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A Deming Walkabout

On foot, seeing the town from a different vantage point.

 

About two years ago a neighbor of mine got me a free car.

It had belonged to an elderly woman she knew who had passed on, and the woman's son just wanted to get rid of it with as little bother as possible. I tell people, "It fell out of the sky."

It couldn't have been more welcome, because my old car had been at the shop for two separate weeks that winter. I'd spent a lot of time taking what's called the Corre Caminos "demand bus" (which is a van) into town and hoofing it through the streets of Deming. I wore holes in my shoes.

So with this and some other experiences, I got pretty familiar with several areas in Deming proper.

I probably spent the most time walking through the old Hispanic, or Latino, or Mexican section of town (whatever you want to call it), east of Chicano Park, so I could get to Peppers Supermarket to catch the bus.

Most of the houses are stucco, with different shades of paint — tan, pink, near-chocolate, orange-ish, buff, white, green — with some genuine old adobe homes here and there. Houses without pitched roofs, in true Mexican style, are not unusual.

Most homes have some kind of wall around them made of brick, adobe or fieldstone. Or else they have a fence — chain link for the purely practical or black wrought-iron for the traditionalist or aesthete. Wrought-iron windows are everywhere, for the looks or to protect from thieves, and there is a taste for latticework on porches.

Guadalupes of different styles nestle here and there in niches, sometimes even on modern middle-class homes.

This section almost entirely belongs to second-, third- or fourth-generation Mexican-Americans. Parents and grandparents grew up here, and some teens still shoot the breeze in the yards or on the streets and have dates pick them up.

Houses are mostly small and in some places very close to each other. Klondike Street and San Miguel in some parts have houses that don't look much more than 30 feet apart from houses across the street. It's probably a matter of opinion whether this is called cozy or cramped. I think it's both.

 

A couple of times I've walked south of town, to go meet a friend at the River of Life Church, or to check out used-car places when my car had completely broken down. I walked as far as I could along a little back street, to avoid walking along the highway where, walking alone, you feel like a crazy person.

In this area the mobile homes are very neat and clean. The people there have a penchant for paired trees or plants — palms, Mexican elders, fruit trees, or agaves in twos.

I somehow imagine this area to be a launching place for future middle-class home owners — for electricians, construction workers or school secretaries.

 

Sometimes I've had to walk from the west edge of town, where the truck stop is, back to the center of town. I may have had to take a shower in a raunchy stall at the truck stop, after being driven into town by a friend, because I had no water temporarily at home or no propane.

That used to be the traditional Anglo side of town, although it's quite a lot more mixed-race now. Although Deming in general seems pretty drab to a lot of people, there actually are lots of pleasant houses there: some tiny rental houses and some big two-story homes made a century ago with deep and even ornate window casing, and then many more houses in between.

They're the kind of houses that constitute the traditional American dream, where kids do their homework inside and walk home from school scuffling through fall leaves. I think now they're inhabited mostly by retirees.

I found a small middle-class area once, about one block long, which appeared to be lost in the 1940s. The place was completely self-satisfied, profoundly quiet. The houses, walls and balustrades were blocky and heavy. I don't think I'll ever find that place again, but I believe it was the heart of Deming.

The old houses morph into newer houses at Florida Street as you move south, and those houses morph into mobile homes as you go even farther south.

 

Sometimes I've walked north of town, but I've more often driven.

I've walked the rows of trailers at Mayz Trailer Park on Fourth Street, where mostly farmworkers live. This place used to be alive with Mexicans in the summer evenings back in the late Nineties, when there was much more work in the fields and when people used to sleep eight or nine to a trailer sometimes.

Now in this northern section of town there's a more permanent population, with their own trailer or their own little house, often kind of ragged-looking and needing repair. First-generation Mexicans live there, some of whom move to somewhat better parts of town.

More robberies occur here than in other parts of town. Kids break into houses; neighbor steals from neighbor.

In this section, especially on First and Second Streets, are some of the littlest houses possible, mostly made-over trailers. You feel as if you'd have to stoop to stand in the back part of the house.

It's only in this part of town that you find wild Mexican sunflowers cultivated, which for some reason are only normally found a little south of the border at the edges of the roads. These scraggly, tall plants never cross the border even to Columbus, for some reason.

There's a woman who sells hot dogs for 50 cents, sodas and snacks from a little window in the wall surrounding her home. Kids stop there in the evening, and it's handy for me to grab something there, too.

You also find some of the most charming houses in town here. There are small houses level with the street, with a picket fence and a gate to welcome you in.

I once stopped and talked to a woman at a sweet little white house there, near quintessentially British-sounding Surrey and Queen Ann Streets. I told her how lovely her place was, and how I'd like to live in that area. She made some comment, in a politically correct mode, about how the population should remain Hispanic. She was right, I guess.

 

Walking the streets gives you a more intimate look at the town than you could get otherwise.

I hope Deming never reaches the point where these narrow streets remain footprint-free because of some smart modernization plan.

 

 

 

Borderlines columnist Marjorie Lilly lives in Deming.

 

 



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