Saturday, January 27, 2007

Truth or Consequences


The other day I was up in Sierra County, New Mexico. I was visiting the town of Truth or Consequences. My French friend Christophe Guillame used to live there.

TorC was renamed from Hot Springs in 1950 as part of the 10 year anniversary of the radio show by Ralph Edwards.

It is a neat little town famous for its many healing hot mineral baths, Spas, and hospitals. Most of the bathhouses were built in the 1920's. Today there are 9 public bathhouses. They also have an internet site:

The town has really an excellent, world-class museum at Geronimo Springs. It is surprisingly large and has excellent collections from prehistoric times to the present. It houses one of the finest public collections of Mimbres, Tularosa, Alma and Hohokam pottery anywhere.
Truly a world class collection. Many other interesting exhibits as well. Worth going out of your way to visit.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hueco Tanks

There are many thousands of rock art sites in the desert southwest. There are 7,564 rock art sites known to exist only in the state of Utah. Within roughly 100 miles of El Paso there are at least at least 6 well documented locations, some of them containing thousands of different engravings (petroglyphs) such as the Three Rivers State Park north of El Paso.

Roughly 15 miles East of my house in El Paso there is a magical and interesting outcrop of rocks named Hueco Tanks. It originally was formed about 34 million years ago when magma pushed up from deep in the earth but did not quite reach the surface. Over the years the limestone above it eroded away, leaving the massive rock formation we see today. These rocks now rise above the Chihuahuan desert as sort of an oasis of abundant water, relic plant life, and an excellent collection of native Indian rock art which records the history of the local native peoples over thousands of years.

Rainwater is trapped in numerous “tanks” or holes in the rocks, so that even in the driest of times there is water available.

About 10,000 years ago the most recent ice age ended and the climate began to warmer and get drier. Archaic hunter-gatherers passed through because of the availability of this water and the abundant game. They recorded their visits by painting geometric designs and hunting scenes on the rocks.

They employed petroglyphs whereby the weathered surface of the rock is scraped, abraded, or chipped away; and also painted pictographs whereby the rock is actually painted using powered minerals, charcoal, plant substances, and blood. It is thought that some of the petroglyphs were originally painted too. The petroglyphs last many years even when they are exposed to the harsh high desert sun, but most of the paintings (pictographs) which are still visible are under protected rock outcrops or in caves.

This rock art continued into the middle ages with the Jornada Mogollon people. By 1150 this group of people had built a cluster of pithouse structures at Hueco Tanks. They left behind pottery shards, stone tools and painted face designs with masks on them. There are more than 200 of these painted masks making this the largest collection on painted masks in North America.

Even after the Spanish arrived in the new world, the Kiowa, Mescalero Apache, and Tigua Native Americans continued to use Hueco Tanks and record their heritage with rock art. They made handprints, dancing figures, horses, and humans in European style clothing.

As recently as a few hundred years ago there were native people who did not have a written language, or the knowledge and technology of metals (i.e. essentially stone age or Neolithic people) living and surviving off the land in this incredibly harsh high desert environment.

Because of the availability of water, one of the relay stations for the Butterfield Overland Mail stage was located at Hueco Tanks in 1858.

Fortunately entry to this area is now limited, and it is protected from vandalism by the dedicated staff from the Texas State Parks. Only a limited number of people are allowed to enter, and before you can enter you must watch a well done video which tells about the history of the area and stresses both conservation and protection of the history.

Pat Garrett

Patrick Floyd Garrett was born in Alabama on June 5, 1850 and grew up in Louisiana. At the age of 17 he left home to move west to Texas becoming a cowboy and buffalo hunter. He moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico and got married in 1879.

He is the Western Lawman who killed the escaped murderer Billy The Kid in July 1881.

Thereafter he became a rancher near Roswell, N.M. (1882-96), deputy sheriff and then sheriff of Dona Ana County, N.M. (1896-1902), and collector of customs at El Paso, Texas (1902-06). Pat Garrett then bought a horse ranch, leased it to Wayne Brazel, and later became involved in a heated dispute over the lease.

Pat Garrett was fatally shot on the road from his ranch to Las Cruces. The man who had leased the ranch, Wayne Brazel, alleged that Garrett had drawn a gun on him and that the killing was self-defense. A witness agreed, so Brazel went free.

However a suspicion lingered that Brazel or someone else conspired to execute Pat Garrett, a lawman who had made many enemies during his 58 years of life. Pat Garrett died on February 29, 1908.

He was originally buried in the Odd Fellow Cemetery in Las Cruces. Since this cemetery is no longer maintained, in 1951 his sister had his remains disinterred and moved across the street (along with several other family members) to the Masonic Cemetery. He had been a member of Montezuma Lodge No. 1 in Santa Fe, New Mexico (as was his son Patrick Jr.).

At the burial site (N 32.30107 W -106.78548) there is a fairly large Garrett family plot. Buried along side Pat Garrett are his wife, four sons, three of his daughters, the wife of one of his sons, and his mother-in

I received a very nice email today correcting some errors above:
Nice web page. Your Garrett section has some small errors. I have a Pat Garrett Newsletter, mainly to do with history of that era, and current history events in Dona Ana County. I can add you to the email list.

"Pat Garrett then bought a horse ranch, leased it to Wayne Brazel, and later became involved in a heated dispute over the lease."

Actually, Pat had two ranches. Pat was a horse breeder, he did not buy horses with either ranch. He had Deeded one ranch to his crippled son Poe. (Polio?) Poe was the one that did the leasing of his ranch to Brazel which caused the trouble. Pat was trying to unravel the problem. He had known Brazel for how many years? He had no reason to fear turning his back on Brazel while pissing. .... But, Brazel was in the Cox camp all those years .... Mrs. Garrett begged and begged Pat not go that day.

Jarvis Garrett guided me to the murder site, see: FRIENDSOFPATGARRETT.COM

Cal Traylor
Las Cruces,

Monday, January 15, 2007


Before the railroads reached the area around El Paso, Texas in the late 1800’s the options in construction building materials were fairly limited. It certainly was not practical to carry large amounts of brick or heavy items like pianos across the dry and dangerous desert.

The American government built a series of military forts across the area to try and protect these invading settlers from the defences employed by the local indigenous population. In less than 100 years these invading immigrants were largely successful and the genocide of the local inhabitants was almost complete.

The Americans are no more blood thirsty than any other culture. This aggressiveness apparently is genetic and universal to our species. Until the current generation, the entire history of our species seems to have been one variation or another on this same theme. Throughout the history of mankind this forced land transfer happened all over the world. I lived in The Netherlands for many years, and if one looks back only a few hundred years in history ownership of the same piece of land changed from one country to another many different times.

The rainfall is so low in West Texas that for almost a millennium sun dried bricks were made locally from mud mixed with straw. The word used to describe this type of construction is adobe. Although the total annual rainfall is very low in the desert, it does rain occasionally. And when it does the rain typically arrives in a heavy flow as part of a thunderstorm. So ideally the exterior of the walls is covered with stucco or some type of lime based coating which is intended to protect the mud bricks from erosion by the rain.

Yesterday I was well off the beaten path. I was roughly a two hour drive North of El Paso, and I was using my GPS to search out hot springs in the high desert (I did find several). Far away from the highway I came across this little ruin of a house which was made from adobe.

When built and maintained correctly, this method of construction is very comfortable to live in. The walls are typically at least 60 cm (24 inches) thick. These thick mud walls provide great insulation and a tremendous amount of thermal mass. So adobe houses tend to feel cool in the middle of the summer day and remain warm during the cold desert nights.

Keeping Things In Perspective

Many times in life things are not what they appear. Sometimes they are actually just the exact opposite of what they initially appear. Sales and marketing people take advantage of this phenomenon when they imply and spin. They think that they are not being dishonest, but their perception is distorted.

I have made many mistakes over the last half a century and in many cases these mistakes were caused because things were not what they appeared initially. This certainly applies to each of my three marriages. Many, no probably most of the conflicts I have been involved in were largely caused by me or the other party or in some cases both of us holding a distorted picture of what the reality of the situation was.

Certainly anyone who never makes any mistakes isn’t doing anything.

But one can try to avoid many errors in life by taking more time in making decisions. Sleep on it. Take a few breaths before answering, etc.

Another piece of good advice comes from Kurt Cobain’s wife. Despite her unconventionality I recently heard her say, “Good manners don’t cost anything.” In other words, it is generally inappropriate and harmful to your cause to be rude. Or as my mother used to say, “You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.”

Recently I had to hike over some railroad tracks to get near to a bird wildlife refuge. I was going over there to try and take a few pictures of the thousands of aquatic birds. And as I crossed over the tracks I saw this amazing example of the illusion of parallel railroad tracks appearing to touch upon reaching infinity.

The Mighty Rio Grande

The mighty Rio Grande river is the third longest river in the United States. It starts high up in the Rocky Mountains of North America and runs 3,034 kilometres (1,885 miles) to the Gulf of Mexico in the Southeast of Texas. Along the way it changes from a wild, clear mountain river to little more than a slow muddy irrigation canal, and then back to a really big river.

The river is so well controlled by dams and so heavily used for irrigation that by the time it reaches El Paso you can often wade across it without getting your knees wet.

A lot of other rivers join the trek along the way to the coast. For a big portion of its length the Rio Grande serves as the national boundary between Mexico and the United States. A few hundred miles downstream from El Paso the Rio Grande has been replenished. River raft trips through the Santa Elena canyon of the Big Bend are beautiful, safe and a genuine once in a lifetime experience.

A few days ago I went out to the sand hills in the desert near Santa Teresa to test shoot my new handgun. I have been living in Holland for the last 15 years, and for most people it simply is not possible to own a firearm over there. They have very strong anti gun laws. I’m not a gun freak, but I did grow up being taught to understand the safe use of firearms. So when I got back to America one of the things on my To-Do list was to buy a 44 Magnum Dirty Harry special six shooter revolver made by Ruger. It is a delightful weapon, and surprisingly the recoil is not excessive.

Returning to town I took this picture as I crossed over the Mighty Rio Grande.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dorris van Doren

I had an experience yesterday afternoon that was so special and spiritual that I actually got a little choked up. I didn’t quite start sniffling, but my voice sure did crack, and I had to stop talking before it became obvious that this macho old solitary lion with the mangy beard was about to break down and start crying like a little girl.

Back in the early 1970’s I was thin and I was living in Frankfurt, Germany. I didn’t have a car but I had a nice 10 speed bicycle that I rode thousands of miles. I was in great shape. One time I even officially entered a sponsored, sanctioned bicycle race and came out third. Ok, the two guys directly in front of me got in an accident and fell just before the finish line (or I would have placed fifth). But even fifth wouldn’t have been all that shabby.

I was in Frankfurt as a soldier in the U.S. Army sitting behind a desk at 3rd Armoured Division Headquarters. Basically I was the top secretary to a Colonel, who basically was one of the senior secretaries reporting to the General. The beauty of Frankfurt, Germany at the time was that it was many thousands of miles away from Vietnam. I had so many wonderful and crazy experiences in Frankfurt that I could write a book about it. Maybe I will. I’ll put that on my to-do-list. If I don’t get around to it in this lifetime I will for sure in the next.

But just one little story as it relates to my spiritual experience yesterday. I was in my early 20’s. And a friend of my Mother’s came over to Europe to visit. She was this short, tubby little old lady in her fifties with bad knees who always laughed. Kind of like Mr. Toad from Wind In The Willows except much nicer and compassionate (and female of course). She never had anything negative to say about anything or anyone. Period. Full stop.

She also was a bicycle fanatic. Years later she talked my Mother into riding her bicycle complete with tent, etc. all the way across the state of Kansas, camping along the way. Look at it on a map. That is much further than riding clear across France. And these were just a couple of gutsy old fat broads.

Well back to the 1970’s.

I took Dorris over to my favourite bicycle shop and she bought a nice bike. And we rode together many miles in Europe. We took our bikes on the train then rode the bikes down that stretch of the Rhine river that has more castles per mile than anywhere else in the world.

I really grew very close to Dorris. Not in a romantic way, she was a fat old lady for heavens sake, but we developed a very deep friendship which had a lot of mutual respect.

So now it is 35 years later. Dorris and my Mother finally got really old and both died. I am now old and fat. And about a year ago while I was still living in Europe I got a new satellite navigation GPS. While browsing through its database of waypoints I happened to see the Dorris Van Doren regional branch of the El Paso Public Library on the Westside of El Paso. Without even asking anyone I knew instantly that this had to have been named after my friend.

At the time I was hopeful, but I wasn’t certain that I would ever get back to El Paso. But I promised myself that if I ever did get back to El Paso I would go visit the library that was named after my sweet, energetic, and crazy friend Dorris.

Wow it is incredible. It was built two years ago and it looks like a piece of modern art sculpture. It is absolutely beautiful!

I took some pictures on the outside of the building, then I went inside and took a few inside. I struck up a conversation with the librarian and it was then that I got a little choked up. But she saved the day by saying, “Sir, there is a painting of Mrs. Van Doren right over there.” That way I could gracefully escape before I began balling. This lady in the painting is clearly my friend, but an older version about 15 or 20 years after she and I were friends.

Dorris Van Doren was really a wonderful, fine person. I can think of no finer tribute to her than to name a really elegant and artistic library after her. I’m not a big Christian anymore, but if there is a heaven you can be sure that this sweet old fat broad with the bad knees is up there laughing, getting in just a little bit of trouble, and generally making life much more wonderful for everyone around her.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Self Confessed Tree Hugger

For years my conservative friends called me a Tree Hugger meaning it as a mild but good humored put-down. I saw this picture in the latest Sierra Club magazine and I just had to make a copy of it!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happiness Is.....

If you Goggle the above phrase you will get an amazing array of views. To Aristotle it was Self Sufficiency. To some it is seeing ?????? in your rear view mirror. Lubbock, Bristol, Lodi, you name it.
I've spent close to 20 years of my adult life living in Europe. That is roughly 1/2 of the time since I reached adulthood. First a few years in Frankfurt, Germany in the early 70's when I was in the army. Then many years later I returned for a 15 year stint as the General Manager of the European Division of a multi-national food company.
And today I saw The Netherlands in my rear view mirror for the last time. Since I am currently engaged in what I hope continues to a long drawn out battle against what the doctors say is an incurable malignant cancer, I'm certain that I will not be coming back to Holland. Its a nice place. I have enjoyed living in Europe tremendously this time.
But at the same time I'm REALLY excited about going back to my roots and beginning a completely new chapter in this little adventure. How exciting!
At the moment I'm sitting in my hotel room at the Sheraton right at the Brussels Airport. I'll spend the night here, then tomorrow morning I will head West across the pond.
Before leaving today I drove over to the hauptbahnhof in Aachen to buy a British newspaper. One of the articles said that now for the first time more than 50% of adult women in the UK are unmarried. It seems that they feel that they are getting a bad deal...being forced to work, be a mommie, yet still do all the cooking and housework too. And from time to time instead of being protected by their husbands, getting beat up or shot by them. So more and more women are delaying marriage until at least well into their 30's.
That all seems very logical. Here is the rub: I'm 58. Its amazing how many totally desperate women there are in their 40's and 50's. They would do anything to get a husband. Really, ANYTHING! As deficient and screwed-up as men are, these old women would willingly give up several years of their remaining life just to get a man. Sad is the kindest thing one can say about this. More honest is disgusting and revolting.