Why I like My Home Town
My parents moved to this town when I was two years old. I grew up, went to school here (except for the year we were in Nashville, TN, to fulfill the residency requirements for my father to get his degrees at Vanderbilt University), and graduated high school in this town. Then I went to college to get my MRS. I succeeded in that endeavor. Two children and almost twelve years later I moved back home and got a divorce. I haven’t lived anywhere else since. So this is home to me.
I remember, when I was told that we’d be moving to Tennessee, that I was so happy to get away from this place. Then we moved and I experienced Krispy Kreme donuts, high humidity and chiggers. The last two I could have done without. When that one school year was over, I was so glad to come back home.
There are mountains here, real mountains, not the hills of the east. My current residence is at 6500 feet while my father lives (20 miles away) at over 7200. It’s not humid either. In fact, last summer we had several days/weeks of single digit humidity. My skin doesn’t necessarily like it here – it prefers Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Great Britain, Hawaii, any of the Caribbean islands. And I have to admit, I like the way my skin feels when we’re in those places. But heat and humidity are uncomfortable – sweat doesn’t evaporate like it does here. We use a swamp cooler in the summer and then both my skin and I are happy.
The mountains. Near us, within 20 miles or so, are peaks in the 9,000-10,000 range. A little further away our mountains are even higher – over 11,000. We have some championship ski hills nearby but for the last couple of years a combination of little precipitation and severe forest fires have put a damper on that winter activity – but I never have skied a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I like snow, I just don’t like flying down a slippery slope on two thin pieces of wood. I’ll sit by the fireplace and enjoy the snow falling outside.
When we’re not trying to burn down our mountains the air is crisp and clean. We’ve had several (directly caused by man or can be attributed to human devices) forest fires since 2000 that have caused major damage including one that almost destroyed the town. We don’t have air pollution here. In the spring lots of people are miserable when the pine trees (pinon, western cedar, ponderosa, scotch, spruces, firs) bloom. Pollen counts soar and people walk around with wet tissues and runny noses for weeks. Then the cottonwoods start shedding. Supposedly the “cotton” is too big to cause allergic reactions; my eyes don’t believe that. But, I wouldn’t live anywhere else (well, maybe in the town-site but I’d still have the same issues.)
When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in the woods. I’m an only child and both parents worked so I had to entertain myself. The woods were where I went. At that time our forests were not overgrown; the Ponderosa pines had lots of space between the big trees. You could follow game trails for miles. When I was a teen, my mother insisted I take our Great Dane with me on our walks – to keep the mountain lions away. And yes, we still have mountain lions in the area. Last summer we had a mountain lion that had to be removed from the area when he went after a small dog. “They” (game warden?) determined that the cat was probably trying to get to the running water the people had in the back yard to attract birds. We also have an abundance of elk in the area. Most of the time in the summer they’re up in the heights but they come down to the town site in fall. I don’t care a lot for elk. They were re-introduced into the wilds in the 50’s but wolves were not so the only predator they have are the mountain lions, which are in decline, and man. But they can’t be hunted in the town site. I don’t like them because they will eat anything green which can mean that the mule deer, also indigenous to the area, will starve during the winter. I like the mule deer more.
We have the usual ‘varmints’ also – skunk, weasels, porcupine, badgers, opossum, rabbits, wood rats, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and pocket gophers – the bane of every gardener in the town. We have reptiles too, garter snakes, bull snakes, rattlesnakes (two varieties I think), blue-tailed skinks, and occasionally a horned toad though I haven’t seen any in a few years. There’s an endangered salamander up in the mountains, too. And birds, we have birds – blue jays (not sure which variety), juncos, house finches, sparrows, black-capped chickadees, doves (I believe they’re Asian doves brought over and turned loose to interbreed with our natives), roadrunners (they don’t go beep-beep but do run very fast), grouse, a colony of vultures (in the summer) and ravens. Our town is a protected area. No hunting and the ravens have taken advantage of that. In the last few years it seems like we’ve had a boom in ravens. They don’t have any natural enemies around here and some of the older ones are as big as or bigger than a red-tail hawk – which we have around here too. There are also owls in the wooded areas but not around where I live. And in the nearby Bandelier National Monument, there are nesting bald eagles. Oh yes, we also have mountain blue birds. Even though they don’t have the orange accent of the Eastern blue birds they are gorgeous just the same.
Many domestic plants do as well here as the natives like yucca and other cacti. Almost any succulent will do well. Red hot pokers, columbine, Iris, and roses do well. A lot of people put in vegetable gardens and have found that tomatoes and zucchini do exceptionally well.
The people come from all walks of life and many nations as well. We have more churches than bars. Most people are tolerant of others’ beliefs.
I like it here. Every time I go away for a vacation I’m always glad to come back home. It’s where my heart is happiest.