Contrasts prevalent in landscapes

By Karl Terry: Freedom columnist

On a recent daytrip I went in search of photos and was struck by the multitude of contrasts in our eastern New Mexico landscape.

We hadn’t done it in a long time, so my wife and I packed a picnic lunch and two cabin-fever-fraught dogs for a photo safari.

We headed north of Clovis toward the Caprock country where I hoped the cholla cactus would be blooming.

The weather turned out to be fantastic with light breezes and so few clouds I feared the photos would suffer. Plain blue skies aren’t nearly as interesting as clouds. Alas the blooms weren’t present either but we made a day of it as we meandered through little-known wide spots in various roads.

How many folks can find Hollene, Bellview, Wheatland, Cedar Hill, Norton or Field on the map? We found every one of those once-thriving communities. (Well, there was a slight question as to the exact location of Norton but I’m sure the ghosts of that community heard the dogs barking at the cows congregated in and alongside the road.)

After taking photos of the old rock Wheatland school, I snapped a picture of an abandoned house surrounded by a green wheat field. If the green wheat and red rock walls of the house weren’t enough contrast there was also the sight of the towering wind generators in the background drawing a sharp contrast between yesterday when a windmill at the home probably brought forth domestic water while wind power now represents a big and growing enterprise.

A short distance down the road we pulled into the entrance of the former Caprock Amphitheater. The sign on the gate indicated that the live dramas my wife and I enjoyed several times there in the 1980s was now a memory and most of the land had been turned over to the company harvesting the wind.

We found a little park and walking path along the escarpment near the gate that was developed at the time the amphitheater was opened.

Unfortunately, there was another stark contrast here. That of the beauty of the overlook compared to the overflowing trash receptacle.

Later in the day I found a spot above Norton where the earliest generations on the plains had dumped their garbage into an arroyo.

The rusty cans and discolored bottles glinting in the afternoon sun made the place seem more like anthropology treasure than a former dump.

Other contrasts of the day included

• an old Gleaner combine rusting in the weeds near Hollene Cemetery and much larger, sophisticated farm equipment parked on places where farming was still a way of life;

• modern sprinklers on irrigated circles near Clovis and a pile of aluminum ditch tubes alongside the Arch Hurley canals along old Route 66 just east of Tucumcari;

• snowy white Charolais cattle standing out against a greening hill near Grady.

Finally there was that great big golf ball-like structure at the Doppler radar site at Field looking as if teed up to drive the adjacent wheat field.

The day proved once again that even here in the mostly flat, arid prairie of New Mexico we’re blessed with wonderful landscapes. We just have to train ourselves to recognize and appreciate them.