The weather is nothing less than hideous. It is the hottest I have seen here; I have experienced daytime temps of 100 once or twice in the past 30 years but it is not cooling off at night, even in our high desert village perch at 6500 feet. It is simultaneously humid and dusty, veiled over rather than sunny, with constant wind and higher gusts that toss around outdoor furniture, garden tools, and pigeon baskets, though those birds themselves seem to enjoy it, sliding and circling on the gritty wind as on some aerial racetrack. Dust devils stride the parched ranchland like djinns; yesterday one came into town and encircled our house in a blur, a whirling tower of filth that ripped papers off desks and bulletin boards right through the windows before it  passed away to the north. The uncharacteristically southerly winds are hot and carry grit and a stench of burning forest.

Last night, sleepless at 2 AM, I wrenched open the front door to let in some air, thinking surely it had cooled, and and a puff of sandy heat licked in like a dragon’s tongue. It was still over 90.

In this season, we look to the west for the black wall that will end this impossible season with thunder and lightning and hail, in freezing blasts that may shatter car windshields but which will at last bring us the relief of the monsoon. We pray for rain, we pray it will come, pray it will not fail.

Even here, on the western edge of the tornado- spawning  plains, our summer storms bring destruction as well as renewal, and they seem to be getting worse. As we wait in our water-starved town, I think of the best piece of storm writing I know. In Bruce Sterling’s 1994 Heavy Weather , he imagined a crew of storm chasers in the not very distant future, out past the Llano Estacado to the east. They are looking and hoping for the first “F6”, a storm so big that we have not seen its like, yet. In a passage of bravura writing, a brother and sister team are out in a fortified vehicle when the Big One comes down. Remember to look this up — I am giving you just the beginning.

“An avalanche of freezing air fell out of the sky. The stratosphere was ten kilometers up. Even at two hundred clicks an hour, it took the jet stream a good four minutes to fall to earth.

“First, the sky cracked open, on a long, furred, spiky seam. Then, maybe ninety seconds down, the vast, thick surge of air hit a warm layer in the upper atmosphere. There was a massive, soundless explosion. Freezing gouts of ice-white cloud blew out in all directions. The clouds touched the sun, and in instants, everything began to darken.

“The stream plowed through the spewing clouds like a bullet through an apple, and hit a second thermopause. There was another fantastically powerful explosion. There was still no trace of wind at ground level, but the sound from that first overhead explosion reached the earth then, a cataclysmic roll of thunder that did not vary and did not stop. A cottonwood tree at the side of the road trembled violently, for no visible reason, so violently that it shed all its leaves.

“From the second explosion, actual vortices blasted out in every corner of the compass, literal swirls of splitting, freezing, curling air, whirlpool swirls of air as big as towns

“She had one last glimpse of the central core of the falling jet stream. It was clear and cold and vast and lethal. She could see stars through it.

“Then the jet stream hit the living earth, maybe three kilometers away. The earth erupted in torment and dozens of vast clotted cobras of filth leaped skyward instantly. Jane slammed her sound-cancellation headphones over her head then so she did not go deaf, but the sound of the F-6 was something far beyond the Train. It was a sonic weapon pressing throuigh her body and crushing her inside. It was more than sound, it was raw shock, terrible, unendurable, deadly.

“She fought with the car then, trying to get Charlie to turn and run. Nothing happened; the machine sat as if stunned. Lightning like no lightning she had ever seen came out of the erupting columns of dirt. It was dirt lightning, rock lightning. It was thick and crooked and horizontal, and it looked like flying, spinning swastikas. A great flying complex of crooked lightning flew right over their heads, and it broke apart in front of her eyes into gigantic, glowing, sparkling chunks.

“The car moved. She turned and ran.”

Meanwhile, back in Magdalena, they hope to have the well they are “fixing” on line next week. Still on rationing, bottles, and non- potable from the fire truck…

Uhlan: Tazi Self -Esteem

My old friend David Zincavage has a blog featuring his patented brand of ferocity and political opinion (see “Never Yet Melted” in blogroll) but when writing on his own canine companions to his friends he is at his funniest. Here he is on Uhlan, who, it will not surprise you to know, is Ataika’s nephew:

“Until we met Uhlan, Karen and I had been unaware that Kazakhstan resembled California, having no rain and a perfect year-around 70 degree temperature, and that tazy dogs were waited on hand and foot by obedient human beings who answered to their every whim.  I have yet to figure out exactly what delicacies are prepared daily in Kazakhstan, but our tazy is extremely fussy and conservative about food normally.  He won’t eat organ meats from chickens or turkeys. He looks unfavorably on unfamiliar dog treats and lump-style canned dog food.  His daily Alpo has to be varied regularly, or he’s perfectly capable of turning up his black nose and skipping dinner altogether.  His preferred flavors of dog food change frequently.  But he will eat dead groundhog (fur and all)  happily day after day! Someday, we have to visit Kazakhstan to see all the tazy sultans living in their palaces with all the human servants.”

Further: “What does not seem generally recognized are the dramatic and oratorical abilities of the tazy.  Uhlan has a piteous “ook, ook, ook!” sound used to make you drop whatever you are doing and come and let him in immediately.  When he doesn’t get his way (you don’t hop to it, and let him out, or you fail to give him his third milk bone of the morning), he delivers long speeches in tazy, obviously loaded with curses and abuse, accompanied by amazingly threatening facial expressions, lips curled, teeth bared.  If the human still resists, Uhlan will proceed to perform his own personal version of the death scene from Hamlet, accompanied by a soliloquy delivered in increasingly rising volume making it only too clear how terrible the suffering that poor doggie is enduring really is.  He can be made to stop only by the most vivid and direct threats.”

Uhlan with remains of Marmota monax:

Water: none for six days and counting…

I will continue to note this until the jackasses (with the help of some good people) get it fixed.

Quick Update re Water

Going to Albuquerque for the second time in three days, trying to get Passenger pigeons up and flying, and generally overcommitted. But the water news has been ludicrously inadequate. We should never have lost water, and should have it back in a week; the situation only has a tenuous connection with drought.

Everything I see on the news is off.  The marshall  is being diplomatic but it is ludicrous to blame the guy who has been trying to warn everybody for years, or to equate him with the mayor he has been opposing that long. The mayor and some other officials made real life mistakes and bad decisions, turning down plans to put in backup pumps and dig, losing and misfiling documents and not getting in applications on time. The guy who says they are all to blame is running against the mayor but why he is equating the  mayor and the marshall is beyond me. In fact the real drought barely has anything to do with the situation– we should have faced it with a new pump & well, a backup, and three full auxiliary tanks.

Also we are NOT “absolutely without water”, and NOT restricted to two bottles a day. Every private well including one or two in town is delivering normal amounts, as are all on ranches. I have lived through two other water- restricted droughts here as has anyone who has been here any length of time. We don’t have more “seniors” than any normal town, and they tend to be more tough and philosophical than newcomers. The whole thing makes me realize just how incompetent today’s reporters are. Virtually everyone in town knows all of the above!

Breaking News

Magdalena has gone national and may be on your evening news, but for an infuriating reason: our little town has just lost all its water in a well collapse, and though ranches with their own wells are all right, there is no water available for our village– around a thousand residents– and therefore none in a  60 mile stretch of Route 60 between Socorro and Datil. Of course ranchers still have wells (though the drought has lowered levels in many) but driving 12 miles on rough roads to take a shower is not an attractive option.

Our crisis may symbolize the emerging conditions in the New West. Everybody concerned kicked the problem down the road. The state dragged its collective feet on the necessary permits, then piled on rather than helping. State inspectors actually came in and tried to shut down all our businesses and the gas stations because they had no potable water. Bar owner Darrell Pettis and Bob Winston of Winston’s garage resisted, and so far everything is open. Darrell and filmmaker Matt Middleton got a few minutes on Albuquerque TV explaining the difficulty of life here and the political indifference of the state to the fate of tiny old remote towns. Do the idiots sent to inspect us and shut down our only social links and sources for food and drink realize what stress that would add to an already angry populace?

This is just a rushed beginning for what will doubtless be continuing coverage of the crisis. Estimates of the time needed to fix the well range from a couple of days to a MONTH. And yes, there are important connections to our ongoing water hijacking crisis– hit the search box with the words”water” or Plains of San Augustin, or go to the site for the Golden Spur for more news…

UPDATE: For now at least, a video from KOB TV here, featuring Marshall Larry Cearley, filmmaker and water activist Matt Middleton, and Spur owner Darrell Pettis, all of whom have been working on the problem.

Spur Dance; Benefit for the San Augustin Water Coalition

We went to the dance, paid our fee, and logged on to Montana’s laptop to petition Governor Martinez. It was not a time for subtlety; my “letter” was “Don’t STEAL our water!”

Matt Middleton, Darryl Pettis, and the bar staff ran a tight show. There were more ranch folks than I had seen in years, many newcomers actually socializing with them, and the most and best dancing I had seen in years. Ty Chavez actually persuaded Libby to dance, a rare sight AFTER my batteries died.

Serious links and good photos of what is at risk here. We have started something… let’s not drop the ball.

My few photos– KC ran my ‘lectrics down– are below.

And special thanks to webmaster Matt Middleton.