Saturday, February 28, 2009


The El Cerro Mission-Montery Park area consists of a swath of land about 3 1/2 miles wide by 1 1/2 miles deep lying directly south of Meadow Lake. Read my blog of 5 February about Meadow Lake. The only difference between Meadow Lake and the El Cerro Mission is the name! All else remains the same. See yesterday's blog about Poverty Lane.

The only centers of community activity in the El Cerro Mission district that I see are the Mana Mart (photo above) and the fairly new community center (photo also above). Part of the community center houses an office the county sheriff officers , who patrol the area, use.

A half block east of the community center is a fire station staffed mainly by volunteers.

Incidentally, I have always known this district to be called El Cerro Mission. However, teh map I use calls sit El Cerro Mission-Montery Park. I had never heard of Montery Park before, but that is probably not the first thing in life I have never heard.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Poverty Lane is an actual place as well as a state of mind. To prove it, see the street name sign on the corner. You can see one home behind the sign. To the people living there it might just be a state of mind. Now look at the picture of the home on the left corner. That shows both a state of mind and a place.

In my way of thinking, being poor and living in poverty are two different things. You don't have to be ashamed of being poor; many honest hardworking people are. Living in poverty means you have lost all self respect and respect for your home. Living in poverty means you are too lazy and ignorant to even pick up the trash on the outside of your home; God knows what the inside may look like. Being poor may mean you can't afford indoor plumbing; living in poverty means having a bathtub in your front yard.

Why would anyone want to be seen living in poverty or on Poverty Lane?

Thursday, February 26, 2009


This is a very large and beautiful home, set in a neighborhood full of other beautiful homes. But take a very close look at the photo. This house is about 3 feet higher than the surrounding terrain. Look at the steps; they lead down to the yard, just as the driveway slopes gently down to street level. This is a type of construction that one sees more often in the county, and the purpose of it is to raise the house above the "flood plain level." The idea is to protect the home owner from having his house flooded. The 'flood plain' is an artificial area which is subject to flooding from the Rio Grande, says the government. In truth, almost none of the areas have had the slightest flooding in almost 100 years. It is merely a way to squeeze money out of people dreamed up by insurance companies and crooked politicians and endorsed by an inept, corrupt government. The federal government mandates that all homes in the flood plain area that carry a mortgage must be fully insured against flood damage. Monthly insurance rates in this area average $100. The only way to beat this robbery is to pay cash for your home or to build your home on a piece of land above the flood plain level, hence the style construction seen in the photo above.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


First, a quick Spanish lesson: "Tome" is pronounced "toe-may." The hill stands there today, much as it did centuries ago when the Spanish priests, soldiers and settlers came up the Camino Real (the Royal Road). A landmark to guide by, rising as it does next to the Rio Grande. Except for the mile long path rising from its southeast side, and the three large crosses on top, it is much as it was those centuries past. It was named, they say, for Thome Dominguez de Mendoza, a survivor of the Great 1680 Pueblo Indian Revolt.

Over the years Tome Hill has come to mean much more to people than a mere road sign along the way. It has taken on a strong religious meaning, hence the crosses erected on top. The faithful come from all over the state to make annual pilgrimages to the top. Some attribute miracles of healing to their journey to the top. Good Friday and Easter seems to be the most popular times to make the pilgrimage, but true believers often say that making the climb on any day brings them a feeling of being blessed and deepens their faith.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


As promised, here are the last posts on the flea market. The market is quicly closing down for the day, which explains the lack of people. Generally -for the best selection- you should get there around 7:00 AM. At about 2 or 3 PM (depending on weather) the market starts to close down. The man in the hat is in a good bargaining position because there are not many potential customers left. The name 'flea market' arises from the fact that if you buy clothes, be sure they are not infested with fleas.

Friends in countries where they do not use American western style (cowboy) saddles, such as Korea, Japan, the UK, etc., might be interested in the close up photo. Western riding style is very different from eastern or English style, therefore, the different style saddles. The first saddle is a working saddle for roping and general use. The tall horn gives you a place to hang your lasso on, or to give yourself something to hang on to in rough terrain. It is designed for for use with two cinches (straps that go under the horse's belly; note the two "D" rings, although you can use only one for general riding. The 3rd saddle back (all black) is a dress saddle for use in pleasure riding, show rings and parades. Note the excessive silver decorations. All saddles shown are used but in excellent working condition.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Yesterday I mentioned that one dealer arrived at the flea market in his motorhome, and here he is with his 'BUY, SELL, OR TRADE' sign and several tables full of merchandise. A comfortable way to go; he has a bed to take a nap in while his wife operates the sales end, plus a kitchen to prepare his snacks in.

Larry McKown is no slouch when it comes to flea markets, either. He is here almost every weekend. Here we see him comfortably seated and chatting with a friend. Good merchandise that sells itself, a good chair, a good friend to chat with, some food in the cooler and a refreshing drink................what more could you want?

Have a look at Larry's saddles and tack, framed against his trailer and pickup truck. He has saddles of all colors, sizes and designs, in addition to bridles, halters, custom twisted stirrups and other tack. Contrast his neat display with the display of the man in the motorhome. Each seller in a flea market has his own style of display; there are no rules or prohibitions except those mandated by law against pornography.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


At almost every Saturday and Sunday there's an informal outdoor flea market in Belen. This one is held off NM Route 314 just south of the fair grounds. This Sunday there were about 70 vendors selling everything from dolls to truck bumpers, CDs to saddles. Most vendors came by pickup truck, but there was one who sold out of his motorhome, and one who operated out of a converted school bus. Anyone is welcome; all it requires is a $5.00 entry fee from the sellers. Buyers can come in free. There are several vendors who are here every week, and some who may come only once.

I know of several flea market vendors who criss-cross the country, selling from a load of merchandise in a trailer they haul behind their motorhomes. For some people, this is a total way of life, similar to the gypsies of Europe.

I should mention that there is also another outdoor flea market in Belen, next to the ALCO store, plus one in Bosque Farms. Today I am posting 3 photos; tomorrow and the next day I will post some more, and show you a vendor who has some beautiful saddles and tack for sale.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I noticed these sheep in a field off NM Route 314 late yesterday afternoon. As usual I did not have my telephoto lens with me, so the photo is not the greatest. The sheep look small, and backlit by the sun due to the time of day, some of the sheep look black. However, I assure you that the only black sheep to be seen there yesterday was me.

My visit to the museum yesterday impressed upon me just how important sheep were to the development of the county. We generally think of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico as being big cattle ranching area, and they were. But the sheep raising industry was also vitally important; the were raised primarily for wool, but also for their meat, mutton. And today, long past the era of the 'wild west,' sheep are still an important part of Valencia County's and New Mexico's economy. I have seen several unusual animals in fields around the county. Llamas, for example. Also, one farmer has 2 mules that were crossbred with zebras, producing a striped jackass. Weird. I'll try to get a photo of them someday.

Friday, February 20, 2009


The MRGCD is a handful of initials that stand for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, established in 1925 to control flooding of the Rio Grande and to reclaim valuable cropland. It does this by controlling the river waters in a 150 mile stretch of four central countys: Sandoval, Bernalillo, Valencia and Socorro. The MRGCD distributes the water over 1200 miles of canals, drains and laterals to provide farmers and ranchers a timely and equitable share of the water. Right now the farmers are starting to prepare their fields for spring planting and the canals that are empty and dry today will soon be flowing with life giving water that has been shuttled to where it is needed by an elaborate system of dams, gates and pumps.

These four central countys do not hog all the Rio Grande's water; part of it continues on down-river to fulfill the needs of various communities and agricultural/ranching users.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


The Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts opened its doors this month featuring a fabulous display of western themed paintings by famed artist Bob Lee. The museum is located at the corner of Main Street and Luna Avenue, under the old city water tower and in a building that has housed the village offices, library and police station in the past.

From the outside the building looks too small for a museum, but from its entryway and the life sized mannequin in western garb that greets you, the building just seems to flow from one room into another. Within moments you forget the 'hemmed in' feeling. Through paintings and authentic artifacts you are taken back into the 1800's and early 1900's and the real life of the men and women who led a hardscrabble life to bring New Mexico into the modern world.

The use of cameras with flash is restricted, but not totally forbidden; see the docent for details.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Even though I haven't counted them all, in Valencia County there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cottonwood trees. They are so common that you rarely pay any attention to them, unless a limb blows off one and smashes through your roof, or one falls across a road and squashes your brand new car. (Both of these things have happened!)

But every so often one cottonwood tree does something so different or is so strikingly different from its neighbors that is stands out from all the others. The tree in the above photo is a good example. It is in the Village of Bosque Farms.. With its entire weight of its bent-over body on one side it is defying all laws of nature!

Why hasn't it long since fallen? How can it keep bearing the continual weight and stress on just one side and not pull itself out of the ground?

Being warped and bent as it is, it provides a cool seat on the low horizontal portion of the main bough for passing pedestrians on a hot summer day....or a tree for kids to climb....or a place to tether the horse you were riding...and on and on. Just don't park your car under it on a windy day!

BTW, for those not familiar with the sight, the yellow thing at the base and left side of the tree, is a fire hydrant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The variety of fence and gate styles in this county is endless. The gate pictured here can be found in the village of Bosque Farms. These old metal wagon wheels are increasingly hard to find, and consequently, very expensive. Many of the homes in this village are sited on one or more acres of land, which allows the home owners space enough to have a pasture where they can keep horses or other livestock.
The most popular fence style around the county seems to be the standard chain link fence. If you are not familiar with the term, look at the fence on the left side of the photo. That is a chain link fence. Next popular style is the standard wire fence; wire woven in a square pattern. Wooden pole fences are also popular, and occasionally there are adobe block fences. Wooden picket fences are not too popular, probably due to their expense. Gates is where the real art comes in. Many gates have wrought iron decorations, others are made with old brass bedsteads. There is no limit to the imagination and how it designs new and innovative gates.

Monday, February 16, 2009


While visiting the Valencia County Animal Shelter on Saturday the van pictured above pulled in. I noticed the cages inside and saw a couple of dogs and a cat, all in small separate cages. Being curious, I started asking questions, and here is what I found. Periodically several volunteers take a load of dogs and/or cats to a local mall parking lot (or any place that has a lot of foot traffic) and set up the cages where they can be easily seen, and encourage shoppers to take a pet home. If necessary they will even take a dog/cat to the buyers home. This approach --take the pets to the people instead of asking the people to go to the animal shelter-- results in a lot of animals finding new homes. The volunteer can advise potential pet buyers of license and vaccination requirements and costs. Maybe this approach is old hat but it is the first time I have seen it; Its a simple, effective way that any animal shelter can institute. You don't need a fancy van. Any car or truck will do; all you really need is a willing volunteer who loves animals and can talk with people and has access to some kind of transportation.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


This handsome, but scared, yellow young dog is a prisoner at the Valencia County Animal Shelter. The vertical lines in the photo are from the bars on the door window. I know exactly how he feels because I, too, was once a prisoner.
At age 13 I ran away from home and attempted to hitchhike south to Florida.
I was picked up by the police when the found me sleeping in a train station in south-eastern Kentucky. They took me to a jail when I refused to give them my name and home address. There I stayed for about two weeks. Like the dog in the photo, my hair was blonde. Like the dog in the photo I had to sleep on the floor with only one blanket to cover me or act as a mattress. Like the dog in the photo I was well fed. Like the dog in the photo I was treated kindly. Like the dog in the photo I didn't know what my fate would be, so like the dog in the photo, I WAS VERY, VERY SCARED. After a couple of weeks I broke down and told the police my right name and address, and a day or so later was very happy to see my mother walk into the jail to get me. I knew I would always be loved and cared for at home.
What about this scared yellow dog? Will someone walk into the shelter and save him? Will someone love him enough to take that step? Would you?

Saturday, February 14, 2009


This is Valentines's Day, and puppies need love just like the rest of us. His fur is a deep black, except for some white on his chest and a bit on one foot. Going deeper inside his fur may be black but his heart is red and fresh, just like the owner of the home this he wants. This dog is both shy and inquisitive, the hallmarks of a dog that should be easy to train. This dog is not alone. There are hundreds of other just like him in shelters across the nation and over the seas. Search out your nearest animal shelter. If you can't take a pet home, consider doing some volunteer work there. Dogs generally crave human attention and affection. You can wash and curry the dogs, or exercise them. There is always something that needs doing, AND YOU CAN DO IT!!

I have missed two days blogs due to some car problems. I think and I hope that the problems are gone now, so I thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Ubiquitas throughout the southwest is the cottonwood tree (populus deltoidus). They are especially prevalent in the bosque alongside the Rio Grande. Its a wonderful tree for shade in the summer, but it the spring it can be aggravating because it spreads its seeds on the spring breeze, and each seed is suspended in a fluffy ball of cotton like material. If your home is downwind of a cottonwood tree, you'll find your yard so full of the tufts that it looks like snow.
The particular tree in the picture is just north of Los Lunas on NM Route 314. It is one of my favorites. It stands like a gigantic slingshot. one arm on each side of the power line that runs alongside the road. I like this picture of it because with no summer leaves on it you can see its structure better; a much better way to save the power lines than just cutting of all the branches on one side of the tree, making it lopsided and unattractive. Cottonwood trees are attractive, but during our springtime rains and winds it is not unknown for one or more tree limbs to come crashing down through someones roof, so its always wise to keep them at least 50 feet away from any building.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


This is the Isleta Resort Hotel which was just opened in mid-summer, 2008. It is located just south of the intersection of I-25 and US Route 47. Directly behind the hotel in the picture is the casino. Across the street is the golf course and behind that lie the Isleta Lakes for fishing fun and a park for campers, motor homes and 5th wheel trailers. The Isleta Pueblo Indians have built a complete world class resort here. The casino boasts top line entertainment by some of the nation's top performers, the hotel has all the facilities you'd expect to find in a brand new hotel of this stature and the pro shop of the golf course measures up to America's best. Also, the weather is moderate year round; neither too cold in winter nor too hot in summer.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Even on a cloudy, windy day like today, the Isleta Eagle Golf Course is a busy place. This is especially true since they finished the construction and remodeling of the club house. People who have played the course are really enthusiastic about it, and about the facilities it offers. It is conveniently located just south off the junction of Interstate Highway 25 and US Route 47, and directly across US-47 from the Isleta Casino and Resort. You can play a round of golf in the afternoon then go across the road and enjoy some fine gaming and excellent food at the casino.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


This is the only Recreational Vehicle Park in Valencia County, the La Mirada in Belen. There are other places in the county where you can park an RV, but those are generally for long term residents, with a minimum stay of a month. You can always park overnight in either of the 2 Wal-Mart stores, one each in Belen and Los Lunas. La Mirada is large and roomy, easy to maneuver any size RV, 5th wheel or motorhome. Having lived several years in a 5th wheel and traveling tens of thousands of miles in it I know how important it is to have a lot of space. Unfortunately, La Mirada does not have concrete pads, just gravel. However there is very little rain here, so the ground is generally firm and mud is not a problem.

To reach the La Mirada (if you are traveling on I-25), take the middle Belen exit (Exit # 191, NM Route 548) and turn west. Go about a quarter mile to the La Mirada. The entrance is well marked.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


To continue yesterday's blog, after the truck is full then it is driven to a local landfill. In this case (for the village of Los Lunas) it is taken to the Conejo Transfeer Station. There the truck is dumped and the trash sorted . Material that can be sold and recycled is put into one of several semi-truck trailers that are down slope and behind the small building in the photo. The rest is scraped into a pit and dirt is bull-dozed over it, hence the name 'landfill.'

The signs are for people bringing their own trash. For large heavy items, like washers, stoves, dryers, water heaters, etc.,there is a $5.00 charge. For items containing freon, such as freezers, refrigerators, etc., the charge is $10.00 since these require special handling. And who pays for all this? Generally the community arranges for a weekly pickup of trash and then bills the home owner once a month. In rural areas the homeowner can independently arrange with the trucking company for the service, or can just take his trash to the landfill himself.

Friday, February 6, 2009


This may be boring to most Americans, but I reader in Singapore wrote me and asked how Americans disposed of their garbage and trash. The method I'm showing is how we do it in Valencia County, but it is pretty much standard throughout the USA.

First, the community provides each household with a standardized trash can. Ours is blue plastic, with a rated capacity of 200 pounds (90.8 kg). (If you have something you want to dispose of that exceeds that weight, it is your responsibility to transport it to the dump.) During the week you put all your garbage and trash in the container. On the assigned day that trash on your street is to be picked up, you must roll the container out to the curb. Now, follow the photos above.

1. The truck comes close to the curb, then stops. A mechanical arm reaches out and encircles the container.

2. The arm lifts the container.

3. At the top the arm tilts the container, emptying it into the truck. With the trucks mirrors the driver can monitor the entire process. Inside the truck a large hydraulic press compacts the trash as necessary. Then the driver moves on to the next house.

Tomorrow: Here's what happens to the truckloads of trash.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Today we visit MeadowLake, a community east of Los Lunas that stretches about 12 miles (19.3 km) along the southern border of the Isleta Indian Reservation, and is about 2.25 miles (3.62 km) wide. This seems to be the county's poorest neighborhood. Its 27 square miles (69.87 sq k) is filled (primarily) with mobile homes (house trailers' new name), many of which are situated on small lots filled with debris and junk and many of the trailers are in desperate need of repair I can think of many reasons for people being poor: bad things often happen to good people. But I can think of no good reason to live amidst trash. It doesn't take money to get up off your rear end, go out in the yard and pick up the trash. All it takes is self respect and a little of your labor.

But all is not gloomy in MeadowLake; the county has started a cleanup program to remove some of the worst abandoned and/or burnt out trailers and clean up some of the empty lots. Its a long battle with many legal battles to fight. A final word; throughout MeadowLake there are home owners with a sense of pride and who keep their homes and lots clean, pretty and inviting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I was on my way to the community of Meadowlake this afternoon when I saw this blue truck parked in a field with the sign "PIGS" in the back. My eyes followed the arrow on the sign across the field . Behind the fence I could see the pig pens, right in the back yard of the house. At first it struck me as funny and I smiled to myself. All kinds of thoughts rushed through my head: Does his wife like the smell? Do the neighbors care? Who cleans the pig pens? Wouldn't he rather be in some other business where he could keep his hands clean and live high on the hog (no pun intended)? Something like banking, teaching, sales, or just about anything. But jobs like those are not available now.

Then I thought about my blog of 23 January when I talked about the determination and self-sufficiency attitude of this county's people and how in even the tightest of financial times they will do whatever it takes to survive, and do it with honor.

Now when I drive past that place I give a tip of my hat and a mental salute to the man who has pigs for sale.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Living in this high desert area has many advantages. Its a healthy climate and the weather is generally temperate. We do have one big bugaboo however, and that is the danger from fire. At a glance the river looks serene and harmless, and mostly it is. The danger lies with the bosque.

The bosque is the wooded area that frames both sides of the river . Trees of every sort, such as the cottonwoods, and brush such as the tumbleweed (Russian thistle) are nurtured by the waters of the Rio Grande. The trees and underbrush, growing thick and heavy, have provided shelter for wildlife for generations, and oddly enough, during the rainy season the lightening starts fires that thin out the brush. Now, careless man does it with cigarette butts, smoldering camp fires and just plain deliberate vandalism. Two years ago 3 boys started a fire in the bosque inn Albuquerque, which resulted in the loss of a brand new home, damage to other homes and the loss of hundreds of acres of bosque. Now a good part of the bosque is fenced off; no more riding trails, picnics, or walks in the woods. The pictures above show (1) the river as most people see it, and, 2, a close up of the matted, tangled brush (some of which shows charred wood from a previous fire). I hope you are caeful with fire; I like my walks in the woods!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Yesterday I showed you the medium security penitentiary and today I'm showing you the entry to the minimum security one, often referred to as the 'honor farm.' Prisoners kept here are generally non-violent offenders and are serving the last year or so of their sentence. Although abutting on the medium security facility, the honor farm is relatively open and, consequently, prisoners sometimes walk away. So far every prisoner who walked away has been recaptured. The longest a prisoner was free was about 3 years. He was brought back from Florida to serve the remainder of his sentence, plus additional years for the escape, in the tough main prison near Santa Fe. His relatives that abetted his escape were also tried, convicted and jailed for their involvement. Law enforcement agencies across the US are extremely diligent about recapturing escaped prisoners, and the penalties for escape are severe. Escaping from the honor farm, when you only have a few months to serve, is the mark of an exceptionally stupid criminal.

Both the minimum and medium security correctional facilities are on the southern outskirts of Los Lunas, right behind the new county courthouse. We hope you never become the guest of this facility!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


This is Valencia County's most exclusive and restricted neighborhood, but since a couple of hundred, (or more) people reside here I think it comprises a unique neighborhood that deserves some mention. This is a part of the State Of New Mexico's penal system, the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility. It is only slightly less grim than the main penitentiary located near Santa Fe, the state capitol. This is considered a medium security facility. Prisoners here are generally slightly less dangerous then those in the main facility. At a casual glance it looks pretty open and easy to get out of. Look closer: The gatehouse is fortified and the guards there are heavily armed. On both side of it, under the striped bar are three rows of tire spikes that can stop any vehicle. Prisoners are kept behind the fence to the right. Unseen, but effective, is the higher fence topped with razor wire about a meter inside that fence. The long straight clear road from the gatehouse in allows guards in the watch tower a clear shot at anyone coming or going on the roadway. There are other precautions to prevent escape that are not so obvious.

If you want to come live here for awhile, just commit some seriously obnoxious crime, and plan to stay for awhile.