As soon as we say we haven’t seen deer, we spot a few having breakfast in one of the smaller canyons that break away from a larger canyon we are trekking through, early morning with a modern city still deep under its blankets, hot air balloons just starting to ascend.
This family unit is inspecting us as they nip leaves off branches, ears cocked, knowing we were here long before we spotted them. They are large animals with delicate faces, soft lips, long tongues, long thin legs that don’t seem they could support their big bodies, large wide open alert eyes and ears.
I pause and get a few photos,and ,in this natural setting, the animals are majestic.
It is bow hunting season in Albuquerque and shameful that some of these guys will be hunted down just because they have a set of horns that turn them into trophies.
When American prairies were covered by huge buffalo herds, the Plains Indians would say prayers before riding into the sea of buffalo and bringing a few down for their basic needs. I say a little prayer for these deer this morning as the sun comes over the Sandia’s and the humming of I-40 freeway traffic grows louder through Tijeras Canyon.
I wish these guys and girls good luck and pray hunters forgo hunting season this year for more NFL football and golf with the boys.
Hiking through nature this morning, I am pleased to see deer in these natural,wide open, protected areas.
When the only nature we see is in zoos and photographs, it is way too late for a wake up call.
I don’t know for sure, but I think I see a big buck pointing his big telephoto lens at us, getting closeups for his Facebook page..
Going through a hunting season as the target doesn’t seem like it would be much fun.
The UNM south golf course is a championship course that is way too much championship for this golfer.
It has ankle deep grass in the rough, tricky greens, deep traps, rolling fairways and a few doglegs that would make a dog blush. You wouldn’t want to walk this course unless you were a mountain goat and a masochistic one at that. The greens on all the holes have multiple breaks and the greens keeper always puts the pins where you would expect with someone who fights with the wife a lot.
On the back nine there is a short par four dog leg to the left that wraps around a little pond with a huge cottonwood between the edge of the left fairway and the pond. Long hitters can try to fly the cottonwood and drive the green while the rest of us mortals lay up to the right and have a wedge shot into a small tight green guarded by a big trap.
The pond is shaded by the cottonwoods and a gaggle of ducks live there. When we golfers drive our carts down the fairway, the ducks waddle out to meet us and sample treats we bring from home and have stored in our golf bags.
Growing up with ” Donald Duck” makes ducks seem approachable though we know these guys have a dangerous bill that gets aggressive if the duck feels threatened. If the ” Donalds ” get really bothered they usually turn back to their lake and paddle out to the middle where they can weather people storms.
Today, we give them treats and they stay close to us. We all hit our approaches to the green but no one makes a birdie. Walking off the green, we can hear the ducks quacking like television sports announcers.
Whether they are ” cute” or a ” Nuisance” lies in the eyes of the beholder but they make a tough day on the course a little less disheartening.
Even championship courses need diversions, even ones that waddle and quack.
If I were a true horticulturist, I would know what this bush in my back yard with the pretty white flowers is called.
I would know its scientific and common names. I would know if the plant has medicinal uses, how much water it needs, the proper way to trim it, the best times of the year to transplant. In the city,us city folks don’t always keep up on the nature around us. In jungle villages, even little children know every plant and animal within their touch, how they can help and hurt.
I do like the fact that this getting bigger bush gives me shade, hides a neighbor’s back yard from view,doesn’t take a lot of maintenance and care, has nice flowers and attracts birds and bees.
This busy bee doesn’t pay me any mind as he digs into nature’s lunchbox but I don’t feel like I need to swat him or interrupt his lunch.
In a natural unwritten reciprocal agreement,the bee helps the plant reproduce and he gets a good meal in return.
I might be a city boy but I admire nature when it buzzes me awake.
When flowers and bees are out and about, it means it is warm and sunny and winter is a long long way off.
Even us guys can have appreciation for flowers and a nice bouquet has been known to move conversation between men and women more towards the birds and bees.
This guy is a very polite,though noisy,dinner guest.
Dining, while hovering in mid air, is a tricky and remarkable skill.
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 camp out during the 2019 Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival in Westcliff. It is a summer July, warm, and these brilliant blue and white flowers are growing in no discernible order in these cow pastures. 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 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 the music sound more authentic.
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 the old rust colored 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.
The docent of the museum this morning, 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 outside over a really nasty human joke.
For some unfathomable 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.
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.