The Worries of a Country Kid

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As you read this, I’ll be winging my way over California and Arizona and on my way to New Mexico.

Look up and wave hi if you see me coming by.

I’m headed back to Southern New Mexico for a purpose.

As I’ve told you, I take my job as co-madre very, very seriously. I love the two daughters of my best friend with such intensity that sometimes I forget I didn’t carry them inside my own body.

They matter that much.

My baby girls, now 8 and 11, are part of their local 4-H and this year they took on the project of raising pigs. They worked very hard at this, including helping their dad clear an empty space in their yard and building the pig barn.

Every day they feed and medicate and care for those little oinkers. They text me photos. They tell me how cute they are. Those girls are in love with their little piggies.

This weekend is the final part of the process: an auction at the Southern New Mexico State Fair.

I never raised show animals myself, but most of my friends did. I know from experience that the auction can be really difficult.

Really difficult.

Especially the first time through.

As my friend said, “get ready for big crying.”

And I am. I think.

The Good Man and I will join forces with my best friend and her husband and we’ll hug those kids as hard as we can and try to make it better.

Because in the end, I’ll probably be the one crying the hardest. It hurts when my little ones hurt.

This is the dilemma of a country kid. It’s part of their 4-H training, learning to raise and care for animals, but knowing that these animals are also part of the food chain.

Most people don’t look at a bag of groceries and understand where, exactly the food came from. People think beef just comes in patties like that. Eggs are created in foam containers. Milk is mixed up back in the stockroom.

My girls know better. My girls are savvy and strong. They know the land and how to create sustenance from it. They join the long line of proud agricultural New Mexicans.

And so they’ll cry a little and grow up a little and learn a lot.

Or, hell, they might both grow up to be vegetarians after this experience. Who knows?

Wish me luck! I’m going in!





Photo by Gareth Weeks and used royalty free from stock.xchng.


A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

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“But I have to tell you, when we were driving home, we were on some highway in Utah? That highway goes on forever! We were getting scared. The towns are like fifty miles apart!”

— my coworker talking about her family’s summer vacation to Bryce and Zion canyons in Utah.

So she said that and I laughed. A lot. Loudly.

She looked very offended. “It’s not funny, we were totally freaked out!”

Ah. That’s so cute. City kids. How utterly charming. I should know, I married one.

Speaking of the one I married, when we made the drive from Las Cruces to Albuquerque in the month of October a few years back, he was very adamant that we had to pack in quite a bit of water before we drove. Now, he’s not wrong. It’s just good thinking.

He also wanted blankets, flashlights and a first aid kit. We were venturing out into the desert and by god like the Boy Scout he used to be, we were going in prepared.

Again, nothing wrong with that. All very fair.

Except I used to drive that same 200 miles in the dead heat of August in a rickety old Mercury Bobcat with too many miles, not enough metal and every single little possession that I could cram inside. Well, everything except water, blankets and a flashlight.

I guess when you’re raised where towns are fifty miles (or a lot more) apart, these things don’t worry you.

Sure, one Thanksgiving I was driving back from Deming to Albuquerque and got caught in a really heavy snowstorm. So I got off the highway to a state road, put my Jeep in four wheel drive and drove slowly to the ranch home located at the bottom of Nogal Canyon. My friend’s folks live there and they took me in, gave me a hot meal and we played cards all night.

Once, south of El Paso, I got caught in a terrible rain and hail storm. So I pulled over to the side, listened to the radio and read a book.

Then there was the time I made the ride to Silver City in July and had to turn off the A/C and turn on the heater since my engine was starting to overheat as I climbed the hill in my very weak Dodge Shadow (now known as a Neon). I was a puddle of sweat by the time I got there, but it was nothing that a Route 44 from Sonic couldn’t cure.

Oddly enough, even on all the blisteringly hot days I hit the endless highways of New Mexico, I never broke down, never lost a tire, never had a reason to need a gallon of water and a blanket.

In February my best good friend drove me and my two godkids out to the Spaceport in Upham. We spent an hour or more on dirt roads with only cows to accompany us. I didn’t get worried. I didn’t get scared. What I did is feel calm. Really, really calm. Being where the eye can’t see another human (other than the people you chose to be with) is a very happy place for me.

So I apologized to my city friend. Then I advised she’s allowed to laugh at me when I slip off my nut over getting lost (again!) in San Francisco, and then I go the wrong way on that one section of California Ave while everyone honks and yells, and WHY IN THE $%^# can’t I make a left turn to get off Market Street!

It’s all about where you’re from, I guess.



The view from Upham. It’s a happy place.


Photo by Karen Fayeth, copyright 2010, and subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right hand column of this page.


Dyin’ or Revivin’?

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Last week I received an email by the good folks running the literary competitions at my local county fair. After notifying me that my story won a prize, they invited me to come out to the fair next weekend to read my story aloud on stage as part of their literary event.

Well I was just pleased as punch to say yes. What a wonderful opportunity.

This past Saturday, I had some time on my hands while I sat in a chair waiting for my hair to turn that color that only my hairdresser knows how to make.

I started thinking about this event next weekend and planning. I need to spend some time practicing reading my story aloud. Practice is everything in a public speaking situation.

I wondered if I’d be asked any questions about the story. I thought I should try to think up what I might be asked so I could be ready with good answers.

One of the first questions I thought of was, “what was your inspiration for this story?”

I had to spend some time thinking that through. It’s a story that’s been rambling around in my mind for a while, and I’ve taken several stabs and getting it out, to both greater and lesser success.

Mainly, I was inspired by the fact that upon reading the guidelines for the competition, I noted that there was a “Western” genre available to compete under. This is not something I often see, so that really got my creative juices rolling.

My absolute author-hero is Larry McMurtry. I adore his way with description and dialogue, and his western novels are a cut above.

I have a collection of short stories that McMurtry edited. It’s western stories written only by writers raised in the west.

When I saw that my county fair offered a Western category, I knew there was no doubt that I had to write a western story.

That said, what I wrote isn’t truly a classical western. Technically, the western genre implies a story set in the 1800’s, the so called “Old West.”

If you read any of the literally thousands of short stories that Louis L’Amour wrote, you’ll find within his formula a common theme. The great conflict in his stories is of man against nature which includes cattle grazing the land, the weather and water. In fact, water rights always seem to play a big role in L’Amour’s short stories.

I guess that the western genre has declined so much because these concepts seem hopelessly old fashioned.

But are they?

Until his untimely death last year, my dear friend who farmed cotton and chile on his family’s farm in La Mesa was fighting with the state of New Mexico over water rights. This problem was such a vital aspect of his life that it was mentioned in his eulogy.

Yesterday I watched a televised show where renowned French chef Eric Ripert spoke passionately about the “farm to table” movement, and visited a Virginia farm where the owner was doing something revolutionary.

He was not overgrazing his land.

He spends time calculating how many head of cattle his land can bear and then actively rotates pastures to be sure that his cattle never overgraze. His land flourishes, his cattle are healthy and he’s seen as an innovator.

This is not innovation. Louis L’Amour wrote stories about this very idea over 70 years ago. This concept is also something they taught me in my collegiate FFA organization**. It’s called “being a good steward of the land.”

And so, to bring this back to my point…

I wanted to write a western story because although I keep hearing that the western fiction genre is dying, I’m seeing that the topics driving most true western stories are still essential and vital to today’s world.

And so maybe Westerns aren’t dying. Maybe, much like the land, if tended to and nourished, the genre can continue to flourish with a modern sensibility.

Writing a western story set in modern times that won an award at my local county fair is so deeply satisfying to me. It’s my affirmation that the Western genre is alive and well inside at least one little girl who was born and raised in the west.

_______________________


Further proof: The Western genre gets back in the saddle





**”I believe in the future of farming…”


Walking On The Moon

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Last weekend, toward the end of my visit to New Mexico, my best friend and I decided we needed to go somewhere without much in the way of civilization.

A break from the every day is good for the soul.

This year my friend had drawn out a tag to hunt Oryx, and about a month ago, she and her husband went out to the empty land around Upham, New Mexico as Oryx are plentiful there.

While she didn’t manage to get an Oryx this year, while hiking around, she witnessed a vista so amazing that she wanted to share it with me.

So we loaded up and went bouncing down dirt roads, me riding in the passenger seat. My job was to open and close gates so that we could make our way past ranches without much in the way of fences to contain their hungry cattle.

Since the truck we rode in sounds a lot like a feed truck, they’d come a galloping along to greet us. It was kind of hard to let down all of our bovine friends as we only had a fried chicken picnic to eat, and that’s not really cow food.

The land we saw as we bumped along was empty, otherworldly and beautiful.

My New Mexico readers will also know a bit about Upham as that is where the New Mexico Spaceport is being built with taxpayers money.

By taking publicly accessible roads, we were able to get pretty gosh darn close to the construction site.

Here’s what it looks like (click photo for larger size):



The Spaceport website has quite a few construction photos as well. I was struck by the fantastically long tarmac, pure concrete rumored to be almost two miles long and three feet deep. How the heck they got that much water out there to create that much cement is absolutely beyond me.

The actual location of the Spaceport is quite a ways off the highway, almost an hour in the truck, and it’s a good thing my friend was familiar with the area. I would have been quite lost.

After ooh’ing and aah’ing along with cussing and discussing the merits (or lack of) of the spaceport, we headed up a long and somewhat winding trail to get to a certain spot my friend had in mind.

That’s when the ooh’ing and aah’ing really began.

This photo does no justice to the almost 180 degree sweeping view from Anthony to Truth or Consequences. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Other than the guy who lives in the small ranch at the top of the rise, and some Oryx hunters, I don’t imagine a lot of people have gotten the chance to see this amazing view.

It made me proud to be a New Mexican. This is who I am. This is where I come from.



(click for larger size)




All photographs by Karen Fayeth and subject to the creative commons license as seen in the far right column of this page.


So Thoroughly Nice

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Despite the date showing that today is Monday, we’re going to pretend it is Thursday so I can meet my weekly Theme Thursday post.

This week’s theme challenge is: Sand

Ah sand.

Beautiful beaches. Swimming in the surf. Sand in your shorts.

Really, sand is sort of a metaphor for life. So useful. So inviting. So “ow, damn!” all in one substance.

I wanted to do something different with this theme so I went to my favorite free stock photo site, had to go several pages down, and found the image that really grabbed my attention.

Now we’re talking sand!

If you are a horse person, then you know *exactly* what that horse it up too. Just back from a nice long ride and back at the barn, the saddle has come off, the saddle blanked peeled back. The moment that trusty steed is turned loose he will drop awkwardly to the ground.

All four hooves will then swing up in the air and a much happier horse starts wriggling around, scratching a sweaty back in the sand with SUCH a look of joy. Some horses will even groan a bit while they scratch.

Ya can’t help but laugh.

It’s a moment of joy so pure, it makes me wanna flop down in the sand and roll around just to see what all those sighs of contentment are about.

Photo by Sue Nagyova and provided royalty free from stock.xchng