River Curves

The big westward curve of the river - the top of the Valley. That's where the big floods used to start. The Camino Arroyo, named for the road up to the mountain, swept into the valley up there from time to time, depositing muddy water and trees and boulders too sometimes. They "tamed it," along with all the other arroyos and the Rio itself. A87F3A5C-6858-41C8-9714-8B79C0FFE1DD

Some of the cottonwoods have a curve like the river. 

Up there's also where Edward Abbey began the tale of The Brave Cowboy, later made into the movie Lonely Are the Brave.  When Kirk Douglas rides his Palamino mare Whiskey into town, he crosses both the Rio and Second Street. The Big Chief Truck Stop is in the background along with decent sized clusters of cottonwoods. 

These twisted trees were probably stomped on as seedlings. This place was a park. And a dump. We thought it all belonged to us as kids. It magically morphed into private hands after construction of the drainage canals and ditches and began sprouting houses after that. 

In at least one 60s neighborhood, free-range children roamed widely and climbed the biggest trees. They urged each other on, nailing up short pieces of scrap lumber as footholds for the scariest straight parts. High trees seemed to go on forever like our high hopes. In some places you can still see steps in the tall trees. 



Raswan in New Mexico

Carl Raswan renamed himself for a stallion he didn’t even own. That animal's character so entranced him that when the horse died unexpectedly he made the name change official. Or maybe he didn’t like his given name, Schmidt. Anyway, it says a lot about a horse to do this. It says a lot about a person too.

Raswan, the man, devoted his life to Arabian horses. He searched for the “horse of perfection” among the Bedouin people, traveling on horseback with them before the first World War. He developed worldwide lifelong friendships with fellow devotees of the breed and wrote multiple books, including the authoritative “Raswan Index” of Arabian horse pedigree information.

He emigrated to the US in 1921 and imported Arabian horses for WK Kellogg, advising him on the purchase of purebreds from the Crabbet Stud in Sussex. Among these, was the horse, Raswan, who owner Lady Wentworth, gifted to (then) Carl Schmidt. When the horse died accidentally, Carl was said to have exclaimed, "No! He will live!” Then he changed his name.

Raswan moved to New Mexico with his third wife, Gertrude Pearl, in about 1939. They established a 93 acre horse ranch near the village of San Antonito in the East Mountain area, east of Albuquerque.  Around ten years later, he moved to Mexico with a fourth wife and the ranch was sold. Today, a road access in the now subdivided ranch site is still marked as “Pearl Lane.” 

Photo: "Raswan on Sartez," from the dust jacket on the 1961 edition of Raswan's Drinkers of the Wind, first published in 1942. This may or may not have been taken on the track at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds, but those sure look like the Sandia Mountains in the background. ) 


Wislizenus Cottonwood

What a character Wislizenus must have been - explorer, physician, and botanist. He’s the cottonwood's namesake. A02235E4-7FEF-4B83-B404-3C98A887CA52

Frederich Adolphus Wislizenus (1810-1889) was a German emigrant involved in several political causes, uprisings, and adventures. Among these were his expeditions to the American West. 

He studied medicine at four universities in Europe before arriving in New York in 1834. Then he moved to St. Louis to practice medicine a few years later.

He joined a fur trading expedition in 1839 and on that trip crossed the Rocky Mountains. On his return he joined a band of Flathead and Nez Perce. He wrote an account published in German in 1840.

Back in St. Louis he partnered with fellow physician and botanist George Engelmann who encouraged him to continue exploring and collecting. With his support Wislezenus began another trip in 1846 -  a merchant expedition to Santa Fe and Chihuahua.

On this adventure he was detained for six months after the war with Mexico began. He spent the time in the Sierra Madres observing, and collecting plants. His next report, Memoir of a Tour to Northern Mexico (1848) was about that trip but I haven't got a copy.

I imagine that's when he first met our tree. The populus deltoides wislizenii.


Liminal Forest

The electric utility guy came to visit today. Hard hat man in a bright jacket. He eyed the fat cottonwood that's precariously close to a transformer.

That wasn’t her choice. The tree and forest were there before the land was divided up. And that’s only one in a series of abuses, and relatively minor. The whole Bosque was cut for firewood - multiple times. Now people treasure the cottonwood around here, right? Right?
So many places are named for it including Spanish: El Alamo, Alamogordo, Alameda....

C8E878A8-F5C2-476A-B5D0-EA0187E3F87CI suppose it once must have seemed there were too many to count. Trees didn’t matter. The street, utility lines and houses were worth more than the forest. Profit-wise.  Sort of a way of honoring the dead.  Naming things for them.

Some big monster trees remain on the ditch banks and edges of fields - places the chainsaws haven't reached for whatever reason. Or they are prized yardfeatures whose soft wood must be monitored and radically trimmed lest heavy branches crash onto cars and rooftops.

The big mother tree survives on the liminal edge between this subdivision and that. She attracts attention only from admirers, with the possible exception of the electric utility guy. She is guarded by neighbors who watch, including noisy crows.

The kind of tree that makes you want to be a better human.


Ancient Pet Turkeys


My idea of what ancient pueblo villages looked like did not include so many birds.

The excellent lecture series by Archaeology Southwest on Avian Archaeology is ongoing and past talks are up on their YouTube channel. The next on Turkey feather blankets will include blanket maker Mary Weahkee who replicates them using ancient techniques. The research Cyler Conrad presented is here. Upcoming topics include birds of Chaco Canyon, turkey burials, depiction on pottery and macaw and parrot keeping.

(Image from Archaeology Southwest)

The widespread evidence of domestic turkey management by ancient people indicates that they were managed in different ways and kept for different purposes. They were tethered, penned, housed in converted room blocks, and allowed to free range. Every part of them was used - eggs, feathers, bones. Maybe they provided pest control.  Maybe they provided companionship.

Judging affection for animals from the archaeological record is impossible, right?  But it's clear turkeys were valued very highly and there seems to be little evidence that they were raised as a primary food source. They were more valuable, for whatever reasons, alive.

There's a broken wing splint artifact in a display case at the Coronado Historic Site. I saw it years ago and think about it frequently. It's not the only example that's been found. The turkey's wing was broken, reset and healed. You don't do that to just any old bird you want to eat and make flutes out of.    



Log March 25


Cried at the blue-green beauty of the weather map and the forecast description:

Tonight will be calm and quiet for much of the state. ...

Wore huge-heel new shiny Doc Marten boots to walk the dog along the ditch road very slowly, like Frankenstein’s monster. The dog and I are both very gray-haired now. Thinking of formal-wear tomorrow.

Watched a video of a guy carefully cleaning groceries he’d brought home, wiping each can and soaking oranges. I didn’t do any of that. 

Stared at everything in the pantry and fridge dubiously. Appetite’s gone. Beer cans are easy to clean.