County road 40, cutting away from Colorado State Highway 69, takes me straight to the Alvarado Campground in the nearby Sangre de Cristo mountains – the end of a long driving day from New Mexico.
The campground,in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests,is where we are camping out for the upcoming 2019 Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival in Westcliff. It is a summer July, warm, and these brilliant blue and white flowers are growing everywhere in these pastures under these cow’s close protection. This pastoral scene should be printed on a grocery store container of vanilla ice cream or on the front of a milk carton in the local grocery.
County road 40 is two lane and well maintained and flat as the countryside we are cutting through. On each side of the road are barbed wire fences that keep cattle in their fields as well as designating people’s property lines. In old times, ranching folks hung cattle rustlers and used buckshot on kids getting into their front yard gardens. Now, lawyers shoot it out in court for all of us and all kinds of disputes in the sandbox get erased and redrawn as judges have taken the place of our pistols and rifles.
These cows, big black splashes of paint in the middle of this large natural canvas, will soon disappear into darkness, impossible to see their black in the dark. They are strangely mute, grazing, staring lazily across the great distances between us and the towering mountains to the west.
This evening, as the sun drops and night coolness is coming, I can see these cow’s don’t give a damn about fences, or us,or my philosophy, whichever side of the fence they,or we,are on.
I drive past them at 30 miles per hour, the posted speed limit, hopeful that tomorrow’s bluegrass music makes this long drive worth doing.
When you listen to bluegrass music there should be a few cows in the neighborhood,like this, just to make it sound authentic.
The bluegrass music we are going to enjoy should be as unpretentious as these cows.
Setting up camp this evening is a happy chore long overdue.
I didn’t get a builder’s tour but this birdhouse comes with a sturdy shingle roof, spacious front porch, and a back door that can be opened to clean inside. The home’s front door is a round hole, big enough for a small sparrow to enter but small enough to keep out a coyote, hawk, or house cat.
This is one of Charlie’s birdhouse masterpieces..
The last one he made was more complex, a bird mansion looking like a traditional New Mexico Pueblo, complete with ladders to roofs and a ceremonial Kiva. We all agreed it should be hanging in an art gallery but it is destined for Alabama or Tennessee for grand kid’s and a lucky bluebird family, winner of the Greater South Birdhouse Raffle.
Us Charlie supporters haven’t been on line yet to see what the going price is for “custom” birdhouses . Charlie makes his for free for family and friends so he has the best price in the world. Even a dirt poor rice farmer in Vietnam can’t sell his birdhouse for nothing.
If I were a bird, I would park my feathers inside this roomy mansion, turn on my Netflix and watch Hitchcock’s ” The Birds” ,or a documentary on Charlie “Bird” Parker with my favorite beverage by my recliner.
I would move into this birdhouse now, in a second, if i could just squeeze through the small round front door.
These two questionable birds remind me of cartoon characters us kids watched on black and white television in the 1950’s, most often perched on a tree limb talking about crazy humans. They were, as they appear here, angular, opinionated, and had New York voices that were like a piece of coarse sandpaper rubbed over my cheek, and not gently.
Perched on a tiny end table in front of the Madrid, New Mexico Mine Shaft Museum, they, for the moment, aren’t gossiping loud enough that I can hear who they are roasting.
The Madrid mining museum is full of old rusted mining implements piled into one large open room, under a tin roof. Through an open doorway, I see old corroded machines that kept town mines operating in the 1800’s when lots of young men and painted women came out west to make their fortunes moving lots of dirt.
The curator of the museum, a gray haired volunteer woman standing by a manual cash register, talks in a mellifluous voice and explains, to an equally old couple listening attentively, how the town prospered in its heyday.
I can hear Heckle and Jeckle cackling right now over a really nasty human joke.
For some odd reason, I want to buy them and the fountain and set them all on a little table on my back porch in Albuquerque.
These two could really tell me, every day, funny, but true, stories about mining in Madrid, Mew Mexico, before and after the hippies came.
Watching humans all day is as funny as it gets.
The downside is that watching two birds spitting water in a pan rather quickly loses it’s charm ,even though it is a clever idea.
Lonesome George is a famous tortoise from the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, many hundreds of miles off the Ecuador coast. He was the last of his species and died in 2012 at the ripe old age of 100, one of many species of living things to become extinct throughout the history of this planet Earth.
According to a recent television documentary, dedicated to George,there were efforts to find him a mate to continue his species, but it was a losing effort. Either George was too old, liked his own company too much, or just had those problems men get past the age of fifty.
How is it to live to a hundred years and be the last of your kind alive?
If George had had a video camera he would have been able to show his changing world. In his younger days, there would have been men in wood boats rowing to the island to collect his relatives for the soup pot. In later years there would have been processions of scientists with recording instruments taping wires on his back to follow his movements and record his vitals. These last days there were mostly noisy tourists with cameras and sunscreen, sunglasses and notebooks packed with observations..
George passed in 2012, and, in this local park, a local artist has donated a sculpture to his memory.
Lonesome George lived long enough to outlast his entire generation.
Whether he was really lonesome is something he never talked much about.
Where country begins is ” when you start to see cows. ”
We are not in prime cow country in this high desert Arizona.There is much better grazing in Texas, and, even better, in Uruguay.The grass on this little piece of our planet is sparse and competes with prickly cactus, junipers, washes, arroyos, ditches,dirt roads and scattered rocks. This land we are driving through, to reach Chip’s little piece of paradise, is open range and these cows have the first right of way over both automobiles and humans.
These two critters give me the evil eye when I stop to take their portrait but they grow tired of me quickly and peacefully amble off away from my interruption of their dinner..
When you get out of the city you see more clearly the things you are getting away from and the things you left behind that you miss.
When I start trying to make friends with cows, who don’t even have watches to give me the time of day, I figure I have already been out here too long.
I love the country but won’t cry to go back to my city.
Living a simple life, it seems to me, is not as simple as it sounds when you say it.
Most smoking in America has been banned from public buildings. All tobacco packaging has to contain scientific warnings that tobacco products are not good for your health. Tobacco is taxed at an exorbitant rate. Television advertising of tobacco products has been curtailed drastically. Multi-million dollar lawsuits have awarded money to smoking victims in large class action health related lawsuits. Doctors advise all their clients to quit. Smoking in movies and on television by actors and actresses has trickled to a few puffs each season.
Camel cigarettes are one of the last surviving brands from the 1950’s.
As kids, we thought it funny to see the Camels on cigarette packs and wondered who would smoke them instead of Philip Morris, Lucky Strikes or Marlboro’s. The fifties were a smoking heyday with millions of vets acquiring the habit in the war and continuing when they got home. Our Dad smoked but quit by eating tons of lifesavers he kept high up on a closet shelf where we kids couldn’t reach them. The Camels always made us think of the French Foreign Legion, men wearing funny hats fighting other men wearing funny hats.
In this Santo Domingo airport, on my way home, I meet a plastic Camel lounging in a smoking room. It is cool and quiet here and there are only a few people in the lounge this morning, a cleaning woman and a smoking man puffing intently on his Camel cigarette, his smoke making clouds in room thick enough for the rest of us to walk on.
Camels might truly be cool, but I hear, from people who have lived with them, that they are nasty, have body order, and spit at people they don’t like.
Advertising always gets us to ignore product negatives and buy what they want to make us think makes us more important and sophisticated.
I’m in this smoking room, hanging with a camel, and I don’t even smoke.
The materials making these mobiles are exquisitely simple – wire, fishing line, paper mache, paint.
One touch of one hummingbird and all of them are flying, fearless in space, reminding me of hummingbirds in the Costa Rican Monteverde Rain Forest, reminding me of a hummingbird in South Fork, Colorado, reminding me of hummingbird’s gravitating to a feeder on brother Alan’s front porch in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas during recent visits.
These hand made hummingbird’s in a Santo Domingo art gallery all dance in front of me in the air, in an orbiting circle, set in motion by a little tap by my right hand forefinger.
Setting things in motion is what us humans do, instinctively, all the time.
My right forefinger, on my laptop mouse, starts this post’s video in motion too, with a slight gentle left click..
There is art everywhere on Calle Conti, leaning against walls in pedestrian walkways, stacked deep in little shops along with Dominican Republic baseball caps and knick knacks. The canvases are small, medium, and large, but all seem to have been painted by the same pair of hands.
Bolo’s, on a different street,catches my eye, which is a good sign for a business that deals in tantalizing the eyes and tweaking the spirit. Outside, by the gallery’s front door are three colorful masks and browsers can see quickly that there is space inside the gallery to stand back and look at the art and crafts sold inside.
The galleries featured artist this month, Almanzar from Haiti, has displayed a series of self portraits done in a pointillist like style, with subtle girl colors.To counterbalance her glowing transcendence there are colorful fish hung on an opposing wall, a hummingbird construction towards the back of the shop that draws me to it, and an entire bookcase full of quaint, colorful wood figures sitting on the edge of each book shelf.
The black sales woman has music on, a glowing smile, and is gracious enough to let me take my time and just browse on a quiet afternoon in the middle of the week.
I do wonder about an artist that does a show of self portraits.
Why would someone you don’t know want to buy your self portrait?
Wouldn’t they really just want to buy one of themselves?