We stayed in Alamogordo, in southern New Mexico for couple months this summer, we’ve been around it and through it a few times in our travels, and we’re living pretty close to it again right now in southern Colorado (and have been two years before this). So we knew very well that the state had a disproportionate amount of poverty, but it started to really make me think after three visits this seasons to pick up firewood. I wan’t to make it clear, if possible, that I grew up rather poor with a single mother, and I don’t judge anyone’s economic state, but I do know what it’s like, and I’m really impressed by the general attitude of the people we’ve met over the last couple days.
Last time we picked up wood it was north of Farmington in a rather flat looking, semi arid desert area. Such an odd change of scenery since just a little ways away are mountains and snow in Colorado. We drove about an hour to get to that area from the east side of Durango, fairly early in the morning (for us). The guys met us at an intersection in a little car and had us follow them to their house a couple miles into the wasteland. It was a rather run down mobile home park with junk everywhere, and a full on wood operation going on in our honor. There were dogs of all shapes and sizes roaming around the trailer park, but none of them brave enough to say hello. We were buying 2 cords of wood for $400, and you could tell that much needed by the way they had everyone involved and were so eager to get it to us quick. We helped them stack it in our truck and chatted while the entire family and a group of friends helped, stack, cut, and chainsawed the wood as we went. It wasn’t seasoned in the slightest, at least to our limited knowledge. It seemed like they had clearlybasically cut it down in a rush the previous day, without having much experience. From later pick-ups, we learned that they were probably also abusing their chainsaw terribly, costing themselves another 100$ in chains and sprockets in the long run, since the wood was pine and nearly pink in the middle. The main guy had 4 young boys who helped with various stages of the operation. One was very impressed with our giant truck and especially with our backseat cargo area where we had to put some of the wood to make it all fit so we told him all about the truck as best we could. We paid for the cord and left, them planning to leave soon after with the other.
This was before the snow, so they didn’t have any issues getting up the hill, and luckily we had just finished unloading the first load by ourselves to an area under the porch when they arrived with the second load. They helped us unload into the wood shed and we paid, not especially planning to buy any more unseasoned cords from them again, but happy we’d met them anyway. We stacked the wood under the porch in a criss-cross pattern to help it dry a little faster, put other pieces inside with a fan blowing on them or near the fire. We mostly made it through the first cord by depending on the dry kindling we had from the little bit of wood left at the cabin. By the time we got to the second cord, a month later, it was much dryer and we had less issues, but that brings me to our next New Mexico wood seller experience today where the difference in dry wood has taught us a lot.
To start, Ross had arranged for a guy to bring two cords from New Mexico. He didn’t want us to pick the wood up ourselves for some reason, so we warned him about our road and how he may need chains, and he still agreed. Delivery was put off a couple times due to weather or him being back logged, and our wood pile was finally down to about a week of wood when he was finally on his way. We waited til an hour after he was due to find out he had somehow wrecked his truck by driving it down a 40 foot ravine. He had to dump all the wood he was bringing and with his truck gone, was out of the business. So that was that. Luckily I had about 5 numbers saved from earlier in the season and texted a couple people who were ready within a day to give us half cords. We scheduled a pickup for Friday afternoon and Saturday late morning.
We arrived Friday around 3 to a little “town” east of Farmington, and met a couple on their property. They were amazingly friendly people but their setup was a sight. They had three old trailers in a 3/4 box, doors all facing each other, and a little courtyard in the middle with a fence to close the whole thing in. Two of the three trailers were storage. They had two dogs tied up to dog houses and barking like mad, and a weird makeshift structure of walls and fences where they had geese, goats and another dog. Then… out of the main trailer came two young children, one with the same name as me, also an animal loving blonde who loved to play in dirt. They looked healthy and happy, which is all that matters, and the animals made them happier, which is basically what kept me sane at that age as well, so I didn’t feel bad for them. Their parents were nice and happy people, and we talked about living in a 5th wheel (ours a mobile one) and all the lovely problems that go along with it. So we actually had more in common with them than most people we talk to, however it was still a bit sad to see. For me, mostly because of the animals.
Saturday, which according to this blog hasn’t happened yet, but I’m writing this the next day because honestly I was thrashed after a day of wood business on Friday – we picked up another cord right in Farmington in a subdivision. At first I thought, “this is an odd place for a wood guy to live” since it at first seemed like a nice neighbourhood with curving streets, even sidewalks, and wood cutting is a dirty, noisy, business. When we arrived at his place we found a very friendly dude in a trapper hat (with the ear flaps) a long sleeve undershirt and sweatpants. He smelled awful and his house was pretty ripped up on the front, but he was yet again a pretty cool guy. He grew up with his father running a glass business in town and had done interesting construction jobs on skyscrapers in Seattle. He told us all about the wood business, chainsaw maintenance, what wood was best for what and even unselfishly told us about all the wood people in Farmington with good wood. He even told us where he gets his wood. I love that we generally make people comfortable enough to give away all their trade secrets and that we can chat with pretty much anyone. I can’t imagine having to interact with people on some uncomfortable awkward level about everything. I save my unfriendly awkwardness for the grocery store. (One on one I’m fine, but put me in a big busy store and I’ll shut down.)
I took Sherlock for a walk while Ross paid and chatted a bit more. I checked out a couple houses, faux adobe things, really basic and they all looked the same. So far all were occupied but with garbage, multiple cars, and no trespassing signs, also strange for an urban subdivision. I crossed the street and went back along the other side when I notices old newspapers in the driveway, then signs in the windows, several of them, all too small to read. Then the next house, the same, next, the same. They had all been foreclosed on. I came back to hear him, coincidentally, talking about his house. He had purchased it for just $20,000 and has slowly been renovating it himself with his construction skills since the house was in rough shape when he bought it. He redid the insulation and drywall, tore up asbestos tiles,, redid fixtures, and the work continues, apparently with the front, which was missing a lot of its adobe.
“More children go hungry in New Mexico than any other state, according to the organization Feeding America. The state is also near the bottom of the list for education. Now, data from the U.S. Census Bureau said the state is number one in poverty. Over the last three years, an average of 21.4 percent of New Mexicans have been living below the poverty line.” http://www.koat.com/news/new-mexico-ranks-worst-in-us-for-poverty/28121474
That number seems low to me, or maybe its just the places we’ve been staying and hanging out. Alamogordo wasn’t much different from Farmington. Trailers on infertile land that look like scrap yards, torn up adobe houses, and old cars. However if you go to Cloudcroft or … no, I don’t know, we’ve been to a lot of places in New Mexico and they all have a higher element of ‘holding shit together by a string’ than a lot of places we’ve been in the country. And that doesn’t make us like it any less appealing to us really. There is so much BLM land in New Mexico, wild horses, awesome wildlife and plants, desert, mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, Roswell..and it’s so cheap. We paid under $300 a month for a spot at an RV park in Alamogordo, including electricity, and apparently you can buy a house for $20k. Plus, they don’t have the bigoted reputation that Arizona has ++!
The only thing that really bothers me about New Mexico is how many people (very general) treat their animals. There are horses standing in dirt fields in all weather with no shade, dogs tied out, dogs wandering free, dogs in backs of trucks, goats stored in 5×5 cages…the list goes on, and I don’t get it. If you don’t want to take care of an animal properly, do not have said animal. Make an attempt to re-home it. And I know the ‘attitude about animals is just different’ for some people, especially when your main concern is getting through the month, but why make the animals pay? I’ll never understand an I think it’s something I couldn’t explain to most of them anyway. “Animals are property, not living beings who require mental stimulation and social interaction” they might think, as would almost any of our elders..somehow New Mexico never got the memo. As friendly as people are, I imagine what they would say if we told them we don’t eat meat, don’t believe in god and would vote for Bernie. Would they say “to each his own” or “well I don’t know about that…” or “that’s a shame”… or just “then fuck off”.. we never really fit in anywhere, but at least in the last 2 days it sort of felt like we could chat with other people, beliefs and lifestyles aside.
*The photo featured is on a property near Las Vegas, New Mexico. A small cabin like structure and some grazing land on the other side of the river, and this homemade bridge, one our truck could never cross, leading to the other side. Innovation indeed. I’ve only seen one other “private bridge” over a river and it was probably insanely expensive to build, paves, with rebar and all. This one, basically a swinging bridge and they likely hold their breath every time they go over it.