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?