“But it doesn’t snow in the southwest!”

Actually said to me a few years ago by a New Jersey Nuevo, in July. As the property he bought was on a dirt road at 7500 feet in Catron county, where the winters can be positively Montanan, I knew he was in for a surprise…

The illusion remains. I was idly watching morning TV the other day as I worked out on a treadmill at a neighbor’s house (just got my own, where I can READ, better for my brain) when the dizzy network blonde protested as she watched an ongoing blizzard in cold Flagstaff: “But isn’t it, like, perpetual summer there?”

Like, well, no. But we have been in the depths of a long drought and the last eighteen months before it broke were particularly bad. Now we seem to have returned to the old (pre- 1988) order of weekly snow, cause for rejoicing.

That said, it can get damn cold in an ancient rock house. We are properly grateful once again for the Vermont Castings wood stove from Paul Domski (seen recently below flying his Gos), and a good load of wood from Mac Leyba. (A stack of wood is so mentally and esthetically comforting I always take photos!)


A Little Music…

It has been a week blessed with good music from friends local and visiting…

Joel Becktell is local, a neighbor and a world- renowned cellist, probably Magdalena’s most famous resident in a sort of obscure way (he is known among musicians but not by Magdalenians). He is also a cook and as much of a bookman as I am.

Joel at right. He has been as always traveling and performing all over the nation– Santa Fe, where he performed last night, is “near”. But somehow conversation brought us to a performance in Albuquerque last year: his classical/ “fusion” (if that is the word) group Revel playing at the Church of Beethoven. I love this fierce jazzy performance of the Argentinian composer Piazzola’s “Autumn”, and it is a good entree to Revel. Now we need a CD!

Our good friend Montana novelist Peter Bowen (new website, with my essay “Of Peter Bowen and Gabriel DuPre”, here— more to come!) told us his friend Amanda Bailey would be traveling in our area and sent her our way midst the storms.

Amanda has one of the all- time haunting voices for Appalachian and country music. Go here for a version of “In my time of dyin'” that will raise your hair. Libby wants me to add that she vastly prefers it to the 70’s Led Zeppelin version featuring a bare- chested Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, though that one does make an interesting contrast.* I got Amanda listening to my late friend John Lincoln Wright (posts below) with real interest- I’d love to see that collaboration. Again, the perfect voice– she and JLW were both influenced by Merle Haggard.

Local trivia– she keeps a sketchbook of her travels and produced for us this very New Mexico vignette from 1992, good enough for us to recognize Marshall Larry Cearley in the middle:

* 6 degrees or less department.I THINK Revel does a version of the Zep’s Stairway to Heaven– Joel? And Zeppelin founder & guitarist Jimmy Page once roomed in London (in the Yardbird days) with Explorer’s club member Ted Bakewell. Ted is the nephew of the late legendary Jesuit adventurer (and my mentor) Father Anderson Bakewell, who lived in Santa Fe– not a few of Q’s readers including Peculiar drank his whiskey and ate elk there. Ted also lived in NM, in the 70’s, and used to play guitar with rock legend and Los Lunas sheriff Bo Diddley

Hot Links


If I was going to be in New York, I’d go to this exhibit of material from the Roman city of Dura-Europos. I have previously read a fair amount about information that excavations at Dura-Europos have provided on the Roman Army in the later empire. One of the most interesting finds there apparently gives evidence of an early form of chemical warfare. Our niece is in school at NYU. Maybe she’ll go.

Pecan rustlers are rampaging through Georgia. OMG. Reminds me of the plague of mushroom rustlers we had in California a few years ago.

A 44,000 year-old house built of mammoth bone by Neanderthals has been found in Ukraine. Maybe it’s just as well their sense of smell wasn’t as good as ours. Especially if those were some wet bones.

Careful with that neti pot.

The origin of the building stones at Stonehenge has been found 100 miles away in Wales. I think to be clear, the general location of the quarry has been known for some time, this analysis just narrows it down.

Gobekli Tepe

I wish that I had posted on the very important archaeological site of Gobekli Tepe last summer when the article about it came out in National Geographic Magazine. It got yanked back to my attention when I read this extremely annoying article about it in the latest New Yorker.

Gobekli Tepe is a site in Turkey that dates back as early as 11,600 BP. Its importance stems from the fact that it contains some very striking monumental architecture that was made by pre-agricultural people. Most archaeological theories about cultural development have always held that this sort of sustained communal effort could only be accomplished by peoples who had an agricultural subsistence base and a well-developed social heirarchy to direct the work. As the archaeologist who excavated the site says:

“These people were foragers,” Schmidt says, people who gathered plants and hunted wild animals. “Our picture of foragers was always just small, mobile groups, a few dozen people. They cannot make big permanent structures, we thought, because they must move around to follow the resources. They can’t maintain a separate class of priests and craft workers, because they can’t carry around all the extra supplies to feed them. Then here is Göbekli Tepe, and they obviously did that.”

This is really cool stuff and I recommend that you page through the pictures accompanying the NatGeo article to see the amazing quality of the stonework and the earliest life-sized human statue. And there is no arguing that it is older than anything else like it that we know of so far. However, I believe Dr. Schmidt is a victim of some stereotyped thinking concerning the behavior of hunter-gatherers.

Hunter-gatherer societies don’t have to be “small, mobile groups.” It depends upon the nature of their subsistence base. Archaeological and ethnographic evidence from western North America shows large permanent settlements of hunter-gatherers all up and down the west coast. If you have a large, reliable non-agricultural food source – like the ocean or large groves of acorn-producing oak trees – you don’t have to move around much at all. Whether you choose to go into the monument building business of course, is another story.

My first contrarian thought about the “unique” quality of Gobekli Tepe involved a well-known site in Louisiana, the large earth-mound complex at Poverty Point. This is a large complex of mounds covering around 500 acres that dates as early as 3500 BP. These people were hunter-gatherers as well, not as early as at Gobekli Tepe, but at the same stage of social and economic development. The Poverty Point folks didn’t do stone monuments, they didn’t have rocks, but their overall scope of effort dwarfs anything the people at Gobekli Tepe did: Mound A at Poverty Point contains 238,000 cubic meters of fill.

A second contratrian example would be some early cultures along the coast of Peru. Evidence of mound-building by hunter-gatherer people has been found in the Nanchoc Culture there that dates as early as 8000 BP. That’s within striking distance of Gobekli Tepe’s age. These cultures were very dependent on the rich Pacific fisheries, and it is becoming apparent that agriculture’s first appearance here was in the form of raising cotton to make cord for fish nets, rather than growing foodstuffs.

I have a feeling the reason more sites like Gobekli Tepe haven’t been discovered is due to confirmation bias. Now that the old paradigm is broken, more will be found. Archaeology is rife with examples of this.

As far as the annoying New Yorker article is concerned, Elif Bauman seems to want to make the center of attention herself rather than what’s going on at the site. She complains the graduate students managing the excavation didn’t want to talk to her, but based on her attitude in the article, I don’t think I blame them.

Magdalena Lion Hunt

My friend and “cousin”, local rancher, reader, and hunter Sissy (Mary Helen Gianera Pound) Olney, ran into us in the Capitol Bar in Socorro yesterday and told us to look up this YouTube of her husband Tom and nephew Royce hunting mountain lions in the Magdalenas on horseback with hounds, the traditional way.

The video, by the NM game & Fish Department, is amusing and professional, the hunters articulate and enthusiastic, the hounds even more excited. The humans exhibit a practiced competence that makes it all look easy– I have known Tom over 20 years, and his father Hugh was one of the pioneering local hound men. They tree a cat a couple of times, photo it, let it go, and explain why…

At this point I should and will state that comment threads outside Q are more often than not fatuous at best. But these ones are truly amazing.

The first here is the best– it is not only WRONG but: what about NEW MEXICO COUGAR HUNT and NEW MEXICO GAME AND FISH does this person not understand?!

“Hunting cougars is not funny, is an endangered specie and it must be protected! Hunting a cougar is criminal.

“Hunting a big cat is criminal. Who hunts an animal like this most be behind bars. Everybody should tell this to the Canadian Authorities.”

Must I say? Not “specie”, not endangered, must not most, not illegal, NOT CANADA.

The second is more literate– if no less fatuous AR boilerplate and propaganda:

“Shooting any animal sitting on a branch takes no skill whatsoever to do it. If these “men” had their act together they would see that. But, it takes all kinds in the world. Unfortunately, we all suffer the loss of animals because these guys have nothing better to do with their time. It is sad for the cats, even sadder for the misfits that hunt them. Get a life.

“I love all these stupid comments about killing livestock etc. Hunting mountain lions is killing and wasting a beautiful animal for some misfit to get his jollies nothing more. Don’t give me the crap about losing livestock. It is a cost of doing business, that simple. If you don’t like it, don’t be in the livestock business moron… if you are a stupid rancher get out of the business.”

In the face of what theologians might call Invincible Ignorance (“stupid rancher..”) the rational mind quails. So I answered coolly, as I hope we all would:

“Actually it takes enormous skill and experience to train a pack of dogs, not to mention horses, and we are not even talking about maintenance and time.

“The Olneys are second and third generation hunters and pro ranchers, and even so let more lions go with only a digital record than they take– AS THEY DID THIS ONE. I suspect they care more knowledgeably for lions than their critics.”

And the implication that the hunters are somehow not “men”? How… early 20th century Freudian. Apart from the physical dangers, and the skills needed to ride for days and miles in hard country: the very female Sis, hound woman, mother, grandmother, 4th generation ranch matriarch, “Cowboy Bitch” (her own sardonic formulation), and the first female brand inspector in the US, is more of a woman AND a “mensch” than the critic whatever her or his “gender” to put it in proper pc terms will ever be…

Addresses

Two of the strangest showcases of human society I know are the zoo, any zoo (I have written more than a bit on this) and the Post Office.

I could go in a lot of directions with the PO (many of you know that Lib works in a rural PO) but I only want to look at one today: addresses.

Our town, the 8____ Zip code, covers an enormous area, from the Alamo Indian reservation 40 miles north (and a few ranches north of that) to a rural route that stretches 75 dirt- road miles to the south.

The population isn’t big, but still some addresses defy deciphering. I wrote down the following, printed, business- mailed ones while having coffee with the staff this AM. Printed, mind you, not handwritten by illiterates- well, maybe the last…

But for name and Zip, these are the ENTIRE ADDRESSES; each separate line is a whole one.

Indian Reservation

Rural Area

UFO Area

Two Houses Behind Benson’s [who is… dead– SB]

MAGDULZENA

Update: someone says I should add that my address for my electric bill is and has been for over 20 years “Montoya Rock House.”

Or in directions: “You know, Steve Bodio’s house that was Cecilia’s that used to be rock.” (Still is of course but stucco’d over in ’84).

December in the sheep pasture


The Wind River Mountains are magnificent in their snow-covered spendor, but the sagebrush rangelands still contain only a scattering of snow.

The image below is our New Fork River pasture where the sheep are currently located, taken at sunrise earlier this week. It was about -8 degrees that morning, which is a typical overnight low for us this time of year.


This herd of mule deer have been a constant presence in the pasture for the last few weeks, safe from disturbance for breeding season. I’m still trying to get a good photo of the muley/white-tailed hybrid buck that hangs out with this bunch.

We turned the rams out last weekend, to join the ewe herd, so we’ll have lambs five months from now. This ram has wounds from recent skull-crashing disputes with another ram.

While I fed the guardian dogs and had a look around the pasture, I heard the sound of branches breaking. It was two bull moose, browsing their way through the willows.

Western Wyoming’s Shiras moose population has been suffering, so it’s a great pleasure to share the pasture with these fellows.