Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WELCOME - BIENVENIDOS -TO SMALLTOWN, NM







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

ADDENDUM TO MONDAY'S BLOG

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.

LAST ROPING EVENT FOR AWHILE







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

SPRING HAS COME TO THE COUNTY


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.


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Saturday, March 21, 2009

RAILROAD LORE




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

THE RODEO IS BACK #4











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.


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Monday, March 16, 2009

THE RODEO IS BACK #3
















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

THE RODEO IS BACK #2











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

THE RODEO IS BACK -1











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

HAVE AN EMPTY HOME?






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

A NOT SO ROYAL THEATER


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 southshieldsdailyphoto@wordpress.com ) 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.

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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

MOON OVER BELEN


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.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NIGHT STAR OVER BELEN


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!


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STORM CLOUDS OVER THE COUNTY


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

RAIN AND THE RODEO BARN


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!


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photo by Jasmin Whitman -

Sunday, March 8, 2009

AN OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY CENTER


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
/the contents of this blog site -words and photos- are copyrighted and cannot be used without permission'\


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Saturday, March 7, 2009

NEED WATER ?


(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.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

NEW HOUSING DEVELOPS IN LOS LUNAS


On the far west side of Los Lunas, south of NM Route 6 and west of US Interstate Highway 25, there has been a building frenzy going on for the last 3 years or so. Several building contractors have been busily erecting a whole new neighborhood of single family homes. There is no formal area name as yet; Sundance has been one neighborhood name I have heard bandied about. Huning Homes is another. The city recently built a beautiful, large elementary school here and they named it Sundance Elementary School, presumably after the Sundance Construction Developers. On the other hand, the new school abuts a huge hill formerly belonging to the Huning family which they recently donated to the city for a park, not to mention that Mr. Huning has been Mayor of Los Lunas for many years. I personally think they ought to name the area after me, if for no other reason than I would like repaint half the houses red, purple, blue, green, white and something other than the horrible same brown sand color every single house is colored now. There must be a couple of hundred of these boring look-alike homes. Of course the homeowners can't do it. They have a neighborhood association and nothing on the exterior can be changed without the association's approval. Sounds sick to me. No individuality allowed.
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Thursday, March 5, 2009

SAND STORM




One of the costs of living in the desert southwest is putting up with the occasional sand storm. Today with winds in the 40 mile per hour range, and gusting up to 60, a dust storm was inevitable. The pictures here are representative of scenes all over the county, though they were taken on the western edge of Los Lunas in the Huning Estates area. One photo shows how sand had drifted over the broken down fence and the roadway, while the other shows a large group of tumbleweeds blown from the west to the edge of the roadway. With the next blast of wind they will roll across the road and into people's yards.


No matter; sand storms and all, this is still the best place in America to live!




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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

NEW MEXICO'S MYSTERY STONE MYSTERY




One of the strangest New Mexico mysteries is called the Mystery Stone. Where it came from, what it means, and who wrote it are all mysteries. There are many different interpretations of the writing, and various explanations of who wrote it and why. The stone was known to the native American tribes before the Spanish conquest. One plausible explanation can be found in the book "New Mexico Mystery Stone" by Dixie L Perkins (1978), and other explanations can be found on the Internet. Let Google be your guide.


The writing seems to be a mixture of Phoenician, Greek and Canaanite, and is claimed to be written by an explorer named Zakyneros as he and fellow explorers were holed up and fighting bands of marauding natives. Zackyneros clearly expected to die in the attack.


The stone is on Mystery Mountain (appropriately named), which is on State Trust Land off NM Highway 6, about 8 miles west of Los Lunas, Valencia County. Specific details about the exact location can be obtained from the State Land Office and the payment of a visitor's permit, which I think is $25 for a family. Pictured above are Mystery Mountain and the Mystery Stone.


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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

DANCING WITH THE DAFFODILS


"Spring has sprung, the grass has riz. I wonder where the flowers is?" Well, as my lovely wife Jasmin pointed out, they are growing right outside my office window. Sure 'nuff, there them pretty little yellow boogers were.....6, count 'em- 6 little yellow daffodils (botanical name, Narcissus), brought up from their bulbs and out of the earth by the unseasonably warm weather we had all during February. Month long the temperatures stayed in the upper 60's and up to the mid 70's. Fahrenheit degrees, of course; in Celsius/Centigrade that would be about 18 to 25 degrees.


In the song 'April Showers' the inimitable Al Jolson sang, "When you see clouds upon the hills, you soon will see crowds of daffodils." (Check it out on YouTube)

Well, Al was off a month, but of course he didn't live in Valencia County, New Mexico

.

As I said earlier, the daffodils are small, only about 4 inches (10.16 cm) tall. The picture would have been better if I could have gotten down lower, but my ancient knees would not have allowed that unless I wanted to lay in the yard for a few hours til Jasmin came home and helped me up. So I will enjoy their beauty standing, and (as Wordsworth penned) "Then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils."

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Monday, March 2, 2009

WELLNESS CENTER


The Wellness Center, under the direction of Frank L. Otero, is part of the Community Services Department of the Village of Los Lunas, and is quite unlike what you would expect to find in a village the size of Los Lunas. Located in Heritage Park, the Center has many functions as part of its commitment to oversee the general health and well-being of the community. An important function is its outreach to reduce the incidence of alcoholism and underage drinking by establishing programs in the schools aimed at educating youngsters about the dangers of drinking, as well as treatment programs for alcoholics.

The Wellness Center also acts as a monitoring agency for the courts when they are required to wear tracking devices and/or ignition interlock after a conviction. They also offer counseling for a variety of problems that people have, especially problems that adversely affect not just the person, but the whole neighborhood.

Also of interest are recovering drug addicts or those who want to kick the habit. Director Otero's Wellness Center is responsible for identifying social and medical problems in the community and then setting in motion a program designed to solve the problem.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

HAPPY LANDINGS TO YOU


This is Belen's Neel Alexander Municipal Airport. The view is great from the spacious parking lot, as you can see from the photo above. Here a V-tailed craft (N4677D) has just landed and is on the taxi-way, passing the parked blue and white plane (N16SB). To the right and out of the picture, are fueling facilities, hangers and offices.

Located on the west side of Belen, off Calle de Llano and west of Interstate Highway 25, this airport is the largest and busiest of the two airports in the county. The Mid-Valley Airpark outside of Los Lunas primarily focuses on the airpark's residents, while Belen's Alexander Municipal Airport is more attuned to the general flying public, with various service facilities and fueling capabilities that would be expected in an airport of this size. It can also handle most single- and twin-engined aircraft. For the flying public looking for overnight facilities, it is reasonably close to hotels and restaurants.