Sunday, November 30, 2008


The photo above shows just a small part of a vast network of irrigation ditches that carry water to the county's farms and ranches. Most of the towns depend upon community wells to bring water to the residents. These wells are fed from age old aquafers deep underground. The irrigation ditches are primarily fed from that great river, the Rio Grande.

The Rio Grande starts high in the mountains of Colorado, fed from springs and small creeks. As it flows south it gathers volume from snowmelt, rainwater, and the input of numerous small creeks, springs and rivers. The Rio Grande splits the state of New Mexico in half, goes down to the Texas border then flow southeast, forming the border between the United States and the Republic of Mexico. (In Mexico the river is called Rio del Norte.) Texas has legitimate claims to part of the Rio Grande's water, and even Mexico has periodically laid similar claims. Water rights claims in the southwestern parts of the United States have been a constant source of friction between states and individual municipalities and persons for may years, because without the watere, places like Valencia County would dry up and blow away.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


This is my neighbor, a Gunnison's Prairie Dog, also called a gopher. He lives in a colony in a field just behind the church, two blocks from my house. Many (maybe a hundred or more) live with him (or is it 'her?') in the colony. They burrow holes that can be up to 100 feet in length, complete with side tunnels and escape tunnels. This prairie dog (Cynomys gunnison) is normally a vegetarian and lives from 3 to 5 years. Farmers hate them because they eat the vegetation and roots of farm crops and ranchers hate them because of the holes they dig, which can easily trap and break a horse or cow's leg. I like them because of their antics and natural intelligence. They also remind me of a pet ferret I used to have. Most of the prairie dogs have burrowed in for their winter hibernation. In Janary or February they will mate and in the spring each female will normally produce 3 to 5 pups. I look forward to seeing my neighbors, with their newborn, then. Do you have any favorite wild animals living near you?

Friday, November 28, 2008


This sad, desolate and decrepit building was built at about the same time as the Belen Hotel (see prior posts), in the early 1900's. Then, like the Belen Hotel, it fell into disuse and neglect. Unlike the Belen Hotel, no one has seen fit to rebuild it, to bring it up to date to meet today's safety codes. Perhaps it is a 'basket case,' I don't know. I do know that throughout America's midwest, there are many similar buildings deserted by their once proud owners. There are many reasons for this, the most frequent being many small communities (especially those with just one major source of industry/employment have had their economies collapse as major businesses consolidated or folded. Families, who have lived on farms for generations, have beenn forced into bankruptcy and moved into the big cities to find work. I have heard that some states, like Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, actually offer financial incentives (after a sufficient 'proving up' time) to those people -preferably with large families- who will move into these towns and operate some type of business. If you are looking for a job, this is one good way to start. All you need is ambition, some good business ideas, and hopefully some cash! Maybe thn you can find a similar tired old building and bring it to a new life.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The Valencia County News-Bulletin, published in Belen, is the area's twice-weekly newspaper, and is delivered to my home on Wednesdays and Saturdays. For coverage of world news there are the Albuquerque papers, plus CNN and BBC, but for local news coverage, the VC News-Bulletin is the last word. The editorial content is good and their coverage of local school sporting events is superb, with photography to match. They also publish an on-line version which can be accessed at One of the major advantages of a small town (or in this case, small county) papeer is there is a lot of input from the public. Their Letters To The Editor column is always full of lively debate.I highly recommend it. The above photo is their offices in Belen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I recall as a young man I saw actress Judy Garland dancing and singing her way across the silver screen in the movie "Meet Me In St.Louis." The complete plot escapes me but she portrayed a young girl working in a Harvey House restaurant, finding romance, and living happily forever after, Hollywood style. The Harvey House restaurants were America's first chain eateries, were generally located in or adjacent to railroad stations. The Harvey House shown above is in Belen. The sign above the arched window on the right says "Harvey House." It was built in 1910 at a cost of $25,000, and featured a reading room, a lunch counter, and an elaborate full service dining room, attended to by the "Harvey Girls" in their starched black and white uniforms. When not working, the girls lived in rooms abovethe restaurant and were very closely chaperoned. Miscreant girls were quickly and quietly removed.
The restaurant has long since been closed and is now a museum detailing the history of Harvey Houses and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (ATSF) Railroad.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


This is the municipal complex of the town of Bosque Farms. Today is a cold, dreary day, unusual for this area. If the truth be told, these buildings are not very attractive even on the best of days. But don't be fooled, Bosque Farms is really a nice place to live. Most of the homes are rather expensive and are attractively sat on one or more acres. There are a lot of trees and other greenery. Many of the residents own horses and the town boasts a nice rodeo arena. The main streets are paved and have horseback riding/jogging paths on the side. It is a pleasure to drive through the town on a warm sunny day and watch all the outdoor activiities taking place. When summer once again comes around I'll return and make some nice pictures to show you. Meantime,I am going to hide inside on days like today.

Monday, November 24, 2008


If I were a devout religious man, I think I would head for this church to escape the
blazing hot New Mexico summer sun. The thick adobe white-washed walls would protect me.
This, as proclaimed by the plaque on the base of the bell tower, is the "San Antonio Roman Catholic Church." It is located on Los Lentes Road in Los Lunas, and is well over 400 years old. The Spanish, under the leadership of Coronado, trooped up through this area in 1540 in search of Cibola, the fabled city of gold. This church was built in the decades immediately following the conquest. Coronado's expedition consisted of the military to pacify the indians and the priests to convert them. The sword and the cross. But that is all past history, as I fear the the church here will soon be. A man working nearby told me the church was only used
for special occasions now. I wonder how many weddings and baptisms were held there over the centuries?
Are there such attractive churches as this in your neighborhood?

Sunday, November 23, 2008


In 1907 if you were tired and dusty after a long ride, by train, wagon or horseback, you could rest your weary bones in this brand new, modern brick hotel. You could safely leave your wagon team or horse or pack mule with the hostler out behind the hotel, and after a cleanup, you could walk the two short blocks to the train station and have a sumptuous meal served to you by the charming girls at the Harvey House restaurant. This beautiful old building was erected in 1907 and for many years was a thriving business, but gradually business declined and finally the hotel was closed. After many years of neglect and decay it was purchased by a man who spent a minor fortune in restoring it to it's former glory. Now it is no longer a hotel; it is a private residence for the family of the man who restored it. Wish you had your own private hotel to live in? Dream on...

Saturday, November 22, 2008


This old early 1900's store is still open down near the old railway station and Harvey House restaurant in Belen. Sure, there are a lot of bigger stores in
Belen, which carry a huge variety of merchandise, But somehow this old store brings back memories of stores I used to go to when I was a child. What is ironic in this age of the mega marts is that a large portion of this stores income is as a result of the sale of fresh and frozen chile products to about every large store in the county. Got a favorite old store in your neighborhood?

Friday, November 21, 2008


This is Montano's Restaurant in Belen. This is one of the joys of living in Valencia County. It sits about 75 feet off Main Street in Belen. The parking lot is not paved, and inside it only has 8 tables, seating just 32 people at most. On the walls the decor is kitschy signs saying things like "Never Trust A Skinny Cook." It is a family owned and operated restaurant serving excellent Mexican food. Large, steaming hot, delicious food! Some of the greatest Mexican restaurants are small and not impressive on the outsidie, but who cares? The stomach rules.
Most states have a state tree, a state bird, a state flower or some item particular to the state. In New Mexico, unlike anay other state, we have an Official State Question. The question is: "Red or green?" That is the question asked in every Mexican restaurant and refers to the type of chile you want on top of your food.

I am reminded of Cyrano de Bergerac who once said, "I wear my adornments upon my soul." The Mexican restaurants here show their pride with every dish they serve.
Do you have a good Mexican restaurant where you live?

Thursday, November 20, 2008



These are middle class homes in a middle class neighborhood in a middle class city in Valencia County. Look at it! Check out the well-finished, curvy sidewalks, and the decorative planted here and there. What's missing in this picture? People. Where are the people? Compare this scene to a typical Asian city scene. In Asia (you pick the country and city) people are everywhere. Sidewalk vendors hawking their wares, food and snack stands, friends meeting and chatting. All that and more. The sidewalks are a place to become a part of the world around you. America is different. Except in the major cities, everyone drives everywhere. We are a nation of cars and trucks, and of laws that generally restrict and forbid those sidewalks vendors that attract foot traffic, and we seem afaid of the strangers on our streets. And we're the poorer because of it. Sometimes this country seems so cold, then I remembeer the street crowds thake Asian cities seem to warm and friendly, and I am glad that somewhere people actually enjoy other people.
Have you strolled down a sidewalk lately??

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The train will be here tomorrow, if I get to the station on time. This is the newly finished Los Lunas station for the RailRunner commuter train . It presently runs from Belen to Bernalillo, just north of Albuquerque by about 20 miles. The extension of the tracks to Santa Fe is almost finished and should be in operation by the end of the year.
New Mexico governor Bill Richardson has been an enthusiastic pusher of this commuteer rail service, which was proposed by ex-governor Toney Anaya many years ago. Interestingly, the city of Albuqerque's bus lines re-arranged their schedules to cordinate with the arrival and departure times of the RailRunner. A commuter can catch the train here, hop off in Albuquerque and step right on the bus to his ultimate goal, making it a seamless transportation system. (If the commuter is a bicycle rider, his bike can go on the RailRunner -and city busses- free!)
So tomorrow morning I shall hop down to the station and take a picture of the RailRunner.
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


To go to jail all you have to do is to commit a crime then get arrested. You will be taken to this brand new county courthouse (13th Judicial District of New Mexico) for your trial. If you are found guilty then you may be sentenced and serve your time in the the Minimum Security Penitentiary Honor Farm just to the left of the courthouse, or the Medium Security Penitentiary, just behind the courthouse. Lots of guards and barbed wire, bad food and worse social companions! In Los Lunas there are a juvenile detention faciity and an adult facility for minor miscreants sentenced to less than one year's incarceration.
Notice the green field in the foreground, showing the basic rural nature of the county. In summer, cattle graze here. Also, on the right top corner of the field, you can glimpse a small part of the railroad track which is used by the commuter train -the Rail Runner- which travels between Belen and Santa Fe.
(Photo taken with an Olympus OM-1n 35mm camera, Fujicolor 200 film, scanned with a Microtek 6000 scanner, and sized to fit using Adobe Photoshop 7. )

Monday, November 17, 2008


Valencia County has two main population centers: The Village of Los Lunas, the county capitol, and the City of Belen. But also there are many small clusters of homes, some with their own governing bodies, some without. It is all so casual. That is one of the charms of the area.
The Mid Valley Air Park is a group of aboout 35 to 40 homes set along each side of well-maintained and named streets. There are small one- and two-engined aircraft everywhere. Most homes have an aircraft hanger as an integral part of the house. Some have detached hangers, and those that have neither just park their aircraft in the driveway or yard.
When they want to fly they just start their engines and drive down the streets to the runway along the west side of the Air Park. Auto drivers beware, aircraft have the right-of-way on all roads in the air park.
The man in the photo above must love airplanes. There are two more planes hanging from the ceiling of this shed, one on each side of the flag.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

To the right is the newly opened resort and hotel owned by the Isleta Indian tribe. Just south of Albuquerque, off Interstate Highway 25. Below is the Iseta Casino, which has been operating for several years. (Both photos taken with a Canon Rebel EOS dslr).
I hold the copyright on all photographs in this blog unless otherwise explicitly stated.
A short history lesson might be useful for readers from other countries. Valencia County is about in the middle of New Mexico, just south of Albuquerque. The Isleta Indian

Reservation sprawls across the northern part of the county. It is one of 25 such reservations in the state.. These reservations are, in essence, sovereign nations, established by treaties between the U.S. government and various Native American (aka "indian") tribes. They have their own governments and laws but generally work in close concert with county, state and federal governments. Non-indians can normally travel freely through the reservation and pueblos. They need only to obey reservation laws and normal social conventions.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Riding High!

This is a team calf roping event . It is a timed event. The calf is released from one chute and two cowboys come out of another chute. The coowboy in the white has just lassoed the horns. Now he will drop back and let the man in the red hat lasso the two back legs. The well trained horses will then stop, hopefully dropping the calf. One cowboy will leap off his horse and tie one front leg and both rear legs of the calf together. It took this team just 13 seconds. This is just one of the things you can see in
Valencia County. What unusual sports do you enjoy in your part of the world?