River of Dreams
Catron County author Uncle River's alternate universes

Building Multiculturalism
Casa de la Cultura President Mar’a Eugenia Trillo

Another Side of the Story
Remembering a slain family, 50 years after the In Cold Blood murders

Hiking How-To
Here's how Jerry packs and prepares for Apacheria outings

Rabbit Moon
What did the ancient Mimbres people see in the moon?

Fellow Travelers
November brings flocks of migrating Sandhill Cranes to New Mexico

Underground Silver City
2009 Writing Contest Winner

Columns and Departments
Editor's Note
Desert Diary

Lincoln: Self-Made President
Apache Homeland Cafe's Last Chance?
The Robots are Coming
La Esperanca Vineyard & Winery
Tumbleweeds Top 10

Business Exposure
The Starry Dome
Ramblin' Outdoors
40 Days & 40 Nights
The To-Do List
Guides to Go
Henry Lightcap's Journal
Continental Divide

Special Section
Arts Exposure

Arts News
Gallery Guide

Body, Mind & Spirit
Deaf Community
Qi Gong

Red or Green
Dining Guide
Table Talk

About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   November 2009


Snakes in the Grass

I was disappointed by the article "Snake Miseries" by Larry Lightner (Ramblin' Outdoors, October). Based on the subtitle, I expected better descriptions of these creatures, their role in the ecosystem, and how to avoid unexpected contact. That would have been more useful.

While common sense prohibits having one of these predators around the home, especially with children or pets, dispatching one with your ".44 magnum" in the wild is excessive. "Big snakes" get that way by eating hundreds or thousands of small rodents over a period of several years. Mice and rats are known to transmit hantavirus and bubonic plague to other mammals, including humans. Removing one of their primary predators from the food chain provides thousands more of these rodents the opportunity to breed, increasing the potential for an outbreak. Comparing the number of deaths from these diseases with the probability of a venomous bite, I'll take my chances with the snakes. Killer bees worry me more.

During decades of outdoor exploration, encounters with potentially dangerous animals (black bears, moose, badgers, bobcats and rattlesnakes) have always concluded peacefully if I simply gave the animal room or relinquished the right of way, avoided threatening behavior and allowed them to move away. For snakes, I carry a walking stick to swish the tall grass or thump the ground to let them know I'm coming. They respond in kind with their distinctive rattle to let me (a non-prey species) know that "Hey you clumsy inobservant two-legged creature! I'm over here! Don't make me waste my precious venom on you!" An appropriate response is to stand back 10 feet, observe an amazing evolutionary adaptation, take a picture, say good day, and be on your separate ways.

Paul Landrum

via email

I would think our Grant County Rambling Hunter would get rid of his dogs, sell his horse, and put a trusty .44 round through the gas tank and tires of his ATV.

According to Google's ER stats he or his grandchildren are four times more likely to be killed by a dog, six times more by his horse, and 100 times more by his ATV than by a rattlesnake.

D.A. Schulke

The Mimbres

I found the "Snake Miseries" piece irresponsible and uninformed. The author's disdain for wildlife and wildness is commonly expressed in your publication. Since there were no counter-opinions published, you apparently condone his actions. In doing so you encourage readers to kill snakes. Surely you have heard from others by now regarding this kind of attitude against rattlesnakes. I am not an expert but I have read and heard of the benefits of snakes. I trust that you will now engage another author to present the other side of this issue.

Tim McKimmie

Las Cruces

Columnist Larry Lightner replies: I find it interesting that people see only what they want to see; I clearly gave the other side about the defensive posture and to back on out and leave snakes alone and to avoid them in other cases. I made a point of doing that for balance. I also made it clear that I left little snakes alone and why I killed big snakes. And the bullsnake I shot, thinking it was a rattler, was dangerously close to my house and endangering my dogs — one of which it had already bitten. I think any caring pet owner would do the same.

Healthy Debate


Your article, "What Ails Us," (Editor's Notebook, October) suffered from a little too much angst and not enough analysis. To say that people with Medicare or who have an employer's health plan don't understand the health-care problem is just plain wrong. Many of us went without health insurance, in my case 12 years, prior to Medicare. I had many of the same problems you have. I left a large company and found out, to my surprise, the only health insurance I could get was accident insurance.

The company I had worked for had a terrific health plan. All the benefits they provided were tax-deductible to the company and tax-free to me. When I left, all my insurance expenses were after-tax. What a bummer. Expert after expert has said that the first step to healthcare reform should be to level the tax field by taxing the corporate benefit or making insurance a nontaxable personal expense. Why isn't this being proposed? A cynic would say it's because the politicians want to keep corporations as the bad guys, easy to blame and tax. A realist would say it's because the unions don't want benefits taxed because negotiating health benefits is about the only sales tool they've got. Either way, failure to address the problem is a John McEnroe moment.

Another thing you noted was that if you move into a new state, you usually face a new set of health insurance companies and a new menu of state-mandated coverages, something you didn't worry about as a corporate employee. New Mexico has 45 mandated coverages that insurance companies must provide, including breast reconstruction, acupuncture and hearing aids for children under 21. Gosh, do you think that raises the cost? Do you think maybe chiropractors, audiologists, acupuncturists, etc. lobbied for inclusion? Why don't the current proposals in Washington allow individuals to buy insurance across state lines, like we do with auto insurance? A cynic might say the Fed-level pols don't want to take power away from the State-level pols. Another McEnroe moment.

One of the most glaring omissions in the current debate is what to do to enhance the SUPPLY side of medical services. It's all been about managing the demand side. Nobody has any proposals to expedite the education of nurses and doctors, to license sidewalk clinics, expand the OTC drug availability, etc. Nobody has addressed the accreditation stranglehold held by the American Medical Association. I wonder if that's why the AMA is on board for whatever reform the administration approves?

Finally, at my former employer, an insurance company, some bright fellow (or gal) thought we should begin writing medical malpractice insurance. Oh, my. A long story but the denouement was essentially going out of business as an independent company. Medical malpractice, or tort reform, is off the table. It seems hospitals, insurance companies, individuals without insurance, individuals with insurance, Medicare recipients and everybody else must make a sacrifice, but not the malpractice lawyers. Gee, I wonder why that is?

So there you have it: Insurance "reform" without tax reform, without interstate commerce reform, without supply-side reform and without tort reform. Cue to Mr. McEnroe for my feelings, exactly: "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!"

Peter Burrows

Silver City

In response to David Fryxell's powerful plea for the passage of health care reform in the Editor's Notebook, I am addressing anyone who has been confused by the assertion that reform will be paid for by reductions in Medicare funds. There will be an estimated $500 billion rerouted in the Medicare budget, but it will not come from the portion paid directly to the recipient or his provider.

The savings will come from the monies that are paid directly to insurance companies for the services they render in dispensing Medicare benefits. As the result of legislation supported by the insurance industry, we have the situation described herewith (I Googled this):

"Payments to Medicare Advantage plans have gone way up since 2003. Did the payment increase largely benefit beneficiaries or not? It turns out the answer is known and quantifiable. For each additional dollar spent by the federal government (taxpayers) on the program since 2003, just $0.14 of it can be attributed to additional value (consumer surplus) to beneficiaries. What do we make of the other $0.86? That goes to the insurance companies but doesn't come out 'the other end' in the form of value to beneficiaries. In part it is accounted for by the costs of the additional benefits and in part it is captured as additional insurer profit. In fact, it is a landslide: for each dollar spent, 14% of the value reaches beneficiaries and 86% of it goes elsewhere (profit or cost)."

My personal experience is even worse. When my health insurance was cancelled with the death of my husband, I was offered my own policy and was put in a Medicare Advantage plan. Some advantage! Under straight Medicare, my visit to my chiropractor was reimbursed at 80% of his bill; after I was switched to MA, I not only paid an additional monthly premium but I also had to meet a co-pay of $25. Since the charge was $24, I received no benefit. By dropping the insurance and relying on straight Medicare, I now receive a check for $18 for each visit, meaning it costs me $6 a treatment.

It is sad that no one can read through the fine print and know what the true story is.

Let's have some cost saving measures such as competition with the private insurers; end-of-life planning so that one can indicate how much or little life support they wish to have; some publicity on alternative healing methods (such as taking 2 tsp of honey and 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar each morning in a cup of hot water to regulate blood pressure); and some lifestyle modifications that would really reduce the cost of health care. Then there would be enough resources to care for all citizens.

Where there's the will, there's a way.

Doris Wakeland (age 87-plus)

Silver City

Good for you! Good for you!!! As a registered Republican, I fully endorse your editorial!

After eight years of Bush, I am seriously considering switching over. I have VA (thank GOD!), but if I do again become gainfully employed, I will lose that benefit. As it is, I pay $400 per month for retired-company-sponsored health insurance, with a $2,000 deductible! I have to have a heart attack to collect! My last blood test with my sponsored doctor was $826, of which I pay 20%.

Ron Mulhern

via email

The Joke's on Us

Since we have a new game called "Guess the sinister message behind the Desert Diary joke," I'd like to participate (Letters, October). How about:

1. Detroit = USA

2. Drunks = Bush/Cheney, Saudi Arabia, oil companies and banks, because they each made out like bandits at no cost to themselves.

3. Heidi = Federal Reserve Bank, for providing "free funny money" financing at the public's expense.

4. The remainder of characters = The people who borrowed the Fed's funny money in the form of consumer loans while the investment loans were financing the export of their jobs to China.

Charles Clements

Las Cruces

Bosque Buddies

We greatly appreciate the article "A Work in Progress" by Jay W. Sharp regarding the new Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park (October). Even before the park's grand opening, a Friends group was in place to promote the park and provide a way for the public to assist in its mission. The Friends of MVBSP is 501(c)3 charitable organization that provides for park events, activities and support through fundraising and volunteering by the members.

The Friends meet at the park at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of each month; the meetings are open to the public. For those interested in joining the Friends of Mesilla Valley State Park, please come to a meeting or contact Guy Powers at 373-1891, e-mail heyguy66@juno.com

Again, we thank you for the fine coverage of Southern New Mexico that your publication provides. We hope everyone can come visit our wonderful park.

Robert Hull

President, Friends of the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park



In the October Body, Mind & Spirit section, Dr. Roland Snure's first name was misspelled.

Potter and tile artist Kate Brown ("A Pound of Clay," October), will not have a sale on Nov. 6; the dates for this year's studio sale will be Dec. 5-6.



Let us hear from you! Write Desert Exposure Letters, PO Box 191, Silver City, NM 88062, fax 534-4134 or email letters@desertexposure.com Letters are subject to editing for style and length, and must be in response to content that has appeared in our pages. Deadline for the next issue is the 18th of the month.

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