Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Welcome, and I Weep

I have research to do, but when the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico, was created in 1899, a square mile of township was created by Southern Pacific Railroad where the city bar was established a block from the tracks. It is now the town museum.

The community grew slowly, but steadily. I know my grandparents came, homesteaded, then bought a home in town and established a shoe store in the early 1900s. Lots of trees were planted in the city park, close to the train tracks. These included a pond, ducks, geese, and maybe swans. I don't know when the zoo per se began. I remember feeding Johnson grass to the deer when I was a pre-schooler.

The town was small. Cottonwoods were planted. Alamogordo means "Fat Cottonwood' in Spanish. The trees provided wide and wonderful shade. I remember Ninth Street with trees touching overhead in the street.

I haven't researched, but water came from somewhere early. And the climate was kind in the early 1900s. Grass grew belly high on a cow. Wherever the water came from, there were orchards in the valley. Apple and cherry orchards in the hills, but orchards in the valley. Even today, the apricot trees fluorish.

When I was under 3, we moved to a country home with a dying orchard. It HAD been alive, with all kinds of fruit. Mostly dying when we moved in. That would be about 1946.

Where did the water come from?

There was a small swimming pool-sized reservoir in the late 1940s-1950s. I think by then it came from Bonita Lake. Water was released into the irrigation ditches, never more than two feet deep. People had wood dikes in the ditches. When it was your turn for water, you dropped the wooden dam so the water would detour on your property. When the water should go to your neighbor, you left your dam up. People were pretty honorable about that. Most of the time.

The irrigation water would flood your lands, lawn and gardens for a few hours. So glorious to wade through. The flowers and vegetables were bountiful. My father grew 100 rosebushes and a blue grass and clover lawn, and a full half-acre of vegetables. Folks would come by in the afternoons to see all the green and flowers. The home snugged under the three cottonwoods that dropped cotton bolls and purple balls that splatched in the spring. They gave wonderful shade, long before air-conditioning. And sometime every May, I would wake up convinced for an instant we had snow because of all the cotton from the trees dropped overnight.

How beautiful our white frame house looked under the heavy cottonwoods with blue grass-clover lawns and roses, roses blooming all over the place with other flowers.

My father water-witched an underground river at least 1,000 feet deep to nurture his plants. He would have wanted the town to grow. Killing his gardens? Cutting down his trees? No wild asparagas in the ditches each spring?

The town has no ditches now. No life-giving water tumbling down shallow ditches to water the lawns, flowers and vegetables of the residents. The bewitched underground river serves the city.

There are too many people. Water costs too much. Few lawns, or flowers, or trees remain.

You see a desert. So do I. But when there were fewer of us, it was not such a desert. The grass grew belly high on a cow. The flowers bloomed. The vegetables fluorished. Lawns were green. Trees, big trees, cottonwoods, gave shade.

Exult in the lights of the night. And they are spell-binding. The valley actually flickers with them in the dark.

And I smile. It IS beautiful.

I mourn the green of the daylight, and the blooms. The smell of cut alfalfa. You did not know it then.

And I shall never know it again.

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