Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Volunteer Time officially starts

Week 2
Wednesday, Nov. 1

“Get your chores done early because you never know what opportunities for adventure will come your way today.”
That’s the Carol Anderson daily plan.

And that’s why I was out by 7 a.m. working on pulling and cutting weeds. All the volunteers, and some of the park employees have been busy removing weeds this week. I carefully worked around any plant that had flowers. They were a dash of color in the otherwise gray/green/tan/brown desert landscape. Volunteer Bill stopped to chat. He reached down and started to pull one of the flowering plants.

“Don’t pull that one, it has lovely yellow flowers,” I said.

He gave me a funny look and responded, “It’s a weed.”

“The plant’s yellow flowers are pretty and it’s currently butterfly habitat,” I said as a small brownish butterfly landed on a flower. Then I assured Bill that when the flowers were spent I’d pull the “weed.” He seemed satisfied.

I’ve been doing so much weed work that now my leather gloves have holes in them – that I’ve patched with duct tape. It is obvious that soon instead of leather, I’ll have “duct tape” gloves. New gloves are needed. My friend Hilda came to my rescue! I called Village Mercantile in Corrales (the only place I know that sells heavy duty leather gloves in the extra-small size), then asked Hilda to pick up two pairs and mail them to me.

On one of my walks around the park, I went by one of the group shelters and recognized some campers that I met this past April in Alamogordo. Turns out they are part of the Los Paisanos Good Sam group. Before I walked on, I had an invitation to join them for the evening’s Happy Hour. They will be here at Pancho Villa until Sunday noon.

Also today, RVers that will be caravanning into Mexico arrived. Here they will meet up with the tour leaders; they will leave on Saturday morning.

Weeds, weeds, and more weeds
Thursday, Nov. 2
More early morning weed work for me. I tackled tumbleweeds, cleaned up a large area and had huge piles for the clean-up crew. The park is looking mighty good. Of course, the park will never be an oasis of green like the Midwestern parks I stayed in this past summer – it is the desert after all.

Cat enjoys morning outside while I am busy weeding. She has a couple trees for climbing, lots of birds to watch, and thankfully avoids the cactus spines.

Besides weeds, I’ve been writing and editing articles for the Personal Chef Magazine. I need to have all the work finished in about a week.

This evening, the Friends of Pancho Villa State Park met for dinner and the monthly meeting, and all volunteers were invited.

A Day Off in Deming
Friday, Nov. 3
Park volunteers Gwen and Jim Young invited me to go to Deming for shopping and lunch. First stop was the Luna Rossa Winery where we tasted several wines, and bought our favorites. After a few errands, we stopped and picked up “Mary of the Rocks” – an eccentric older woman who has lived in the area for many years and has been befriended by several park folks. She is indeed what I would call a “crusty” woman. However, she’s very bright and is interesting to talk to. She lives in a Deming motel room, doesn’t have a car, and depends on others to take her shopping, which we did. We also had lunch at a Mexican restaurant. It was a good day.

Campers come and campers go. The Chili Chapter of Escapees started arriving; and a large group of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from El Paso (Texas) arrived this afternoon and will be camping in tents on a large grassy area. The Mexican tour group left.

I’ve had two bird feeders out for just over a week, and the birds have found them. I have one feeder with sunflower seeds and another with thistle seeds. The sparrows and house finches found the food first, followed shortly by the White Winged Dove (the dove’s song sounds like “Who cooks for you”). The dove make me laugh as they try to sit and balance on the feeder’s small perching area.

My first shift in the museum
Saturday, Nov. 4

As I headed to take a shower this morning, the moon was setting. I took this picture:

The park was hopping with activity today. About 60 folks from town and the park were here for a program at the Museum. After a variety of refreshments, people went inside to hear two storytellers, one speaking English and one Spanish. I was scheduled to staff the museum this afternoon, but went in early to help during the program. Once the crowd dispersed, the museum was fairly quiet in the afternoon, and I had time to continue reading the Roger Tory Peterson biography.

Here’s your nature lesson for today: I haven’t taken time to check this out, but when Peterson is explaining how to net butterflies and moths without damaging their wings, he says, “A butterfly always flies up when leaving a flower. So after clapping the net over it you hold the netting up and the butterfly flies into the cul-de-sac. On the other hand, a moth drops, so you place the net below when they leaving their feeding place. In summary: moths drop, butterflies fly up.”

On one of my walks around the park I took a picture of the first grease rack built to service US Army vehicles that arrived to try to capture Pancho Villa after he attacked and raided the town of Columbus. This was the military’s first use of motorized vehicles.

The Friends of the Park Pancake Breakfast
Sunday, Nov. 5
Thank goodness I’m an early riser! I was up and in the shower a little before 5 this morning because I volunteered to help with a pancake breakfast. The early start gave us time to get the tables in the recreation hall set, the coffee started, the pancake batter made, eggs cracked and in the mixing bowl, and the sausages started. Then we cooked just enough for the six volunteers. So we were able to have our breakfast before the park campers arrived. By 10 a.m. the work was done, giving me 3 ½ hours of volunteer time for the day. A little work time here, a little there - there is always something to do so I won’t have any problem getting my 24 hours in each week.

This afternoon I joined two other volunteers and some town residents at a “useful Spanish” class being offered in town. Besides taking Spanish in high school, over the years I’ve picked up some words and phrases; but not enough to be really helpful. It is a small class and the instructor, Javier, helps us with general as well as specific things.

Just call me the ‘trash lady’
Monday, Nov. 6
Now I can add ‘trash collection’ to my resume! This morning Volunteer Diane (another single gal) and I collected trash from the RV sites. It also was a good time to visit with other campers. In all it took about two hours.

One of the regular campers said he would get the weeds out of his camping site if he had a hoe – and I volunteered the hoe I had been working with. So no weed work for me until he finishes.

This volunteer “work” is very rewarding. While weeding and gathering trash are hardly glamorous jobs, they are important. We are having such wonderful weather, and the chance to meet a wide variety of people is well worth the effort. For the most part, the RV campers I’ve met have figured out how to really live! They remind me of a quote by William Least Heat Moon in his book, Blue Highways:

"I never worried about making a living, but I’ve done thinking about making a life. It’s hard to know the difference sometimes, and it must be getting harder, judging by all those that don’t know the difference."

Greeting interesting museum guests
Tuesday, Nov. 7

Today I was assigned the museum from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and met quite a few interesting people. For most, even though they’ve been to this park before or they used to live in the area, it is their first time to see the museum. (The grand opening was this past March.)

Today’s guests included a National Guardsman who recently was assigned to border duty, a former Border Patrolman who now lives in Georgia, a man who knows someone distantly related to one of Villa’s cohorts, and a man who knows someone distantly related to one of the pilots stationed here at Camp Furlong in 1916. This last man told me that because of the arid conditions here, the pilots had to remove the wooden propeller from the plane each evening and keep it in his tent overnight.

Also today two young men who had just completed the Continental Divide Trail were at the park. Turns out that one of three trail ‘ends’ is not too far from Columbus/Pancho Villa. The hikers tented here last night and left this afternoon hoping to hitch a ride to El Paso to catch the Greyhound Bus for the trip home.

I’ve been here two weeks – and have enjoyed every day! The next few days will be extra busy: four camping groups are here, there will be a Veterans Day program Saturday morning, fireworks Saturday evening, and a 5K race on Sunday morning. Oh, yes. And the park just received more rakes, hoes and pitchforks – and best of all, the gloves that Hilda sent arrived so I can retire my duct-taped gloves.

Here’s a picture of my new gloves!

That’s all for this week.

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