An old man with a cane shuffles past us in the grocery, squinting to read the fine print on a box label.Two little children pull on their mom’s dress at the bank as she makes a deposit and reaches them a sucker out of a little bowl on the teller’s countertop. A homeless vet passes our vehicle to take a dollar from a hand reaching out of the window back of us. We don’t talk to the politician rushing past us to hold up a baby and smile for news cameras.
On the road to Westcliff, I pass a black wagon pulled by a black horse, driven by a young man wearing a black hat, black pants and black vest, a white shirt, with a reddish beard. He pulls his horse and wagon towards the shoulder as I go past, and I wave. I watch him in my rear view mirror as he goes another block, then pulls his horse and wagon into a little drive leading to a country house on the other side of a closed gate.
Amish, from Pennsylvania, have come to this part of Colorado and the San Luis Valley for farming, solitude, the ability to worship as they choose, to raise their families in an old way, and drive to town in a wagon pulled by their favorite horse.
This, my first Amish sighting of the season, makes me wonder how they can maintain their traditions in the onslaught of 21st century propaganda, polemics, politics and problems?
The march of 21st century technology, information, control and surveillance, secularism, is crushing.
Seeing a horse and wagon on the road is like seeing an old John Wayne movie on television.
It pictures a way of life, long gone, that some folks still never want to leave.
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 before we got here.
This fort, to the men and women assigned here, was home sweet home, even if it wasn’t always peaches and cream.
Near Watrous, New Mexico, I have always sped past an I-25 highway sign that reads simply, ” Fort Union . ”
This trip, I exit, and follow the Old Santa Fe Trail that brought people west in the eighteen hundreds looking for opportunity.
After the Civil War, poor folks, who didn’t have prospects, came out west to start over. People with money, wearing suits, followed them, looking to build fortunes in a wide open territory of the United States before it was carved up into states by wealthy and powerful men who wanted to make more of what they wanted most from life.
The Santa Fe Trail became one of major routes taking settlers west and along its length the government built military forts to secure the land, protect settlers, provide law enforcement, settle disputes, and fight Indians who weren’t pleased with these invaders.
Fort Union, in it’s heyday, had 1600 soldiers, the only hospital for hundreds of miles, a jail, church, wagon repair shop, arsenal, and was a distribution center for food for military forts throughout the southwest.
The national monument opens every day of the week, 8 to 5, has a museum, and a staff wearing uniforms give tours every few hours.
The wind blows this morning and during the winter this place is brutally cold, isolated, and basic.
The most interesting fact I discover is that the fort had women working and living inside it as laundresses who drew regular military pay and had their own quarters.
Knowing how tough it was for men to be here, it must have been even tougher for women, and having women here, must have given the Commanding Officer grey hair.
Not knowing whether a man is going to protect a woman, or assault them,and how love and lust affect human behavior and execution of orders, is a Commanding Officer’s worst nightmare.
The National Anthem is one of the most played songs in America. If you have played in school bands, military bands, marching bands, or are a musician who has performed at any sporting or public event, you have played the familiar melody since you were very young.
In America, individualism is worshiped, but so is big Government.
Most of us fall someplace different on the line that stretches from pure individualism towards the right end of the line to pure communism towards the left, in relation to how much government control of your life you want. It is no wonder that we shake our heads at each other, erroneously thinking we all fall on the same place on this political line that crosses itself so often you don’t always know left from right. The tug of war between these opposing dreams describes our American dilemma.
After the National Anthem, the color guard marches off the putting green and we golfers all find our assigned golf carts and roll out for a shotgun start to the golf tournament.
This golf tournament is a fundraiser for Lifequest, a group that mentors juveniles locked up in jail, believing that the Bible and good mentors will keep juveniles from going back to jail after they serve their time and are released.
Regardless of our place on any line, we know mistakes are made and not every child has a good home to come from, or a good home to go back too.
Listening to the National Anthem, I know my battle line in the sand.
If it wasn’t for mistakes, we wouldn’t be human, and, politician’s sons and daughters need to be on the front lines of any war their parents start.
At the entry to the Fountain Hills Park are a number of statues, some seated on benches, some standing, all with commemorative plaques and praising comments at their feet.The figures cast shadows, some longer than others. Most of the statues are of men and most have been Presidents of the United States.
Presidents, as we know from watching those we have voted for, have lots of good speechwriters, lots of philosophy and confidence.They enter office with one mindset and leave with another. Leading the United States, on a day to day basis, is like trying to keep water in a glass that keeps springing holes. You enter office believing you can benefit the country knowing that half the voters believe you are aren’t worth the time of day. Presidents leave office hoping they didn’t have to deal with war, a disastrous Depression, or any number of calamities that come upon a nation. You are glad, when your term is up, to let someone else drive the stagecoach.
This morning Lincoln and Reagan look like old friends and it would be revealing to sit on a bench on a moonlit night listening to their stories about unruly cabinet members, hostile Congressmen and women, an unrelenting negative press, and military misadventures.
There are those who would like to cart these two men and their memories away, store them in a warehouse providing props to the movie industry,
We expect far too much from our Presidents, and our Government.
This country will rise and fall on the efforts of us who will never have a statue of ourselves in a park..
In airports we are moving to someplace new or returning to someplace familiar. We are waiting interminable hours then squeezing into airplanes that take us 35,000 feet above the Earth and show us movies. We are victims of delays, layovers, plane cancellations, Customs, paperwork, pat downs, x rays and questions. For some, these indignities are acceptable. For others, they are barely tolerable.
This trip, authorities with TSA, in Newerk, confiscate a small bottle of flavored rum that Scott is taking home to enjoy, legally bought at the Museo of Rum in Santo Domingo. The size of the bottle, according to the TSA limit, is “over the limit. ” The agent says ” leave it, or consume it now. ” Figuring they will give me a ticket for flying drunk next, I give up,leave the rum,and board my plane.
Are we to a point in this USA that this micromanagement is necessary, or even healthy?
Governments are, according to more than just me, too big for their britches.
This trip is over, and, I hope, another quickly follows.
Even without my rum, which TSA agents have already enjoyed, staying healthy and traveling is my Doctor’s best prescription.
Next time, I will drink the whole bottle before I get to the airport.
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.
Yes, there is trash on the too narrow to walk on sidewalks. Yes, you have to watch your step because the entire neighborhood is a work in progress. Yes, people live close together with no yards,few garages, a myriad of empty buildings waiting for bank money and investors to fix them up. Yes, there is noise and congestion. Yes, this is an urban landscape with cement, tile, asphalt the main building materials.Yes, there are dogs and cats sleeping on the sidewalk. Yes,people speak a different language. Yes, getting around without a car is humbling.
On the other side of the street there is vitality and energy here. People are friendly. You see something new on every block, every corner, every intersection.
Back home my covenant controlled community has all houses virtually identical and all projects must be approved by an unseen board that sends out a newsletter to communicate, and has compliance officers making daily inspections.
I love to walk here on this ” Street of Stars ” with its noise, congestion, bright colors, energy.
One of the joys of travel is trying out how your life could be if you wanted to change. I don’t mind my street back in New Mexico but I could live on this street too, if I chose to.
There are lots of choices we have, but we don’t have them if we don’t know they are there.
There is a Postal Service in the Dominican Republic but it is either not used, not trusted, or not helpful to the citizens in this old colonial neighborhood.
In the United States, our Post Office is maligned with carriers driving expensive Post Office vehicles, wearing special uniforms, driving to each box instead of walking, possessing good government benefits and retirements, hard to get hired unless you know someone with pull on the inside or you are a woman or minority.
In the Dominican Republic mail goes missing, and, from personal inspection, houses and businesses here don’t even have mail boxes to deposit letters and bills even if someone was delivering it properly.
Therefore, utility bills are delivered, door to door, by a tall friendly man wearing a white shirt with an electric company logo over his left shirt pocket. He stops this morning to visit his customers as he delivers their bills personally, and, if no one is home, stuffs his electric company bill into their locked security doors, rolled up like a small handbill.
For those of us who like to mail ourselves a letter to tell ourselves how great we are, the Dominican Republic is not a good choice.
The best thing is you don’t read about Dominican Republic postal workers shooting up their former workplace with automatic weapons.
Working for the Post Office is a job many would ” die for. ”
The main water supply line from the street to the house is accessible from the sidewalk. You lift a little metal door in the sidewalk and quickly find a leaking coupling that joins the city part of the water line with the homeowners part of the water line.
This plumber has removed the old connection, a rigid piece of PVC, and is replacing it with a flexible, expandable, temporary PVC coupling. One end of the flexible coupling slips over the pipe from the sidewalk to the main city water line and the other end of the flexible coupling slips over the pipe from the inside the house to the street.
This plumber has an audience with the lady of the house watching him through her wrought iron front door, and a neighbor and me making sure he knows what he is doing.
Water continues to bubble out of the break as he works.
When he closes the little door, the leak fixed, he might be the only one in this entire city to solve a problem today.
What I’m wondering is when is someone taking out the flexible coupling and installing the meter that measures the water usage of this household?
Water, last time I looked at my bills, wasn’t free.
I’m guessing, as I leave, that, before long, a long bill will be sent and paid.
In the end, we always have to pay, and, leaks that aren’t fixed ,cost us dearly.