At an annual celebration of the famed World War 2 correspondent, Ernie Pyle, at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., a docent tells the small group about the permanent closing of Pyle’s childhood home, in his original birthplace,in Indiana. As the docent continues his presentation, he reminds this aging audience of the steady inexorable disappearance of our American history, the importance of keeping history alive, the necessity of knowing our past.
Ernie Pyle was a celebrated World War 2 correspondent, but, today, there are many Americans who don’t know much about World War 2 except what they see in the movies. They don’t know Ernie Pyle, or Julius Caesar, or Frederick Douglas. They believe the American Civil War was only about the abolishment of slavery and the United States Constitution is outdated and irrelevant, written by stuffy white men who owned slaves and wore white wigs..
Where does history go when it is behind us?
Does God put His memos, research papers,videos and photos of our world on shelves in his personal library? Does he go back and review his plans and progress for the Universe and make changes in the continual roll out of his vision ? Does knowing history mean we can stop or modify what is happening to us while we are in the middle of its beginning?
On this pleasant afternoon, we are taken on a guided tour of Ernie Pyle’s life and times, in a place he fixed bacon and eggs for breakfast and read his newspaper thrown on the front porch by a neighborhood boy on a bicycle.
His house feels like a home and I walk away suspecting that Ernie would offer me a cold drink of lemonade on a hot summer day and have some good jokes to soften the wounds of our war as we both set at a little table on the front porch with empty vistas as far as we could see.
He came from humble roots but was placed in the middle of one of the worst wars in human history.
His writings and his home survive him, and remembering is something we can do for him still.
Ernie volunteered for the war but some would say reporting on everyday Joe’s from the front lines was his destiny.
The beauty of his writing is that it seems like it was written for everybody but him.
Ernie Pyle was a simple Indiana kid who liked to write and travel and found both as a World War 2 correspondent for Scripps-Howard newspapers.
He purchased a house in Albuquerque in the 1940’s and lived in it with his wife and dog Cheetah, till he was killed in the war he reported on. In his memory, his house has been turned into a National Landmark, and, once a year, there is a celebration of his life and achievements.
The house is a simple wood framed, pitched roof bungalow with shade trees around it. When Ernie moved into it, Albuquerque was a sleepy little town and he would have been on the edge of town with an unobstructed view of spectacular NM sunsets. Now the neighborhood is aging and close to the University of New Mexico where he would have taught journalism if he had survived the war that wouldn’t let him escape.
The celebration of his life is low key like he was, and, on a table in the library, where he used to read books by the fireplace, are personal letters to him from Presidents of the United States, military medals, and commendations for his war reporting. His prose is a simple yet strong as the home he built for himself.
This Pulitzer prize winning journalist was killed by a sniper’s bullet in the Pacific and he died as many of the soldiers he lovingly and respectfully wrote about that showed folks back home what their loved ones were enduring.
It is good to have a day to remember, if only once a year, those who have given so much.
Forgetting is all too easy but the wars just keep on coming.
Creede’s reason for existence started and ended with silver.
Rich mines tunneled into the Earth and precious minerals were loaded onto train cars and shipped to industrial cities. At one time Creede had 10,000 people. The population now is 290, the mines have played out, and the economy depends on seasonal tourists escaping Texas heat.
In the winter this small mountain town shuts down and everyone who can leave, leaves. The skeleton crew left behind play cards, huddle around pot bellied stoves and keep the road open for crazy hunters who just won’t leave the deer alone.
Sightseers on today’s Creede streets can sense what life might have been like in the 1800’s, before airplanes, telephones, computers, modern medicine, automobiles, fast foods, spaceships, nuclear weapons,GMO foods, fiat money,the Deep State, vaccines and penicillin,organ transplants, ” Big Bang Theory”, and driver less cars.
Walking here, or sitting on a bench under a shade tree, you don’t see dusty miners, horses and loaded wagons, but you see old slouching wood frame buildings, hitching posts, closed saloons waiting for a makeover. The town has its own repertory theater that puts on performances during the tourist season,and,if they had a casino here,the place would sparkle like gold nuggets.
Next time through, I’m going to visit the Creede Mining Museum and get a photo of myself holding up the world’s largest fork stuck in the front yard of a local restaurant on the only road into and out of town.
Being a tourist here is something I’m comfortable with.
In 2019, if the hotels and accommodations didn’t have cable and wi-fi, or the phone service was bad, you wouldn’t get anyone staying here, even in the best summer months.
We 21st century visitors to the past, like old, but not at the expense of our luxuries.
I was told by a brother, Neal, and, by Pat, that the Great Sand Dunes are worth a long look.
Normally, I have blitzed by them, following I-25 all the way to Denver. On this trip to Creede, Colorado, close to Alamosa, I take a side trip to see the big piles of sand from the other side of the freeway.
The dunes get bigger as one drives from the highway deeper into the National Monument.There appears no reason for the dunes to be here amid more natural junipers, high desert grass, cactus. It is, as if, a celestial construction crew got wrong work orders and dumped truckload after truckload of sand until some angel woke up and cancelled the order. In New Mexico, we have our White Sands National Monument, but none of those dunes are as tall as these. Here, the sand hills seem out of place, but, nature can’t be accused of making mistakes.
At the National Monument visitor center, there are photos, posters, and displays to educate those who want to be educated on sand. Visitors can climb the dunes by following a path out to them from the visitor center. You take off your shoes before you reach the dunes, at the end of the path, and wade across a little stream. Visitors, hiking up the dunes, look like ants trying to touch the lazy white drifting clouds and, for a quarter, you can watch the ants through telescopes anchored into an outside patio stone wall.
Not having time to stay long, I get back on the road to Creede, Colorado and Hermit’s Lake.
I’m guessing, even if I don’t see these dunes again, this would be one of the first places a tour of cats, from Japan ,would stop and spend an entire day romping in the kitty litter.
Next time, there will be more time here to take off my shoes and climb these sand mountains, my feet and toes sinking deep as I struggle to move higher up the sides of the dune’s hills.
It will be dark when I get to Hermit’s Lake and Richard and Maria will be expecting me.
Even retirement doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get where you say you are going to be, when you say you are going to be there.
Seeing cats going down these hills on boogie boards would be amazing.
All this sand has been stored here until Mother Nature needs it for a new project.
There are artifacts to see at this national monument – wagon wheels and wagons, an empty jail, cannons, latrines, a visitor center, the only hospital for five hundred miles, ruts where wagons followed the Santa Fe Trail, pieces of adobe buildings that were once sheltering, a hundred foot tall flag pole where the stars and stripes flew, a white Army tent.
These photos, of what is left of this piece of the past, hint at what it was like to live out west in the late 1800’s.
Watching John Wayne westerns on re-run channels doesn’t convey fully how it feels to be smack dab in the middle of a land that is hostile and wears you down with inclement weather and the daily challenges of feeding, sheltering yourself, and staying alive.
Walking here, this morning, where soldiers walked, washed up, came back from patrols, recovered from illness, fixed wagons and stored supplies for the territories, walked patrols around the Fort in blizzards, it is easy to see how easy our lives have become.
This country was not overcome without someone else’s struggle but this fort, to the men and women assigned here, was always home sweet home, even if it wasn’t always peaches and cream.
This place was truly the middle of no where when people were still trying to figure out where where was.
There is controversy whether this is a lighthouse and whether Columbus’s bones are really inside the not so small ornate iron box in the center of this ornate display.
Columbus found the Dominican Republic on the first of his four voyages to the New World. Interestingly enough, he never set foot on America’s soil but set up his family comfortably in Santo Domingo to give them a good life and claim to lands he discovered for the King of Spain.
He was a visionary, as well as a businessman, and having audience with Kings and Queens is no easy task because, being important people, their time is worth more than ours. Mounting an expedition that was going to the ends of the world was a dangerous enterprise.
The big things I learn today are that, when walking, things you see are much further to get to than they look. Whenever you get lost, call a taxi and pay a few bucks to get where you want to go so you don’t spend your entire trip walking in circles.
It seems odd to celebrate a man who discovered America,but didn’t, and odd I’m standing here taking a photo of what we are told is the explorer’s final resting place?
He and his beloved Santa Maria , right now, are most likely somewhere north, northeast of Mars navigating under celestial lights on dark dark seas with only a compass, telescope and good instincts to guide him.
He is doing in the next world what he did in this one.
His bones might be here, but he doesn’t need them for his new discoveries.
State Road 14 takes you to Madrid,New Mexico, and to Cerrillos,New Mexico, if you stay on it.
All the way to Madrid we are passed by overweight motorcycle riders wearing pony tails and Bandito Leather jackets. Madrid is an old New Mexico mining town that busted a long time ago and left old mining shacks that were snapped up by 1960’s alternative lifestyle people. Today, most of these shacks have become watering holes, eateries, jewelry shops, art galleries, antique stores, botiques for unusual clothes, cramped homes for bearded and balding hippies who have outlived their generation.
At eleven thirty in the morning, the Mineshaft Tavern, a local institution, is still not open and bikers stand outside with their women and take pictures on their cell phones to post on Facebook. After a long ride to Madrid, from Albuquerque, it makes a nice afternoon to have a few beers and tell biker stories before going home. On Monday, most of them will be wearing suits at a desk in City Hall or designing weapons to make a more peaceful world at Sandia Labs.
The mural painted on a wall outside the tavern sums the town up.
There are two dogs for each resident, horses and cowboys are allowed, and no one has to dress up or put on airs.
If I were a dog, I would want to live here too where there are no leashes, plenty of shade, free snacks from tourists and not a lot of traffic.
New Mexico, before statehood, was an American territory wrested from Mexico in one of America’s many wars.
In 1912, we became a state and were lucky to do so.There were plenty of critics, then, as now, who suggested New Mexico has more in common with Mexico than the United States, has a backward uneducated population, is not nearly close to being civilized. In our early days, outlaws like Billy the Kid shot up people, miners lived a tough and tumble life camped out in nearby ravines looking for gold, and cattle ranchers hung cattle thieves from cottonwood trees.
Cerrillos, at one time, was a bustling community and was considered for the location of our state capitol. When the mineral reserves played out though, the town shrunk, and, today, this back roads thin spot on a thin road is just a few hundred souls living a quiet life not far from movie star Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the biggest city in the state.
The Cerrillos Station is a new, remodeled version of an old General Store that our family visited back in the fifties.The coffee is fresh, the owners cordial, the merchandise arty and fashionable. The repertory theater that produced melodramas in the 50’s for families is no where to be seen but this little town is still typical small town New Mexico with adobe walls, pinon rail fences, garden plots in back yards, fifth wheels pulled up to utility poles, dogs running around unattended and without leashes.
Friends Robert and Eric, who came along for the ride, enjoy their coffee, and we take a quick break before heading back down the road to Madrid, another New Mexico mining town turned into a hippie hideaway and retreat for non-conformist souls who aren’t much different than the neighbors they live next too.
The old pictures of Cerrillos, in black and white on the shop’s walls, make me wonder how the Hell this territory ever made it to being an American state?
I guess those back room politicians just didn’t want to see a gap on the U.S. map between Arizona and Texas?
This morning, the Fountain goes off at nine sharp, the same time as all the local businesses open. Ducks cruise past it like little feathered boats as a steady geyser of water is propelled several hundred feet into the air.
I film the eruption from several directions and barely get it all into my camera viewfinder.
I’m not sure I would come to Fountain Hills just to see this fountain, but, being here, it is icing on the Fountain Hills cake.
In the desert, you see lots of things that don’t seem to fit.
Why, in the middle of a desert that sees less than ten inches of rain a year, would there be a lake? Who, in their right mind, would build a fountain that shoots up several hundred feet in the air?
Regardless of the fountain’s history, I’m duly impressed with the ability of the human race to come up with engineering marvels that still can’t out do what Mother Nature routinely does, even without putting her make-up on.
The landscape in this part of Arizona has few trees and even less water.
It has jagged rocky hills that rise from the desert floor like turtle heads coming up out of their shell. The tallest vegetation, for miles, is the saquaro cactus that we first began seeing as our Arizona state highway takes us from higher cooler elevations down to the torrid desert floor.
The saquaro, this morning in Fountain Hills Park, look like banditos and some only have one arm. One has his six shooter pointed at me.
Fountain Hills is a sleepy bedroom community not far from Phoenix, a place to escape the rigorous winters of the East coast and Midwest, a place to leave big urban centers for roadrunners in your front yard and sometimes temperamental rattlers.
This man made lake, with its world famous water feature. makes a good quiet place to stroll as the sun comes up. The fountain used to be the tallest man made geyser in the world till some prince in Dubai wanted to make a new number 1 and made it happen in his back yard..
This morning, the sun rises fast. Palm trees stand like men in lime jackets on an airplane runway waving flashlights at the sun as it docks into its assigned gate.
Mining for memories is Scott’s full time, no pay retirement job.
I never thought I’d see anything that used to be number 1 in the world.