The Wasatch Behind: There's no place like home
Earlier this month, Jeannie and I went to New Mexico to visit the grandkids. We had a great time. Of course we did the usual things like pampering and spoiling the kids. And we visited with our son and daughter-in-law and gave them endless bits of advice, counsel, guidance and recommendations on how best to raise our grandchildren and manage a home, job, and family. They just love it when we do that. What can I say? It's our duty as grandparents to spread sunshine and helpful information everywhere we go.
Southern New Mexico is not like Utah. It's a big desert filled with saguaro cactus, black volcanic rocks, and spiders the size of rabbits. Well Ã¯Â¿Â½ maybe not the size of rabbits. More like the size of my fist. The first time I saw a tarantula crossing the highway I locked up the brakes and skidded in the gravel on the side of the road because I figured he had the right-of-way. And he did. I don't mess with spiders big enough to set off the airbags in the car.
They tell me they have some Boone and Crockett rattlesnakes in New Mexico, too, but we didn't see any, thank goodness. Snakes and spiders are birds of a feather as far as I'm concerned - figuratively speaking, of course. We did see a roadrunner and a few wily coyotes, but no armadillos, possums, or Gila Monsters. They must have been hibernating. One of the kids did kill a scorpion big enough to pack a saddle. Sometimes we don't appreciate how nice it is here where it freezes in the winter and kills off all of the super-sized insects and reptiles.
And no trip to southern New Mexico would be complete without stopping at White Sands National Monument. White Sands is a big valley filled with white gypsum sand that was the bottom of an ocean a gazillion years ago. Holloman Air Force Base is nearby, and some of you will remember the place as the target area for the missiles we used to shoot from the Green River Launch Complex here in Utah. From the air you can still see a big bulls-eye painted on the ground at the target site. Just kidding. Jeannie used to work at the Green River missile base and she wanted to find a small piece of a rocket for a souvenir. Unfortunately, the Army won't let tourists on the target ranges, so we had to steal a pop bottle full of white sand as a substitute memento.
And then, our grandkids insisted that we see the Alien Space Museum in Roswell. For those of you who grew up with your head under a bucket, Roswell is the site of America's most famous flying saucer incident. Some guy named Max Brazell had a UFO filled with little green people crash on his ranch in the middle of a thunderstorm in 1947. Evidently, flying saucers didn't have windshield wipers back then. A big controversy developed when the Army stole the little green men and their dented flying machine and said it was only a weather balloon.
Anyway, the Alien Space Museum was a hoot. I haven't had so much fun since Uncle Spud and I went to a swanky Mexican restaurant and he asked the mariachi band to play Yankee Doodle. To begin with, the guy taking tickets was an alien. He spoke with such a heavy British accent that I couldn't understand him. I thought he said something about a roll in the hay, but Jeannie said he was telling me to stroll this way. I was glad we got that straightened out right away.
The museum was filled with all kinds of space junk, photos of spaceships and extraterrestrials, faded old newspaper clippings, and lots of grinning foreign-looking tourists who might have been real space aliens in disguise. There were also plastic replicas of space aliens, simulated aliens in jars of alcohol, alien skulls, alien space gear, alien tracks in fossilized mud, and lots and lots of space alien souvenirs for sale. There were even pictures of the Indian paintings on our own San Rafael Swell with captions that said something to the effect that ET was a big chief among the Anasazi. Fascinating! Whoda thunk?
Overall, I give my vacation to New Mexico a big thumbs up. It was more fun than Disneyland. I highly recommend that everyone go there at least once. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, it'll make you click your heels and sing out loud, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home."