Th Coyote Stole my Sour Dough Bread

Trip Start Sep 02, 2013
Trip End Dec 05, 2013

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Following its visit to Mount Rushmore, the Mr Henry Institute wishes to express its support for the immediate dynamiting of Mount Rushmore along the lines of the dynamiting of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001", said Mr Henry, Director of the Mr Henry Institute, today.

Those, dear donors, were the exact terms of the first paragraph of a media release I asked old Mr Henry to put out. However, the pater has not done so, nor has he responded to any of my communications and entreaties. What's going on? The Institute’s effectiveness depends on the timely delivery of incisive public comment and here’s the pater, incommunicado, presumably still chasing Frank Sinatra to MC the launch of the final report of the Institute’s USA fact finding mission. What is wrong with Kamahl? Mrs Henry is less stressed than myself, merely expressing concern about her plants not being watered.

Mount Rushmore from left to right: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. Perhaps, after a couple of millenia the faces at Rushmore will be sufficiently worn away and, perhaps, people will be as vague about who Washington Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln were as most of us are about the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Perhaps they would then feel outraged if the presidential quartet were dynamited, but nobody alive now and in their right mind could disagree: the Mount must go. Where’s the Taliban when you need them?

The 'monument’ is underwhelming. You come upon it suddenly. There they are. Is that all there is?, you think. It must be the angle, you think. It’s unfavorable, you think. So you view the thing from every possible angle, but the ‘monument’ looks like a replica of itself, as sold in the gift shop. It’s tacky souvenirshopism taken to its perverse extreme. The Mount Rushmore ‘monument’ was, in fact, created expressly as a tourist attraction.

That is not the only reason it should be dynamited, though. Mount Rushmore had and has religious meaning to the Indians. In Australia, Aborigines rightly get shirty when you walk to the top of Uluru or call it Ayer’s Rock. The Mount Rushmore ‘monument’ is similar to Uluru being defaced with the heads of Edward Barton, Robert Menzies, John Howard and Bob Hawke on a scale of 100 : 1.

Another of the USA’s not to be missed attraction are the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The Anasazi lived there in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but the first dwellings were actually built in the late nineteenth century and expanded in the twentieth. Well, what do you know? “Until 1984, local native American Indians actually lived in these rooms”, says the brochure. The dwellings are tiny, although described as accommodating a family of four. It’s hard to believe that they did. As Mrs Henry remarked, on that basis you would be able to house an entire tribe in the Egg. Another example of souvenirshopism? The gift shop certainly occupied an area far greater than the cliff dwellings, with many ‘gifts’ and ‘souvenirs’ turning out to have been made in China. “Lots of Indian tribes lived a nomadic existence”, I tried to explain to Mrs Henry, “they didn’t just stay in one spot”, at which Mrs Henry snorted.

A bit further south, in New Mexico, National Parks presents Fort Union, without which the Santa Fe Trail and the settlement of New Mexico and the protection of the Californian goldfields could not have been achieved. Fort Union became obsolete in the late nineteenth century with the advent of the railway and was ...  abandoned. What remains today are its foundations, a few fireplaces and sections of wall. What a missed opportunity! A sturdily built fort of vital strategic importance in the development of the USA lies irrecoverably in ruins less than two centuries after it was built. Two millenia you could understand, but two centuries is careless.

Yes, the tourism industry in the USA is desperate for intact historical buildings, not just a hill with a little plaque that says that so-and-so fought so-and-so here 150 years ago; not poncy neo-classical statues, but real tangible, weathered, intact buildings that bring the past to life. In the absence of any, America is best enjoyed by car and viewed from a car. It’s a drive-through country. Its true monuments are its landscapes.

We encountered one exception not far from Santa Fe: the Santuario de Chimayo, a charming Catholic church, built in the nineteenth century in adobe brick, the poor man’s breezeblock. The altar and other devotional paintings are in the Mexican naive tradition, but what makes this little church such a draw card is the well in a room next to the church proper. The dirt from this well provides a cure for all ailments and disabilities. Provided you believe, of course. If it doesn’t work, you obviously don’t believe, or not in the right way. Needless to say, ‘disabled’ parking spots vastly outnumber other parking spots at the Santuario. As proof of the effectiveness of this mud, the little room-with-the-well carries a display of crutches no longer needed by people who applied the mud. A quick, surrepetitious count indicated well over a hundred crutches. Curiously enough, there were no other disability aids on display. I suggested to Mrs Henry that these were probably resold by the adjacent, inevitable gift shop. Mrs Henry snorted and made her way over to the shop. “You might pick up a pair of nice sunnies”, I called after her, but she came back with a tiny, decorated steel box with a hinged cover filled with, you guessed it, holy mud. “Well, you never know”, protested Mrs Henry, “and I can always give it to someone who believes in it.”

As donors will have gathered, Mrs Henry and myself have done a dash south, after snow almost gave Mrs Henry a seizure. Mrs Henry will jauntily pay for a fairground ride in a machine that shakes your vitals about like castagnettes and throws you up and sideways at enormous speeds and enormous heights, but a couple of snowflakes or the hint of a ravine spotted from the Egg will prompt accusations of the most intentionally vile criminal behaviour on the part of the driver, i.e. Mr Henry. How we made it over Independence Pass, going up to just short of four kilometres and covering a one-laned section screened from a sheer cliff by a low wall of cemented rock, I will never know. But the summit was great, covered in about half  foot of snow, bright sunny weather with the odd cloud. Mrs Henry conceded later that you felt as though you were on top of the world, a sentiment with which I agree. If there was a god, you would have been able to see him from there.

This post, dear donors, reaches you from Las Vegas, New Mexico, where Mrs Henry and myself are once again encamped, giving motels the boot. A section of the old Route 66 runs at about twenty metres from our encampment. We have had our dinner (southern-style cabbage, mashed potatoes and pork sausages) and had our first intensive brush with American wildlife shortly after, when we took our dishes over for a wash-up at the ‘camp kitchen’.

In the dusk, we spotted an animal shape, which I thought belonged to a bear, so I ran and threw myself headlong into the Egg, followed by Mrs Henry. Unfortunately our legs were still sticking out, so we couldn’t close the door. Meanwhile the animal shape paused at the edge of the old Route 66, looking at us. On closer inspection we decided that it could not be a bear. Too small. A large coyote, thought Mrs Henry. “Do they bite?”, I asked. “Nah”, said Mrs Henry. So we clambered out of the Egg, collected such dirty dishes and utensils as we could find in the gathering darkness and made our way to the ‘camp kitchen’. When we returned the large coyote was nowhere to be seen, but had pulled a box with provisions from the picknick bench outside of the Egg on which we had put it. Tomatoes lay scattered, cans of beans had rolled, an onion had come to rest under the Egg and Mrs Henry discovered that her loaf of sour dough bread was missing. "Coyote bastard”, she muttered. The next morning, Gene, a handyman at the Las Vegas “ahrr-vee” park clued us in. The large coyote was in fact an old dog belonging to somebody in the hills behind the “ahrr-vee” park. “I gotta clean up de trash he goes troo ev’ry mo’ning”.
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Big sis on

I believe, I believe!! Nah, really I just want a present and dirt will do. Although I do have a nagging pain in my knee. Shotgun on the box xx

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