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The “Leaving Placitas” sign recently
moved to the old village of Placitas boundary has other Placitas
zip code holders irate.
re: “Welcome to Placitas” sign repositioning
(or Go away, Kid, you bother me)
Where did “Placitas” go? The “Placitas”
signs that once welcomed all who turned east from Exit 242 and drove
up the hill are no more to be seen. Has anyone else wondered why
the signs disappeared so unceremoniously last summer? Linda (my
wife) and I tried to find out and were met with stonewalling and
obfuscation on the part of government officials who should have
gladly given us the information we sought.
In early August 2006 we became aware that the signs were missing.
This was after several friends were unable to find our house, using
the directions that we had given them, which included a reference
to the big green and white sign that said “Welcome To Placitas.”
We telephoned our elected representative, county Commissioner Bill
Sapien, who said, in so many words, that he was unaware that the
“Placitas” signs had been removed from their location(s),
just to the east of I-25 on NM 165. He said that he would make some
inquiries and would get back to us. After more than two weeks of
not hearing from Commissioner Sapien, I initiated another round
of telephone contacts with him. The most information that I (we)
ever got from him was:
1) That he did not know who requested or caused the signs to be
2) That he would check with Tony Abbo, “his sign guy”
to see what happened; and
3) That the “folks in the village have their rights”
regarding the historical name—Placitas.”
Neither my wife nor I ever received any additional information
from Commissioner Sapien, nor were any of our recorded telephone
messages to Mr. Abbo ever returned. Perhaps Mr. Abbo's telephone
answering machine mal-functioned over a period of several weeks?
I mentioned all of this to a friend and she recalled seeing a state
or county work crew erecting signs in the historic village of Placitas,
which announced “Entering Placitas” and “Leaving
Placitas.” I checked and saw two sets of these signs, one
at each “end” of the village.
I worked for the federal government for more than thirty years
(most of that time as an investigator in the Inspector General community
of agencies) and I recognize the damp smell of backroom deals when
I encounter it. I say “backroom” because the expensive
signs, which identified the community in which I thought I lived,
just disappeared. Also, the fabrication and erection of four expensive
new signs, which now redefine and limit the geographical boundaries
of “Placitas,” was accomplished without any public notice,
any public participation, or any visible public process. And all
of this was apparently at the behest of some still mysterious party
or parties. Using this logic, any place outside of Old Town Albuquerque
could not be considered as part of Albuquerque.
What power! What arrogance! What a colossal waste of taxpayer
funds that could have been put to some beneficial public use. This
is a classic example of the kind of tricky little maneuver that
should never be inflicted upon any community of law-abiding citizens.
Wouldn't it have been better (and ultimately less expensive) to
have an open process in which people of goodwill in our greater
community could have made constructive suggestions that would honor
the historic character of the original village of Placitas without
heaping spite upon all of the thousands of us taxpayers whose ancestors
were not among the original settlers of this area? Why not erect
one of those special brown-and-white signs extolling the distinctly
historical nature of certain locations, in this case, the original
village of Placitas, and restore the original “welcome”
sign to its former location?
I am sure there are other equitable ways to handle a situation
such as we have encountered here, but my imagination has been stunted
by a lifetime wherein fair play has been narrowly defined by laws,
regulations, and common courtesy. I can understand that some folks
might be bothered by new (totally legal) real-estate developments
in this beautiful area, but I am not a developer, just a citizen
who loves his community.
The three hundred million people who now populate the USA are
spread far and wide, and some of us have moved to “Placitas.”
—FLOYD COTTON, 12345 Every Street, Somewhere, New Mexico
re: mountain lion haze
I was driving slowly down Tunnel Springs Road at the crack of
dawn on September 16, not quite awake. In one second, a mountain
lion leaped out of the tall grass to the left, bounded on the middle
of the road in front of the truck and disappeared into the tall
grass on the right. Long, sleek, fast, long tail. Did I really see
a mountain lion? Have there been other sightings in the area?
—GREG LEICHNER, Placitas, firstname.lastname@example.org
re: what’s that rattling?
I enjoyed your snake article immensely [“Rattlesnake summer,”
October 2006 Signpost].
Last week, we encountered one ourselves—unfortunately, it
was in the house. Dave was watching TV in the family room close
to midnight when he heard what he describes as a hissing noise.
Thinking that gas or water was leaking somewhere, he came out into
the dining room to find both Dalmatians belly down on the bricks,
intent on something ... a coiled Prairie rattler that wasn’t
happy with all the doggie attention. I woke up with Dave hauling
both dogs bodily into the bedroom by their collars and slamming
the door. Thinking he’d gone around the bend, I was annoyed
at the racket. Dave is a man of few words, and simply said, “Rattlesnake!”
I said, “In the house?” He said, “In the house.”
I’ve never dealt with one without having bunker gear on,
other than to studiously avoid them while hiking, particularly one
really big fat Western diamondback over by Cedar Creek, in Placitas,
before anyone lived down there. My biggest concern is that it would
slip off somewhere under the sofa while I was trying to figure out
what to do. Too embarrassed to call 911 and risk being the laughing
stock of the PVFB, I called Snider to see if he could bring the
rescue truck—and snake stick—up here, but he was working
a night shift on the ambulance. I was on my own. Deep breath. Got
the push broom out of the shop; Dave went outside and opened the
door, and I advanced with the broom. Smart rattlesnake—thought
the open door looked better than the broom—slithered outside
without so much as a rattle.
We are still trying to figure out how it got in. I wear shoes in
the house these days.
—WINNIE MAGGIORE, Placitas
re: alternative health care
A group of New Mexico complementary and alternative health-care
practitioners, educators, and administrators is interested in getting
a bill passed here in New Mexico in next year's sixty-day legislative
session (January 2007) that will allow for the legal practice of
all CAM health-care disciplines that are not currently licensed
I have joined the team of NMCAAMP, and, along with Dr. Christopher
Merchant, MD, Albuquerque; Wynn Werner, administrator of the Ayurvedic
School, in Albuquerque; Susan Nichols, master herbalist, Albuquerque;
and others, am working towards creating a more open environment
for the practice of ethnic and traditional healing protocols and
modalities in New Mexico.
This will proved New Mexicans with more choices for their health-care
needs, and will also create a demand from people in other states
who will travel to New Mexico to take advantage of these services.
Legislative language has been crafted and will be introduced in
the upcoming legislative session in Santa Fe which runs from January
This is a grassroots venture. More information is available at
—DR. BOB DUBIN, Placitas
re: voting rights
The people of New Mexico have demanded of government by constitutional
law that "All elections shall be free and open, and no power,
civil or military shall at any time interfere to prevent the free
exercise of the right of suffrage." (Article II, Section 8)
If this is the law, and if our constitution holds any validity,
I want to know how an individual can be turned away from the polling
place during primary elections.
This was my experience (my wife received the same "slap in
the face"). When questioned, the official at the desk explained
that only properly registered Republicans or Democrats were allowed
the right to vote.
So what happens to all of us who are more independently minded,
and prefer to vote for the candidates we feel best qualified and
party platforms be dammed! What happened to the “all,”
“free,” and “open” part of the article?
Well, I seem to have a fuzzy recall of a revolutionary war, representation,
taxation, etc., etc., .... Was it all a dream?
—WAYNE ROHAR, Bernalillo
Euphorbia myrsinites, a.k.a. donkeytail
re: deadly donkeytail
As you read below, keep in mind that all seems to be okay now.
I want people to know about this because this has been put on Colorado’s
noxious-weed list recently. From what I can tell, Colorado is the
only state to do it so far. You will see why. It is still sold as
an ornamental here in Garden Centers. There are over sixteen hundred
varieties of Euphorbia.
Yesterday just before noon, Christy was in the backyard garden
pulling out a succulent that was taking over. She knew that it could
cause burning and rashes, and she was wearing gloves, but as she
pulled on one, instead of coming out by the root, it broke and squirted
a white latex resin into her eye. She came in to wash it out, but
the pain and burning became worse and worse. I got her in the truck
to take her to the emergency room. On the way, she said that she
felt cold progressing from her gut through her limbs. By the time
we got from Placitas to I-25, she was slumped over and mumbling
that she was dying. Her voice faded and I could not tell if she
was breathing. So I ran two red lights and took her to the Bernalillo
Christy was conscious when we arrived and I ran in to get help.
They were closed, but the head doctor was there (our doctor) and
he brought her in and irrigated the eye which she had done at home.
He then put drops in to numb the pain which were effective for about
ten minutes. He put a dye in to see if the cornea was damaged, and
it did not appear to be.
When the drops wore off she was sobbing and shrieking and in immense
pain. The doctor wanted to know what it was that squirted her. I
had brought a piece of the plant in a baggie, but they did not know
what it was and had never encountered anything like this before.
While he was irrigating, I went three blocks to the library and
got on a computer and found it was Euphorbia myrsinites. It is highly
toxic and if ingested or introduced into the bloodstream can be
fatal. Indians used another Euphorbia, which is a close relative
of it, to tip arrowheads to bring down medium-sized (sheep-sized)
I took Christy to the ophthalmologist, and two doctors looked
at her, but could not figure out what to do. All the time, she was
shrieking and sobbing—which she did nonstop for five hours.
They washed her eye again and used the pain drops twice, which gave
about twenty minutes of relief. They could not continue with them
because they are bad for the eye if used more than a few times.
They confirmed that there was probably no damage to the cornea.
I put her in the truck and started for home, but her agony was
so great that I detoured to Bernalillo again and took her in to
see the first doctor. He gave her a shot of morphine. I took her
home shrieking and crying. The morphine had no effect except to
make her wobbly. After the morphine wore off, she stopped shrieking,
and in thirty minutes the sobbing diminished. An hour later, she
was no longer crying but still in immense pain. After the eighth
hour, the symptoms diminished, and with a prescription from the
Bernalillo doctor she was able to sleep.
Christy is okay this morning but her eye is very swollen. From
what I read, a direct hit can cause temporary blindness for several
weeks and can sometimes cause permanent blindness. The bad substances
in the latex resin are diterpen and triterpen. I suspect her seizure
was due to some of it getting into her bloodstream from the white
of her eye. She can see and seems to be okay, but I will not be
going to Lubbock tomorrow as planned. I will wait and when she is
stable I will go later. Maybe the middle of the week. This stuff
is also known as myrtle spurge and donkeytail.
—STEVE PICKETT, Placitas
[This prolific nonnative form of Euphorbia is
now listed with the Albuquerque Poison Control Center. —Ed.]
re: getting mooned in Placitas
Dear Friends Back East,
Life in Placitas, New Mexico, frequently entails extraordinarily
clear nights in which the moon shines nearly like the sun and the
stars resemble millions of little searchlights creating a blazing
platinum landscape suitable for reading labels on medicine bottles.
This nocturnal phenomenon is posing difficulties for me.
For example, my house came with a fully operational appliance
known as a “hot tub,” with which I had no previous experience.
In seeking advice as to its proper use, I was told that immersion
in a stark-naked condition after dark would provide splendid mental
and physical benefits. Being of a very modest persuasion, and possessing
considerably less than a Herculean body, I naturally waited until
the neighbors were certain to be asleep—approximately 3:00
a.m.—before beginning my stealthy, nude, towel-holding creep
across the patio. Regrettably, I selected one of those atrociously
bright nights to initiate my maiden voyage to the tub, and it coincided
with the presence of two coyotes in pursuit of a jackrabbit just
outside my protective wire fence. Upon seeing me, all three of those
animals abruptly stopped and began to ogle my totally exposed ...
personage. Both coyotes suddenly launched into hysterical hyena-like
exultations, their teeth clearly visible from ear to ear. Wide yellow-eyed
stares accompanied their shrieking gales of jubilance, clearly focusing
on my unclothed self.
The jackrabbit was also giving me an open-mouth, bucktoothed stare
while uttering peculiar little rhythmical sounds best described
as “chortles,” and he or she shook with apparent amusement
.... The obvious mockery of my ... personage by these two animal
species caused me to shrivel with embarrassment and humiliation.
And it was due to the irksome brightness of the moon and stars over
Placitas that I was made sport of by two coyotes and a rabbit. I
scuttled back to the house, and sought solace in television infomercials
and a Dirty Harry movie.
I don't know what ultimately happened between the coyotes and
the rabbit. I assume that hostilities resumed just as they did following
the brief British and German fraternization in no-man's-land during
the Christmas of 1914 in World War I.
And not long ago, I fell asleep outdoors on my chaise lounge and
remained so for the duration of another obscenely bright night.
Unfortunately, my lower jaw had flopped open, exposing the sensitive
internal structures of my mouth and throat to moon and starlight
for several hours. When I awoke, I found that my tonsils and tongue
were quite sore, leading me to the unavoidable conclusion that I
had diphtheria. Following an emergency examination, I was informed
by medical personnel that I suffered from “… tonsil
and mucous membrane burns brought on by excessive exposure to nighttime
radiation from the moon and stars.” I was told to use medicinal
quantities of any palatable vodka to reduce the pain and to generally
keep my mouth shut. I was relieved that I didn't have diphtheria
and also had not swallowed a bat.
You, of course, do not face such difficulties, i.e., back East
the noxious effusions from the high concentration of motor vehicles,
supplemented by the noxious effusions from the people themselves,
create an airborne haziness that reduces nighttime brightness and
its potential untoward impacts. For that you can thank your lucky
stars. I have it very rough out here.
—YOUR FRIEND HERB, Placitas
Open letter to Governor Richardson about water rights
Dear Governor Richardson,
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on this issue. Many holders
of senior water rights, especially those used for agriculture, have
expressed concern at the vulnerability of our rights. If a farmer
loses his or her water rights to condemnation, not only does he
or she lose the rights, with only a monetary compensation, but his
or her business and way of life is also lost. The economic, environmental,
and esoteric benefits that are so beneficial to society and the
security of that society are also lost, forever. As imported foodstuffs
become more and more expensive and scarce with the rising price
of oil, it is imperative that we, as a people, strongly protect
our local agriculture, as it will be of the utmost importance in
the near future, as is pointed out by the recent OSE report on climate
change, commissioned by yourself. Homeland security depends on the
independence of the populace and their ability to provide for themselves
much more than a teeter-tottery economy that can crash at any moment.
Short-term economic gain is not reason enough to allow our agricultural
people and lands to be arbitrarily condemned. Retaining our surface
rights retains surface flows. Most often, these rights are used
to mine groundwater, which threatens all of our springs, streams,
and rivers with total loss of flows, as has happened to all the
rivers in Arizona already. Allowing counties, municipalities, and
water authorities to ruthlessly condemn our rights to support rampant
sprawl development in order to mindlessly expand their tax bases
and allow huge profits for private developers is fundamentally wrong
and totally against what this country and state stand for. Construction
jobs are nomadic and temporary by nature. Just ask any old carpenter.
These cannot, reasonably, be used to justify this kind of oppression.
Ancestors of parciantes of la Rosa de Castilla, (Inc.), were present
and utilizing the waters of Las Huertas Creek and Ojo la Rosa de
Castilla in 1661, and were one of the families that were granted
the San Antonio de las Huertas Grant in 1778. I, as mayordomo and
charged by our bylaws to protect our acequia and the rights associated
with it, have been extremely concerned about all the residential
housing going in around us, and the groundwater mining associated
with it. The state engineer, who, along with his predecessors, has
refused to file an adjudication to determine our rights and, along
with the legislature, which passed the domestic well statute, has
allowed unrestricted granting of groundwater pumping permits without
paying any attention to the threats to our sources. In order to
wake them up, I protested a transfer of senior surface rights all
the way down in Valencia County up here for a large, for Placitas,
nearby subdivision. I have also protested similar transfers for
other subdivisions and a gravel pit. This particular one has made
it to the NM Supreme Court, and I have been waiting almost a year
after hearing for a decision. This case established before the state
engineer and the court that local groundwater pumping is permanently
depleting our spring. The state engineer determined the depletions
were “de minimus,” without determining the effects of
all local appropriations in order to determine impairment, as is
called for by law.
The sword cuts both ways, and if I do not receive satisfaction
from the court, I intend to ask my commissioners to start condemning
rights to surrounding wells in order to protect our acequia. The
courts have clearly held that acequia associations hold the right
of eminent domain. The legislature needs to rescind the clause,
a la Tejano law, that domestic well permits cannot be regulated
or protested, appropriate reasonable funds for the state engineer
to carry out his duties, especially Middle Rio Grande adjudication,
fund public water planning groups created by the Interstate Stream
Commission, not allow condemnation of water rights, and start to
do things to rein in the uncontrolled development that is destroying
our resources, landscapes, watersheds, cultures, agriculture, and
all the enchantment claimed on our license plates. Is all this “growth”
worth all these?
The confrontational tone of the above is deliberate. I make no
apology as I am attempting to make a point, that is: The present
course we are on will inevitably result in intense conflict among
all sectors of our population and governments, and among entities
within these sectors. Some kind of peace must be realized before
such a caustic war breaks out, or the future of our state will not
be very positive. A concept of the water as a community resource,
similar to the philosophy of the acequias, needs to be promoted
to give us a sense of “our” water. The “Year of
the Water” must be something beyond obtaining federal funds
for settlement projects. It is revealing that acequias were not
even mentioned in this initiative. Our leaders must get above the
standard political assumption that one only has to take care of
the economy and everything else will follow behind, and get above
the fray to institute a spirit of reconciliation and community.
It might be the more difficult path, but the legacy of doing so
will give our people and state a reputation for foresight and compassion.
The groundwork to such a legacy has already been laid by such things
as the aforementioned Climate Change Report, attempts to establish
an alternative energy industry, and the recognition that we have
to get our water resource house in order. We have the resources
and good leadership necessary to accomplish this. It would be a
great tragedy if the opportunities presented us were not taken.
—LYNN DANIEL MONTGOMERY, Placitas
Character in politicians is vastly over- rated
It seems that a Colorado candidate for Congress, Angie Paccione,
really filed for personal bankruptcy in 2001, as, according to the
administrative office of the U.S. Courts, did 1,452,029 other people.
Why should anyone care?
Because Marilyn Musgrave, the two-term Republican incumbent Paccione
is running against, has informed the world about the bankruptcy
in a radio ad. Just as Paccione, in her radio ad, has informed the
world, that in January of that year, Musgrave drove into the rear
of another car in Adams County, and then "left the scene of
the accident, did not file a police report, did not immediately
call the police."
Apparently true, but also apparently legal; The damage didn't
meet the $500 threshold that would have required Musgrave to call
the cops and to stay until they arrived.
Again, why should anyone care? Let's analyze both cases, putting
the two candidates in the worst possible light: Paccione is sloppy
about personal finances; Musgrave can be arrogant and hardhearted,
especially if, as the folks in the other car claimed, she left while
one of them was still in pain.
Big deal. Should Paccione win and the Democrats reclaim the House
majority, it would be at least a decade before she'd get to be chair
of the Ways and Means Committee or anyplace else where her fiscal
capability would matter. As for Musgrave, it's hard to see why a
voter who agreed with her on most public policy issues would vote
against her because she may have been a nasty twit one day.
Yet, as we enter the final weeks before the 2006 midterm election,
we are reminded again that we live in a political culture in which
personal history dominates public policy. Not that this is entirely
new; folks always preferred voting for a candidate they found appealing.
But thanks in part to political journalists who dislike politics,
and who therefore tell voters to choose the contender "you'd
rather have a beer with," that intangible known as character
trumps such irrelevancies as wars, taxes, schools and health care.
This reality has two consequences, one tactical and one philosophical.
The tactical consequence should soothe Republicans who look at the
latest polls showing Democratic candidates two, four, seven, even
nine points ahead in so many races. Unless that Democrat is over
50 percent in the polls, he or she is still vulnerable to late political
ads based on something in public, business or private life. At the
Capitol Hill offices of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee,
a staff of 10 has been doing "oppo" research (that's looking
for goodies on the other guy) for more than a year. The Republicans
are not being cute about this; the purpose of the oppo research
is attack ads.
"You haven't seen the majority of the negative ads yet,"
committee spokesman Carl Forti told the Los Angeles Times in late
September. "When people are looking at national issues that
are not breaking our way, what you want to do is focus on your opponent,"
said Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole.
Add in the superior GOP get-out-the-vote operation, and any Democrat
who isn't at least three points ahead in the last pre-election polls
is likely to lose. There is hardly a state in the Rocky Mountain
region without at least one Republican seat that looks vulnerable.
But under these circumstances, vulnerable does not mean lost. Not
As to the philosophical consequence, the emphasis on character
only enhances the severance of politics from governing. If the decisive
swing voters opt for a candidate based on his or her cuteness instead
of on his or her position on Iraq or Social Security, then Iraq
and Social Security recede in importance.
But here's how dumb it is to choose the candidate "you'd
rather have a beer with": You won't. I speak here as one of
the one-tenth of 1 percent of the folks who has had beers with candidates
for the House, the Senate, even President. I did not achieve this
lofty status because I am nobler or cuter than the rest of you;
it just came with the job.
And you know what? Those beers gave me little sense of what those
candidates were really like. You might tell your swing-voter friends
to have a beer with friends and neighbors, but to vote for candidates
whose views on major issues are closer to their own. In politics,
unlike the truly important pursuits like love, literature or baseball,
character is highly overrated.
Jon Margolis is a contributor to Writers on the
Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org).
He covers Washington, D.C., from the safe distance of Vermont.
Heard Around the West
Joe Jepson, who lives seven miles northeast of Silverton in western
Colorado, says that every year, a few all-terrain vehicles wander
onto his property. He points out his no-trespassing signs, and usually
the drivers retreat. But last month, after Jepson saw two men “spinning
doughnuts in wetlands and raising hell,” the encounter turned
ugly. “One guy just hit the throttle and ran into me,”
Jepson told the Durango Herald. Jepson was thrown 25 feet, breaking
his leg. Jepson said the second ATVer initially asked him if he
needed a ride, but then took off after his friend. Jepson faces
surgery; the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office is still seeking
information about the hit-and-run assault.
IDAHO AND WASHINGTON
A sweet-smelling earthworm, 3 feet long, would be a wondrous sight
to behold, although hardly anyone has seen it since Driloleirus
americanus was discovered in 1897. But the pink worm, long thought
to be extinct, was seen again last year in the rich farming soils
of the Palouse region along the Idaho-Washington border, spotted
by a graduate student at the University of Idaho. Conservationists
now want emergency protection for the animal under the Endangered
Species Act. As worm defender Steve Paulson says: “What kid
wouldn’t want to play with a 3-foot-long, lily-smelling, soft
pink worm that spits?”
The Northwest hasn’t nearly as many “extreme commuters”
as New York, with “extreme” defined as any trip to work
that lasts 90 minutes or more. But the Oregonian found that high
home prices are pushing people farther from Portland, in a phenomenon
that real estate agents call “drive till you qualify.”
As a result, commutes longer than 45 minutes are increasing, while
the number of workers who commute a wonderful 15 minutes or less
That ultra-serious watchdog of the press, Columbia Journalism Review,
encourages readers to chortle or wince at headline mistakes culled
from newspapers around the nation. The best (or worst) are collected
in a column called “The Lower Case.” Recently, two Northwestern
papers provided some shudders: From Washington, the Olympian’s
headline read: “President takes straddling stance on national
tongue,” and from Portland, an Oregonian story was puzzlingly
headlined: “Inmates locked up longer, but few rejoice.”
The 45-year-old magazine offers a $25 reward to readers who spot
heads that mangle and malaprop.
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range,
a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (email@example.com).
Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared
in Heard around the West.