Floating concrete ships, the Johnny Appleseed of oaks, a playwright and an artist…

My good friend Don from Montana sent me an e-mail recently that made me think about doing a blog about a grandfather I never knew, Charles M. Hurst.

I had mentioned in an earlier post (regarding tongue sandwiches) that my mother and her family came from England and that my grandfather had an interesting background. Don described him as sounding like “an awesome guy.” I always thought he was and I’ve been able to find out more to confirm my feeling about him.

I think “renaissance man” is a good way to describe him. Friends of the family once described him as “brilliant with a photographic memory.”

Charles M. Hurst

He was born Oct. 1, 1874 in Manchester England. Although I haven’t had time to uncover more details, he became an engineer. In 1899, he married Hannah Mason in the town of Wigan northwest of Manchester. The marriage certificate listed him as a “bachelor” and Hannah as a “spinstress.”

They had four children, all born in England,. They were Jack, who lied about his age so he could enlist in the Royal Navy for World War I; Mary, who never married and was a veteran registered nurse for many years in a Fort Worth children’s hospital; a son James who apparently died of suicide; and my mother, Joan, who would have been about 12 when she arrived in the United States.

While living in England, I am told he was involved in the design and building of ships made of concrete. I have not been able to find his name listed in any research about concrete ships, but they were definitely around at the time. Concrete ships and concrete floating docks were used in both World War I and World War II.

Long-ago abandoned concrete ships in the Thames River near London

Records from Ellis Island show Hurst arrived in the United States in April of 1921, leaving his family to come to join himat a later date. He left England reportedly because jobs for engineers were scarce after World War I and because he had a relative who encouraged him to move to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I understand he worked for a cement manufacturing plant there — a likely connection to his concrete shipbuilding legacy.

He gained U.S. citizenship in January of 1923 in Dallas, TX. I noted in his naturalization record that he still listed his occupation as “engineer” and that he was required to “renounce” his citizenship in England and any allegiance to “George V, King of England and Ireland.”

Before moving to the United States, he wrote at least four books, three of them apparently textbooks with the sleep-inducing titles: “Valves and Valve Gearing,” “Hints on Steam Engine Design” and “Construction” and “Stationary Engines.”

Of more interest was his novel, “The Book of the English Oak,” published in 1911. He described the book as an effort to “arouse greater interest regarding the English Oak.” At first glance, the book appears to be an autobiographical story about him planting acorns around the country while taking photographs to document existing historical oak trees. However, family members say the story was entirely fiction and he really did not do a “Johnny Appleseed” kind of adventure around the English countryside.

The Book of the English Oak by Charles Hurst.

It does make for interesting reading. There’s one part in which he befriends a stray dog, who he names “Pontiflunk.” He describes it as being terrier sized but with a mix of almost every breed. He said the most interesting feature that contributed to the dog’s “eccentric appearance was a trick or habit of thrusting its tongue about a quarter of an inch beyond its teeth.”

I had thought about giving the name of Pontiflunk to our present dog, Chester, when we adopted him, but it just didn’t seem to fit.

Through some online research by my friend Dave in Santa Fe, we discovered a few years ago that a group in England had discovered the book and was planning to do a play based on it. I ultimately got in touch with the producers, who were excited to make the connection with my family. At one point, my wife and I toyed with the idea of traveling to England and re-creating at least part of the route the author said he took while planting acorns. That never came to pass, however, and I’ve lost contact with the people who were planning to stage the play. I don’t know if the play was ever performed.

My grandfather also wrote a two-act play, which I doubt was ever performed, that was entitled “The World Debated.” It was published in 1931, after he had moved to the United States.

The play focuses on a debate among celestial spirits in the Milky Way about who created our world. Ultimately, the debaters conclude that only God could have created it and leaves “Lucifer” sulking for not getting any credit for the creation.

Maybe I should try to sell the movie rights.

Charles Hurst’s two-act play, The World Debated

One passage in the play seems to be particularly applicable in today’s times.

“Beware exaggeration and false light. To curve the trend far from the line of truth till positive is negative and plus is minus, light is dark and wrong is right.”

At some point, he began developing an interest in newspapers in West Texas and ended up being editor and publisher of one in Abernathy, TX.

While in West Texas, he painted landscapes, including the one below, which we have in our home. It was painted on a watercolor mat attached to the back of a Parcheesi game board. We framed it so you can still see the Parcheesi board if you look at the back of the painting.

Charles M. Hurst paining

Continuing his interest in newspaper, he acquired or planned to acquire a weekly publication, “The Hale Center American,” in the town of Hale Center, where I was born. Apparently while there, his daughter, my mother Joan, met my father Vic, while he was working at the newspaper. We were told by family members it was “love at first sight.”

Hurst apparently did not feel my father, who did not even have a high school diploma and was self-educated, was a fitting match for a proper English girl. Nevertheless, they became infatuated with each other and hatched a plan to marry. As I am told, my mother and father left town to elope but Hurst was determined to chase them down and stop it. During the chase, as I was told by my older sister, Hurst was involved in a fatal car wreck somewhere near Hale Center.

The accident occurred Dec. 18, 1931, a week before Christmas. The death certificate listed cause of death simply as “auto accident.” His obituary noted he was publisher of the Abernathy Review at the time. He was buried two days later in La Mesa, TX.

I probably got some of the facts in his story wrong, and I’m sure my sister Wendy will correct me. My other two siblings, Jim and Kay, are now gone, but before they died gave me some of the details that I hope I remembered correctly. The whole matter of the elopement and death of my grandfather was never discussed by my parents.

I wish I could have known him. I think a conversation with him would have been fascinating. Unfortunately, I don’t think I inherited any of his talents, except possibly for a desire to write.

And thanks Don and Dave, for encouraging me learn more about my grandfather.

A burning desire to shop at Wal-Mart…

Police have arrested two people in conjunction with a shoplifting effort at a Wal-Mart in Edgewood, east of Albuquerque on Interstate 40.

According to police reports, a woman set fire inside the bathroom of the Wal-Mart, by igniting paper in a trash receptacle. Then she and an accomplice went to the paper goods section of the store and set fire to what may have been toilet paper rolls.

When the first fire was reported, Wal-Mart employees grabbed available fire extinguishers and headed toward the smoke-filled bathroom to extinguish the blaze. They didn’t seem to notice two women heading toward a shopping cart full of high-dollar items nearby.

With all the chaos underway, the women managed to slip out of the store and headed toward their car where they began unloading their booty from the shopping cart. At that point, security guards wised up to the scheme and arrested them.

Two other men, who had oddly given an unsolicited confession about that same time to security guards about shoplifting at the store the previous day, are also being sought. Police believe their “confession” was an attempt to distract attention and divert the security guards from the real shoplifting scheme.

As most of us can probably remember, a shortage of toilet paper was a subject of extreme concern when the COVID pandemic began a couple of years ago.  I’m hopeful that the shoplifting caper in Edgewood didn’t put a dent in the toilet paper supply and return us to that harrowing experience.

Instead of growing plants, New Mexico’s moon rocks grew a spat between governors…

Recent news articles shared that researchers at the University of Florida had succeeded in growing plants in lunar soil harvested from the moon’s surface during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions.

In what might be considered an affront to vegetable hating youngsters, the plant selected to be grown in the lunar soil was Arabidopsis thaliana — a plant related to mustard greens, as well as other cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli and cauliflower, I mean really, even President George H.W. Bush couldn’t stomach broccoli. I, for one, actually do like broccoli. However, if the noxious weed known as okra and eaten by some taste-challenged humans had been grown in the lunar soil, I probably would have been offended at the choice. But I’ve drifted off point here.

The story about use of the lunar soil to grow plants reminded me of a spat in 1971 when I was just starting my career as United Press International’s Santa Fe Bureau Chief and State Political Editor. It seems that when Republican Gov. David F. Cargo cleaned out the governor’s office to make room for incoming Gov. Bruce King, a Democrat, much of the office seemed to have been stripped bare of any trinkets that are routinely presented to governors from citizens during their tenure.

When he went into his office for the first time after being inaugurated, King commented about the bare space he inherited. Notably missing was a collection of lunar rocks that had been scooped up by the Apollo 11 astronauts.

Moon rocks

“All he left me was this woodpecker,” King told a journalistic colleague of mine, pointing to a carved wooden roadrunner donated to the governor’s office by the state’s Prison Industries Division

Besides the humor of King calling a roadrunner a woodpecker, the response from Cargo was equally humorous.

“I can do whatever I want to with them,” Cargo said of the moon rocks. “The President gave them to me. If I want to give them to the museum, I damned well can.”

Cargo eventually did give some of the rocks to the Museum of New Mexico after it was determined that the inscription on the capsule containing them noted that they were “Presented to the People of New Mexico.”

Sunday night’s blood moon made me think that perhaps the reddish shade of its surface was lingering anger that someone had made off with some of its possessions more than 50 years ago.

Does anyone outside the Beltway or west of the Hudson know anything about us???

Another incredible gaffe showing why New Mexico is always going to provide fodder for the “One of Our 50 Is Missing” column in the New Mexico Magazine.

Well duh, someone wasn’t paying attention

Yep, that Arizona’s name plastered over our beloved state on the national ABC Good Morning America broadcast. So who’s that state to the west of us? I and I wonder how Colorado and Texas now feel about having Arizona bumping up against them.

I mean really, did these people flunk or not even take a geography class?

To be honest, I doubt that Fox, CBS or NBC is even sure where we are. For years the networks confused our late Sen. Pete Domenici with Arizona’s Senator Dennis Deconcini, even though Pete had a longer and much more distinguished career. I once found a kitchen magnet in the shape of New Mexico with a saguaro cactus on it with the words “Arizona” emblazoned on it. If you’re a New Mexico resident, you’ve probably had similar experiences over the years.

I point you to an earlier blog I wrote asking whether New Mexico’s continued ranking at or near the bottom of most measurements of a state’s progress might somehow be tied to our name.

Here’s the link if you want to read it again (or maybe for the first time).


My hypothesis in the blog is that New Mexico’s name is always going to tie us in many people’s mind to our poorer neighbor to the south and as a result, not expect us to be very important. We certainly weren’t very important in the mind of the ABC cartographer.

Not only bad drivers, but bad roads…

A few years ago, our late dear friend Alice, called me to help her with a car problem. She said she had run over a nail and had a flat tire on her lumbering Lincoln Town Car.

I drove to her house to put a spare on the vehicle and take the damaged tire to Big-O for a quick patch job. When I got there, however, I discovered it was a bit more than a nail. It was a six-inch lag bolt that entered the bottom of the tire and then managed to protrude through the sidewall. The tire was mangled and not repairable.

Through absolutely no fault of her own, my wife will find any errant nail on her route around the city. She has a flat-inducing encounter at least once a year. I can’t think of the last time I had a flat caused by a nail or screw in the road.

Victim of New Mexico road junk

I bring up this topic because a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal seemed to be proof that there is a lot of unwanted tire-piercing junk on our roads. I honestly think that over the years, I’ve found enough nails on our roads to build an entire house and enough car parts to build an entire Toyota.

The story in the Journal was about a retired German fire fighter who was fulfilling his dream of crossing the United States on a bicycle. He had started in San Francisco and made it to Silver City, about 1,400 miles, in several weeks. During that time, he had four flats. Upon arriving in New Mexico, he experienced two flats on the same day while traveling from Silver City to Belen.

“I had two flats yesterday, ” said Jorg Richter. “It’s definitely no fun changing the tube on the shoulder.”

He noted that his ride through New Mexico was essentially safe “with the small exception of all that (trash) on the shoulder.”

I hate to think what his experience would have been if he had encountered Alice’s lag bolt when he pedaled across Emory Pass in the Black Range.

Looking at this may curb your appetite…

I ran across this disgusting display a couple of weeks ago at our local Sam’s Club.

Get a case of tongue, get a discount!

Yep, a display of cow tongues, and even cheaper if you buy a whole case of them.

I recall that my mother made a tongue sandwich for us to eat when I was younger. I think after hearing me and my sister complain about how disgusting they were, we were never served that delicacy again. Since my mother was born in England and lived there until she was about 14, I thought maybe this was an English specialty.  The Brits are known for mostly insipid and unhealthy food, like fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, kidney pie, water cress sandwiches, etc. I looked online, and I could not find any proof that it was an English “delicacy,”,except that throughout Europe it seems to be on menus fairly frequently. I also discovered that it is used frequently for the meat in tacos in Mexico. Remind me never to order tacos when visiting our neighbor to the south.

Normally I try not to think too much about the animal when I’m enjoying a nice steak, a rack of ribs or a piece of fried chicken. But somehow, when I saw this display, I felt a twinge of sadness for these critters whose tongues and other body parts were sacrificed for us humans.

I get that cows don’t talk. But somehow removing an animal’s ability to do so — if it ever figured out how to do that — seemed kind of cruel. You know the cow, if it could talk, would be pleading “please don’t do this to me.”

So, no more tongue sandwiches for me, thank you. 

Was that Uncle Vern we smelled at 500 feet above Balloon Fiesta Park???

The Albuquerque Journal has been writing stories in recent weeks about controversy over a plan to build a mortuary/creamatorium in the north valley just west of Balloon Fiesta Park.

Area residents have become alarmed that the facility will emit toxic and unwelcome smells, noting that a nearby animal rendering facility/crematorium nearby is already making the neighborhood more odiferous than they would like.

Smoke plume allegedly from “Lasting Paws” animal crematorium in Albuquerque North Valley

The human facility is to be located in a building that was vacated by a plumbing company. That made me wonder if one day, one of the customers will assume that a large white porcelain object left by previous owners in the back yard might be a new kind of funeral urn.

“Gladys, isn’t that one of them fancy new funeral urns? Maybe Vern would want to be in that,” Lester might ask.

“Um no, Lester, it’s a toilet,” responds Gladys.

The business planning the funeral home/crematorium has told Bernalillo County officials that the facility will be fully compliant with air quality regulations and will dutifully scrub toxic smells like those allegedly coming from the nearby animal depository.

However, it made me think of my years of flying at Balloon Fiesta, when on most days flying south, you could always encounter the sticky-sweet smell of Cocoa Puffs cereal being manufactured at about 250 feet above the General Mills plant just off Paseo del Norte.

If nothing else, it was always a good backup in case your altimeter wasn’t working.

Shamed by our dog Chester…

I stumbled upon a recent article in the Wall Street Journal which had the startling headline:

“I Hate Doodle Dogs”: Endless Poodle Hybrids Spark Backlash

The ultra-popular pets have driven a wedge between owners, breeders and people who say they’re tired of seeing the pooches everywhere

I mean really, who could hate this guy…

The story says the growing popularity of the cross breed between poodles, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, Irish setters, English sheep dogs, etc., has created animosity toward the breed because they have become so trendy. The story said that in the “trendy capitol of the world,” Portland, OR, the doodle dogs are everywhere.

“It’s like showing up at a party wearing the same dress as everybody else,” one Portlandier said after visiting a local dog park.

A young woman in Alabama put up a social media post last year entitled “I Hate Doddle Dogs” because she was “sick of how these dogs have become a fad.” She said she did not want the dogs to be seen as “exotic things.” I can assure you that our Chester is not exotic. Another person noted that there is “a lot of doodle snobbery” out there. I don’t think we’re snobbish about Chester and he’s certainly incapable of being snobby to anyone, except maybe cats.

We had only seen one Goldendoodle before we got our rambunctious dog Chester. That dog, SY (owned by good friends Mike and Geri) and Chester are best friends, — true”BFFs.” Watching them wrestle on a “play date” is the best cheap entertainment on the planet.

We decided on the breed, not because it was trendy, but primarily because my wife has bad allergies and the dogs are largely hypoallergenic. We’d had a Golden Retriever before and liked its friendly attitude. And we knew poodles were very smart, so the mix of the two made a lot of sense to us.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sy-and-chester-1.jpg
Sy, left, and Chester. Best buds.

And Chester didn’t come from a puppy mill. We found him at a small farm outside Santa Fe where the owners raised chickens, cattle, sheep and occasionally sold pups produced by their collection of two sweet female standard poodles and a friendly Golden retriever male. Chester had humble beginnings. He spent many of his first formative weeks inside a repurposed chicken coop alongside his seven other siblings. He was kept at night in a house full of kids who I’m sure adored all the pups.

Goldendoodles now can sell for several thousand dollars from the “Doodle mills” around the country. Chester cost us only a smidgen of that amount — way less than $1,000, we’re proud to say.

The Wall Street Journal story says doodle dogs are “beloved for their intelligence, cheerful disposition and, in some cases, minimal shedding. Many people find them exceptionally cute.”

Chester as a puppy, “exceptionally cute.”

Chester is all of those things. He has more personality than any dog we’ve ever owned. He loves every human he comes in contact with, especially our next door neighbors, our good friends Cheryl and Joel (who still triggers accidental peeing incidents by Chester when he shows up at our house.) And of course he goes bonkers when he sees our grandkids. He likes most other dogs except for large dark colored breeds and yappy small ones. He’s especially fond of people who offer him treats and most people in the neighborhood know him by name. Our mail delivery lady leaves him treats in the mailbox every day.

Chester is not without his faults. He has occasional bouts with bad breath that could peel paint off the wall. I’m often awakened at night from a dream where I’m touring the sewers of Paris, only to discover him at bedside panting in my face. He doesn’t have a “soft mouth,” — he rips treats out of some people’s hands as if he has never been fed. He will chase cats and squirrels, given the opportunity. And we fear he has permanent puppy brain.

But now, I guess, we are going to have to start wearing signs around our necks apologizing for picking a trendy breed when we walk him. Chester, of course, will be clueless about the shaming, expecting everyone to offer him a treat while he leaps in the air for attention. and offers them a genuine smile.

Chester’s “smile” when he sees people he really likes

What I’ve come to appreciate and learn from Chester and all dogs is how much joy they receive from simple things. They don’t need a new BMW, a house on the beach, a Mediterranean cruise or a new laptop to make them happy. They’re happy with just meeting someone new, taking a long walk along the irrigation ditch where there’s lots to sniff and a chance to wade in the muddy water, a game of tug with a leash, a scratch behind the ears, a ride in the pickup or a treat of cheese now and then. And of course, they never feel guilty about how many naps they take in a day. 

Wait, I thought YOU had Uncle Vern’s ashes…

Imagine that your family has agreed to meet at noon at the bridge over the Rio Grande on Central in Albuquerque to gently toss the ashes of your beloved Uncle Vern into the turgid waters below.

Everyone shows up, including Cousin Louie, who was charged with picking up the urn of ashes from the mortuary and bringing them to the solemn event. Louie’s 1984 Nova, however, wouldn’t start that morning, so he had to take the city bus from his apartment near Osuna to Central, then on Rapid Ride to the closest drop off point near the river.

Hello Vern, are you in there???

When Louie arrives, Aunt Lola notices that he isn’t carrying the expensive urn of ashes that he was supposed to bring. 

After some pointed questioning, Louie admits that in the frantic effort to make it on time to the ceremony, he might have accidentally left Vern at the bus stop on Osuna.

Now the story above may or not be true, but it makes one wonder why an urn used for ashes from a crematorium or funeral home got left behind at a bus stop.

Police in Albuquerque reported last week that city maintenance crews found the urn near bus stop #6594 in the northwest party of the city. They have issued a notice for anyone missing the urn to contact them to reclaim it.

It has not been confirmed that the contents of the urn actually contain charred human remains.

“No one looked inside since it could be considered bio waste,” a police spokeswoman said.

I’m sure Vern wouldn’t want to have been considered “bio waste.”

We don’t seem to use turn signals much in New Mexico, but blind drivers can go more than 211 miles per hour here…

A friend of mine once commented that most vehicles sold in the used car market in New Mexico could correctly be advertised as having turn signals that were “never used.” I guess it means you don’t have to budget much for replacement of turn signal bulbs.

I’m sure many of us who have endangered our lives on New Mexico roads could vouch for never receiving any information about what the driver in front or in back of us was planning to do.

“You don’t need to have that kind of personal information about my intended activities,” they’re probably thinking.

So it was with some amusement that I read a story in the Las Cruces Sun-News last week that a legally blind man had driven his specially equipped Chevrolet Corvette to a Guiness World Record speed of 221.043 miles per hour on the runway at Spaceport America. The driver, identified as Dan Parker, reportedly lost his sight during a racing incident in 2012. To commemorate the day he lost his sight, he chose to participate in the National Federation of the Blind’s “Blind Driver Challenge.”

The story says Parker’s Corvette was equipped with “an innovative audio guidance system that’s specifically designed to his needs.”

A Corvette possibly similar to Dave Parker’s audio guidance equipped ride

I have no doubt that the car could do more than 200 miles per hour on Spaceport’s 12,000- foot arrow-straight runway. I suspect he had audio inputs in each ear beeping when he veered either left or right on the centerline of the runway, although more specific details about his guidance system were not available. 

Parker concluded that “We have not only demonstrated that a blind person can operate a vehicle safely, buy that we can do it at over 200 miles per hour.”

I’m sure he’s proud of his accomplishment, but I honestly hope he’s not anywhere near me when he blasts down a road at 200 miles per hour.  I’m sure I couldn’t hear the audio inputs he’s receiving while driving the car so I’d know which direction he might be turning. And given that this is New Mexico, I’d be concerned that I wouldn’t get much information from his turn signals. 



I’ve been vindicated. Smuggled Mexican bologna IS in fact “funny.”

Yes, it’s Mexican bologna time again for my blog.

This time, the topic was triggered by a segment of the March 19, 2022, National Public Radio program “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” The highly popular comedy show takes on events from the previous week, skewering both the left and the right, the pompous, the famous, the just plain dumb and most importantly, those who don’t see the humor in what they’ve just done or said.

Our daughter-in-law, who follows my blog, said she heard the segment while listening to the show last month and told me about it. Thanks, Jessica. Although I listen to the program regularly, I seem to have missed that particular episode.

On the show, guest listeners are asked to identify as true, one of three wildly strange stories gleaned from recent news accounts around the world. In the March 19 segment, the guest listener was asked to identify which one of three stories were true about people not seeing the humor in comments about their pet project or work.

In one of the false episodes, a city official in Bangor, Maine, was reportedly telling the local public that kids dressing up in banana costumes constituted a danger to the public. In another, a professor from a Midwestern university, claimed that no one took seriously his research about why chickens cross the road. And the final one, which WAS true, was about the U.S. Border Patrol and Customs agent who said that smuggling balogna from Mexico into the U.S. was “definitely not funny.” The guest listener correctly identified the bologna story as being true. All the panelists on the show got a chuckle out of it, including the grumpy government agent’s finger wagging that smuggling bologna was “not funny.”

The link to the program is below. You’ll have to go into the show to about the 13:30 mark to hear the segment.


The fact that the whole bologna smuggling incident made people laugh, and the fact that the government officials had to go out of their way to officially tell us what could or could not be funny, was pretty choice. That’s right — subjugating our interpretation of events to a review by the federal humor police.

I’m going to take my in-depth investigative reporting on smuggled bologna as one of the things which tipped the balance of the story into the category of a national news frenzy. Well, truth be told, I doubt anyone at “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” actually read my blog, but at least I felt I was on top of something big.

I now feel empowered to continue my very important work as an investigative journalist on the trail of anything really dumb — especially when committed by public officials.


New Mexico’s law allowing sale of recreational marijuana went into effect on Friday, April 1. It also coincided with April Fools Day, which I thought was kind of humorous in itself.

One enterprising New Mexico business apparently saw the connection and offered up a clever item to commemorate the event.

My daughter sent me a promotion from the Las Cruces-based Organ Mountain Outfitters that offers a T-Shirt that simply says “Weed, New Mexico.”

Yes, Weed really is a town in New Mexico, located in the Sacramento Mountains near Cloudcroft. Located at an elevation of 7,000 feet, it’s already kind of a high place.

Organ Mountain Outfitters is offering the t-shirt, shown below, for $25 each. I’ll bet they sell out of their initial supply rather quickly.

Organ Mountain Outfitters “Weed New Mexico” T-shirt

I’m not supporting the use of recreational marijuana, but I did think it was kind of funny that almost everyone engaged in the New Mexico weed frenzy seems to have forgotten we have a place in our state called Weed. 

I’ve been to Weed on several occasions, and although it’s a pretty spot, there’s not much there. However, the Organ Mountain Outfitters website notes that the town has had a post office since 1885 and that as of the latest census, 63 people call it home. 

I’m not making any money for my mention of the T-shirt, but if you want to go to the website where you can buy one (if there are any left), here it is:


This reminds me of a bright red T-shirt my good friends, the Taylors, sold a few years ago that had the image of a chile pod on the front, with the wording “Still legal in New Mexico” adjacent to it. I wore mine so much that it finally turned into a shredded rag in my garage. I’m not sure if they still have any for sale. 

Generational disconnect…

Our son ‘s family visited us in Las Cruces last week. Their two sons, age eight and six, kept us very busy and entertained during their stay, not to mention leaving us a bit exhausted at the end of the visit.

Max, the eight year old, gave us a particularly humorous insight when I gave him a ride in our classic 1975 BMW 2002.

The car had been sitting outside in the sun and the weather was warm, so in order to cool down the interior, I asked him to simply “roll down the window” on his door.

Chester, looking quizzical next to our classic 1975 BMW 2002

“How do you do that,” he asked. “I don’t see a button.”

Yes, in his eight years, he had never ridden in a vehicle with manually cranked windows like all of us Boomers grew up with in our tragically hard lives. Just muscle strength in our arms, no one-touch down switch on the door panel. How did we survive?

It took me a few seconds to show him how to crank the handle for the desired lowering of the window. Then he asked:

“How do you put it back up.”

Another teaching moment.

As I drove him back to our house with fragrant spring air flowing through the cabin, I rhythmically changed gears on the four-speed floor mounted shift.  The exhaust made a wonderful burble that was musical to my ears. It was a delightful mechanical connection between a driver and the car.

“You know, Max, you’ll probably never drive a car that has a manual transmission,” I said ruefully.

Yes, I know the future is all electric. But there’s just something visceral about driving an older internal combustion powered vehicle with a manual transmission and going a little over the speed limit on a twisty road.

I’ll think I’ll hang on to the old girl as long as I can find fuel for her. 



Temporarily kicked out of Wally World…

You have to feel sorry for alligators who have to live in New Mexico. They really couldn’t make it through our cold winters if it wasn’t for artificially heated water for them to swim in.

Take, for example, Wally, the Clovis Zoo’s long-time resident American Alligator. Last month, Wally’s heated pool became a little too chilly when the heating element for his pond inside his pen malfunctioned and a winter storm was on the way to the Clovis area.

American alligator in a warmer location.

The Clovis Fire Department was summoned to help rescue the chilly Wally.  At first, they tried to lure him out of his pen by offering him whole defrosted chickens and dead rabbits — his usual mealtime snack.  But as Zoo Director Lisa Fox noted, Wally was too cold and “had no interest in food.”

The next plan was to use brute strength to move the several hundred pound reptile. Fox gingerly placed a lasso around his head and then summoned the firemen to tug the critter to a warmer location in a nearby heated shed.  

“This was our only alternative,” Fox said. “to get our hands on him and do it.”

While Wally is enjoying his warmer temporary headquarters, a new heating unit has been placed on order so he can eventually enjoy his old digs again.

And hopefully, his appetite for raw chicken and dead rabbits has returned.