Friday, October 22, 2010

Goodbye, Mr. Gomez

Snyder, Texas and Hobbs, New Mexico

Friday, October 22, 2010

This will be sort of a double post. This morning, as I write this, we're in Snyder, Texas, relaxing after three days on the road and seeing to a couple of minor repairs in the motor home. In a few hours we will attempt to meet with the Boys of Snyder, who convene regularly at 2 p.m. at Jaramillo's Restaurant, just down the road from Walmart. I hope to find them in good health.

Meanwhile, it's warm and rather humid this morning. Fall hasn't gotten much of a start hereabouts. About half the cotton is still a bit green and not fully opened, and the other half is just about ready to be harvested. I see that a few fields have been picked already, with modules sitting ready to be taken to the gin.


Now it's early evening, at the Walmart in Hobbs. We went to Jaramillo's for lunch at about 1:30, and sure enough, when it was nearly 2:00, in walked either Lonnie or Tommie, I wasn't sure which, and began chatting with a table of extremely old ladies. When I went over I saw that it was Lonnie. I had to remind him of my name, but he recognized me immediately as "that feller was walkin' to the west coast." (Think of Slim Pickins and you'll have the accent.) I introduced him to Laurine and we took our coffee cups over to the table where he was about to hold forth. Then he remembered that his twin Tommie wasn't going to be in for coffee that day, but was to meet him later for a football game. And he remembered that George wasn't going to be there today, either. And worst of all, he informed us that Mr. Gomez had died during the summer, of cancer. Mr. Gomez was the elder statesman of the group, probably in his early 80s, and was called "Mister" in recognition of his advanced years. Either that or nobody knew his first name, which is possible, because no one seemed to know for sure the name of another member of their group, a Mexican they called Appaloosas. It turns out even that guy wasn't going to be there today. So it was just Lonnie and Laurine and me. But that was okay.

Lonnie caught us up on the weather (very warm fall so far) and the price of cotton. Lonnie farmed cotton all his life and is impressed that it's over a dollar a pound. He gave me a refresher course, so I could picture the value of those semi-trailer-sized modules that sit out in the fields. A cleaned bale weighs 550 pounds, and a module renders about 10 or 11 bales after it's ginned. So a module is worth between $5500 and $6000 at a dollar a pound. (Later I thought of a number of questions I should have asked, like how much of that money goes to the gin, and how much a farmer might expect to clear after expenses.)

After more chat we parted ways, and I told him to give my regards to George and especially to Tommie, who first befriended me at the barber shop in downtown Snyder, over by the courthouse, with its statue of the albino buffalo. He assured me that Tommie would be very sorry he missed me. I told him they could expect me in a few more months on my way back from the west coast.

So here we are in Hobbs, which at 28,000 is a veritable metropolis compared to Snyder or Lamesa or Seminole, the small cities we passed through on the long barren 130 mile trip today. Hobbs is a nice enough place, but with nothing too exciting going on. The fact that it's in New Mexico and not Texas, after all those hundreds of miles is refreshing. Also, that it's in a new time zone for me, Mountain Daylight Time, and that I'm now only one time zone away from California.

Oh, and one more thing, in the interest of infotainment and full disclosure. In the Wikipedia article on Hobbs it says it is one of the cities in the country that can claim to be home of the black squirrel. When I read that I immediately though of Holland, Michigan, another place where they have black squirrels (and some beautiful shiny sleek ones, at that). So I went to the Wikipedia article on black squirrels, for which a link was provided. And there it said that Hobbs did try to introduce black squirrels back in 1973, but that they were all killed off, probably by local fox squirrels (the regular brown ones). Apparently Battle Creek, Michigan, also is a black squirrel city. For that matter, there are a few on Hoskins Avenue, around the corner from my little subdivision in Cedar Springs. So go figure. And why do people want black squirrels anyway? But they do. And they keep taking them from one place and introducing them to another. From Michigan to Westfield, Massachusetts. From Canada to Washington, DC. The ones in Hobbs came from somewhere in Kansas. Isn't this how strange opportunistic pathogens and parasites are spread? Doesn't anybody think of things like that before they round up rodents and move them around? We have rats, malaria, syphilis, small pox, all introduced from Europe. The south is covered with kudzu, introduced from Japan. And they're always crying about things getting into the Great Lakes from ships. Not to mention all the aliens that come to Roswell. When will people learn?

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