One of the things I did was to visit my hometown of Corrales, just NW of Albuquerque, and take two walks around the place.
I'm old enough now that when I walk the old roads, memories of what it used to be like when I was younger conflict with what it looks like today. In a sense, I'm walking through two places: the present landscape, and a ghost landscape of the recent past. The recent past wasn't that long ago, but time moves quickly on! Every day, it changes just a bit more!
So, here is that walk....
This crumbling adobe house on West La Entrada Road (my home road) has been disintegrating my entire life. When I was a kid, it was an active hazard: I never ventured inside, because it was too dangerous. But it looks like the disintegration process is nearing completion, and it isn't much of a hazard anymore.
This row of trees was planted around the time I moved away (1980). It seems strange to see these trees here.
When I was a kid, La Entrada Road was unpaved, and was maintained by Sandoval County with road graders. The washboard surface was bone-rattling to every car. The mud puddles in summer were a menace (but home to tadpoles). When did they pave it: 1975, or so?
The Corrales lifestyle, for those who have a bit of money, emphasizes horse ownership. So, you see horses in many places, even if the available land is painfully small. This plot of land near the Palladini's house is particularly good, and the adjacent meadow is amazingly lush: I've never seen it look so good!
This is the house I grew up in. My parents sold it in 1990, and the energetic new owners had transformed it to the point of unrecognizability by 1994. I mean, look at that gray-green Russian Olive tree! When did it appear?
Today, the house is for sale, for an asking price of $449,000.00 In 1960, I believe it cost my parents on the order of $10,000.00 - $12,000.00 to build. I'd like to buy it, but I know my parents would be horrified at the cost, and would recommend that I do almost anything else with my money.
This is the house next door, where the Lewises lived when we were kids. We spent so many play hours here! It's a pretty transformed house too (it's amusing how the reigning New Mexico Pueblo style has been applied even to this most-un-Pueblolike of residences). After the Lewises moved out, there was a short period when jewelry-making hippie Buddhists lived here. Afterwards, noted Sioux author Vine Deloria, Jr. lived here. Occasionally, we were jarred awake by Sioux Indians singing and banging on the drum.
The Goat Pen used to be located here. New owners have erected a large, handsome, and spacious barn in its place.
When I was very young, the goats were kept here. Later, approaching adolescence, we kids sold rock collections here with play money, and even rolled kids off the roof in cardboard barrels. We had political debates too. To this day, I'm still shocked how the Lewis kids pivoted on a dime and stopped supporting George Wallace in September, 1968, and supported Richard Nixon instead (because Wallace had no chance of winning).
Here's the Bus Stop, where we all caught the bus to school. At times, when the dirt roads provided lots of drying mud, we had clod wars with the Acostas and Bacas up the road (an impacting dirt clod explodes quite nicely). We got pretty aggressive too, but the inevitable happened: my sister got hit in the face, complained to a teacher, who told the school principal, and we all got chewed out pretty good. That pretty much put an end to the invigorating warfare.
Interestingly, near the new barn, this grove of locust trees is still here and looks as healthy as ever!
"The Desert". This narrow strip of land behind our house was simply too narrow to farm effectively, so as long as I was a kid, it retained some of its original desert character. We called it "The Desert". Unfortunately, someone finally decided to put The Desert under the plow, sometime in the 1980's, and it lost its original charm.
Looking west, towards the hills, at the intersection of Old Church Road and West Ella Drive. On the left, they now have a vineyard (Milagro Wines) where once was an open plot of land. Steve Baer's innovative solar powered house at the top of the hill still seems to be there.
This open piece of land, featuring sagebrush and four-winged saltbush, is probably very close to what the Corrales landscape looked like before the Spaniards expanded Pueblo farming operations in the area. Only recently have I become aware how unusual this landscape is in New Mexico: alkaline desert bottomlands like this are being erased by development. The Greens and the Smiths lived around here when I was a kid. Amazingly, signs pointing to the Greens' and the Smiths' houses are still here. Maybe they still live here!
Here's a closeup of the four-winged saltbush. This is perfect quail habitat, and indeed, I could hear (although not see) the quail under the bushes.
The Smith's house is totally obscured by this tamarisk (aka salt cedar) grove. Tamarisk is an introduced ornamental tree from Turkey that has conquered the Southwest over the last century. Beekeepers love the flowers, and tamarisk is pretty, but it tends to form thickets that do not support native wildlife very well, and it uses prodigious amounts of water, so the Fish & Game people absolutely loathe it. The Smiths have tended their tamarisks very well, maybe too well, to the point of losing their home in the jungle foliage.
Old Church Road looks so different from the dusty place I remember from my youth! The trees are so much taller!
I remember this old house! Was this where my classmate from first grade, Rudy Gonzales, used to live? I can't remember!
I saw two roadrunners fly into the San Ysidro Cemetery, so I ventured into the cemetery too. I wouldn't mind being buried here, but as a non-Catholic, it's probably out of the question.
The eastern end of San Ysidro Cemetery (seen here) is filled with graves, many dating back to the 19th Century. I remember, when I was a kid, how many grave markers there used to be in this area. As you can see, nearly all the grave markers in this area are now gone. The trouble is, the wooden crosses favored by humble San Ysidro parishioners have decayed away with time.
Here is classmate Rudy Gonzales' grave. When he was just 14, he and his brother Clifford were sitting in the Blake's LotaBurger restaurant that used to be located at Rio Grande & Corrales Road, when a car crashed through the plate glass windows and killed them both.
Here is a picture I took of Rudy's grave in 2005. As you can see, his grave marker has deteriorated quite a bit in recent years. The same weathering process that cast all the older graves at this cemetery into oblivion is threatening to do the same with Rudy too!
Adjacent to the San Ysidro Cemetery is the 'historic' Gutierrez-Minge house. Folks in Corrales are getting better than they used to be at recording their history.
Here, Old Church Road heads east, towards Corrales Road. But it didn't always follow this path. I remember that it was moved to this location, for some unknown reason, around 1967, or so. The road used to run down the field to the right, which was reclaimed into a meadow. So, a field became a road, and a road became a field, for reasons, like I say, weren't revealed to us kids.
Corrales Elementary School (formerly Sandoval Elementary School), where my education first started. Federal money allowed the school to be completely renovated around 1967.
This Mercado de Maya, or whatever they call it now, across Corrales Road from the school, was Mr. Works' grocery store when I was a kid. What an amazing store it was, too, with the moist cement floor, and filled with the scents of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables! I also remember the day someone failed to apply their brakes, and drove right through the front of the store, noisily sending glass everywhere!
Here is the Sandia Bar. I remember my father taking me inside when I was about three years old. I remember looking down the bar, and watching all the old men at the other end of the bar looking back at me, and thinking what a strange place it was.
After my first walk, I decided to follow my sister's advice, and drive along the Romero Road access to the riverside bosque.
At last, by looking at the following map, I think I finally understand the ditch system in Corrales! Water comes down the Sandoval Lateral Canal from the Corrales Main Canal (from right to left in this photo). At this junction, water is removed into the Corrales Acequia (which recedes into the background). The Sandoval Lateral then runs east, where it meets and runs parallel to the Corrales Riverside Drain (aka the 'Clear Ditch'). It's important to remember that the Sandoval Lateral carries river water, but the Clear Ditch carries water draining from the high water table under farmland adjacent to the river.
"Coyote Activity Ahead!" Like I say, I saw the roadrunners at the cemetery, so it figures the clueless coyotes would be clear across town, over here, by the riverside bosque.
This is an admirable map of Corrales (the original is located on page 16 of this document).
The colonial Spanish method of land use is evident from this map. Land was divided into strips, such that each landowner was able to have both access to water and access to grazing to the hills beyond. The trouble came as land was passed down to succeeding generations. The strips were divided, and then divided again, until you got strips like the aforementioned "Desert" that were so narrow they were virtually useless from a sustenance point of view.
Ah! The Corrales Riverside Drain, fondly known by everyone as the 'Clear Ditch'. The reason it's clear is that it doesn't hold river water, but rather, water draining from the high water table near the river. The level of water in the clear ditch is intimately associated with the level of water in the river. There is so much wildlife in this immediate area! It's so nice!
The Rio Grande River at Corrales' Romero Road bosque access. The Sandia Mountains loom in the background.
I'm quite impressed: the river is running about three feet below the bank on the opposite side. The bank has been here long enough that Russian Olive Trees have had a chance to grow to maturity in the middle distance - that has got to be at least ten years!
In the 1970's, river watchers worried about the flooding potential of the Rio Grande. Sediment was relentlessly building up in the river bed, elevating the river, and creating what are known as 'yazoos': floodable areas adjacent to the river, and below the river level. They are named after the Yazoo River of Mississippi, one of the nation's most flood-prone rivers, because it builds up riverbed sediment in just this way.
Now, looking at that bank, though, I'm thinking the process is reversing, and the river is entrenching itself again. Even though the river here is running red with sediment washed in by monsoonal rains, and even though relentless development dumps sediment every year in to the river, the river may still have less sediment than it used to. The completion of Cochiti Dam upstream, in 1975, traps a lot of sediment that could have been dumped here. If this entrenching process continues, Corrales will have less to fear from flooding than it used to. The downside, though, is that as the river entrenches, the water table will go down to match the river's level, which could well make the 'Clear Ditch' dry up, in time. Now that would be a true disaster!