Friday, April 10, 2009


This Good Friday, like so many in the past, graphically portrays to what extent faithful Catholics will go to to demonstrate their faith. Thousands have made this climb up Tome Hill, and this year was no different. The climb, from the base to the three crosses on top of the hill is a steep one mile, but that is just the easy part for most. The hard part is the trek by foot from their homes to the mountain itself. They walk from all parts of the county, central, north, south, east and west. Distance seems no obstacles. Some this year (as in the past) have walked here from Albuquerque, 25 miles distant. As you can see from this picture of the parents and three children on the lower part of the trail, pilgrims of all ages make this annual trek. Further up the trail is a group of five adults. This picture was taken at about 6:30 PM, plus the weather was cold and windy and rain was expected. Bad weather, tiredness and a later hour seems to make no difference to the faithful.

And when they get to the top and say their prayers and feel blessed and rejuvenated, what comes next? The long, cold trek home, of course.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


WOW! I was totally shocked to see a shelf full of Cracker Jacks at my local Wal-Mart the other night. I had thought that they had long been discontinued - well, maybe they had been and were just coming back on the market, or perhaps I was so blind that I just didn't see them. I know that since I am older than the dirt that I walk on there is a lot of things I don't see. But how could I not see Cracker Jacks? Since I was a little boy back in the 1939's or -40's, I have loved Cracker Jacks. Saturday afternoon matinees at the theater were always a good place to eat them while my brothers and I watched the antics of Our Gang and the heroics of Gene Autry, and the latest Boston Blackie serial. Cracker Jacks always came with a toy inside. It was usually a toy metal car or gun, or a tattoo transfer that you could put on your arm. Sadly, the ones I bought yesterday all had little paper historical puzzles designed for 8 or 10 year old kids.That's OK. Being that I am in my second childhood, I enjoyed the Cracker Jacks anyway. After all these years they still taste as I remember the next time I go to the movies, guess what I am taking with me (besides my wife)?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Need some love in your life? Well, here's a basket full of love just waiting for you. These beautiful German Shepherd mix puppies are at the Valencia County Animal Shelter just looking for a home. There are six of them, and they are only about 2 months old. Take a look at them and you'll fall in love again! Adopt one --or two--all it takes is a call or a visit. Take him/her home with you, give them their shots, licenses, and some fun and easy training and you'll have a friend for life. By the way, books on dog training are available at your local library. A secret: Dogs are easier to train than children!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Feeling disgruntled and depressed over the recent foul weather (cold temperatures and high winds), I happened to wander out in the back yard to a tool shed I have there. All my tools sat idle and forlorn since I am strictly a warm weather gardner who refuses to work in the cold or in foul weather. As I locked the tool shed door and turned to leave I happened to look behind the shed and what caught my eye was a patch of yellow tulips, and off to one side, some red ones. It occurred to me that as I was whining about the foul weather, these bulb were pushing their way up through the dirt. Cold, unfertilized, no water, and with very little sunshine, these bulbs were determined to live and bring their brand of beauty into the world.

It cheered me immensely and I recalled the history of tulips: originating in the steppes of the Persian empire, a cold and hostile land, they were brought to Europe and were the subjects of one of the wildest financial speculative manipulations known. Prices for even a single tulip bulb soared to as high as 4,200 florins, that is $57,279 in today's dollars. They were traded and treated as a sort of super-currency. Then, in February 1637 the bubble burst, and the effect on the European economy, particularly in Holland, was similar to what happened currently with the failure of so many banks and brokerage houses, and the stock market crash. The fortunes men made from the tulips evaporated, but the tulips were still there each year, and every spring they continue to push their way up through the dirt and forecast the coming of summer, better weather and hope.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


The wind here has died down quite a bit from the past week, so since nothing was happening at Daniel Fernandez Park, I drove on over the Heritage Park. It was happily crowded with kids and adults getting in their recreation while the sun was still warm and the winds down.

Pic#1 - the skateboard area. Pic #2 - a couple of kids on BMX bikes showing off their talents and skill. Pic #3 - riding one-handed and waving for the photographer. Showoff!! (I'm just jealous of their youthful exuberance and skill!) Pic #4 - meanwhile, over on the 3-net volleyball court, two games are being played side by side. Elsewhere in the park there was a softball game being played by youngsters who looked to be about 7 or 8 years old and were totally unorganized, but having fun anyway. A nice day in the park.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


On Tuesday, 31 March, I told you about a fascinating display of a model railroad exhibit. I visited it and enjoyed every minute, but was told that if I came back today, Saturday, I would find more to like. So today, dodging the high winds that seem to have plagued Valencia County for the past week, I went back. The display, which is in the Harvey House Railroad Museum, has been greatly enhanced by the presence of dozens of vendors with everything for sale (new and used) from model train engines and cars to model buildings, cars, people and models of everything you'd find in a real small town. There were even some hot dogs and soft drinks for the public. It was also crowded with visitors, and the children in particular were having a great time. The vendors will probably pack up their wares and go at the end of the weekend, but the basic display itself will remain. It is well worth the going...and the best part is that it is FREE!!

Friday, April 3, 2009


What can I say? I was hoping to come back today with a whole bunch of pictures of activities going on at the park and in the building. To my surprise, the whole place was empty, inside and out. Of course no one with any sense wanted to go outside today with the winds whipping up to sixty miles per hour.

So today I can only give you a photo of the building taken from the back parking lot and showing just how big this place is. If the weather warms up, and if the winds die down, I'll try again tomorrow. Keep tuned in.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


This is the Daniel Fernandez Park on Highway 314 in Los Lunas, as it appears from the front.

There is a lot more to this park than can be seen from the front. I wanted to take some photos of folks participating in some outdoor activities, but a cold, blustery spring day like today is not the right time to do that. Instead, I'll just stick to words and try to describe it. Pictures will follow in a day or two, depending on the weather.

On the expanse of green in front of the building are several gazebo-like structures where families can gather for picnics. To the right there are a pair of tennis courts, and further right there are some bright yellow jungle gyms and some swings for the kids to play on. Behind the building there are a baseball field, a football field, a soccer field, and a lot more open space that can be used for about anything, plus ample parking.

Inside the building there is a gymnasium, convertible to an auditorium, a basketball court, or other uses. There is a large, rounded space filled with tables, chairs and snack/soft drink vending machines so people can sit and relax and watch, through tinted glass, the kids playing outside.

Cool and comfortable. This is a truly multi-use building and park .


Wednesday, April 1, 2009


This month the Belen Public Library has started on it's 83rd year of operation. Located at 333 Becker Avenue in Belen, in an almost new and impressive building, it's director, Debbie Graham, is justly proud of the library's changes over the years. It was started as a project of the Belen Women's Club in 1927 and became the Belen Public Library in 1966. Now it has grown to include computers and other electronic means of communications and education. It is open to all comers who want to learn some specific facts or just enjoy reading some novels or other books. As a young boy I spent countless hours -days on end- at the local library and received a far wider range of knowledge that was being presented at school. For that I thank Andrew Carnegie.

Andrew Carnegie, born in Dunfermline, Scotland, was a great industrialist and an imaginative thinker, can be considered as the founder of the modern public library. He espoused the philosophy that those with great wealth use what was in excess of their personal needs to better the lives of others. Putting his money where his mouth was, in 1881 he started spending $56,000,000 to establish 2,509 libraries in the English speaking world. IMHO he should have a national holiday named for him, either on his birthday (28 November 1865), or on the anniversary of his death in Lenox, Massachusetts, on 11 August 1919. It would be much better to honor a man who has helped educate the world than some tweedle-dum tweedle-dee politician. What do you think?


Tuesday, March 31, 2009


A great big welcome to a really small town.!!!!!!

There's an advantage to being a writer; I can call any place anything I want. To steal a idea from Alice In Wonderland, a word can mean anything I want it to mean. You probably never seen Smalltown, much less have heard it's name. The secret is that Smalltown really is a small town; much of it would fit on the floor of your home. It is the creation of the gifted railroad buffs who are members of the Belen Model Railroad club. Hundreds of hours have gone into creating this model train layout; transcending history, here you will find steam engines alongside the latest diesel engines. Right now Smalltown (my name for it, not theirs) can be seen in the Harvey House Museum in Belen. This coming weekend (Saturday, 4 April, and Sunday) the display will be considerably enlarged by additional displays plus vendors from all over the state. It is unique, fascinating and colorful, and a once in lifetime chance to meet some fine railroad buffs and model builders.
All the above photos are by Jasmin Whitman , and copyrighted by her,

Monday, March 30, 2009


As my lovely and talented wife, Jasmin, reminds me, men are not the only earthly creatures who participate in team roping events. It is quite common to see ladies, girls and young children compete with talent equal to that of any man. Women are often involved in other western style events, such as barrel racing and so on and over the years have racked up some impressive wins in local, regional and national events of this type.
Being a male and having spent large chunks of my life in male environments, I don't always take into consideration the female side of things, and the contributions of women in all fields of life. I shall try to write more inclusively in the future.


As you can see, I am back after a short vacation. This past Saturday, March 28, there was another team roping event at the Valencia County Sheriff Posse's Arena. As these events always fascinate me -and because they help perpetuate the cowboy mythology in America's history- I always watch them when I can. There are a lot of factors that have a bearing on the events outcome, such as the weather, the mood and feelings of the horses and cattle involved, and the interaction and timing between the header and the heeler (the man who ropes the head of the calf and the man who ropes the heels). The timing is very critical, so the ore practice the team has working together, the more likely they are to win.

The first picture is an overall view of the contestants checking out the calves and waiting for the event to begin. The second shows the team as they successfully lasso the calf. If you look closely you can see the ropes around the heels and the horns. The third shot, taken a second later, shows the calf thrown to the ground, and this team wins with the shortest overall time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


How can you tell that spring has come? Because today is Sunday, the kids are not at school, and for the first time there were several family groups with children and they were all enjoying the facilities of a newly finished park/playground in Los Lunas. In spite of the high winds today the kids all seemed to be having a good time. I did not see, however, anyone enjoying a picnic there, using the several picnic tables scattered about.

The park includes two fenced-in tennis courts, and basketball court that does not appear to be a standard NBA size, but still good enough for a good "pick-up" game. There are also several other jungle-gym type slide- and -bar combinations for the younger set. There are several with innovative designs, and all of them are painted brightly. I predict that when school is out for the year, and summer arrives in full force, this park will be jammed with kids from dawn to dusk.


Saturday, March 21, 2009


Many people, especially those in other countries and those Americans who disliked history classes in high school, neither know nor understand the role of railroads in the settlement of this vast country. Its a long distance between the Atlantic seaboard and the Pacific shore, and after the upheaval of the American Civil War, thousands of people packed up and headed west, partially inspired by talk of our 'Manifest Destiny.' Going by wagon train and horseback took too long, and that is where the railroads came in. Lines like the Southern Pacific and the AT&SF pushed west, establishing small towns along the way, then selling lands to the pilgrims wanting to start a new life 'out west.' Belen and Los Lunas were two such towns that profited immensely from the railroads over the years. Belen became a hub city, with lines crossing it east to west and north to south An early Los Lunas wooden train station was saved from destruction by citizens who wanted to save some or the towns early heritage. It is pictured above, much the same as when it was first built. The town also uses a sketch of the building on its village license plate. Residents are not required by law to have or use the plate; it costs ten dollars., but many wear it proudly on their cars. to show others where they are from. Both the station and the license plate are pictured above.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


As I mentioned yesterday, this event was held under bleak rainy skies and in a cold, wet wind. Very unseasonable weather, but most contestants didn't let it overshadow their pleasure.

#1 - Warming up horses and shaking out the lassos in the main arena. #2 - Note the two young ladies who appear to be Navajos. Navajos are renown for their excellent riding skills and talents. #3 - Calf roping. In this event a calf and two ropers leave the chute at the same time. The object is for one team member (the header) to lasso the calf's head and the other (the heeler) to lasso the calf's hind legs and then bring the calf down, incapacitating it so it can be branded. The team doing this in the fastest time, wins. #4 - The chase narrows; the cowboys are right on top of the calf! #5 - The header throws his lasso and misses. The rope ends up on the ground in front of the near horse. The chase is over and the calf runs for the holding pen and safety.

This was not a good day for calf roping teams; most failed and no time records were broken. However, another event is just down the road a few weeks and they will all be back trying again.


Monday, March 16, 2009


The rodeo went on in spite of the unseasonal cold, damp and windy weather. February's weather was like May or June; March is starting out like February. Here's the info on the above photos: #1 - Horses tied up to their trailers while their owners have lunch. #2 - a young girl barrel racing. Four barrels (sometimes more) are spaced apart in the ring and the rider has to circle each one without touching or knocking the barrels over. The fastest time wins. 3. These cows are used in various events. #4. Contestents lining up at the announcer's booth to pay their entry fees . #5. A cute 5-year old girl exercising her horse in the ring.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Today's photos are of some of the activities that go on before the contests actually start. What looks like pointless milling around is actually interacting with other contestants and renewing old acquaintances. Many of the horse trailers are divided into two sections; one for the horse(s) and an abbreviated apartment for the owner. The other part of the milling around is to loosen up and warm up the muscles (human and equine) and to double check the gear and to loosen up the lariats. Lariats (lassos) are made of very stiff materials and must be stretched and loosened before use. Coming in to popular use are colored lariats such as reds, greens and blues. They don't photograph as well as the traditional white ones. Photos from 1 to 4 are as follows:

#1. A horse having a quick snack. #2. Man sitting on his horse after completing a cell phone call. You just can't get away from those phones anymore! #3. A man riding a horse and leading another: Warming up two for the price of one. #4. Exercising horses, men and ropes in the ring just before the starting contest.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


In spite of the glowering unseasonable weather and damp winds, the rodeo is back. Situated on the grounds of the Valencia County Fairgrounds and Sheriff''s Posse arena in Belen , the sea of white trucks and horse trailers give a good idea of how popular the event is, come rain or come shine. May of the participants come from neighboring states but the vast majority are from New Mexico.

Pictures are as follows: #1 - Overall view of the fairgrounds.

#2 - The Sheriff's Posse 's Cafe, Bingo Hall and Dance Palace.

#3 - Cowgirls arriving with dog

#4 - Horses and dog all tied to their temporary home.

Stay tuned; tomorrow there will be some more general views and following that some real cowboy action shots.

Friday, March 13, 2009


This sweet tempered little dog couldn't weigh more than three pounds soaking wet. In spite of that, he can help fill up your house with his love and funny antics. Ask Angel and she will agree. This little dog, who is about a year old, is a playful handful. A few minutes fun with him at the end of a hard day is better for your psyche than a psychiatrist -- and a lot cheaper, too. This is a dog that can really bring joy into your life.

Angel, who works at the county Animal Shelter, had a fun time playing with him today, and if you are interested in the dog, come down to the shelter and she will be glad to introduce you. Of course if this one doesn't fit your needs. there are a lot others, including a couple of litters of very young puppies.

Give both yourself and a lucky dog a better life: Adopt a dog today; it will be the best investment in companionship you can make.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Back on 7 March Curly, in his post titled 'Act 1' showed us the Theatre Royal which is in Newcastle upon Tyne. It is a magnificent structure, one any community would be proud of. (See ) I went back to the site several times, realizing just how long it has been since I was actually inside a live performance theater, and how much live theater has affected my life. When I lived in New York I attended hundreds of plays, concerts and other life performances. Here in the great southwest live theater is not easily found. The closest venue for the performance arts is in Albuquerque which has (or used to have) 3 small performance spaces close to the University of New Mexico, plus the university's Popejoy Hall. In Valencia County I have found no live theater whatsoever, and just one movie theater now, the Starlight (pictured above. Photo by Jasmin Whitman). I envy readers of this blog who are within reasonable distance of an active performance theater. I have decided that someday I shall visit the Theatre Royal.


Do not steal or plagiarize words of pictures from this blog site or I shall come after you with both barrels loaded.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Coming in from Belen's Neel Alexander Municipal Airport on Calle de Llano tonight, this is the site that greeted my tired eyes. I had to pull off the road, get out of my truck and try to capture the view for posterity.

The moon was full in he sky and casting its glow on the city of Belen, in spite of the hazy sky. A string of lights stretching north to south outlined the city. All told, a beautiful sight. But with the freezing weather and a string gusty wind, my shaking fingers had a hard time trying to hold the camera steady. So the picture you see is the picture you get. Sometime this summer, when the moon is full and the night is warm, I'll revisit the scene and come up with something better.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


It was in mid-December 2008 when the city council agreed to put up electric star on the downtown water tower, with the idea that it wasn't just another decoration for the upcoming Christmas season, but that it would stay lit the year round. I thought it might stay lit for a month or two but then someone would get bored with it, or claim it was mixing religion with government (a no-no in this country!), and turn it off.

Driving by the area tonight I was surprised to find it still there, so I hopped out of my pickup truck and took a quick shot of it with my Canon DSLR. I think it would be nicer if it were up higher on the water tower so it could be seen better in some parts of town. I imagine all the Christians in town have already drawn the obvious connections between this cross rising above Belen and the Star of Bethlehem that supposedly hung over that town on the night Christ was born. After all, "Belen" is Spanish for Bethlehem. ...........and to all a good night!



As I wrote yesterday, after 73 days with no precipitation we finally got some rain on the night of March 8, and continuing on yesterday, the 9th. The rainstorm was gradually moving eastward yesterday afternoon so I drove up the east side to the Cypress Hill neighborhood and took a few shots of the rain heavy clouds moving away. In this arid part of the country you rarely see such large rainclouds as are in this photo. In the distance you can see the outline of the Sandia Mountains. A large amount of rain fell there, thankfully, which substantially reduces the fire danger. Last summer, because of a similar dry spell, there was a major fire on the mountains which took about a week to halt and which destroyed several homes and buildings costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and ruined hundreds of acres of forest lands.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Last night, for the first time in 73 days, we had precipitation in Valencia County. This morning it is still raining; a light sprinkle to be sure, but still rain. A quick look at the sky tells me we are going to have a lot more rain today.

Since I am no fan of standing out in the rain and getting soaked, nor am I dumb enough to get my Canon DSLR wet and ruining it, I am just going to stay home and use another photo of the Bosque Farms Community Center. This is the Bosque Farms Rodeo Association's barn which is on the Community Center's grounds. This is the barn the BFRA members use for their livestock and equipment when they are putting on a rodeo.

Not very exciting, is it? But its better than a photo of me (or my wife) standing stupidly in the rain, soaking wet, and ruining a perfectly good camera!

photo by Jasmin Whitman -

Sunday, March 8, 2009


The small village of Bosque Farms has one of the best recreational complex I have ever seen in a town its size. The focal point is the Community Center building, pictured above. Behind it there is a small shaded park area with picnic tables for a comfortable place to eat on a hot summer day. Across from the center are fenced in tennis courts, a baseball field/soccer field, complete with bleachers. Then there is the horse arena area and rodeo grounds. I've mentioned before that many residents of this village have and keep horses on their property. The main streets are lined with horse paths, which are also used by joggers and bicyclists. This recreational are is kept in immaculate condition and is available to all residents. Bosque Farms, though it lacks a grocery store, has more good living amenities than most towns 4 or 5 times bigger. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to mix an equestrian lifestyle with small town life.
Photo by Jasmin Whitman
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Saturday, March 7, 2009


(Photo by Jasmin Whitman)
Need water? Are water costs too high where you live? Here's one solution. Dig your own well, then erect a windmill to pump it up into a large tank, add a pump powered by a solar cell and connect it to the house water main.
Simple and inexpensive and the cost of the whole setup can be written off in one or two years. This particular windmill is on the west side of NM Highway 47, about a mile north of Belen's River Road intersection.