Monday, June 30, 2008

Not Another Sewing Slip-Up

Quite a few years back, my Siamese cat, Keeker, came in from our yard in Las Cruces with something sticking out from between her teeth. I thought immediately of the time, years before, when I had been doing some hand sewing and had set the needle and thread down to go and answer the phone. When I came back she was making her strange Siamese caterwauling sound and there was a bit of thread hanging out of her mouth. When I investigated a little closer there was something shiny in her teeth--my needle! I got it out somehow and learned my lesson about leaving needles around.

Back to the situation in Las Cruces. I thought at first--oh, no, not another sewing slipup!--but when I leaned down to check, she gave one more yowl and out popped a little snakelet. Somehow, in spite of the energy expended in jumping up and down and shouting various things, I managed to get the broom, sweep the snake out the door and into my garden. I have to admit, I never weeded that section much after that, figuring that the little guy had lots more family somewhere out there.

Here she is, survivor of snake adventures and sewing catastrophes: Keekerekka Z., 1985-2004. She is modeling a raccoon collar in this photo, don't ask me why.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Innocent Misunderstandings

When my son was four years old, we were eating supper with friends. As he served himself some of the rice that I had cooked, he sighed, and said, "This is why my parents had to get divorced, because of rice like this." There was a big silence, then we laughed until we howled. From that day on, slightly sticky rice served at our house has always been called Divorce Rice.

When I returned home from the hospital after a three day stay for knee surgery, my littlest dog Weetzie came to sit in my lap. Weets, a rescue from the Clovis Animal (kill) Shelter, gently put her tiny paw on my arm and looked up into my eyes. I swear to you that this is what she said, in an incredulous tone: "They...brought you back? I thought that because you limped they had taken you away to the animal shelter."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Mr. Zee" Hits the Big Time

A few posts back I shared with you the story, Mr. Zee Goes Up, which is a newer (and way more alcoholic) version of one of the stories I used tell aloud to the kids in my school library. Those little New Hampshire children just couldn't hear enough about the Southwest, because life in New Mexico is so very different from anything we were experiencing in New England. They wanted to hear and marvel over tales of the hot desert and the snakes and the tarantulas and the little mud houses. Sometimes I would pull out the read aloud book of the day and they would talk me into setting it aside and telling them more stories about the Organ Mountains, the huge skies, the City of Rocks, and our [slightly doctored-up] adventures in New Mexico.

I am pleased to tell you that Mr. Zee Goes Up will be published on The Elder Storytelling Place, a website published by Ronni Bennett, who "was a producer for such television programs as 20/20 and The Barbara Walters Specials on the ABC network and for shows at Lifetime TV, NBC, CBS and PBS" and "who was managing editor at" (All quotes from the website Time Goes By ).

Watch for it on Tuesday, June 24. I'll be back after knee surgery.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What We're Reading at the Zee's House

The Two Obamas, by David Brooks

Be sure to read this op-ed piece in today's New York Times--don't just read the hand-picked quotes I'm going to give you. It's not the most flattering picture of Barack Obama, but you've got to love this stuff. Brooks tells us that lest the Republicans "think they’re running against some naïve university-town dreamer" they should realize that he is "the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier...on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol...the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he’s too intelligent..."

My favorite part is the last paragraph: "All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naïve. But naïve is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You Are as Good as 2+4=6

Back when he was 7, my son wrote this poem called 3 on a Nee which I will not translate for you, especially since some of the words still continue to puzzle me after several decades (shech? What is shech?). Just know that he was a child who loved numbers and when he said that "you are as good as 2+4=6," you knew that you had been complimented.

I just can't help myself. I've got nees on my mind. Some surgeon that I hardly know plans to remove some parts of my body next Monday--parts that I've had for a very, very long time--and is going to replace them with some fancy titanium bits. I've loved my nees, sorry, my knees for all these years, even when they hurt me. After all, they taught me some important life lessons. People don't limp just because one leg is shorter than the other, as I had always assumed in my frivolous, unthinking way. Lots of people endure pain every single day of their lives. And doctors aren't magic, they can't always take the pain away.

Now this surgeon, the one I hardly know, is going to inflict more pain with the hope of making things better. We'll see.

WARNING: Do not look at the following photo unless you are a medical student or a devoted watcher of House or any other TV medical drama. Do not look if you are queasy.

I just had to share this photo of an acquaintance's knee after knee replacement surgery, because this is the sort of thing that is on my mind these days. That incision is longer than usual because of several prior knee fixes. I'm hoping that my incision will be much shorter. I'm considering offering my assistance to this surgeon, because I have surely watched more House episodes than he has, and am thus uniquely qualified to take my place in the operating room. On the other hand, he may have other plans for my role there.

Oops, too late. You saw it. Dr. House, intubate!! Intubate!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bonobo Handshake

Baby bonobo photograph used with permission from Vanessa Woods
There are thought to be fewer than 15,000 bonobos left in the wild. Vanessa Woods studies them in the Democratic Republic of Congo and writes about her life and research there on her blog, The Bonobo Handshake. You can sign up to be notified by email each time she writes something new on the blog. Just go to Bloglines and subscribe for free and then follow the simple directions to subscribe to Vanessa's blog and any others you might want to read on a regular basis.

Bonobos live only in this one part of the world, a place torn by civil war. Very little is known about them, making current research even more vital. As Vanessa says on her website, she is part of the Hominoid Psychology Research Group which compares the psychology of humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos. The aim of the research group is to find the differences between us and our closest living relatives, which will hopefully give us the key to what makes us human.

Chimpanzees live in violent male dominated societies. Sexual coercion and infanticide are common, as is war. Bonobos however, are peaceful and female dominated. There is no infanticide, sex is used to resolve all kinds of conflict, and bonobos do not have war.
The question is, how much of us is chimpanzee, how much is bonobo, and how much belongs just to us, as humans?

You can adopt a bonobo or donate to bonobo research at

Barack Obama's Father's Day Speech

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy National Library Week last April (or next)

Before viewing this video, you should know two things about me. I'm a retired librarian who has worked in all kinds of libraries, from a coastal California bookmobile to a tiny New England town library; from a huge Canadian university research library to elementary school libraries to a biggish eastern city public library. The second thing you should know is that in all those years I never, ever remembered to celebrate National Library Week on time.

The third thing (beside the fact that I can't count) is that I've always treasured an old Herb Caen column in the San Francisco Chronicle that he wrote about libraries. It was probably during an actual long-ago National Library Week that he told us about the book that had been returned to the San Francisco Public Library with a piece of bacon in it that had apparently been used as a bookmark. I don't know if it was a need to protect books or a love of bacon, but from that moment on I knew where I wanted to work.

There. Now you can watch this video.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"This is how it starts"

There's a big rumpus going on in North Carolina about people painting their houses "wild" colors that make their neighbors uncomfortable and fearful for their property values. You can see the video at

Those folks should come on down to New Mexico where the colors both inside and out will knock their socks off. My dining room here is a nice orange--the same color it was when we bought it. I would never have thought to have painted a room that color but I love living with it. Visitors from the conservative East love it too! Outside, my house is brick--not a lot I can do there. I have to push the button that makes my garage door go up so I can figure out which house is mine, and that makes my "wild" interior colors even more important to me.

That lady in the North Carolina video who said "this is how it starts...and it's going to get out of control" (about someone painting their house anything but beige), was really, really scary. It's a little enough thing, allowing your neighbors freedom to make their house look individually theirs. Perhaps she felt enabled by the current government administration that has chosen to ignore the rights of others and, indeed, the Constitution of our country in so many ways. Perhaps she felt that she could pressure her neighbors into following her own beliefs.

We've just lived through a big controversy here in this little eastern New Mexican town where one group of people was trying to impose their beliefs on another group of people and a lot of feelings were hurt in the process. There were a lot of names being called, Bibles being quoted, and generalizations being made. Many young people, appalled by the foolishness, said they couldn't wait to see this town in their rear view mirror and didn't plan to come back again. It was an unpleasant time for all and has fundamentally changed the way I feel about this town, which means that I am guilty of generalizing, too.

I really don't like it when people want other people to be just like them. I don't think that's who we are.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Things I Love About Las Cruces

I'm feeling a little nostalgic about New Mexico's second largest city. Here are some of the things I love about Las Cruces:

...hearing Spanglish spoken

...going to basketball games at NMSU

...seeing that wonderful church with the blue neon crosses

...looking up at the Organ Mountains, even if they do look like the painted backdrop for an old cowboy movie

...the smell of chiles roasting in the fall

...the smell of mesquite and piñon fireplace fires in the winter

...the plaza in Mesilla when it's decorated for Christmas

...the celebration of los Dias de los Muertos summer evenings just after the sun goes down

...sitting out on the patio of a restaurant, drinking cervezas, looking across the river and up at the mountains and listening to the birds

...the smell of rain in the desert! I'm not even a shopper but I do like to shop in Las Cruces

...the funky places along Picacho (they'd still better be there). We bought a crazy chicken cabinet from Mexico there that we've dragged all over with us ever since

...more shopping! All the little shops down in Mesilla, and especially that wonderful book store with all the little nooks and crannies

...that great vegetable and fruit store [somewhere in the middle of town] where we used to fill up several bags for only $10--all kinds of produce, including a bunch of stuff we didn't recognize

...sitting on that dirt road at the base of the Organs and watching the sunset. Then dragging our eyes away from the incredible sky to find we were surrounded by curious cattle

....driving up to "A" Mountain at night to look at the stars

...going to that strange butcher with the sharp teeth to buy the most incredible meat we've ever had, before or since

...eating at Peppers Cafe in Mesilla, sitting by the fountain and gazing at the bougainvillea growing up against the skylight

...appreciating the choices represented by the different residential areas--from brand-new subdivisions to the tree-lined streets of Mesilla Park to the lovely older adobes down in the Alameda

...doing business at a well-organized, friendly, and efficient Motor Vehicles department (sorry, Clovis) in an open-minded environment where people are accepted even though they might be different (sorry again, Clovis!!!)

...driving through empty streets before the sun has come up over the top of the Organ Mountains, hearing the sprinklers going, and smelling the incredible morning air blooming in February (sorry, New Hampshire)

...thinking about moving back there again someday

Friday, June 13, 2008

Clovis Murals

Towns in the southwest seem to have a lot of murals. Las Cruces has them on water towers, I took some photos of some in Fort Sumner, and there are many over in Muleshoe, Texas that I need to get photographed. Here are some of the murals around Clovis.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Moving Cross Country

The dogs curled up and slept most of the time, when they weren't smiling

I've been corresponding with some online friends about their upcoming moves to New Mexico--one from Washington State, and one who is coming all the way from Maine, as did my sister a few months ago.

I just can't help it, I get nostalgic for the road trip. Perhaps if I look at a few photos from our trip from New Hampshire to New Mexico, almost a year ago now, I can get over that desire to pack up and drive a long way. These photos will illustrate that, no matter how well you plan and pack, the chaos factor sets in sooner or later. We moved two dogs and three cats, several fragile plants (you can see their crushed remains peeking out from under the shifted load), and underwear. I know I packed underwear, but somehow it ended up in the bottom layer and was unreachable for the duration of the journey.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another Sweater Charted in Excel

Here is a slight variation to the design for the red sweater I knitted, also charted in Excel.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Return of Little Horse

Skippy Kee, aka Minky, Mink, Keeker, Skip, Scampy, Skimpy, Mrs. Manyfingers, Stimpy, Stompy, Little Horse, and Kee, has just returned after being missing for 12 days. I could give you the story as I know it, but you can read a far better version on Beez's blog.
Update on Skippy: She even made the newspaper!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Beehive Ovens

The house on High Street

Our house back in New Hampshire was a center-chimney Colonial that had been built in 1770. We were charmed by its fireplaces. There were four, all built around that huge center chimney which gradually widened so that the base down in the cellar, built with a big brick arch, was at least twelve feet square. Each of the fireplaces had metal cranes, hinged at the side of the firebox so that they could be swung out over the hearth. You could hang your iron pot, if you had one, on the crane and swing it back over the fire.

The biggest fireplace of the four was in the old original kitchen, the room to the right of the front door in the photo above. Next to the fireplace opening was a small wooden door, covering what we supposed was a box for holding firewood. We struggled to pull that door open but just couldn't budge it. Several weeks after we had moved in, we heard a great crashing downstairs in the middle of the night. Because so many other "interesting" things had already happened to us since moving in, we chose to pull the sheets over our heads and wait until morning to investigate.

The next morning we cautiously came down the narrow curving "captain's staircase" that was built around the chimney. We were amazed to find that the little door, jammed fast the last time we had seen it, was now all the way across the room and up against the opposite wall. It was just as though the house was inviting us to look at what the door had been concealing.

What we saw were two openings, one above the other, built into the brickwork next to the fireplace and running back along the depth of the great chimney. The top opening was a much-coveted beehive oven and the bottom one revealed a storage space with all the old iron pots to hang on our empty cranes! We were thrilled to find that we owned a further bit of history. Research at the local library (in those pre-Internet days) showed that the Colonial housewife would build a small fire in the oven, close it up with a hinged iron door until the whole thing was thoroughly heated, rake out the coals and brush out the ashes with a long turkey feather, then do her baking. A good oven could hold as many as 17 pies, and could certainly bake up a quantity of bread and baked beans.

We searched around the property for years for the missing iron door to cover the oven but we never found it, although the hinges were there.

When we moved to New Mexico I was fascinated to see that many yards in the older parts of Las Cruces had beehive-shaped outdoor ovens, or hornos, made of adobe. According to this National Park Service website for Petroglyph National Monument near Albuquerque, NM, the Spanish explorers brought wheat to the Pueblo Indians, who had previously made their bread from corn meal dough flattened and cooked on hot flat rocks. The Spaniards taught them how to build hornos, which can be built of sandstone, lava rocks, or adobe bricks.

The photo below is one I took of an horno at the Pecos National Historical Park in Pecos, New Mexico.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Some Moving Advice; A Cautionary Tale

[Someone on the City-Data New Mexico Forum asked for advice about moving with "the longest available" U-Haul truck with a car-carrier pulled behind].

(Hum the theme song from Indiana Jones here).

I have just one little piece of advice--whatever you do, don't get yourself into a situation with that rig where you have to back up. U-Haul mentions that you shouldn't do this somewhere in the small print and probably everyone (else) in the world was born knowing it. However, we got stuck behind a motel in a parking lot that dead-ended instead of going all the way around and were forced to do a little backing. That was the end of the hitch that was holding on the car carrier. It broke clean off.

U-Haul came the next day and took away the car carrier and I ended up having to drive the car over the George Washington Bridge (New York City) during what surely seemed like rush hour to me.

Now, remember that part in one of the old Indiana Jones movies where Marion gets grabbed by some fez-wearing guys with mustaches in a bazaar and they carry her off in a big covered basket? Indie gives chase and turns a corner to find the bazaar filled with tons of fez-wearing guys with mustaches carrying big covered baskets that look exactly like the one Marion is in... (stay with me here, I'll get back to the U-Haul situation, I promise).

So I'm driving the loaded Subaru and following my husband who is driving the now car-carrierless U-Haul and we don't have cell phones and I'm not sure where we're going and I hate to drive and I hate traffic and there's lots of it and I'm talking to myself and singing through gritted teeth just to get through it all and he gets ahead of me and goes around a curve... and as I make it around the curve, trying to spot him, the whole highway is suddenly filled with U-Hauls that look exactly like the one he is driving.

Long story short, I never saw him again. And dang, he had the cats with him, too.


P.S. Of course, I saw him again, but I thought that other ending sounded better.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mr. Zee Goes Up

Like a painted backdrop

We were new to New Mexico, living in the beautiful city of Las Cruces right under the Organ Mountains--those mountains that always seem like a fake painted backdrop for a cowboy movie.

Wanting to get a little closer to the land, we drove in our little Subaru over to City of Rocks State Park near Deming for a bit of back-to-nature camping. In those pre-arthritic days we did real camping, the kind you do on the ground in a tent. On the ground. In a tent.

The first thing we learned about City of Rocks was that it was, well, rocky. We tried every which way to drive our tent pegs into that ground, but all we did was bend them. Eventually we recalled the First Rule of Camping:

Rule #1: Sit down and have a nice iced tea. A well-hydrated camper is a happy camper.

We were sitting there, perched on some flat rocks while sipping tea and marveling at the views when the Park Ranger stopped by to give us our camper registration. We got our paperwork in order and he stayed on a bit. Gosh, he was a friendly fellow and was happy to give us a few tips about hiking around the City of Rocks.

“Watch your step,” he said, “and always know where you are placing your feet.” We nodded, sagely.

“Never put your hand down where you can’t see it.” Okay, we were happy to agree with that.

“And never, never step over a log or a rock without checking the other side first…” We tilted our heads quizzically, not wanting to give away our total ignorance with any comment, but we leaned forward waiting for the rest of the sentence.” …because that’s where the rattlers like to lie, right there in the shade!” he finished up triumphantly.

We stood up kind of abruptly from those flat rocks that were casting a bit of shade and reached out to shake his hand, carefully watching to be sure that our hands were in plain sight the whole time. He waved us a good-bye, stepped off in a lively way to his truck, and drove away to enlighten some more campers. In the meantime, we were mentally making a revision to our first rule of camping.

Rule #1: Have a beer, right away. Have two. You can do this standing up with your feet right where you can watch them.

In one of those golden moments of marriage where no words need be spoken, we set about picking up and stowing our tent pegs back in their little bag. No need to pitch that tent on such hard ground and no need to talk about it, either. The Subaru’s seats folded down and we could quite happily sleep in there, while keeping mental tabs on all of our extremities.

Better than a tent

But the sun was setting, and the day was cooling off. It was a perfect time for taking a nice walk along some of the ancient Mimbres Indian pathways that wound through the incredible rock formations. So, we set off for some exploration.

It was just as we were strolling down a little incline when it happened. I sensed an abrupt movement at my side, and there was something strange and unexpected about it. I later found out that Mr. Zee had seen a little slither out of the corner of his eye, and having those snakes quite clearly on his mind, had taken immediate evasive action. What I saw as I turned toward him was a sight that has stayed in my mind for all these many years: Mr. Zee went up. He went up in a fashion that would have done Michael Jordan proud. He went up and up, and up some more, and he kind of stayed there for a while. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. I just waited, gazing up into the sky at him, with my hands and feet right there in plain sight.

It took a while, but when he came down again he was looking kind of lightheaded from his recent venture into higher altitude. We searched around a bit and discovered our little slitherer, a tiny red snake who was as anxious to clear the area as we were.

Later that night, lying cozily on our reclining seats and watching the stars through the moon roof, we revised that camping rule one last time. We had just realized that all that beer consumption meant a night time trip to the loo, in the dark, without being able to keep a careful watch on our hands and feet. Thus:

Rule #1: Henceforth, Jack Daniels will be the refreshment of choice when camping. A little goes a long way, and it can be consumed without ever stepping out onto the ground at all.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Road Trip: Bisbee, Arizona, Part 2

After the mining industry left town, Bisbee became an artists' colony. Houses were cheap, the scenery was beautiful, ditto the weather. Eventually, the baby boomers came and added gourmet restaurants and updated the little houses, driving property prices up. There are bed and breakfasts to stay in, restaurants ranging from funky to elegant, and lots and lots of art.

For instance, in the little park near the elegant 1902 Copper Queen Hotel, the rest room doors look like this:

You will see "art cars" parked around town:

And you mustn't miss the copper-clad 1930's Iron Man statue up in Tombstone Canyon, with his hammer and spike. It's tricky to get him from the right angle, as you will see.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Road Trip: Bisbee, Arizona

If you are looking for funk, go to Bisbee. If you want to find a nice little town full of old-time hippies and other individualists, all nestled in some beautiful hills in the southeastern part of Arizona, take the trip and bring your walking shoes. If you are offended by public nudity (on roller skates!), rampant tattoos and body piercings, and other sights that might make you stop in your tracks, perhaps you should just go ahead and book your trip to Branson instead.

Bisbee is perched on fold after fold of hilly terrain. The little miner's houses there were going for a song at one time a couple of decades ago when the mining industry left, and that is how the old hippies ended up there. They couldn't have been too old, or too arthritic, because getting to those houses involves many, many stairs going up and down the hillsides.

See that healthy woman way at the bottom of all those flights of stairs? She is young, she is spry, she has powerful lungs, and she is strong because she lives in Bisbee. She is probably on her way to her job in an art gallery because naturally art is very big in this colony of artists. Come back tomorrow and we'll look at a few examples of public art in Bisbee, and you will experience what will hopefully be your first and last example of questionable taste on The Zees Go West.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Brands in New Mexico

After you've spent a bit of time in New Mexico, you start to realize that you've seen an awful lot of cattle spread out across the land. You might just be looking at a few at a time, but after driving through thousands of acres, you just know that they have to add up.

The book Enduring Cowboys; Life in the New Mexico Saddle (edited by Arnold Vigil and published by New Mexico Magazine in 1999) tells us that as of 1997 there were still 26,000 brands registered in New Mexico. It also states that a 1997 New Mexico State University statistic indicates that there were 1,430,000 cattle out at pasture that year. That’s a lot of cattle wearing a lot of brands and, by inference, a lot of cowboys needed to do all those things that cowboys do.

Everything I know about cattle branding comes from a vague memory of a photograph of my father bending over a trussed up calf with a hot branding iron in his hand during a family trip to Arizona. I'm sure that his thoughts were nearly as wild as those of the calf, neither of them having asked to find themselves in that position and at that place and time.

I thought I'd do a little research into branding--a subject that never came up during my coursework in library and information studies back at the University of Rhode Island. Here is what I found.

The following information comes from the Cowboy Showcase website (“Trust your neighbors, but brand your stock”):

Branding of animals (and slaves) dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Modern brands come in two types, hot iron and freeze brands (the latter often used for horses). Tattoos and microchips can also be used as means of identification, but the brand is, of course, most easily visible.

Information from the New Mexico Livestock Board (“Your brand is your livestock’s return address”):

A brand costs $75 to register and is good for three years. The registration certificate gives the owner the right to use the recorded brand on an animal at a given location (left hip, right hip, left rib, etc.). Ownership of a brand is a property right and may be sold or transferred, although the fee for transferring the brand is also $75.

If the owner of livestock wishes to move his animals from one district to another, he must notify the Livestock Board and arrange for inspection of the animals, at fifty cents a head for cattle and bison.

Here is how you should read brands, according to the Cowboy Showcase website:

"Brands have a language all their own. That language, like any other, follows certain rules. The ability to read these symbols is referred to as "callin' the brand."Brands are composed of capital letters of the alphabet, numerals, pictures, and characters such as slash /, circle O, half-circle , cross +, _bar, etc., with many combinations and adaptations. Letters can be used singly, joined, or in combinations. They can be upright, lying down or "lazy," connected or combined, reversed, or hanging . Figures or numbers are used in the same way as the letters. Picture brands are usually used alone, for example a ladder or a rising sun.
There are three accepted rules for reading brands.
1. Read from the left to the right as ML (M L).
2. Read from the top to the bottom as (bar m).
3. When the brand is enclosed, it is read from the outside to the inside as (circle S)."

You should really visit that Cowboy Showcase to see all the examples of brands for yourself. After all, you wouldn't want anyone to hear that you were getting your branding information from a Yankee librarian lady, would you?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Viva Obama!

Road Trip: Cerrillos

Cerrillos is located along the Turquoise Trail between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Gold, lead, turquoise, silver, and zinc have been mined in this area and it is said that some of the turquoise from Cerrillos made its way into the Spanish crown jewels.

As we neared the town we passed by the ruins of an old miner's shack.

I had to stop to get a picture of the gate for Kickin' Ass Ranch. Too bad I didn't get in a little closer. We walked along the old main street of the town. The church was especially beautiful, with its walls, nichos, sculptures, and its birdhouses.

These hollyhocks were easily eight feet tall. Some of the old buildings had been made into shops; others were undergoing repairs and reconstruction.

We saw an old miner who had stopped in at Mary's Bar for a cool drink in the shade. Parked out front was his vehicle, an old converted pickup truck drawn by six or eight little burros, with a spare burro tied at the back. I would give anything if I had taken his picture, but I was too shy to intrude. Ah, well, I have the memory of the scene.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Road Trip: The Valley of Fires

Looking across the valley

In the big landscape that is New Mexico your eyes constantly sweep the horizon, looking for what is next. Miles before you get to White Sands, for example, you will see a stretch of blinding white way off in the distance. As you drive west of Carrizozo on Route 380, on the other hand, you will see what seems to be a huge black shadow cast by a cloud. As you get nearer you will see that it is the ground itself, far blacker than the surrounding valley land. You have arrived at the Valley of Fires, which is one of the youngest and most pristine lava flows in the U.S.

Between 1500 and 2000 years ago, the vents of Little Black Peak started pouring out lava, which oozed across the land until it cooled and solidified. It is thought that the lava flows lasted over a period of thirty years. Two and a half miles across at its widest point, 125 square miles in all, the flow is an amazing 165 feet deep at its thickest point. The area, also known as the Carrizozo Malpais, is alive with vegetation and wildlife, and there is a walking trail and camping area.

You can see a video of a walking tour of the area at

For some great aerial photographs of the area, see

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Pharm Poultry

The other day Erikka mentioned her memories of our Drug Ducky in a comment on the post, Life in a Small New Hampshire Town, Remembered with Fondness . I thought I’d best clarify our connections with pharmacological fowl before anyone gets the wrong idea about the Zees.

Back when my mother was my current age and I was much younger and smarter, I expressed my concern to her about the number of pills she took every day. She more or less told me to mind my own business because without those pills she wouldn’t be alive and kicking, and then she shot out the door for another golf game.

As time went by, my doctor prescribed some pills for me, and Beez got a little prescription of his own. We kept them on the table in a little duck basket that became known as Drug Ducky. DD would “fly” over the table at suppertime, dispensing pills to each of us. The children (and their friends, including Erikka) were mildly amused at first, then patiently tolerant of our little ducky games.

Sadly enough, we slowly accumulated more prescriptions and outgrew the duck, so to speak, graduating to a much larger birdy basket called Goose Turk. The goose bore up well over the years under her ever-increasing burdens.

Fast forward to now, when both Beez and I have fallen victim to genetically pre-ordained cases of arthritis, in addition to our various other old people diagnoses. We are glad to take our pills and if my mother were still around I would certainly apologize for criticizing her drug regime. Having once again outgrown our fowl pill dispenser, we've devoted an entire cupboard shelf to our pill containers. The goose is retired and now we have opted for those grampy-style Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday dispensers, which have the added advantage of assisting with sometimes lapsing memories. (Did I take my morning pills? Did I remember to dust Drug Ducky?)

So, there you have it, the true story of the Drug Ducky connection in the Zee Family. My thanks to Beez for the title of this post and for all the other naming that goes on in our family.