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The tags for the van finally came to the house. My wife sent them to me. So for the last leg of my journey, I was officially legal.

I stopped in Bluewater Lake on the way home. It's right off Interstate 40, before you hit Gallup going west from Albuquerque. We own a small trailer there, on a pinon and juniper covered lot overlooking the reservoir. The trailer used to belong to the neighbors, and when they upgraded, we bought it from them and moved it over. Had a little work done to make it more livable, but it's still rudimentary at best. It has electricity, but no running water at the moment. A propane tank that fuels a stove and a furnace. It's a place to camp, really.

At some point vandals broke in. They threw acrylic paints that I sometimes work with all over the walls, broke the television and a mirror, dumped baby powder all over the carpet, etc. Generally made a huge mess of broken glass and paint and powder and God know what else. We cleaned it up somewhat, but it's still not all together. Truth is we hardly ever go there.

The road leading to the driveway was too muddy to drive on. I started, but realized quickly that I was gonna get stuck. The soil is basically red clay, and when it's wet, it sticks like... well, clay. So I parked on the main gravel road and walked up the side road to the driveway. The driveway itself is pretty much washed out. It may not rain in that area for months, but when it does, it pours. I've seen the red sandstone cliffs look like Niagara Falls during a heavy thunderstorm. So the roads tend to slide down the hill.

You can't see the trailer from the main road. It's very secluded. We had a sliding glass door installed, so you can see the lake and the Zuni Mountains from inside. There's a little porch where you can sit. The sunsets in that particular spot are amazing. It's about 7,800 feet in altitude, and the wind blows almost constantly. Clouds pass through from the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Pacific Ocean in the other direction. The skies light up in spectacularly colorful fashion at dawn and dusk. At night, the stars are so multitudinous you almost can't believe your eyes. Facing south, you can see the procession of the constellations along the elliptical, and sense the unique personality of each as they slowly parade across the black night sky.

About the only sounds you hear around there are roosters crowing, or a dog barking. An occasional Drug Enforcement Agency plane flying overhead. The neighbor starting his Harley. The mournful sounds of pinon jays. A car driving down a road a mile away. It's very quiet.

But I'm just stopping for a quick hello this time. As beautiful as the area is to me, it's also one of the poorest in America. The enormous Navajo Reservation, where some people still don't have the basic amenities, like running water and electricity, is right there. There's not much money off the reservation either.

The little development of Bluewater Lake was built during the uranium boom after World War II, when nearby Grants was a mining center. The boom has long since gone bust. There is a bit of culture shock when you first arrive in the area. It takes a day or three to adjust. Once you settle into the rhythm, which is very slow and natural, it's okay. But adjusting to the abject poverty can be a jolt to the system. Or just plain depressing.

I go into the trailer and look around. Nothing has been messed with since the vandals broke in years ago. There is sign of a little rodent activity, but not much.

My parents used to live right up the hill. They lived there for years, and I had thought, and hoped, they would stay there the rest of their lives. But it was not to be. I had also asked that they give me a right of first refusal on the place should they choose to sell it. They assured me they would. For no discernible reason, that was not to be either. They sold their place, a converted double wide on a large lot, without mentioning it to me until after the fact. That stung pretty bad. It was an insult, and a betrayal, on multiple levels.

I had hoped to keep their place for future generations. So that the extended family would have the whole area... our little place, and theirs too. So that they would always have a place to go, and to gather. It's a basic desire one has for their family, really. That they have a place to retreat to when retreating is desired. And not just for my children. For my sisters, and their children, and their children's children. It wasnt' really worth much as a monetary investment, because real estate is so inexpensive there. But it had real spiritual value to me. Oh well... que cera cera.

The guy who lives in their old place now is a nice enough fellow. He lives there year round, and it's like a dream come true for him. It's a spot his father, who lived in a ramshackle place down below, always wanted to own. And when his father passed away, and left him some money, he bought it. And so it goes. You roll with these things, and wish people the best.

So I looked around our little trailer, made sure everything was okay, and walked back to the van. It was starting to snow.

I tried to drive into the state park below, but it was closed for the winter. I don't remember it ever being closed before. This is what happens in hard times.

I thought I would drive into Gallup and eat at the El Rancho Hotel, which used to be owned by one of my relatives. I'm not that crazy about the hotel itself, but the restaurant there is outstanding. Instead, I drove on through town. I didn't even visit the cemetery where some of my ancestors are buried, which I had thought I might do. I was just in the mood to get on down the road.

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Comment by wiffledust on April 3, 2010 at 8:44am
great, david! when i was in college, i was supposed to go to do some teaching on a reservation in that area as part of some student teaching experience. somehow it didn't happen, and i have always regretted that. ......i also know how it feels to want to keep a certain patch of family land. it's a strange feeling, but a very deep one.

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