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Walking — and painting — Silver City's Boston Hill

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You know these New Mexicans — even though none is real

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The ocotillo, ephedra, sotol and allthorn — all highly individualistic plants

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About the cover


Life Is a Ponderment

When ramblin' outdoors, finding more questions than answers.


I suppose that if the truth be known, I was born to ponder; I'm always wonderin' about this subject or that object or that person.

If you know me very well, or if you find yourself around me for but a short time, you will quickly find out that I like to ask questions. No, I'm not being nosy; questions and the answers to them help me to understand how people (and even things) tick.

When I'm outdoors I'm constantly questioning how or why something came to be; I thirst for that kind of knowledge.

For instance, while hunting deer back in late October, I stopped in a spot in the woods for reasons that I'd rather not discuss. I was a mile or more from the nearest house and at least a good half-mile from the nearest human-traveled trail.

Yet as I peered down at this spot on the earth, something caught my eye. I leaned over and picked up the tarnished, spent brass casing from a .22 rimfire cartridge.

I pondered, and still ponder, over the odds of that happening. I was standing where another human had stood in that vast sea of forest — simply amazing.

Similarly, today I went for a hike where recently I had opened up a 30-foot new section. This part of my trail follows the erosion ditch that I had dug by a dozer operator some four to five years ago. The ditch is about 18 inches deep and at this place it is overgrown with vegetation.

I had traversed this new place about a dozen times or so before, but today something manmade caught my attention: two black, rectangular pieces about four inches in length, partially concealed by grass.

Of course, I picked them up and was startled to find that they were two halves from a 1970s-style Kodak Instamatic camera!

That find got me to pondering: How long had the pieces lain there? Were they lying on the surface and washed down into the ditch by a long-forgotten rain? Or had they somehow been buried in the soil some 30 to 40 years ago, only to be unearthed by the dozer?


Now, before you scoff at this last ponderment, permit me to relate to you this story. Back in the early 1990s, I was traveling in my truck over a frozen bit of January two-track. On my way back the way I had come in, the sun had now melted the frozen soil and I hit a subterranean spring of water that quickly buried my Ford F150 4X4 up to its belly! I had no choice but to lie on my own belly and use a trenching shovel to dig out the entire undercarriage of said vehicle. Please realize that a trenching shovel isn't all that handy, being narrow and short in blade and only 18 inches in total length.

Not too long into the adventure and about a foot down into the muck, I came upon a manmade object; it turned out to be a bullet, the kind used in military weapons of 100 years ago. Now, it may have been deposited there in more recent years, I freely admit, but there it was nonetheless.

I've often pondered the odds of me finding that bullet. In fact, I've pondered many a pleasurable hour away thinking over it and other similar finds.


But back to the present. Recently I returned from a hunting trip to Missouri. Right there next to my open gate lay a weathered, yellow, empty shotshell casing of the 20- gauge variety. It was somewhat squashed and obviously had been out in the elements for a very long time.

This case lay six feet inside of my web fencing and three feet or more from my driveway, and it definitely had not been there when I closed the gate on my way to Missouri! Where in the heck did the dang thing come from and why was it there?

Last week, in the arroyo below the house and mostly within the property fence, I discovered a series of soil disruptions both inside and outside the fence. I chalked it up to a roaming skunk foraging for food.

But then I came upon three very deep and large holes in the bank on my side of the web fence. The first was but six inches deep and a foot wide; the second was a foot deep and a foot wide; the third was over two feet deep and a foot wide. The soil was so disturbed that I couldn't identify the digger's tracks, but my suspicions indicated a gray fox or a dreaded badger! Were they the beginnings of a new den? I hoped not.

I went about gathering up a shovel and soon had the holes filled back in. It has been a week and they are still untouched. Oh, the ponderment of it all.


I've recently pondered over our early-December weather. Is the obvious lack of rain the result of the very fine temperatures we're experiencing? I mean, I can't ever remember such great temperatures in December, not in the 24 years I've lived here. I sure ain't complaining, but it just isn't natural, folks!

On the other side of the slope, could the fine temperatures be from the fact that it isn't raining? Go ponder.

Speaking of nature, in normal times, which means every winter except this one, come February a curious plant named filaree makes its appearance; it is a sought-after food of quail. This past 2012, though, the plant showed up in early November. What's up with that?

Here's another phenomenon I can't quite place my finger on. On several occasions at dawn, two thermometers showed temps of 36 degrees and one morn they showed 39 degrees. Yet we had skim-ice on the four water bowls, and one time there was a quarter-inch of solid water on one bowl while the other three were ice-free, including one sitting not three feet away. Isn't ice supposed to form at 32 degrees?

I mean, pondering the state of these liquids could force me to imbibe another form of liquid!

And then there is that last and most formidable kind of ponderment that was summed up best by actor Will Geer in the ancient cinema Jeremiah Johnson. In it, Geer's character, a wizened old mountain man, is emoting with Jeremiah and the latter asks if the old man had ever had a full-time-night woman?

Somewhere in his answer, Gere replies (and this is a loose paraphrase by me) that "a woman's breast was the hardest soil that he ever had found and he could find no track on it." I take that to mean that the human male can never ponder how a woman thinks! Nuff said.

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.

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