The Hundredth Meridian

Mexico Way

Though Héctor had lived all his life in a desert climate, he was a town kid whose closest experience of the desert itself had been to drive across it at 50 or 60 miles per hour.  Now that he was actually living there, he found the reality of the experience daunting, even frightening.  For Héctor, the Chihuahuan Desert was an expansive boredom relieved occasionally by some small but acute unpleasantness, like discovering a coiled rattlesnake beneath your chair after sitting down to a cup of coffee in the pale morning sun, in the intervals between onsets of winter wind and driving dust storms out of the west.  As far as anyone could see, the Juárez ranch was surrounded by the sotol and creosote-bush desert, its nearly absolute flatness relieved only by the relatively negligible Tres Hermanas Mountains to the south and the much more impressive Florida Mountains, a massive barrier of pink and rust-colored rock rising between the ranch and the pleasures and excitements of Las Cruces and El Paso fifty miles as the crow flies to the east.  Between Columbus to the south and Deming, north on Highway 11, the ranch was a fifteen-mile drive from either—a long way, it seemed to Héctor, to go for a “few” drinks, and an even longer way home.

At first, he’d kept himself entertained, more or less, at the Pancho Villa State Park between Columbus and the international border, but...

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