The Hundredth Meridian

Christmas in July

The crickets which stopped singing at Thanksgiving have come inside at last, along with the spiders and an occasional skink. The leaves dropped from the pecan trees around the beginning of December, and crews are at work in the orchards beside the Rio Grande gathering the nuts. The bermuda grass is brown in the backyard, and my heating bill soared to 54 dollars this month. The New Mexicans react to 45 degree highs by wrapping up protectively like Arctic explorers or going nearly naked in defiance of the cold, while over at the country club the Anglo immigrants from El Norte congratulate themselves on having discovered the perfect climate. It must be winter in New Mexico after all. You could have fooled me.

The rains that inundated the lower Rio Grande Valley turned to snow over eastern New Mexico. Immobilized amid eight-foot drifts the sheep and cattle slowly starved while the ranchers, snowbound in their houses, were unable to reach them. National Guard troops organized a rescue operation that for nearly two weeks airlifted five-ton hay bales in G-130 transport planes and dropped them from a height of 300 feet to burst on impact, scattering hay behind the fleeing animals.

I threw the cross-country skis in the bed of the pickup truck and drove east one morning, across the Tularosa cactus flats to Alamogordo and from Alamogordo up to the town of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains in search of what could fairly be described...

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