Saturday, May 28, 2011

Four weeks down, four more to go

It feels like I hit the jackpot this past week – seven visitors! Definitely a highlight.

First it was a lovely visit from four friends from a camping group I used to belong to, Border Cities Travelers. Dottie and Darryld and Norma and Charles and I spent the afternoon visiting.

Next Albuquerque friend Larry Flinn arrived to camp for three days. Larry has recently retired and for the next 18 months he will be traveling around the country. He also plans to hike the Appalachian Trail before returning to his home in late 2012. He and the park’s heritage educator (John Read) hiked to the top of one of the Three Sisters peaks just north of here. He left Friday morning, heading to Arizona.

While Larry was here, Mary and Jack Harris (also Border Cities Travelers) drove down from Silver City. This called for lunch at the Pink Store and a stop at Super Memo (grocery store) in Palomas, Mexico.

Winds still blowing; weather turns toasty

Now, I’m not complaining – the winds are not as strong and not blowing every day. When I think of the folks in other parts of the country that have been devastated by tornadoes, I’m grateful that we don’t have it anywhere near as bad.

Day temps have reached 100+ in the afternoons; nights cool off to the low-to-mid 60s. We sure could use some rain. Weather website says 10% chance on Wednesday.

I love sunrises and sunsets – these are both times to drink in their colors and replenish my spirit with their richness. A time to reflect on life.

God arranges opportunities to remind us to slow down and think about what’s important in life.

I must remark about the amazing New Mexico skies! At PVSP we have a horizon-to-horizon view of the ever-changing cloud formations. I’m glad to be an early riser – to enjoy the sunrises, which I consider God’s gift for getting up. And because of a lot of dust and smoke in the sky to the west (wind and wildfires) the setting sun has been nearly blood-red.

Here’s a photo of the sky at mid-day a few days ago:

Spiffing up the campgrounds

Most mornings, between 6 and 8 a.m. and again between 6 and 8 p.m. when it is cool, you’ll find me cleaning up cactus patches and watering our thirsty trees. I’ve adopted 15 campsite areas that have 60+ trees. It is hazardous work and more than once I’ve ended up backing into a cactus or yucca. I do love these early morning times – the birds are singing – I think they are thanking me for the trenches of water around the trees I’m watering – and I have a deep feeling of satisfaction. As I work, I often think of something I read years ago:

Just like a few years ago when I spent time hoe-ing weeds here, I’ve worn holes in my heavy-duty leather gloves. No problem, I’ve patched them with ever-useful duct tape! I will say those campsites are looking mighty nice. Now if we just had some campers to enjoy them…

Park Techs Martin and Junior and Seasonal Worker Hector have been busy cutting down dead trees, picking up my piles of dead cactus and planting new trees. They cleaned up two dead “century plants” and found a rattlesnake and uncovered a nest that has 11 quail eggs. Surprisingly after several days, the eggs are still there. I had thought something would come along and make a meal

Useful plants are topic of presentation

Ranger Charles Wood from Oliver Lee State Park (Near Alamagordo, NM) had an interesting plant program the weekend that the Gila Travelers (Elks Lodge RVers from Silver City) were here. He had us all sampling mesquite and yucca flowers. And he encourages us to taste mesquite beans later this summer when they are ready.

As always, interesting campers

Jean Holloway-Burkett was here for a couple days – she had just picked up a new-to-her Born Free RV and was on her way back to her home base in Benson, Arizona. She introduced me to two of her RV friends, Betty (in an RV similar to mine) and Dick (in a trailer). We had nice visiting time and traded some books with each other.

Hazel and her two rescued greyhounds are camping here. I first saw her as she pedaled by on a recumbent ‘tricycle’ with her dogs in tow. She also travels with two cats.

Visitor Center duties

I ‘work’ two full days each week – Thursday and Friday. Visitors are few and far between so I read books, work crossword puzzles and take brisk walks around the inside of the building (about 105 paces each lap).

Not much reading this past Thursday, though, because the Sergeant Major’s Academy from Fort Bliss (El Paso, TX) brought 170 students here to study the Pancho Villa Invasion and General Pershing’s subsequent Punitive Expedition into Mexico. Students are from all branches of the armed forces and also include some foreigners. One of the students, who I had an interesting chat with, is a tribal leader from Indonesian Province of Papua New Guinea. When he completes the academy, he will return to his country to run the military.

(Info from Internet: Lying just south of the equator, 160 km north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is part of a great arc of mountains stretching from Asia, through Indonesia and into the South Pacific. With a vibrant and colorful culture, more than 600 islands and 800 indigenous languages, Papua New Guinea is made up of 4 regions with 20 provinces.)

FYI, friend Larry Flinn is a graduate of the Sergeant Major’s Academy; he explained that these students are not ‘kids’ rather most of them are career military in their late 30s or 40s.

Half-way through at PVSP

Four weeks down, four more to go. When I leave here near the end of June, I’ll drive to Albuquerque/Rio Rancho to visit family and friends and to get Jeremiah ready for the summer adventure.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The wind is back!

Jeremiah is rocking and rolling – weather reports tell us to expect gusts up to 60 mph the rest of the week, of course with blowing dust. A huge dust devil wrapped itself around Jeremiah yesterday, slinging sand and small rocks.

Birds are my main entertainment

I must report that some of the White-wing Dove have figured out how to get into the window feeder. It only took them three weeks. First they got good at landing on top of the feeder; once two of them briefly balanced on the top.

Here the dove is trying to figure out how that other bird got in to get the goodies!

Birds I’ve enjoyed these past two weeks

Green-tailed Towhee

Red-wing Blackbird

Yellow-head Blackbird

Lazuli Bunting (migrating through)


Bullock's Oriole

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

Vermilion Flycatcher

White-crown Sparrow

My volunteer time

It’s been a fairly quiet two weeks at Pancho Villa State Park. During that time I’ve had four all-day shifts in the park’s 7,000 sq. ft. Exhibit Hall. This facility is all about Pancho Villa’s raid on the village of Columbus in 1916. Visitors come from everywhere.

If you are not familiar with this historic event, here’s the info from the park’s website.

“On March 9, 1916, soldiers led by Mexican Gen. Francisco “Pancho” Villa attacked the military camp at the sleepy border town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 18 Americans.

“The park is located on the grounds of former Camp Furlong from where Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing launched 10,000 troops on an 11-month, 500-mile pursuit of Villa into Mexico. The Exhibit Hall tells the story that begins with the 1910 Mexican Revolution and ends with Pershing’s command of the Allied Forces when the U.S. entered World War I.

“The Exhibit Hall contains a full-size replica Curtiss JN-3 “Jenny” airplane used by the 1st Aero Squadron; a 1916 Dodge touring car, the type used by Pershing for a field office; historic artifacts; military weapons and ribbons. An armored tank stands as a sentinel outside the facility.

“With only rudimentary initial instructions, military recruits were given orders to drive vehicles and fly the airplanes, which had not been previously tested at high altitudes. As a result, equipment modernization and mechanical specialization during the 1916-1917 expedition period proved essential to U.S. military success during World War I.

“At Pancho Villa State Park, several buildings date from the time of Villa’s raid and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include the 1902 former U.S. Customs House, two adobe structures dating from the Camp Furlong era and Camp Furlong Recreation Hall.”

A hoe, two rakes, a picker-upper and three hoses in a wheel barrow

That’s what you’ll see me with most mornings between 6 and 8 a.m. Park Manager Alex Mares asked volunteers to “adopt” some campsites, watering trees and cleaning up cactus patches. I have 14 sites and about 50 trees. Once I had trenches built at each tree, it’s just a matter of moving hoses around to get the watering done.

The cactus patches take more time – the record frost combined with the ongoing drought killed off quite a bit of cactus. Using my tools I remove the dead cactus pieces, tumbleweeds and leaves and rake into piles. Hector, our seasonal worker, comes around and picks up my piles. This morning I finished the cactus patches in and around my campsites.

It is enjoyable work, mostly because the weather is cool, the wind has not started up and the patches look so much better when I’m finished. It can be treacherous, though. The patches, made up of many individual plants, are pretty close together – I have to be careful not to back into the plant behind me. Even with my sturdy leather gloves, I manage to get some cactus spines in my fingers.

Other bonus entertainment includes the jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits frolicking about, the birds, and people walking by. As I raked in one area, I uncovered a Horned Toad who paused long enough to have his picture taken before scurrying away.

Every once in a while I come across a flower or two. Actually most people would call them ‘weeds’ – but as long as it has a flower, to me it’s a ‘flower’.

Surprise visitors

Four members of the local Winnebago camping group – the Border City Travelers – surprised me with a visit. Charles and Norma and Darryld and Dottie came by. We had a lovely visit. Charles and Norma are in their fourth year as campground volunteers at Rockhound Park. Darryld and Dottie live in Las Cruces.

That’s it for this time – my computer has been acting up and I don’t want to press my luck.

I am happy and satisfied with my life. And I’m blessed with energy and enthusiasm and a huge sense of curiosity. I enjoy being helpful and know I’m making a difference.

Success depends on the degree to which you are at peace with yourself. If you have people around you who love you, and you have peace with what you’re doing, it doesn’t get any better than that.

--- Og Mandino

Based on the above quote, I am successful!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Greetings from Pancho Villa State Park

If we let ourselves, we could become so afraid of the potential dangers, so safety conscious, we would miss the adventure -- Pastor Chuck Swindoll

Wind and more wind at Pancho Villa State Park

There seems to be crazy weather all over the country – and Columbus, New Mexico is no exception. This spring’s windy season waited until I arrived. I’m not complaining, though. The west wind served to push Jeremiah between Tucson and Deming. Heading south on Highway 11 was another thing! With winds gusting as high as 50 mph, that highway was closed twice this week due to high winds and blowing dust.

Just how windy? One of my tire covers (helps protect from the brutal sun) blew off. If it weren't for a fence that is along the park property line it might have ended up in El Paso! Also two large, tall Century Plants have blown over.

We do have lovely sunshine, and for that I'm thankful because the winds are fairly chilly. Nights get down to the high 40s to mid 50s. Day temps are mostly in the 80s so far.

The winds didn’t surprise me, but the masses of dead cactus did, and there are no weeds in sight. I’ve since learned that there has been no rain since late last summer. And on top of that, the area had an historic freeze in February that killed many drought-stricken plants. One tree that died was what I called the 'owl tree' because a Barn Owl and a Long-ear Owl used to spend their days in it at campsite # 44.

We are in the process of hauling the dead cactus away and watering the thirsty trees. The park will look quite barren.

Birds entertain me

Cat and I were captive in Jeremiah during the very windy times – but we were not bored. The birds kept us amused. It didn’t take them long to find my feeders. The White-wing dove spent time trying to figure out how to get to the seeds in my window feeder. They manage to land on top where they can see the seeds and watch other, smaller birds inside the feeder. House Finch, Cactus Wren, Pyrrhuloxia, and Curve-bill Thrasher get inside just fine for their feasts. Several brightly-colored Bullock’s Orioles are enjoying the orange slices I’ve put out. My hummingbird feeder is out, but so far no hummers. Each morning I toss out a variety of seeds and cracked corn for the Gambel’s Quail and the Lark Bunting. I’ve been told we have a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers, but I’ve yet to see them.

Windy days bring another blessing - good reading time. I finished reading two books. "700 Sundays" by Billy Chrystal and "Gracie, A Love Story" by George Burns. He tells about Gracie's life and their years of vaudeville, radio and TV as Burns and Allen.

Two trips to Palomas

Yep! In less than one week here, I’ve made two trips south of the Mexico Border – and have safely come back both times (duh! If I hadn’t, you would not be reading this.) On Friday I rode the Deming-to-Border town bus ($1 round trip) to get my glasses remade and to have lunch at the famous Pink Store. (tostada trio and free Margarita) Pink Store owner, Evonne, graciously welcomed me back and sincerely thanked me for coming. She sat with me while I waited for my order. Sadly less people are coming to her store/restaurant, but she says she’s hanging in there. On Saturday I joined Sylvia Brenner (former park heritage educator) for lunch, free Margarita and shopping at the Pink Store. The border security has been beefed up, but basically is as quiet as usual.

The May Volunteer schedule

I’m on duty in the Visitor Center/Exhibit Hall all day on Thursdays and Fridays (an hour off for lunch) and there during the lunch hour on Sundays and Mondays. Other than that, I’m busy irrigating our thirsty trees and other odd jobs. Visitors are always welcome so if anyone wants to come down, just let me know.

That’s all for now – I hope to include some bird photos in the next blog posting.

Live Simply,

Love Generously,

Care Deeply,

Speak Kindly,

Leave the rest to GOD