Weeks 2 & 3 of CWU's tour through the American Southwest have taken me from the heat of west Texas into the cool, rainy mountains and high plateaus of New Mexico and Arizona. My lungs have labored to catch up with my westward movement as I've settled in at an average altitude of some 6,000 feet above sea level these past few days, including a peak of over 8,500 feet that I celebrated by dodging stinging hail and racing a lightning storm. The tough parts, though, have been entirely eclipsed by the awe-inspiring open space and natural beauty of the region and the memorable conversations I've had with interesting folks along the way.
I ran into Misty Rose Simms setting out tasty-looking treats on a table in front of the local supermarket in Eunice, NM. She was organizing a bake sale to raise funds for a neighbor who had just been diagnosed with cancer. One of the reasons she does things like this is to set the right example for her daughter.
Gerard Escamilla in Artesia, NM dedicates some of his time to helping recently arrived illegal immigrants with their immediate humanitarian needs: food, medical care, shelter. He thinks they should be afforded more assistance integrating into our country, too, comparing the end goal of the help we could give them to the help we already give to children in schools.
Step into the small store where Bill Crouch works in Mayhill, NM and he’ll tell you why he’s pretty frustrated at just about everything going on the in the country right now. I asked him why his windows were plastered with…let’s say, controversial…signs.
Michal Ja of Alamogordo, NM thinks a lot about global poverty, so much so that he conducted a long-term experiment to see what life on less than $2 per day would be like. Here, he shares his view of an idea that he heard from friends during that time: that poverty is a mindset.
Lou Gariano Organ, NM has built up his space murals museum in Organ, NM over the past 20+ years, piece by piece. Why does he work so hard to preserve the history of our early exploration of the moon and near space?
Mary Gillis has worked with her family near Hatch, NM for some 50 years running their farm, where the famous chili is produced. She believes that family involvement in business and hard work is the best way to raise respectful, productive children. What can parents who don’t own a farm do to instill the same type of ethic in their children?
Patty Woodruff and Harley Shaw retired in Hillsboro, NM after careers in business and wildlife management. Here, Harley describes the perennial frustration that biologists feel when politicians selectively ignore or gloss over the data that result from of years of work and study.
Beth Menczer showed me around her art studio and eclectic home in Glenwood, NM, where she creates sculptures and pottery, and hosts groups of children from the 4-H club. She told me that she likes to keep her focus local, since the national media tends to focus on generating fear.
I had a beer with Oscar Miranda, a retired Captain of the Pima Co. Sheriff’s Department, at a bar & grill in Alpine, AZ. Here, Oscar explains why he believes that younger police officers today are sometimes are less prepared for the realities of the job when compared to the rookies of his generation, 50 years ago.
LeRoy Nosker Tanner and I spoke in depth at the St. Johns, AZ public library, where he articulated his views on America and what we can do to come back together as a country. He endeavors to share his ideas with others, having learned what it takes to do so during his two-year mission spreading the word about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (often referred to as the Mormon Church).
Sarah Herve of Holbrook, AZ traverses eons every day as a park ranger at Petrified Forest National Park. She explained that the park preserves not only its famous trees, but also millions of years of evolutionary history predating the rule of the dinosaurs. I asked her why it mattered that we protect and understand something so incredibly old and distant from our daily lives.