Thursday, February 25, 2010

Road Fodder, Part One

Irrigated field of onions along the Rio Grande River, Garfield, NM

On my recent trip to New Mexico, I had a few unique experiences. I’d like to share a couple of them with you. First of all, I wasn’t planning on a trip. I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to get away at all for a mid Winter break. Winter can be long up here in the Northland. Sometime in November, it starts to get pretty cloudy most days, the temperature drops and the snow starts to fly, slowly with small accumulations at first, then with some kind of storm that buries the landscape in white.

December, January and February are just plain cold here in Wisconsin. If it isn’t cold, it’s snowing. The warmer weather seems to make for the snow, and the clear skies usually harbor the below zero bone chilling cold. March can have some better, (ie: warmer) days, and so does April. But there also can be some massive snow storms that come in those months. I tell you, even though Winter is officially December 21st to March 20th, having non Winter weather on days before or after those dates is a crap shoot at best. Winter is a long season. Some folks tell the story that there are only two seasons up here, Winter and poor sledding!

I've always liked the Red and Yellow combination. No wonder, then, that I like the State flag of New Mexico and the state itself, The Land of Enchantment

There are diseases, or syndromes they call ‘em I guess, like SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Also known as Cabin Fever. A lack of sunshine, because of the shorter duration of daylight in the Northern latitudes, and generally a feeling of being shut in because it’s just too damn cold to go out and do anything!

One way that I have been beatin’ Cabin Fever in the past has been to get in my car and head South. Yuma, Arizona is usually nice along with the well known destinations like Tucson, Phoenix and Miami Beach. But I like the more moderate climes. Many people seem to say that Fall is their favorite season. I agree, so why not seek out Fall type weather? For my money, New Mexico fits the bill. Warmer than up here in Wisconsin, but not hot. A light jacket or sweatshirt will do just fine. I can even crack the windows on the pickup a bit and roll ‘em all the way down when cruising slowly through town on my way to the coffee shop.

So, I get this e-mail asking me if I am interested in driving a car down to Albuquerque. This person has used my services before, about 4 years ago I flew out to California and drove a car back to Minnesota for her from Santa Rosa. She paid expenses, I did the driving. This time, I drove the car from Minnesota and flew home, but not before I spent four extra days wandering around New Mexico. It was a trip made in heaven for me. A mid Winter break to my favorite playground.

Highway signpost in Boise City, Oklahoma. I was following US 56 West

The car was a late model 2008 Honda Civic. A newer car meant no worries about its functionality. I left on a Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. (What the heck, I’m up anyway!). I packed some sandwiches and a few hard boiled eggs, some cut up veggie snacks and couple of pieces of fruit. I was stoked as far as day one meals were concerned. I pulled in to Boise City, Oklahoma at 7:30 p.m., exactly fifteen hours and 947 miles from my home. I did use the Interstate down to Emporia, Kansas, but then took off West on US Highway 50, a two-lane affair, across the heart of Kansas. Highway 50 meets US 56 in Dodge City. Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty were nowhere to be found, so I moved on.

No snow in Central Kansas, February 17th, 2010

The weather was great. Sunny and in the 50’s. There was no snow on the ground and I was counting hawks on fence posts, telephone poles and in tree limbs at the rate of about three per mile! Boise City, (pronounced Boys City by the locals), is at the far end of the Oklahoma panhandle, just a few miles before crossing the Mountain Time Zone line at the New Mexico border.

I gassed up on Thursday morning and headed on US Highway 56 into Springer, NM and got on I-25 South. I landed in Santa Fe by noon. I hung out there and fooled around at my favorite haunts. In one of the shops, I spotted the works of a clay artist from Oaxaca, Mexico. Her figurines stood about 12 inches tall and depicted women and family scenes from the heart of Mexico. I was drawn in by her fabulous Los Dios de Los Muertos, (Days of the Dead), pieces. I am doing a search and trying to order something directly from her. Her name is Irene Aguilar and she is from Ocatlan de Moreles, Oaxaca.

Later that day, I met a friend from Minnesota, a college student who studies art there, for dinner at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, a place I have mentioned on these pages before and one of my favorite restaurants. After dinner, I headed for Albuquerque and had the car delivered and a ride to my hotel right near the airport before the clock struck nine.

On Friday, I took the hotel airport shuttle to the car rental office and secured some transportation and went South. I stopped in Socorro at a coffee shop I had been in many times before. They had changed the name and remodeled a bit, but it was a fine stop for a hot Americano. The Black Dog Coffee House had become the Manazares Street Coffee Shop. I drove further South to Truth or Consequences and was there by noon. I checked in to a small Mom and Pop called the Desert View Inn. The rates were cheap and the room was clean. And it did have a nice view of the desert beyond the town from high atop a hill.

My favorite place to shop in Hatch, NM

Friday afternoon, I drove down to Hatch and shopped for some chile peppers. There is a small shop there operated by a family called Hatch Chile Sales. Since they are independent and don’t have the high overhead of a website and credit card sales, their prices are low. I have used their products in the past and have always found them to be of high quality and freshness. This trip, I purchased hot and mild red chile powder, some Xtra Hot Green Chile powder, some chipotle and some shelled pecans. I ate lunch at Sparky’s and found out about their troubles with the Pink Pig.

The facade at Sparky's restaurant in Hatch, NM

The State said the use of a large likeness of a pig as advertising needed to be removed or a variance from the city be enacted to use said pink pig at the South end of town. The huge fiberglass hot dog at the North end of town was also in question. Since my visit, the City Council of Hatch, NM moved to allow the variance, so the pink pig and hot dog signage stays. The owners of Sparky’s have a number of larger than life figures in a whimsical display of this eating establishment, which, by the way, serves great green chile burgers BBQ and tacos!

The famous Pink Pig that was in question

The food was good. I had a couple of tacos and a green chile burger. Just a hamburger with sautéed Native medium hot green chiles and a hunk of cheese. I sat outside and sipped an iced tea, all the while, the film crew from an Albuquerque news crew filmed an interview about the pink pig to show folks up North in the big city. I talked with Sparky about the pig dilemma. He was pretty laid back about it all. Seems like it turned out okay for everyone concerned.

Elephant Butte Damn on the Rio Grande

I left Hatch and returned to Truth or Consequences just in time for a great sunset. My drive back North to T or C was great. I used a small two lane State road that runs just to the West and out of site of the Interstate superhighway. The Rio Grande lazily sits to my right as I head North. I drove through fields of irrigated farmland where onions, chile peppers and pecan trees abound.

Elephant Butte, August 2006

Elephant Butte, February of 2010. (Note the water level near the same as August 2006)

This road crosses under the freeway and then travels along the shores of small lakes made from the Elephant Butte damn that sits on the Rio Grande at Elephant Butte, just North and East of T or C. Caballo Lake, just South of Elephant Butte, is a place where I have camped before. As you can see from the photos above, the water level in the reservoir lake is still down and has been for years. I stopped and soaked in the sunshine along the shore and watched birds enjoying the weather along with me. A light dinner ensued with grocery store items, a bit of reading and some TV.

(To be continued)

Next: Silver City, the copper mines of Santa Clara, Las Cruces, LaMesilla and the wonderful hot springs of truth or Consequences.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ruby Tuesday 02/23/2010

Tuesday already. I left for New Mexico last Tuesday. It was a short week and not at all long enough to be away from the Northland Winter. But it was a break and I liked walking around in a sweatshirt instead of a parka, not to mention eating some good green chile.

But this is a post for Ruby Tuesday. I shouldn't be talking about "green" anything. Seems I have a transportation theme going here this week. My Granddaughter driving her ruby red fire engine in the back yard last Summer along with a picture of a beautiful red doorway in the small hamlet of La Mesilla, just South of Las Cruces, NM.

Gracie Jayne racing to a fire!

Beautifully painted doorway in La Mesilla, a small town close to Las Cruces, NM

These next four photos are from a previous trip to New Mexico. It was April of 2007, and we escaped an early Spring snowstorm. Our little red Focus is no longer amongst the living. Blew the engine last June. But I liked the way I preserved its image. The pictures of the grill were taken at gas stops as we traveled South and away from the snow. You can see from the photos of the ice on the front end of Red Ranger, (Our pet name for our car), it took some miles to get out of the Winter in 2007.

Wisconsin. April of 2007

Iowa. April of 2007

Oklahoma. April of 2007

New Mexico. April of 2007

And another type of automobile. The Bumper Car!

Bumper Cars, Ludington, MI.

This last one is yours truly when finally getting to a warmer climate, and I am wearing a red, of course, sweatshirt.

Relief from the Northland Winter at last!

Ruby Tuesday is a brainstorm of MaryT/The Teach, who pens the "Work of the Poet" blog. Check out here web site, her Ruby Tuesday offering,, and see other Ruby Tuesday posts from the list of participants at the end of the post.

Peace to all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On the Road Again

When you read this, I'll be on the road. I'm leaving in a few moments. I'm driving a car down to Albuquerque for a friend. I'll spend some time down there in New Mexico, then fly home next week. So, if you don't see me around for a while, that's where I'm at. I love New Mexico and need a mid winter break to clear my head.

Take care and be well.

Peace to all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ruby Tuesday 02/16/2010

Ruby Tuesday. Now what is that? I found it here and there on the blogs. It's the brainstorm of one woman who names herself MaryT/TheTeach and can be found HERE, at her blog entitled "Work of the Poet". She has many other features on her blog and I find it quite interesting. The premise is easy. Post photographs you've taken that have the color red in them. A little, or a lot. Go to her site and sign in at the bottom of the Ruby Tuesday post so your blog can be listed.

I've taken the liberty, as these are almost all my own photographs, to caption just a tad about what, where, when, why and who might be found in the pictures. Here goes:

Windsock on a breezy day.

Flashing red train crossing lights

Ruby Red Lips

At the recital in front of a really big red curtain.

Lighthouse. Wisconsin Point, Superior, Wisconsin.

Kitchen cabinets at King Salmon.

San Francisco, open your Golden Gate, that is colored red.

Boy, wouldn't I love to have a red Corvette!
(Note: I didn't take this picture, but I added it because I love cars and it is a red Corvette)

A visiting cardinal.

Teaching a Grandchild how to play with matches.

Peace to all

Monday, February 15, 2010

What Would You Put in a Time Capsule?

You can make your own out of simple readily available materials.

My friend Shelly over at This Eclectic Life posed an interesting question yesterday. It really made me think and she suggested maybe we could write about it and post it on our own blogs. I started to comment at her place, but had so much to say, I decided to take her sage advice.

The subject was a simple question; “What would you put into a time capsule?”

The first thing I thought of was an iPod touch. I don’t have one, but they seem to be all the rage. So many hand held electronic gadgets out there, and if the TV is any indication of the competition for you, the consumer, to buy one, well there are just too many. Which one do we put into the time capsule?

I remember seeing the time capsule cornerstones in large buildings in downtown Chicago. If the building was ever demolished, or when future generations decided to open it, the contents would be revealed. We would then see, or future generations that occupy Chicago would then see, what was going on, what was important, what part of the past previous inhabitants thought to be important, or whatever was put in the vault.

Would we put in news stories of current events? Who would write them? Biased news media giants? Or neutral editorial scribes? How about demographics? The weather trends, highs and lows, snow and rainfall for the year that the capsule was implanted? Maybe the prices of common everyday objects. I know I’ve mentioned in previous articles how much a candy bar was in 1957. By the way, they were a nickel and they were all made by different candy companies!

In the 1980’s, Mrs. Spadoman and I worked for the State of Minnesota Historical Society. I was a tour guide at an Historic Site. The site was called The Northwest Company Fur Post. It was the actual site of a fur trade era trading post that was found in the 1930’s by a neighboring farmer. He was plowing in the sandy soil and came across a row of charcoaled log ends. He dug around and found this to be the wall of a stockade.

Yours truly dressed as a nineteenth century Voyageur. Photo from 1985.

Mrs. Spadoman portrayed her character as an Indian woman that was named in the journals of John Sayer. Also a photo from 1985.

Joe Neubauer, the man who found the site, was a friend of mine and lived in the farm directly to the West of what is now the Historic Site. Neubauer turned over the information of his findings and a full exploration was done. It was found that the site corresponded to journal entries by a fur trader named John Sayer, who was a partner for the Northwest Fur Trade Company. The Northwest Company had shot off from the parent company which was the well known Hudson Bay Company.

Arrowheads on display.

This Article about the making of copper tools mentions Neubauer and his 1932 findings at the fur post site. Scroll down just a short way for a brief paragraph about finding the site. The Historical Society rebuilt the post, and used the site to preserve and portray the past to travelers, school groups and interested parties. When I worked there, I was dressed as a French Canadian voyageur, one of the working class that manned the fort like structure when it was occupied in the Fall and Winter of 1803-04. As a tour guide, I interpreted the goings on of that era through living history.

Famous painting by Frances Densmore of a voyageur canoe of the fur trade era.

The information I used was gleaned from the diggings that were done when the Historical society excavated the site. In latrines were found a plethora of information about what was used there. Bits of china, silverware, for example, were found in the latrine. Trade beads, small 2-3 mm glass beads, were pushed up from the sandy soil and it was not uncommon to find a colorful bead now and again after a rain or upon Spring thaw. Arrowheads were common. When I met him in 1982, Joe Neubauer had one of the most extensive collections of arrowheads to date in the state, all found at the site.

A photo from our own collection of the historic site Northwest Company Fur Post in Pine City, MN from 1985.

As interesting as this is, my point is that we can fill numerous time capsules and think about what we want the people of the future to see, but what will really tell the story is to look at our trash and the things that we discard either through non use or wastefulness. When future generations sort through what Mother Earth pushes up from her soil they will find answers to what previous inhabitants had, and didn’t have, and what and how it was used. I saw the artifacts that were taken from a 200 year old site. The china is no longer made the way it was made, and the utensils are made of different materials, but they still used cups and saucers and forks.

Typical trash heap. What would our trash say about us?

I wonder if we’ll ever replace the fork and spoon. Plastic plates will last forever. They will be found. What will future civilizations find and what assumptions will they make upon review of our trash, or what was dropped on the ground? Maybe there won’t be any iPod touch units, but there will be parts. Like parts of old computers can be found in trash heaps. Old TV and radio tubes. What about transistors? Do any of you still have a transistor radio? What became of them?

My belief is that you can bury as many time capsules as you want. Nature and our everyday natural habits are what will determine the historical facts about our existence more than what the mayor wants to use to tell the future. By the way, that Historic site is still in use today. A large visitors center was built a while ago and it is quite a place. Another site was found about 35 miles away on the Yellow River in Wisconsin. That site was used for two years, 1804-1806. And the information to what was found was collaborated directly from the journals that were kept by the fur trade company partners like the aforementioned John Sayer. Actual written records of the weather, how many deer were hunted for food, how many beaver and other small fur bearing animal pelts were harvested, the comings and goings of each individual voyageur and information about the native population they lived amongst during the time they were here. These records are archived in Ottawa, Canada.

Maybe the written word is all that might be needed in the time capsule. I would go through great pains to make sure it was written in truth. They’ll find out if we lied when they sort through a Waste Management trash heap.

Peace to all

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Frosty Saturday Morning in Wisconsin

View from the Spadoville deck on a frosty Saturday morning.

This morning, the early morning light took its time getting through the drawn shades. Another gloomy day? I don’t think so. When I looked at the clock, it was half past eight. I got up and went into the kitchen to get the kettle on the boil for a couple of brew bars and looked outside. It was magnificent. Jack Frost had visited and flocked all the trees and bushes in a feathery wash of crystals.

Frosty twigs.

I stood there and looked for a while. I glanced at the bird feeders. Some times, the birds are so plentiful I can’t even count how many kinds have stopped by to feed. This morning, at least at this time, there was not a movement of anything anywhere. I grabbed the camera, which is sitting on a small half wall ledge, and took a few shots. These posted were taken literally moments ago. My feet are still burning from standing on the deck barefoot. That was dumb, but I wanted to capture the moment. I wanted to show you what I was seeing.

More frosty twigs.

A few moments later, the Cardinal showed up. The bright red one, the male. Then other birds started to fly in and feed. Like someone blew a whistle and the day started for the wildlife. Yesterday, I saw an Eagle. The sun was so bright, I actually saw a flash in the trees. The white of the head and tail feathers almost glowed. Always a good day when you see an Eagle.

This frosty tree sits smack in the middle of the back yard. You can see the snow laden trampoline and the restless swing set awaiting Springtime.

At the bottom of this post, there are some bird feeder pictures from a week or so ago. Watching nature has a soothing effect on me. How about you?

You don't see the cardinals sharing too often.

The female of the species.

Peace to all.

Friday, February 12, 2010


It’s time to write. I don’t want to wallow in pity about my Mother’s passing, but a few things must be said here in the public forum. After all, I did the eulogy at the church. This is essentially what I said there. Others heard it, and it would be fitting to mention a few highlights of her life here at Round Circle. I accept that it will be boring reading, but it must happen for the closure. Besides, it's Only the Good Friday. This is "Good", to remember another.

My Grand son, DJ, cried hard at the funeral. After he settled down, I reminded him that his Aunt Maggie had passed away many years ago, and even though he had never met her, he still knew who she was and what she looked like. He nodded. I think he understood what I meant when I told him about how we will keep Grandma’s spirit alive forever.

Carmelina Rosa Caruso was born in December of 1920 in Chicago. She had three brothers and six sisters. She was the third youngest. She lost her dad to pneumonia when she was nine years old. She started giving herself for the benefit of others early in life. She stocked the coal fire and helped with family chores a lot. When she got older and worked helping a blind boy get to school, she brought home the money and gave it to her mother to help with family expenses.

This type of generosity was her hallmark. She married my dad in 1941. My sister was born in 1942 and my brother in 1943. I came on the scene late, 1949. I was the baby of the family. Dad went into WWII in 1944 after being drafted.

Mom took care of the household and the family which was the norm in those days. I remember the Dessert Flower cologne and the pretty dresses she wore. My dad insisted on dinner at five p.m. on work days. She had dinner ready and always looked her best. In the 60’s, she went to work and got a job at a local bank in the town where we lived, Melrose Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

Mom doing what she loved to do, feeding the family.

I remember going to pick her up from work and seeing her through the window. She operated a machine called a key punch. She was a pioneer in the computer era. She parlayed that job into a position with a major corporation, Ford Motor Company. She retired from Ford when she turned 62.

My dad passed in 1983. I had moved up north to Pine City in Minnesota. I had left Chicago to start my own life with my family in 1974. Pine City was where I was to build a house. The construction had started and we were well along when Mom visited. She asked, “Where’s my room?”

I answered and told her that I was building an addition onto the house on the side. I had little kids all around and Mom thought she could do the most good living with us after dad left this world. Mom moved in and took care of my family when Barb and I worked during the rest of the 1980’s.

In our Pine City kitchen in 1985.

Seeing her devote her life again to taking care of people, Barb told her she needed some recreation and prodded her into going to the local Senior Center for an activity once in a while. Mom did, and at a dance, met a man that also liked to dance. His name was Ernie. They courted a while, then Mom married Ernie. She ended up taking care of Ernie in his last days as he suffered from complications of diabetes. After Ernie passed away, she went back to the Chicago area where my sister was living and lived near her.

As time passed, Mom got older and had many episodes of pneumonia over the years. The doctors said this scarred her lungs and diminished their efficiency. She had pulmonary fibrosis and in the end, her lungs failed.

With all the Great Grandkids, 2008

This is such a brief portrait of her life. I can’t think of anyone that didn’t like her. I can’t think of anyone she met that she didn’t give something to. The people that worked in the office with Barb commented one time that they liked the cookies she made, (Barb had brought some from home into the office), and my Mother would bake and send them some at least once per year.

When times were rough for us in the late 1970’s, Mom sent us a check every now and again. That is what kept my family afloat and fed. She has done that for many others as well over the years. This generosity and unselfishness is what Mom has always been.

She left behind her three children, seven Grand children, eight Great Grand children and many cousins and friends. She was the last to pass from the ten siblings of her family. She has a Legacy site. Feel free to have a look.

I’ll go on with life. I returned from Chicago earlier this week and am already in my routine getting the kids on and off the school bus. I have the recipes and have been cooking mom’s best dishes. Some of you have the spaghetti gravy recipe. I shared it some time ago. Maybe this weekend I’ll make a batch in her honor. We’ll toast meatballs. The nice moist ones, like she taught me to make. Her secret was so simple. “Put a little water in the mixture before you broil them.” she told me. Water, what a secret!

December of 2008, her 88th Birthday celebration.

I wish my Mom could have lived forever, if she was like she was last year. But I wouldn’t want her to be hanging around if she was like she was last week. She wasn’t in pain, but she struggled and I know she prayed and asked her maker to end it peacefully. Her prayers were granted when she passed in her sleep. I am fortunate that I was able to be with her for a few days at the end. The last thing she said to me directly was while I was seated next to her.

She looked at me as I held her hand and whispered,”My baby, my baby boy.”

Rest in peace Mom, we’ll be okay. It will be hard, but we’ll be okay. You’re a tough act to follow.

Peace to all.