while I was here, but at least now I can spend as much time as I like searching the internet while I remain here.


I had planned to return to Deming today, after returning my rental car. However, the radio has put out a wind advisory. This was sufficient for me to remain where I was for another day. Even parked, the RV was rocking strongly in the wind, even though it was protected by trees.

It began to snow in the afternoon, and generally it was a day just to stay put and work on the internet.


When I awoke this morning, I discovered a thick layer of snow covering the ground! The radio announced that many schools would be closed for several hours, due to icy conditions, which were causing many auto accidents.

There was a hard frost overnight, causing my water and sewer hoses to freeze solid. Consequently, I couldn’t get underway as quickly as I had anticipated, but rather had to wait until the hoses defrosted long enough for me to unhook them.

I finally got underway around noon and arrived back in Deming, stopping to do errands in town.

I had ordered two books from AbeBooks online and had them delivered to General Delivery. Only one had arrived, but it was the most important book. Orangutan Odyssey is authored by Birute Galdikas and Nancy Briggs. In 1976 I spent six months in the camp of Birute in central Borneo, assisting her and her husband Rod with research on orangutans. This particular book contains photos of many of the orangutans whom I encountered while there, so I was pleased to buy it for $2.00 plus shipping.

Ripley loves beachballs. They are large enough for her to butt with her nose and to get hold of with her teeth, to carry. Unfortunately, they only last about one minute before she bites hard enough to cause them to burst. At Wal Mart I found a small soccer ball and this proved to be a big hit with her when we went to the Bark Park back at LoW Hi Ranch. She would ask me to throw or kick it, and with a bark she would race after it, grab it in her teeth and bring it back to me, tail furiously wagging, so that I could throw it again.

I returned to High Styles hair salon to get my hair trimmed before leaving. I asked her to cut it short, and she really did! Oh well, it will grow back in eventually.

I have now picked up quite a collection of interesting stones here and there in New Mexico and stopped at the Red Rock Shop to ask about having them tumbled. The shop owner asked me if I knew how long it took to tumble rocks. When I replied in the negative, he responded “five weeks. You have to tumble them several times”. So that was the end of that. I’ll wait until I return home and find someone there to tumble these stones.

I arrived back at LowHi Ranch in time for Happy Hour, and renewed acquaintances with various people there.


I had a relatively quiet day, catching up on some housework, helping Doris clip her dogs’ toenails and taking Ripley for walks in the gravel pit.

The local Deming newspaper “The Deming Headlight” featured these as some of their articles today:

A 54-year old woman was charged with solicitation of murder in the February 2006 of Melinda Widby, whom she claimed hit her with a baseball bat
 Darian Zachek won the Deming Public Schools City-wide Spelling Bee
 James Bear died as a result of being bitten by a Canebrake Rattlesnake, one of 179 snakes that he owned, 84 of which were venomous. The confiscated snakes of various species were given to Tony Fish, a friend of Bear
 Federal funding is being made available for home loans in rural New Mexico
 A Rabies clinic will be held on Feb. 2. One year-shot will be $7 each; three-year shots will be offered at $18
 Navajo president endorses Hillary Clinton for president

My brother had mailed me a package including two new movies – “The Bucket List” and a Robin Williams HBO special, so I had some evening entertainment.

1 comment:

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