Word Up!
Silver City's Southwest Festival of the Written Word

Seeing the Elephant
Circus rope-trick performer Darrell Hawkins has lassoed life for 85 years

¡Ah, Chihuahua!
The changing character of the vast Mexican state that's our neighbor

The Queen of Brewer Hill
Remembering Madame Rebecca Brewer, healer, philanthropist, spiritualist

Under the Dome
Twenty years ago, the first crew emerged after two years in Biosphere 2

Columns and Departments

Editor's Note
Desert Diary
Southwest Gardener
100 Hikes
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
Dining Guide
Table Talk

Arts Exposure
Red Dot Studio Tour
Arts Scene
Gallery Guide

Body, Mind
& Spirit

Diary of a Caregiver, pt 2
Staffing Up
The Wisdom of Gardens

About the cover

Letters banner\

Our Readers Write


With Pen in Hand

Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter (Continental Divide, August)? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree.

Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. Why not teach children to read cursive, along with teaching other vital skills, including a handwriting style typical of effective handwriters?

Adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority, 55%, wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

Kate Gladstone

Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the World Handwriting Contest


Albany, NY

(sent from her iPad)


I must object to David Fryxell's hand-wringing over handwriting. The most famous example of the virtues of handwriting is the Declaration of Independence. This timeless piece of writing is not only a priceless historical document, but with its flowing flourishes, it is also a beautiful work of art; as a student, Thomas Jefferson must have received an A-plus in penmanship.

A typed version of the Declaration of Independence gets lost in translation. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" loses its ring in print.

Paul Hoylen Jr.


(sent in handwritten)

Global Reach



On the topic of immigration (Editor's Notebook, August), I'm reminded of Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, USMC (1899-1933), a recipient of two Congressional Medals of Honor and the most decorated military officer in the history of the United States prior to WWII. He gave an address in New Britain, Conn., to the American Legion on Aug 21, 1931. And this is in part what he said:

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given AI Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts, I operated on three continents."

General Butler, where are you when we need you now? And how is all this connected to our country and immigration today? Have our adventures in economic imperialism for the sake of bananas, copper, petroleum, sugar, etc. resulted in destabilizing established foreign governments, supporting puppet dictators and causing hardship and suffering on foreign populations with the resulting migrations in the Americas and elsewhere?

If one hears and understands the words of General Butler and reflects upon our past history, could not one reach another dimension with the current immigration debate in our country? I do indeed so think. And that dimension is that our own country has played a greater role in stimulating these migrations, and thus bears a greater burden of responsibility than we would seem to want to admit and accept. This historical background to the current immigration discussion is an important factor seldom considered. Put it into the mix and go figure.

F. Patrick Fitzgerald



Lost and Found

Thank you very much for the excellent article on search and rescue activities in New Mexico, focusing on the Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue team ("Lost and Found," August). Including the Hiking Smarts tips was also very much appreciated to help people stay safe when venturing into the backcountry. As the article points out, New Mexico is very fortunate to have a statewide system of SAR teams that can deploy statewide, unlike the vast majority of other states that mostly limit SAR teams to county boundaries.

All of the SAR teams in New Mexico are comprised of volunteers who devote their time, energy and personal finances to become well-trained and -equipped search team members. There are currently over 50 (not 40) active SAR teams listed as resources with the New Mexico State Police, providing over 1,500 individuals, along with their dogs, ATVs, 4WD vehicles, and other equipment, who can be called out for SAR missions. Locally, the Grant County Search And Rescue team, based out of Silver City, has over 20 dedicated volunteer members ready to go at any time.

In addition to the total number of teams statewide, a couple of other minor corrections should be pointed out. There are actually five SAR teams in the Las Cruces area, not two, and while Kurt Anderson would probably not mind being associated with Grant County Search And Rescue, he is actually a member of the Do–a Ana County SAR team. Finally, the listing at the end for the New Mexico Emergency Service Council is out of date. That entity has changed its name to the New Mexico Search and Rescue Council, with a web address of www.nmsarc.org.

Thanks again for the article.

Marc Levesque, President
Grant County Search And Rescue
Silver City


Quality of Life

Happy now!? It's pretty clear that the projects presented in the recent gross-receipts tax vote are unpopular (Editor's Notebook, June). Now is the perfect time to figure out why and see if there are "quality of life" proposals with clear budgets that would be good ideas that voters would embrace. We deserve and should pay for thoughtful development and improvements in our town.

Swimming is a great sport, avocation and even vocation. Having a really top-notch municipal pool with modern facilities, open year-round, is something Silver City residents have supported since I've lived here, about 10 years. Several years ago a Parks and Recreation committee cajoled the Town Council into fixing the Municipal Pool building so it could be used safely and increasing hours of use. Why is leadership so uninterested in improving that large, centrally located area, walking distance to three public schools? If the town leadership is willing to raise millions of tax dollars, why not put that money to use there? University students would be welcome to use it and perhaps WNMU Swim Team members could work with students at that facility during the year as a community service. And, by the way, a pool facility would have been a sensible part of the New Mustang Village Complex.

Cineplexes are clearly dinosaurs. Most of us are well aware that movie theaters, such as the one in Deming, will go broke in the next few years. My momÕs brothers owned movie theaters for decades and sold them off about 20 years ago in favor of restaurant and hotel chains, which still are built with a minimum level of population in mindÑthere is a formula for sustainability.

The golf gourse, in the past also a country club, should be able to attract members and stay in business. If not, is it a good idea to put tax dollars into that business? SIGRED, Sirolli and Gila EDA were tasked with bringing businesses and jobs to Silver City and didn't reach any significant result after many years and a quarter-million dollars. (See "The $250,000 Question," June 2008). What are the facilities and businesses we need to push our economy and quality of life forward?

The thinking that people move to a city or town because there is a movie theater, golf course and swimming pool seems a bit of a stretch when considering growing an economy and growing the local population. People move to cities and towns for jobs that pay a living wage, affordable homes, reasonable property taxes, and good schools.

Let's work on that.


Teri Matelson
Silver City




Let us hear from you! Write Desert Exposure Letters, PO Box 191, Silver City, NM 88062, or email letters@desertexposure.com. Letters are subject to editing for style and length (maximum 500 words, please), 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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