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Palabras Pintorescas: State’s landscape is changing

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By Editha Bartley

There is a change in our New Mexico landscape. I have said for a long time our state flower should really be the broken down car that decorates so many yards in this state. The high price of steel suddenly brings a welcome change as all sorts of old junk steel is now hauled off and sold.

Obviously this is recycling in a good way. Steel has always been recycled in one way or another, and this old ranch surely had its share of big, heavy machines of various types that ultimately bit the dust. We probably have a lot of iron in the dirt around here, contributed by the rust that wore and washed off all of these once-valuable labor-saving machines. I remember seeing some of these engines and tractors work here, and I also remember my mother, who was an expert horsewoman, fearing that our small farming enterprise would surely fail when tractors replaced the faithful teams of draft horses that pulled our plows and hay wagons. Mother could harness up a team and drive whatever needed pulling anywhere around here, but I never saw her even try to start a tractor, much less actually drive one. Sweet brother Bill was right in the middle of any engine, machine that did not require a horse to move it, on the other hand.

Bill’s idea of paradise when we were teenagers was being covered in black, gooey axle grease. My grandfather bought a huge gasoline-driven engine that sat in our back yard for a very long time here. I don’t remember it ever running for any amount of time, and finally someone convinced our mother to sell it for scrap. It had huge wheels and various mechanical parts that had to be taken off to move it.

Just loading up these heavy pieces of steel were long drawn- out endeavors, and back in those days safety was also a factor. OSHA had not yet even been thought of, and protective devices were unheard of. I had no interest in any part of this project and luckily I was helping my uncle breaking colts so I avoided this whole event.

Now that I look back on this as I watch people in the valley carefully load up a whole car or big piece of machinery with ease, I marvel at the progress, particularly in the area of personal safety, we’ve made.

My doctor father was often called upon to sew up a smashed hand or set a broken leg after a piece of a machine slipped and hurt a neighbor. He had a standard lecture I heard often about changing a tire on a car. He was asked to save and repair a broken body so many times after a jack slipped and either mangled a man’s hand, or worse, let the car fall on him. We all knew from little on to never, ever get under a car or truck that was up on a jack. Rowdy horses and runaway teams of horses pulling farm machinery also caused lots and lots of accidents that Doc repaired. That was a different era in our history.

I don’t think many of us will miss the old car yard decorations, and they really are dangerous ornaments when a fire breaks out. We’ve come a long way with recycling and now even more of this program helps our strained environment. May it continue.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.