Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tres Cruces

Though San Francis de Asis in Ranchos de Taos is vastly more famous, San Jose de Gracia in Las Trampas stacks right up in curb appeal.  The rustic cross and brooding sky give weight to the church's importance as the central spiritual and social institution in rural New Mexico Hispanic communities such as Las Trampas.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Last Frontier

The Frontier Drive-In went dark at least a decade ago.  It’s a poignant monument to the halcyon days of tiny Center, Colorado and recalls sock hops, circle pins and getting to second base with Mary Lou in a chopped and channeled deuce coupe.  The partially hidden sedan gives me a giggle. You're hiding from exactly what?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dry Land Farming

Sleepy Sudan Texas sits astride US 84 between Lubbock and the New Mexico border.  Sleepy is the operative word on a somnolent March morning.   You know it’s a backwater when the nearest city is called Muleshoe.  Gotta love that moniker.  The towering grain elevators that dominate the town are dormant.   A solitary pick-up creeps along Main Street in a scene right out of Bogdonovitch’s The Last Picture Show.  That film was made in 1971.  In Sudan it still is.

In 1892 the owners of the 77 ranch granted Lamb County the site for a town.  The town’s first postmaster P.F. Boesen named it Sudan for reasons lost in history.   The dusty burg limped along with a population of six lonely souls until in 1913 the Santa Fe Railroad built a spur through Sudan on the way from Lubbock to Clovis.  There soon followed a hotel, a cotton gin and grain elevators and by 1925 several hundred farmers, pickers and ranchers had settled in Sudan. 

A scant 14 inches of rain evaporates on the South Plains of West Texas where Sudan persists.  Rarer still is a frosty brew or icy high ball on a blazing summer afternoon.  Most of Texas’s 40 dry counties lie in this parched patch of nowhere.  It’s the nightmare version of the American Dream; a thirsty Bible Belt of cotton, oil and cattle.

And did you know that Lubbock, a city of 250,000 an hour away and the home of Texas Tech University was dry until May of 2009?  Matriculation without lubrication.  Jeez.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Field Studies

Beyond doubt the Sonoran Desert is my favorite of the four North American deserts.  It's the desert we identify with the towering Saguaro cactus and which also hosts the Cholla, the Prickly Pear and other succulents like agave.  Because it receives twice the rainfall of the Mohave, Chihuahuan and Great Basin Deserts the cacti of the Sonoran Desert come alive with flowers in May and June.  This amazing desert covers much of central and southern Arizona and a thin swath of southern California. It's best accessed from Tucson which is bracketed by Saguaro National Parks on its eastern and western borders.

The Saguaros themselves are immense, they can reach fifty feet, but are also humorous and oddly animate like creatures from a James Cameron movie.  Here I’ve included some portraits of these otherworldly characters.