Bad roads and hot dogs…

The most recent issue of my BMW Car Club of America magazine has a brief article about the states with the worst road conditions. And thankfully, New Mexico wasn’t at the top of the list — but we were No. 11.

The ranking comes from an organization called “Construction Coverage,” a website “started by a small group of technology and finance with a desire to help businesses in the construction industry.”

Sounds to me like they’re fishing for more construction jobs. The organization’s criteria for picking the best and worst road conditions wasn’t explained.

However, the survey said almost 20 percent of New Mexico’s roads were in poor condition, with only 50 percent categorized as being good. It also reported that daily vehicle miles per capita in New Mexico totaled 31, the highest of any of the top 15 states with the worst roads.

Wyoming was ranked as the state with the best roads and also one of the highest daily travel rates, with 46.2 miles driven on average. That’s not surprising given its rural nature, small population and long distances between larger cities. Alabama and North Dakota finished at second and third in the “best” rankings.

Rhode Island topped the list of states with the worst roads in America, with 38.8 percent rated as poor, with New Jersey and California ranked second and third.

Perhaps with New Mexico’s recently realized heavy cash infusion from oil and gas production, some of that money will go toward improvement of bad roads.

And on another list of bad things to avoid in New Mexico, try not to order a hot dog at a Sonic drive-in in Espanola.

Last week, a customer in the northern New Mexico community bit into a hot dog and discovered not a tasty tubular meat product, but a small plastic bag containing cocaine. An employee at the store was arrested for trying to hide the bag of powdered drug in the hot dog, but it was not clear why he thought he should use that method for concealing it. And why then serve it to someone you don’t know? Another of endless Espanola mysteries.

As my son once confirmed, “Espanola never fails to disappoint.”

Cocaine not included as a condiment in this dog.

Class mottos…

I’ve received a few high school graduation announcements in the last few weeks. I always think of how exciting this is for the young people who are getting ready to start a new phase of their life and move closer to independence.

Some of the announcements can be a bit humorous.

I remember that our graduating high school class had a class song, class colors and maybe a class motto — all of which we’ve probably forgotten. Well actually, for some reason I remember our class song was “Deep Purple,” a sappy love song that was popular that year. I don’t recall getting to vote on the music selection. I probably would have preferred a Beach Boys surf jam.

One announcement that showed up had the class motto included on the announcement. The motto was — wait for it — something penned by the performer Pitbull.

I guess I would have thought the class would have selected someone more inspirational for a class motto. A former president, successful entrepreneur, astronaut or philanthropist would have been my go to persons for inspirational words.

Nevertheless, this has inspired me to offer some of my own words of wisdom to graduating classes. Here are some of my completely original inspirational thoughts that I hope will show up on a high school graduation announcement some day:

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

“Save for a rainy day.”

“It is what it is.”

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”

“Can’t we all just get along?”

And my personal favorite, inspired by my wife: “Be nice.”

A Memorial Day story…

Neither my father nor my wife’s father served in the military during World War II. The only person on my side of the family who was in the military was my brother, who served in the U.S. Army Reserves and never had any combat action. He told me that the worst thing that ever happened to him while in uniform was when the Army Jeep he was driving conked out on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge during summer camp duties and snarled traffic for hours.

But there is some military history in my wife’s side of the family — and it is a sad story.

Her mother’s first cousin was Hans J. Chorpenning, Cozad, NE, who as a lieutenant was assigned to the 100th Bomber Group, which flew B-17 bombers from England to targets in Germany.

Lt. Hans Chorpenning, center, with his father John, left, and uncle, Chester, right.

The photo above was taken on Chorpenning’s last visit home before returning to action in Europe. In this photo he was 20, very handsome, and is wearing a fleece bomber’s jacket that was issued to crew members on the unpressurized, unheated B-17 bomber in which he served as navigator.

Margo, standing next to a B-17 that was part of an air show in Las Cruces a few years ago. The side bulge just past the nose and above the chin gun on the aircraft is where Hans Chorpenning would have been stationed as navigator.

Chorpenning was part of the massive D-Day invasion operation in June of 1944. It was his very first mission. His aircraft, called “Pack of Trouble” of the 349th Bomber Squadron, was assigned to bomb targets behind enemy lines. The lumbering bomber took off from an airbase in England on June 12, 1944, but as it reached the coast of Europe, it was attacked by German Luftwaffe fighters. A fire broke out between the two engines on the right side of the wing and it was clear that the plane would go down. One of the crew members was killed in the plane and the others tried to scramble and parachute out of the doomed aircraft. Chorpenning apparently tried to help one last person inside the plane escape but never made it out himself. The plane exploded and crashed into the English Channel near Dunkerque.

349th Bomber Squadron Logo

Only one person on the aircraft survived the incident when he was able to parachute onto an enemy a beach at Dunkerque, where the area had been mined. That survivor, George L. Sherback, said the German soldiers would not go into the area to capture him because of the mines. He was forced at gunpoint to walk towards them, was captured, and then spent much of the rest of the war in a prison camp.

Chorpenning posthumously received the Purple Heart and the Air Medal for his valor on that day. He is also a member of the Roll of Honor of the American Air Museum in Britain.

I know there are thousands of stories like this from those terrible days of World War II. I hope we all take a minute today to remember those like Hans Chorpenning who gave their all.

Sacrificing my body for a fish…

(As you’ll discover from reading this blog, I had a serious fall while fishing last week, breaking several ribs and hurting my back. Sitting to write at my computer is somewhat painful, so I may not be writing as much in the next few weeks. Some of you may actually enjoy the break from my blathering”:^)


I began writing about Gila trout when I was Bureau Chief for United Press International in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The once plentiful native fish in the headwaters of the Gila River in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona had been overfished and was unable to compete with more aggressive varieties of trout that had been introduced in the region during the last century. Because it was genetically similar, many strains of the trout in some rivers and creeks had become hybridized with rainbow trout.

In 1967, the fish was officially listed as an endangered species and efforts were put in place to restore the gold-hued trout to its native waters. That meant eliminating populations of rainbow, brown and brook trout in certain rivers in the Gila wilderness and areas of western Arizona, then restocking with pure strains of Gila and protecting them with stream barriers.

Because the fish had acclimated over thousands of years to the slightly warmer climate in Southwest waters, it was uniquely positioned to survive the harsh conditions of the region.

My stories at UPI traced the efforts to restore Gila trout populations in a limited number of creeks in the region, then reported on major setbacks when wildfires destroyed some of those watersheds. I also reported on dramatic efforts to rescue some of those populations and the beginning of state programs to begin raising the fish in hatcheries for planting in the future.

By 2006, the Gila trout’s recovery had been so successful it was downlisted to “threatened” status and genetically pure populations have been established on 21 streams in New Mexico and Arizona. You can now fish for them and even keep two a day. I’ve even volunteered to help stock them and participate in Trout Unlimited stream recovery projects for the species.

Sadly for me, after all those words about a great success story, I still haven’t caught one.

Last Wednesday was going to be the day I did. I had learned the previous week that more of Whitewater Creek — my favorite fishing place in the world and now home to a pure Gila trout population — had been opened further up the spectacular rock-walled canyon.

My wife Margo and I woke up early Wednesday and drove a little over three hours to get to Whitewater Creek. We hiked up from the Whitewater picnic area above Glenwood only to discover that the newly opened section of trail was not as “open” as we had been led to believe. It was extremely primitive, with lots of logs, loose rocks and other debris scattered along the way. You had to “bushwhack” your way up the trail to get near the stream.

I’d had no success catching a fish on lower sections of the creek that were somewhat accessible, but I decided to go further up the river into areas that I had fished successfully in the past for small rainbow trout. I spotted a hole that looked promising and started to climb down the two and one-half foot embankment when I lost my balance.

I twisted around and fell hard on my back and knocked the wind out of my lungs. I couldn’t yell for help because I couldn’t catch my breath and my wife was probably too far down the stream to hear my call. After about five minutes, I was able to gather my wits about me, and finally was able to sit up, then stand up. I realized that as I fell, I had released my Sage fly rod and it had washed down the stream into a deep hole. I never recovered it.

I was able to stumble back downstream about 100 years and was thrilled to find Margo waiting beside the stream while she was trying to remove a small insect that had flown into her eye. She was able to remove it and we began the painful (for me) one and one-half mile walk down the trail to our truck.

We made it home, although I spent a sleepless night trying find a comfortable position to accommodate my sore back and chest.

The next day we went to the doctor. After spending hours waiting in doctors’ offices and the emergency room, I was finally diagnosed with two fractured ribs, with the possibility that four others may also be broken. There was concern that some of my internal organs may have been injured, and I am awaiting results of a CT scan to make sure that didn’t happen. I’m pretty sure the worst of it is the broken ribs, sore chest and back and hideous bruise on my lower right torso with the size and shape of a small European nation. I considered including a photo of my bruise, which also looks like a Rorschach ink-blot test gone horribly wrong, but Margo said (and I agreed) that doing that would be very distasteful. Recovery may take 4-6 weeks.

So here I am, limping around for the next several weeks, knowing how much worse this could have turned out and still having no Gila trout to show for my sacrifice. Some day, maybe I’ll just post a generic picture of one on my blog and claim that I caught it.

Fishing for diversity…

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were watching an episode of the TV series “Yellowstone.” It focused on the shenanigans of a wealthy and power-hungry rancher in Montana, played by Kevin Costner. The series was full of the traditional cliches — Native Americans being treated badly, lots of horses and spectacular scenery, skullduggery politics, antics of a black sheep or two in the family and a general disdain for any government intervention in the ranching business.

At one point in an episode, I turned to my wife and said: “I’ll bet the next thing they do is go fly fishing.”

Sure enough, the very next scene was Kevin Costner wading and casting his fly rod in a pristine Montana river that runs through his property. At least he wasn’t fishing while on horseback and shooting nearby pheasant in between casts.

I think that depiction is what a lot of people think the average fly fisherman would look like — older male, white and probably financially well off.

I just returned from a Western Regional meeting of Trout Unlimited (TU) in Taos, and I have to say that the crowd looked pretty much like that. However, there were quite a few women there, and many of them were staff members of the organization.

I attended a session focusing on efforts to make the organization more diverse — not just with more women, but with minorities and other non-traditional groups, like LGBTQ.

While I secretly wish no one would ever fish on the waters where I like to go, I know that getting more people involved in fishing and TU’s goals is good. First of all, the organization wants to make sure there are plenty of fishing opportunities on clean cold waters throughout the United States. And an outcome of that approach is to guarantee the protection of those waters from dangers posed by certain private interests and environmental challenges. It means the organization will occasionally butt heads with private industry, like it did with the Bristol Bay/Pebble Mine project in Alaska. TU was a major factor in helping stop that project, which threatened one of world’s greatest salmon fisheries. The battle still isn’t over, but a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency dealt it a major setback.

Reaching out to non-traditional potential fishers is a challenge for TU. Potential new members are not likely to randomly show up at a club meeting and watch a slide show on Buster’s most recent boring fishing trip to the San Juan. The key, say TU staffers, is to go meet them on their turf.

And another session I attended said that attracting new people involves a lot of social media these days. Old guys like me have a tendency to read newspapers, magazine and watch TV. Younger people are on social media, Instagram being the most popular.

If you’re interested, go to the TU website below and consider joining. Even if you’re just an occasional bait or spin cast fisherman, you’ll benefit from the work that the organization does. And they have a great magazine that makes me want to run out the door with my fly rod and head to the river every time I get it in the mail.

A dip in the river…

During my almost 35 years of flying hot air balloons, I gave hundreds of rides, many of them to first timers. I periodically meet someone who tells me how thrilled they were with the ride they took with me years ago.

And to my embarrassment, I honestly don’t remember a lot of those rides and the people I gave them to.

That happened last week when a woman at our church told me how much she enjoyed a ride I gave her in 1985, which included a dip in the Rio Grande as we floated up the valley on a spring day. I of course knew her, but I had completely forgotten about the ride I gave her.

She said it was wonderful, but that when I dipped into the river, water seeped in the bottom of the basket and got her shoes and feet wet.

And no, I probably don’t remember who was in the basket with me on this flight…

I asked if she remembered when I gave her the ride. She said she knew it was 1985 and thought it was in April, when a mutual friend of hers had asked if I could give rides to a group of visiting teachers from England.

I looked in my first pilot log book (I’ve filled up three over my career) for the month of April 1985, and there it was. My notation said I launched from the old school in Mesilla and flew north up the valley and landed on a river levy after we crossed over the Rio Grande. I did a total of four takeoffs and landings that day and noted that the last one was a “water landing.” I did not note the names of any of the passengers, only to say the flight was “with English school teachers.”

I’ve looked at several other flight entries and discovered that I was not very good at identifying who I gave rides to. On some days, I would make up to five takeoffs and landings, meaning I had flown at least 10 people on that day.

I wish I had been a little more diligent when filling out my pilot logbook at the end of each flight and had written down the names of everyone I flew. I’ve flown a few semi-important people in my flying career — former Dallas Cowboy Bob Lilly, the New Mexico State Fair Queen (I was afraid my burner was going to set her cowboy hat on fire), a president of New Mexico State University and some big-wigs from Wells Fargo. Those people’s names I noted in my logbook. But I as a reflect back over the years, everyone I flew was important and I should have recorded their names.

A fast food joint was “where the money is…”

Notorious American criminal Willie Sutton, who managed to steal more than $2 million in his lifetime, was once asked why he consistently robbed banks.

“Because that’s where the money is,” he replied in an obvious statement of fact.

Willie Sutton, who spent more than half his life in jail while still managing to steal more than $2 million in bank robberies and escape from prison three times.

So when the banks aren’t open, what do you do if youre in need of a cash stash?

Last month, police in Las Cruces arrested a man who apparently figured out an alternative.

The suspect robbed a Subway fast food joint, saying he needed the money to pay for a motel room. He casually walked into the facility, tossed a bag to the casher and told her, “You know what to do” while brandishing a pistol.

He fled the scene with his bag of money and police were quickly alerted. Once his getaway car was spotted, a chase ensued but ended abruptly when he crashed into a KFC franchise in another part of town.

Police also questioned the man about his motive for robbing a fast food restaurant.

He replied that it was Sunday and “banks weren’t open.” The next best alternative? A nearby fast food franchise.

It was a bad outcome for two fast food franchises in town that Sunday, but I’m sure the local banks were glad they were not on a seven day per week schedule.

And just like Willie Sutton when asked about where to get money, the suspect was simply stating the obvious.

First they lost Uncle Vern, now they can’t get rid of him…

Last summer, I wrote about the case of some missing crematorium ashes in Albuquerque. Apparently, a member of the family had been tasked with transporting the ashes to a memorial service where Uncle Vern’s ashes were to be tossed into the Rio Grande on the
Central Ave. bridge. However, when Cousin Louie’s 74 Nova wouldn’t start that morning, he hopped on a cross-town bus to get to the memorial at the river.

The bus route wasn’t direct, so there was a change of coaches along the way. And that’s when the usually reliable Cousin Louie lost his focus left the ashes on the bench where he had been waiting for his connecting ride.

Police eventually found the missing urn, fearing at first it was some kind of “toxic waste” and were a bit queasy about opening it to see what was inside. I’m sure Uncle Vern wouldn’t have liked being identified as “toxic waste.”

Fast forward to earlier this month, when a commercial rocket at Spaceport America was carrying a number of payloads, including the “cremains” of a deceased former astronaut who apparently wanted his ashes blasted into space.

Well. Uncle Vern, you may be glad to know that other deceased individuals have suffered the indignity of failure to get to get to their final resting place.

Shortly after liftoff, the UP Aerospace rocket used for the Celestis memorial spaceflight encountered engine difficulties and the rocket tumbled to ground. It was not described as an explosion, but what I saw on TV sure like one. Maybe it was a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” like the recent Space-Ex rocket explosion was euphemistically described.

Celestis memorial spaceflight rocket blasting off at Spaceport America

UP Aerospace officials say they were able to recover the payload after the crash, apparently including the “cremains” on board.

There was no mention of a second attempt to send the ashes into space. Maybe when the rocket engineers were heading back home, they just tossed the urn with the cremains into the Rio Grande below Elephant Butte. And maybe they’ve intermingled with Uncle Vern’s ashes by now.

A burning desire to prevent fires…

A photo posted on the Clovis Fire Department’s web page shows one of those old “fire horse” “wagons that used a steam engine to power the pump that sprayed water on fires during the city’s early years.

Old Clovis Fire Department “fire wagon,” probably late 1800s or early 1900s. From department website.

You’ve probably seen pictures of one of these wagons in operation, spewing black smoke from an on-board boiler while careening down a street to douse a fire. A quick check on the Internet shows they were used for about 60 years, from the late 1860s to the 1920s. I always thought these contraptions would be a fire hazard themselves if they tipped over during a mad dash to a fire.

But just because the Clovis Fire Department doesn’t use these machines any more doesn’t mean that they still can’t start fires with a fire truck.

A story in the April 22, 2023 edition of the Albuquerque Journal says a Clovis Fire Department Truck was responsible for sparking “multiple fires” as it was driven from the airport to the main fire station office for “hose testing.”

It appears that one of the vehicle’s “outrigger plates” — used to stablize the truck while in operation — was scraping along the highway on its route, generating sparks which touched off brush fires adjacent to the road. The outrigger plate apparently malfunctioned and dropped to the pavement while the truck was moving.

“The operator of the fire truck was not aware of the equipment failure and as a result, continued down the road causing multiple fires,” a department spokesman said.

Fires started by the sparks moved quickly in the springtime winds and threatened nearby horse stables, barns and homes. By the time the fires were extinguished with the help of several other fire department units, three unoccupied buildings had been scorched.

The Clovis Fire Department’s website says its mission is to: “Prevent Harm, be Professional, use Resources Wisely.” I think in this incident, they failed pretty badly on all of those goals.

The official doctor’s diagnosis — “Too much fun…”

As we age, remembrances get bigger, smaller, grander or just plain forgotten over time.

So it was with my recollection of my first trip to Whitewater Creek in the Gila Wilderness in the mid 1990s. I walked down a trail called “Gold Dust” to a section of water above the touristy Catwalk trail. I remember the hike as being rather long and hot, but the reward for the effort was great. I remember saying something in my fishing journal to the effect that i had “caught more fish in about two hours than I have ever caught.” All of them were tiny 6-inch rainbow/Gila hybrids who would instantly attack any fly you put on the water. I returned every one of them to the creek.

Fast forward to May 1, 2023. Margo, Chester our dog and I decided to try the same trail to the middle section of Whitewater Creek that had provided so many great memories before the Whitewater-Baldy fire 11 years ago virtually destroyed the watershed. Native Gila trout have now been planted all along the creek, but I have yet to catch one. So this was the day I was going to do it.

We got started on the Gold Dust trail about 9:45 and it was already hot. I quickly realized how much longer the trail was than I had remembered it 11 years ago. I also thought we had not brought enough water. When we turned a corner to view what looked like another two miles of trail, I became convinced we should turn back. Chester, who was thrilled to running around outdoors and covered three times as much territory as we did, was panting like an old steam locomotive and starting to limp — but still eager to go.

When we were almost back to our truck, two young athletic women who were stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, overtook us and said that while the creek was beautiful when they finally reached it, we were smart to give up the trek before the trail got incredibly steep during the last half mile. So we turned back, defeated.

Along the trail, I was amazed at the spectacular variety of wild flowers growing in dry rocky soil along the trail. Some of the flowers I spotted are shown in photos below.

And when we finally got back to the truck, Chester was limping even more. It turns out that he had run so much that he formed blisters on the middle pad of his two front legs and the skin was peeling off. We took him to the vet Monday and the doctor diagnosed the injury as “too much fun” and handed us a $135 bill for the visit. Below is a picture of Chester with his two wrapped front legs. He’s pretty much recovered by the time you will read this.

I think it looks like he’s wearing ballerina slippers…

So in the end, no fish were terrorized because we never cast a fly on the water, no flowers were picked and only Chester seems to have been temporarily inconvenienced. Hope you enjoy the video and some pictures:

Purple thistle with my shadow…
Cactus flower…
Indian paintbrush….
Delicate white flower

Remembering Gov. Apodaca…

As the United Press International political editor and state capitol bureau chief for seven years during the 1970s, I covered three governors during that time.

The first was David F. “Lonesome Dave” Cargo, a Republican who was often seen as a loner in his own party and in the state in general. I was only on the job for about six months while he was the governor.

The next governor I reported on for four years was Bruce King, a master politician who was liked by just about everyone. His folksy attitude and unique twang when he spoke made many people believe he was not as sharp as smoother talking political figures. Not so. He had a gift for bringing people together and negotiating things that were right for the long term benefit of the state. And he could remember just about anyone’s name after meeting them just once. He assembled a talented support team and named some impressive people to various leadership positions in his administration. He was also teamed up with the best First Lady I’ve ever known in New Mexico, Alice. In her obituary, the Albuquerque Journal described her as a “sturdy ranch woman” who knew how to connect with people as well as her husband did and made countless friends in all corners of the state.

Jerry Apodaca was the last governor I covered. Sadly, his death was announced last week. He had apparently been suffering from cancer and died at his home in Santa Fe.

Apodaca was one of the youngest governors elected in the state at the time and the first Hispanic governor in the modern history of New Mexico. He was charismatic, approachable, visionary and surrounded himself with a great team of advisors and department heads who were part of new cabinet system to help him govern the state.

Former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca

I first met him when he was elected to the New Mexico Senate from Las Cruces during Bruce King’s first term as governor. I was covering the Senate at the time and we quickly became friends. He would often approach me to talk as I ventured on the floor of the Senate during breaks in the action. He one of several younger outgoing members of the Senate on both sides of the isle who came to be known as the “young turks” and who filled many more leadership roles in state government in coming years.

He was a strong advocate for educational and minority issues. The last time I saw him in person was when he was guest speaker at the annual Martin Luther King breakfast at New Mexico State University in the 1990s. He gave a powerful speech that I recall prompted a standing ovation.

I had two adventures with him during his time as governor. On one, he was promoting tourism in the state and we went on a whitewater rafting trip down the Rio Grande Gorge. It was a spring day when the runoff was high in the river, and the water was really, really cold. I recall him shivering when he took off his soaked shirt, then realized cameras were on him and quickly sucked his mid-40s gut back in.

Another time, I snuck off work mid-week to go skiing and also found him playing hooky on the slopes of Santa Fe Ski Basin. For some reason, one of his ski boots had broken a hinge and I helped him patch it up for the rest of the day with some duct tape we found in the Ski Patrol shed. We rode up the lift several times that day, talking about many different topics.

When the time came for me to accept a transfer to Cheyenne, Wyo., to become state editor for United Press International, Apodaca issued a governor’s proclamation declaring Nov. 26, 1976 as “Pat Lamb Day in New Mexico.” After several years, the ink on his signature had faded away, but a colleague at work in Las Cruces was his cousin and arranged for him to sign it again. It’s still on my wall in my “office” here at home. A photo of it, which is somewhat difficult to read, is attached below:

I’m kind of proud of it…

It’s for the birds…

I believe I’ve mentioned that our neighborhood has become quite a menagerie in recent years. We’ve spotted racoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes, various species of lizards, frogs, an occasional harmless snake, a flock of Guinea hens and even a pack of javelinas.

Last week, we added a new critter to the list of nature sightings in the neighborhood. A turkey was trotting through our front yard during an early morning jaunt on its way from somewhere to somewhere else. Luckily our dog, Chester, didn’t see it or he might have tried to bust through our front window to chase it.

Thankfully (pun intended) for this turkey, it didn’t show up in our neighborhood around Thanksgiving.

Two neighbors who saw the bird — both of whom said they had hunted turkeys — weighed in on whether it was wild or domestic. I got two differing opinions. A woman whose yard the bird had invaded said it was definitely domestic, while a guy across the street from me said it was definitely wild.

I’ve seen lots of wild turkeys in both the Gila and Lincoln National Forests, but never in the Organ Mountains east of here. If it was wild, it had to travel a very long way to get here.

There’s also a small farm about a half mile from our house near Mesilla which has been keeping several domestic turkeys in a pen next to a ditch road that we frequent on our walks. The birds there looked nothing like this skinny critter.

The bird eventually disappeared, but it was having difficulty deciding what direction to go. When I first spotted it, the turkey was pacing back and forth along the fence shown in the picture above. I drove home to get my camera and returned five minutes later, it was still pacing along the same fence, looking as confused as ever.

These are not smart birds, I concluded. I’m glad Benjamin Franklin didn’t succeed in having a turkey as our national bird.

He left it out there somewhere…

My good friend David and I went fly fishing last week on private water in the Sacramento Mountains. It was the first time he had been fishing since he had heart surgery last fall and he managed to catch a nice fat rainbow to make his trip extra special. I caught only a couple of chubs, although the week before on that same stretch of water, I managed to catch three nice trout.

The place we fish is not that spectacular for its scenery, but it’s a good place to goclose to home that usually awards good results. However, it has one unusual feature that takes some adjustment.

The person who owns the property runs a ranch that has been in his family for years. During that time, I don’t think they’ve every thrown anything major away. There are at least 30 broken down and abandoned vehicles — at least 11 of them 1980s vintage Ford F-150s. There are several tractors and other bits of farm equipment rusting away in a field near his barn. Old refrigerators, washing machines, water heaters and other domestic appliance carcasses litter an area near his house. There’s also an abandoned 53-foot trailer from some former trucking company which appears to have had a large heavy tree or telephone pole smash down on about midway on its roof.

That’s me next to the tree growing where the motor in this 70s vintage Chevy pickup once lived. Note the two adjacent Ford F-150s and a rusting tractor in the backgrou

However, there’s probably some valuable stuff out there. I noticed several late 1940s-early 50s Chevy trucks whose bodies were in relatively good condition. These old trucks with what I always thought were classic lines have become popular with collectors who restore them. There’s even a five-window cab on one of them, something that’s especially collectable.

Five-window Chevy truck cab with abandoned water heater, washing machine and yet another junked Ford F-150 nearby.

There’s an abandoned Jeep Station Wagon from the late 50s-early 60s, similar to two that my father owned. I can write an entire blog about the adventures I had with that type of vehicle, which maybe I’ll do some day.

There’s also this 59 Chevy two-door sedan, complete with the “cat eye” trail lights. If you look closely, you can see where a tree or shrub once grew up between the rear bumper and the body of the vehicle.

1959 Chevy two-door sedan, with many trim pieces intact and tree-bumper fusion.

I don’t want to call out the person who owns the ranch. He’s a good guy and we’re lucky to have access to his section of the river. His ranch is miles away from any reasonably sized town, and I’m sure he doesn’t have affordable access to a service which could pick up and haul off much of this stuff. However, I think that several of the older vehicles on the property could provide some trim pieces or body panels that would be useful for restoration projects.

Some car restoration expert might find a visit to the ranch interesting and profitable for the owner.

What we really wanted to say…

Last week’s spectacular explosion of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket was described by company officials as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”

Wow, what a creative way to explain a disaster.

But Musk apparently saw the failure as a way to learn more about how to prevent a future multi-million dollar fireworks display. It was Thomas Edison, who said after thousands of failed attemps to create a light bulb:“I know of over 3,000 ways [that] a light bulb does not work.” It also helps to have a good wordsmith at hand when things go wrong.

It made me think of some euphemistic and creative ways we might describe things in New Mexico — for example:

“Rapid horizontal displacement of dirt and sand” — a New Mexico spring windstorm

“Intentional obfuscation of vector change intention in a vehicular mode” — failure to use a turn signal in your New Mexico car or truck.

“Exponential production of hot air” — no, not the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but the New Mexico Legislature in session.

“Intense downward vertical dissemination of water accompanied by high voltage electrical discharges” — a New Mexico monsoon season thunderstorm.

“Invasion of non-native species with distinctive dialect and lack of taste” — Texas tourists visiting Santa Fe, Taos, Ruidoso, etc.

“Hand crafted accoutrements made from native sand, brown paper and religious candles to celebrate festive occasion” — Christmas luminarias.

“Ubiquitous mood alteration centers” — cannabis dispensaries around New Mexico.

“Capsicum infused edible pod with genetic color transition over time. Also know for triggering whimsical state legislation” — red and green chile.

“Rolling seed disbursement plant mechanism” — tumbleweed.

“Foreign nation celebration observed in New Mexico involving mass consumption of tequila but having nothing to do with mayonnaise” — Cinco de Mayo.

If you think of others, I’ll include them in a future post.