On a trip though Ireland a few years ago, I fell in love with the low hedgerows that divided the field from each other. They seemed to rise from the fields themselves, as integral a part of the landscape as the rocky crags that rose here and there, like they had been there forever. I wondered if even the owners of the fields had any idea how long they had been there, or who had planted them.
Then, last spring, when Sarah and I were on our way to the Double E Ranch, I had to smile as I noticed New Mexico’s version of hedgerows—miles and miles of barbed-wire fences piled high and deep with tumbleweeds. Like their Irish counterparts, they were the same color as the surrounding landscape and seemed to grow from the fields they defined. But just as the hedgerows in Ireland spoke of permanence and timelessness, those tumbleweeds appeared restless, ready to move on with the next gust of desert wind.
Tumbleweeds are so western! Even if they didn’t grow here in such abundance, they perfectly describe the folks who first came here—and some who still come today. They speak of an uprooted people, rolling along where the wind took them, until they ran up against something that, at least for a while, caused them to stop. Perhaps it was a river with rich bottomland, or a wide plain that called for cattle, or maybe a small town that needed a preacher, or a teacher, or a doctor, but something served as that barbed wire fence and ended the restless journey. At least until the next gust of wind brought whispers of gold or richer land or some other promise of an even better place to be.
My family came west after the Civil War looking for a new life. They settled in what became southern Oklahoma, and in the early years of the 20th century my granddad came farther west to homestead in New Mexico. Now, with my husband, we’ve gone even further yet and my barbed wire fence is the Pacific Ocean. I think we’ve gone about as far west as we can go. Perhaps an east wind will blow us back the other way one day.
What about you? What’s your story? How did you get where you are? Are you a hedgerow or a tumbleweed?
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Nancy Lee White says
Both of my parents came to New Mexico from Kansas and Oklahoma. My father came for work as a railroader to Raton, New Mexico and my mother came to Hot Springs New Mexico with her family from Oklahoma because of a doctor suggesting Arizona would be a better place for her sinus. Her family ran out of money and stopped in Hot Springs, New Mexico to recoup their finances and my mother graduated from Hot Springs High and they never went to Arizona. Instead they moved eventually to Albuquerque. My step grandfather was a jack of all trades and eventually ended up putting watering systems in all the small New Mexico towns that had a well but no water system to the homes and businesses. My husband and I were both raised in New Mexico and moved to Texas for six years until we starved out for New Mexico green chile. Actually we had four children and after our oldest complete six grade in a one room school house the closest schools were Junction, Kerrville and we still had three younger children that would be facing the same problem. Time to move back home to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Our children have scattered to Texas and Montana but only one is in New Mexico.