Wild Knowledge

He wasn’t a man to pay much attention to girl children, but this one was different. She didn’t seem interested in cooking or clothes. More likely, she’d be in the canyon, fishing the Cimarron River. Her brother was the dreamy one, the one watching the fish swim ’stead of trying to catch ’em.

So the man was surprised when she came around the curve of the path and stopped to watch him cook the wild carrot root. He’d cut off the flowers and was slicing the root into the pot on the fire.

“Good eatin’,” he told her. “Back home, they say these make your eyes strong.”

She frowned. “Not that,” she said, shaking her head.

He was hungry. He lifted the last piece to his mouth.

“No!” she said sharply.

He raised an eyebrow at her and lowered his hand.

“That isn’t carrot,” she said. “It’s poison hemlock.”

from Moreno Valley Sketches

Eagle Nest Dam Finally Begins Construction

Eagle Nest dam early in the construction process. Source: NM State Engineer’s Office.

On the brink of what would become known as World War I, in March 1917, construction on the Eagle Nest dam and reservoir at the head of the Cimarron Canyon had finally gotten  underway. The project had been held up for nine years while the Cimarron Valley Land Company, under the leadership of Charles Springer, fought to acquire the land that would be flooded by the impounded waters. Long-time Moreno Valley property owner Mary Gallagher had fought valiantly against the project, but when she died in 1916, her eight children seem to have quickly capitulated to the company’s demands. The deeds for the condemned lands were handed over on January 17, 1917, and work commenced. Even with the shortages in material, equipment, supplies, and laborers as a result of the war in Europe, construction proceeded rapidly and the dam was 90 percent complete by mid-December that year.

Mary Gallagher’s 1907 letter protesting the dam and reservoir. Source: Office of the NM State Engineer

Sources: Charles Springer affidavit dated Jan. 29, 1921; Gallagher protest letter dated January 31, 1908.



As they watched, a wild turkey hen stepped onto the frozen riverbed. She walked carefully up the ice-covered stream, stopping occasionally to peck at a fallen leaf or twig.

Finally, she disappeared into the coyote willow at the river’s edge. Carla let out a long breath and sat back against the Model T’s battered seat. She put her bare hands to her neck to warm them, and looked at her mother. “We’re really lucky,” she said.

“Why do you say that?” Eileen poured thin tea from the thermos into their single mug. She held it for a moment, warming her hands, then handed it to Carla.

“We see wild turkeys on a frozen river in January.” Carla sipped the tea carefully. “Not many people have that.”

Eileen looked out the cracked windshield, up at the bare cottonwoods etched against clear turquoise sky. “Not many do,” she agreed. “Not many do.”

from Moreno Valley Sketches II