The Wild River Speaks
The stories of New Mexico's last free-flowing river

Natural Disasters
Is it the end of the natural world as we know it?

Hillsboro's Other 9/11s
Sept. 11 was a memorable date back in 1879 and 1885

The Great Pretenders
The Sonoran gopher snake evolved to mimic a rattler

2012 Writing Contest Winners

Adventure at the Silver Bell Mine
There's nothing worse than a ticked-off ghost

Notes on Being a Newcomer
Where life sometimes moves into the subjunctive mode

Adobe Tears
This year's best poem

Columns and Departments

Editor's Note
Desert Diary
Southwest Gardener
Henry Lightcap's Journal
The Starry Dome
Talking Horses
Ramblin' Outdoors
Guides to Go
Continental Divide

Special Sections

40 Days & 40 Nights
The To-Do List

Red or Green

Sunrise Kitchen
Dining Guide
Table Talk

Arts Exposure

Arts Scene
Gallery Guide

Body, Mind
& Spirit

Control Issues
The Grudge Report

About the cover



Nature Unleashed

A lifetime of close calls.


To this present time, I have never endured certain cataclysmic events brought on by nature. For instance, I have never been caught in a forest fire or a grass fire, either caused by Ma Nature or by mankind.

I've never been caught in an erupting volcano, such as Mount Saint Helens. Although I did jog the rim of Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii one dawn; I was amazed at the amount of steam erupting from the crater, which a person cannot actually see during the rest of the day.

I've never been in an avalanche to date, by neither dirt, rocky mountainside nor snow. That goes for tidal waves, too; nary a one hit Hawaii during my four brief visits there. Nor did any ever hit me any of those times that I romped in the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.

As far as I can tell, I have yet to be hit dead-center with an errant meteorite or rogue planet.

But before you conclude that old Lar leads a very boring life, permit me to divulge to you just how many fits of nature I have been intimately (or near intimately) involved with.

The first bout of nature that I can remember happened when I was but a lad of about 13 years of age. We lived on the outskirts of Philadelphia back then, upon a somewhat bare hillside.

A terrible lightning storm was pounding us, when all of a sudden there came a quite loud crack-bang! They were almost inseparable in duration. We soon smelled smoke and the lights and all other electricity went out. My Pap and I rushed into the utility room to find that the electrical service box was blown out from its resting place in the wall and was smoldering.

Pap fetched a very big screwdriver to fiddle with something and was rewarded with a resoundingly loud and powerful crack as the stored-up lightning bolt exited the box and up Pap's arm.

No other harm was done except for Pap's brown undershorts and my panic over it all.

Speaking of lightning, maybe five years or so ago, my pal Gozmo and I were riding ATVs in the mountains just past Camp Thunderbird on the upper Mimbres. We were on a high ridgeline two-track when an awful storm materialized right over us, while elsewhere there was nary a cloud.

That storm proceeded to pelt us with its fury of driven, icy-cold rain, and we decided to seek shelter under a tall juniper tree. About two minutes into that shelter a terrific bolt came crashing down near us, and I do mean near, as the thunder-crack-bang was one noisy event.

It was followed by a second horrendous thunderclap and I decided right then and there to exit our position and get the heck out of there — icy rain be danged! Gozmo had no choice but to follow, albeit he did admit later to being a might frightened himself. Never did I run such a perilous and frenzied race down a mountain!


Back in 1971 my bride and I were fast asleep in our bed in southern California and it was just about dawn; that's when we experienced the Sylmar earthquake. Our bed rolled back and forth like we were on a wave-tossed ocean. The only thing I could think to do was immediately jump out of bed and save my meager collection of rifles and shotguns from falling and injuring themselves (they were resting upright in a corner of the room). The aftershocks lasted for days on end that time.

The only good thing that came out of that quake was my bird dog Baron, who was born of a very frightened mama at that very moment in history.

We shortly thereafter moved from California and ended up in eastern Pennsylvania, living in a wonderful old stone farmhouse built in the 1770s. It even had a secret room below the dark and dank cellar and we often pondered whether it had been used to house runaway slaves during the mid-1800s.

Anyway, we had been living there for about two months when in June 1972 Hurricane Agnes descended upon Pennsylvania with her full fury and wrath. We saw more than a bucket-load of rain fall in torrential streams and ultra-high winds.

In 1978 we had moved to the northern part of the Lehigh County, along the base of the Blue Mountain Range. Our domicile sat upon the top of a prominent ridge, and one evening we were sitting down to eat when it sounded for all the world like a freight train was going to come through our kitchen table. Of course I had read that this was the sound of an impending tornado and I excitedly yelled for wife and kids to run to the basement — to heck with eats!

The hand of God truly spared us; witnesses said that a funnel cloud was headed directly for our house, when all of a sudden it raised up and passed over our roof-line, skimming it and tearing off the trim and soffit and uprooting one of our trees.

Another time, in 1983, we had bought our first new car — a Chevy Cavalier — and Jeri was driving it. That morning I asked if I could please take it to work and she drive my Dodge van? She heartily agreed and went to work at the old sewing factory. Another tornado came along and hit the building and tore off siding, which ended up tearing the paint from the van. We both agreed that Providence had once again intervened and spared our week-old Chevy!

Speaking of vehicles, in 2002 we bought a low-mileage Suzuki SUV. I was driving it home from the dealer and coming over Little Burro Hill, when all of a sudden a buck deer ran down the cliff and smacked right into the passenger front side to the tune of $4,700 in damage. I was numb from it, and when I gained my composure back, drove the poor new SUV home.


You may recall me writing about the time I was caught in a flash flood in Saddlerock Canyon. I was toodling up the dry wash with nary a cloud above me, and the sun brightly shining on me. Way up ahead on Bullard Peak I could see a thunderstorm, but it was miles away. All of a sudden here came a foot-tall wall of brown foam and it was deathly silent. I stopped to ponder what in the heck it was, when my mind suddenly shouted, WATER!

I turned my ATV up onto what I thought was the bank as the wall passed by me. In an instant the water was five-foot deep, filled with ugly-looking chocolate breakers and roaring full blast. To make matters worse, my "bank" was really an island and the flood was coming from three directions now. I turned the machine around to face down-stream because I was in mortal danger of being swept away.

The waters came to within 10 feet, but God and His angels were still with me. An hour later the waters resided to a foot deep and I thankfully followed them down to my truck.

One last story: In 1987 I decided to go hunt deer in western New York and I left at evening while snow was just beginning to fall. By the time I reached the border, I found myself in a full-blown blizzard and visibility was down to about 10 feet in my headlights.

Did I stop to wait it out? Nooo, I foolishly plunged ahead and along about midnight I arrived at the dirt road that sat at the bottom of a very steep hill. Did I stop then? Nooo, I put 'er in 4WD and got halfway up the blasted hill when the tires broke loose because of sheet-ice under the snow and I careened back down completely out of control for about 200 yards!

Fortunately, there was a deep three-foot snowdrift piled up and the rear of the truck settled nicely into it. I was most grateful once more to the Almighty and His guardian angel assigned to me.

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may The Forever God bless you, too!




When not ramblin' outdoors, Larry Lightner lives in Silver City.

Return to Top of Page