I married in 1967 at age 21. Back then an unmarried woman
of 21 was almost an old maid, so getting a husband was a great
relief to me. Our honeymoon home was in the middle of Tucson,
next door to an old couple that had married each other when they
were both 14. Used to be when a boy was old enough to ride a
horse, punch cattle and draw wages, he was a man.
Ten months after the wedding we had our first baby, a daughter.
Three more followed. What with raising kids and our choice of
high tech careers, we had never lived where horses made sense.
After the two oldest had grown up and the youngest were in
middle school, John and I convinced ourselves we could make a
living writing and consulting from our home. We could live anywhere.
We traveled New Mexico, dreaming of our writer's paradise. We
fell in love with the Estancia Valley.
"Estancia" means "ranch" in Spanish, and
the name fits. The valley lies a mile and a quarter above sea
level about 50 miles east of Albuquerque. Ten thousand years
ago, a sea covered 900 square miles of this valley. Today, at
the southern end, only salt pans remain. Across the rest of the
valley, a sea of blue gramma and western wheat grass ripples.
Antelope, horses and cattle graze this prairie..
The neighbors warned us that the ruins harbored prairie
rattlers. They said the neighborhood boys would go there to stock
up on rattler hides. They claimed someone had killed 104 of them
when they woke fromt ehir hibernation that spring and slithered
out of the wreckage of the old house. So we named our new place
To the northwest, the Ortiz Mountains hem the valley. Veins
of gold and turquoise streak their slopes. Miners still are extracting
gold from the mines in this range
In June of 1991, we bought ten acres at the skirt of South
Mountain, the southernmost peak of the Ortiz Mountains. An old
windmill just to the south promised water. The grass was tall,
and the juniper/pinon forest ended just yards from the west property
Back in the 70s, the people who owned the land built a two-story
home in which they raised seven children -- and without electricity
or running water. When the husband and wife split up, they all
moved out. The neighbors were quick to mine their home and barns
View of the windmill from the south fence of Rattlesnake
Back then the road we lived on - County Road 11B - was a mighty
deterrent to suburban types. It was just a dirt track that ran
over a cattle guard. Back then, the Soviet Union was in its death
throes and with it the Cold War. Much of New Mexico's economy
depended on the care and feeding of nuclear weapons. We hoped
this development meant that growth would halt. Perhaps 11B would
forever remain rural.