BY-WAYS - 5/25/44 - Las Cruces, New Mexico (cont)

We think of the West as being vast - and almost limitless. And yet, in a few hours you can pass from Arizona to New Mexico, to Texas, and back into New Mexico again. At El Paso, just cross the Rio Grande River, and you are in Old Mexico - visiting the quaint city of Juarez. (When the boys of Las Cruces talk about Juarez, you think they're saying "Wars" or "Whores" - both dreadful things to talk about. But that's where the wise and the shrewd go - out of their way - to dicker and haggle with the Mexicans over beautiful rugs, baskets, pottery, fol-de-rol. Las Cruces is fifty miles north of El Paso, and is reached by Greyhound bus. There is an easy informality among the people in this section.

The day (March 14) was so hot that everybody was trying to open his or her window. The bus driver stopped, to come to the aid of a fair damsel. As the window bucked his every effort, he sputtered, "Don't ask me to say what I'm thinking." When he finally got it open, it refused to stay without a prop. He cast his eye about. He spied the stack of books and a magazine on my lap - the parting gifts of Cousins Laird and Katherine. "Lady, you've got more books there than you know what to do with. How about a window prop?" The American Magazine doubled in air-conditioning as far as Las Cruces. I let the luckless occupants smother from there on. The land is level there, except for an occasional upheaval of rock. The ground, for the most part, seemed to be newly plowed and harrowed, and "grooved" for irrigation. Plain adobe houses dot the country-side. It all looked rather flat and monotonous until we came to Las Cruces. There - to the east of us - rose perpendicular mountains, named "Organ Mountains," because of their fluted resemblance to the pipes of a great organ, They change color with the various positions of the sun, and with certain atmospheric conditions that bring a purple haze - to soften their sharp crags. They are truly beautiful. The sky is marvelously blue - much bluer than the Cleveland sky this perfect May day. The sun is brilliant, and yet not vitiating. The air is so dry - even in March - that cotton clothes, hung out in the week's laundry, are dry in five or ten minutes. I guess I like Las Cruces because it brought health to my friend Stella's son, Jackie - he who nearly died with asthma in Cleveland last September. In fact, Jackie is growing so fast into manhood that his mother can't keep up with him. The erstwhile selfless little angel of patience and sweet temper is suddenly asserting his rights in stentorian tones ready to "mow down" all adversaries. Which - I tell his mother - is a good sign. A very good sign. I wish you might have heard Jackie trying to memorize Shakespeare: the "Seven Ages of Man," from "As You Like It." The fact that his mother was an outstanding dramatic coach, with Shakespeare as her specialty, was entirely lost upon him. It was a lot of poppy-cock, wished upon him by an unfeeling and slightly cockeyed teacher.

But I must give you the details another time. Now it is the deadline Sunday afternoon. I couldn't resist the garden all week; it's so wonderful to have a garden to putter in once more. Now Sunday visitors have cut my writing short. Better luck next week.

Florence B. Taylor

Next - 6/1/44 - Las Cruces ... Continued

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