The Wind Takes No Prisoners

I"m getting ready for a long road trip -- heading east along the old Santa Fe Trail. Eastward, a thousand miles across Dorothy's Kansas with the wind at my back. Yesterday it was blowing at about 40 mph so today's 25 mph feels like a reprieve but it is still gusting. There is a blizzard warning posted for areas north of where I'm travelling and it should be played out by the time I get out on the high plains.  At least I hope so.

I'm heading "home" in a sense, to the Midwest. The big river valleys and the centerlands between the four compass points still carry a sense of place and personal history for me even though I cannot live there any more. I'm a full-fledged bird of the desert but I still need these occasional migratory excursions. My home place is now in the New Mexico desert in view of five mountain ranges and starry skies. ...But that doesn't mean that I don't miss my roots. I can only eat so much green or red chile pepper sauce before I need some kind of comfort food of the Midwest. I'm planning on hauling back a treasure trove of St. Louis food -- if I don't eat it all on the road back.

We can complain about the wind and the blowing dust or snow but there is no recourse. No court of appeals. There were twenty-four severe weather warnings posted for New Mexico yesterday for high winds, blowing dust and extreme fire danger. If a fire gets started in the dry grass it will cover fifty miles before anyone can even try to stop it.

I'm thinking about those hearty pioneers and muleskinners who struck out toward the horizon with the incredible wind blowing them raw.  They had huge, unwieldy cargo wagons laden with supplies and material for sale in Santa Fe. The deep wagon ruts are still there in many places in central Kansas. Santa Fe was a foreign country but it was closer to Missouri than it was to Mexico City so the trail wagons were tolerated at first and then welcomed.  One of my wife's ancestors made the trip at least once. There is a large 100 foot sandstone rock part way across Kansas -- known as Pawnee Rock. It was one of many important trail landmarks and described as the "The greatest sight ever beheld by man".  If you have been watching the hind-end of a team of mules or oxen for three-hundred miles, it was a welcome diversion. 

I will have a better view -- no mules or oxen -- but the wind will give me a little push from behind. I think I probably shared the following poem once before. It gives an idea of the power of the wind on the land and people born to it.

So now comes the wind.
Our winter’s downhill neighbor
testing the hinges.

From beyond, somewhere
in a distant mountain place,
it comes to life.

It finds its power.
it scours the dead and dying;
it tries to take you.

But you bow your head.
You divert your reddened eyes.
It passes over.

A born acrobat,
Tumbleweed pulls up her skirts
and scatters her seeds.

It takes what it wants,
leaving man and beast behind
tumbling into Spring.

Comments 6

 
Katherine Gregor on Sunday, 14 April 2019 16:28

I love your piece, Ken. Your writing made me feel as though I were there.

I love your piece, Ken. Your writing made me feel as though I were there.
Stephen Evans on Thursday, 18 April 2019 02:38

A fascinating part of the country - enjoy your trip!

A fascinating part of the country - enjoy your trip!
Ken Hartke on Thursday, 25 April 2019 06:07

It has been a good trip. I will be back home in three days -- probably close to 3,000 miles from the start. I have one more historic hotel to visit (St. James Hotel, Cimarron NM) -- this one established by Henri Lambert, Abraham Lincoln's White House chef, in 1872. I'll be staying in the Jesse James Room (it really was his usual room). There might be a story here.

It has been a good trip. I will be back home in three days -- probably close to 3,000 miles from the start. I have one more historic hotel to visit (St. James Hotel, Cimarron NM) -- this one established by Henri Lambert, Abraham Lincoln's White House chef, in 1872. I'll be staying in the Jesse James Room (it really was his usual room). There might be a story here.
Rosy Cole on Saturday, 27 April 2019 15:16

Such picturesque energy in this post! Travel surely is a venture inwards as well as outwards. Hoping to learn more about your trip.

Thank you, Ken!

Such picturesque energy in this post! Travel surely is a venture inwards as well as outwards. Hoping to learn more about your trip. Thank you, Ken!
Nicholas Mackey on Monday, 29 April 2019 23:41

Ken, a marvellous title and travelogue writing that sets the tone for what promises to be a fascinating trip in a part of the States I visited in 1990: New Mexico - the Land of Enchantment - and as it state nickname suggests, it is a truly wonderful place with a magical spell about it. The pictures you've painted have already whetted my appetite - onwards with your exciting adventure.
Did you know that D.H. Lawrence lived in Taos, New Mexico? We visited his house there and also a museum of Lawrence's paintings no less.

Ken, a marvellous title and travelogue writing that sets the tone for what promises to be a fascinating trip in a part of the States I visited in 1990: New Mexico - the Land of Enchantment - and as it state nickname suggests, it is a truly wonderful place with a magical spell about it. The pictures you've painted have already whetted my appetite - onwards with your exciting adventure. Did you know that D.H. Lawrence lived in Taos, New Mexico? We visited his house there and also a museum of Lawrence's paintings no less.
Ken Hartke on Saturday, 04 May 2019 18:04

Yes, I visited the Lawrence ranch last fall as part of the Architecture Foundation tour. It is not easy to get to but worth the effort. I suspect it was even harder to get to in the 1920s but people managed -- Aldus Huxley and Georgia O'Keefe and a few more made the trek up the mountainside. That was the only place Lawrence ever owned and he is still there, in a way.. The University of New Mexico owns the ranch and is considering converting the large barn into a visitor's center. Right now they only get about 700 visitors a year. It is pretty fragile and I hope they don't over do it. For my own trip, I've been on a writing spree and I've got to pare it down a bit -- too much already on paper.

Yes, I visited the Lawrence ranch last fall as part of the Architecture Foundation tour. It is not easy to get to but worth the effort. I suspect it was even harder to get to in the 1920s but people managed -- Aldus Huxley and Georgia O'Keefe and a few more made the trek up the mountainside. That was the only place Lawrence ever owned and he is still there, in a way.. The University of New Mexico owns the ranch and is considering converting the large barn into a visitor's center. Right now they only get about 700 visitors a year. It is pretty fragile and I hope they don't over do it. For my own trip, I've been on a writing spree and I've got to pare it down a bit -- too much already on paper.
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