It rained a bit the last two days, eh? And then in Monday’s Journal there was an article about the ever increasingly urbanized bobcats of Placitas. And it got me thinking…

The recent rain was a bit of a departure from the “monsoon season” norm—I’m no meteorologist, but first the rain was one of the madrugada, and then we were blessed with more off and on throughout the days, and that style of prolonged precipitation is a relative rarity, near as I can tell.

Whenever we get a goodly amount of rain at the site of my humble Fringecrest estate, I do one or both of these two quirky things: I giddily slip on my flip flops, often wearing nothing more than my boxer shorts, and I skip (out the back door) on over to my irrigation controller (affectionately referred to as "the knob" by landscape professionals the city over) and turn it off. It might stay off for 24 or even 36 hours before I supplicate to the desert clime again, depending on my gut instinct measurement of how much volume has fallen.

The second thing i'm likely to do is go over to the end of the 60 feet of ¼” spaghetti tubing that I have running from my Rubbermaid Brute-cum-rain barrel to a Green Giant Arborvitae in the front yard that I bought at the now defunct Rowland's on North San Mateo one early November for a song and has since been transplanted twice (not recommended).

Anyhoo, I go over to the end of the tube that I have lovingly guided to the small basin below the shrub (and under a heavy, volcanic rockchunk for stability’s sake) and I suck. I suck and I suck. It’s your basic siphon in action-- primitive, frontier-style and gratifying, except for the taste of festering rain water. In my front yard, it’s a means for bringing a steady, thin stream of water to the unwaterable, and a fun task after copious rain has blessed the homestead.

[The attention to detail in the above three paragraphs are mostly courtesy of Baker Morrow and the gentlemen at SISCO.]

A few years back, around this time of the year, my wife and I weren’t even in our humble burg, but spent the weekend with another couple in a town called malice just 1.25 hours North Northwest of here. I have been to many, many places in New Mexico, even Navajo towns with not-able-to-be-pronounced names like Lukachukai and Teec Nos Pos- and yes, I know that they’re both in Arizona, but none of those places I have visited are like Cuba, New Mexico, population 590. Not Tatum, not Hillsboro, not Maljamar, not Weed, not Timberon, none of these places I have visited are like Cuba, NM. Simply put, and not meant to offend, that town has a case of the heebie jeebies.

In my pedestrian estimation it’s due in some part to a particularly odd confluence of our three cultures- Native American, Hispano and White. Even the Native American component of that multicuturalism is threefold- as the town forms a boundary of tribal lands of at least the Jicarilla Apache, Jemez Pueblo and Navajo Nation. In Cuba, the people seem to be simultaneously waiting for a future land rush yet clinging to times gone by- all the while ranching, enterprising, and perhaps watching it all through the bottom of a liquor or beer bottle. It’s a living contradiction, a conundrum wrapped in an enigma tortilla wrapped in foil and cast aside out the passenger window, onto the ground in the parking lot of the Tastee Freeze.

So there we are, two couples spending a rainy fall weekend at a hostel North of Cuba, with our beloved dogs, Clara Barton (Aussie Shepherd/German Shepherd mix) and (fourth comment down once you take the hyperlink leap) Reuben Rubinowitz Dumas- alava shalom (American Staffordshire Pit Bull/German Pointer mix, we thought).

In the morning, we woke to a misty fog rain, virga maybe. The precip settled and backed into the property, which was nestled proudly at the end of the canyon-dissecting dirt road. After a ranch breakfast of sorts, likely inspired by something found here. I took the dogs for a quick walk around back as the rain had subsided and the weather was disappearing, yielding to darts of mid morning sun. They were both on leash, a rarity in my world, as Clara Barton is the type of intelligent dog that would save us from a burning building. Reuben, on the other hand, would eat tin foil for the grease, and would chase a squirrel to the base of a tree and be totally dumbfounded by the disappearing act that mysteriously unfolded before his eyes. But Reuben did know enough to follow Clara's every move, breath and inclination. Control Clara and you control Reuben. Luckily for all, Clara craved our control, thrived on it, even- as most working breeds do.

Suddenly, I encountered the ranch hand, a thin, facial-haired dude with a gruff demeanor, but just enough hospitality sense to be accommodating to the guests. His three ranch dogs were frolicking about 50 feet away, towards the edge of the landscaping, nearly out of sight and as yet unnoticed by us. He eked out a smile, looked at the two dogs, and said to me, “Hey, you keep that city dog away from my dogs, you understand. That one there (referencing Clara) is OK, but this one (at Reuben) needs to stay with you all the time.”

I gained an instant respect for the ranch hand ilk in that very moment. He was able to prejudge a dog- accurately mind you- and express simultaneous bestial disdain and respect for the breeds, within nanoseconds. He had Reuben pegged for the poorly socialized, dog-aggressive lightning rod that he was. It took me months to assess that Pit Bull's demeanor, learn his trigger points, and to train him to obey as best he could. I was able to convince him to ignore birds and most smaller wild animals in favor of my favour, but the instantaneous “go time” that occurred if he and another dog’s "sizing up time" went awry was still my rescued Pit Bull cross to bear. My only occasional hint was Reuben’s signature lip curl.

Then we went for a hike.

We walked down the dirt road, the dogs gloriously free of tethers and fancy free. So free, in fact, that they left their wilderness critter radar down for just a moment too long, much to the humans’ delight. As Clara and Reuben were sniffing around ahead and to the left, the road curved to the right. Briefly, we were lucky enough to see the scurrying hindquarters of a bobcat, its bounding leap off the road and into the forest understory was one of desperation. Perhaps the cat clan had heard of the legend of unrelenting badass Reuben the Pit Bull Mix from Albuquerque and his brilliant mistress Clara Barton the herding dog? Perhaps they’re just a reclusive species, despite the aforementioned brazen and photogenic Placitas brethren.

Having already walked a good distance, we eventually arrived at our hiking destination, a system of trails that are part of the San Pedro Parks Wilderness on the backside of the Jemez. On the way we passed a beautiful isolated cabin, in the middle of a meadow, as well as an abandoned but pristine yurt, 20 or 30 feet in diameter. As we began our hike, we were privy to a great slice of Western-iana, a small-scale cattle round up at the edge of the forest. Even the maze-like, wooden fence/chute thingy was being used.

After a short dalliance where it became evident that we had no real desire to hike, we returned to the ranch hostel, settled into some magazines and a fire and we cooked a sumptuous meal. Then it rained again, in a very non-monsoonal like way.

Views: 9

Comment by once banned twice shy on August 26, 2009 at 3:36pm
What I loved about that bobcat article was the woman complaining at the end about her chewed-up Jack Russell terriers. I've got news for that lady: to the wild animals, her little doggies DID look like game. However, just for her, I sent out a memo to the mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and raptors and told them that if the animal had a collar, it wasn't GAME and therefore not to be eaten. I am sure my memo will be heeded.
Comment by David Cramer on August 27, 2009 at 6:38am
Thanks for the good read. The Circle A is a beautiful place, albeit a work-in-progress. It's an easy getaway from the city.
Comment by cc on August 28, 2009 at 10:49pm
Fun to read, Masshole - thanks.

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