Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences, how ever did you get this name? ….from Wikipedia, “Originally named Hot Springs, the city changed its name to Truth or Consequences, the title of a popular NBC Radio program of the 1950’s. Ralph Edwards, the host of the radio quiz show announced that he would air the program on its 10th anniversary from the first town that renamed itself after the show; Hot Springs won the honor, officially changing its name on March 31, 1950 (the program broadcast from there the following evening, April 1.) Edwards visited the town during the first weekend of May for the next 50 years.

There are at least a dozen hot spring spas in Truth or Consequences (or, T or C), with a Healing Waters Trail, many art galleries, several exceptional eateries, a brewery, all wrapped in a folksy, funky, relaxing desert atmosphere. I like it here.

It is wild, open country.

Yesterday I met Truth or Consequences Fire Chief and the City Manager as they were leaving the Sentinel newspaper office. The fire chief’s striking shirt startled me. “Such a beautiful color,” I said spontaneously with out even thinking. Somewhere between lime green and a fluorescent green (I think they call it “safety green”). Beautiful, simply beautiful. How becoming, I thought with the assortment of badges and pins decorating the shirt. We chatted a moment but then I added to the city manager, “I must tell you that whoever is responsible for Truth or Consequence’s appearance must be applauded, your town is very clean.” (When riding into town at 3 miles an hour I notice these things – as I had last year coming up from the Mexico border.)

Deciding I needed rest and soaking instead of a grueling ride, I have come to Truth or Consequences for a much needed break. Refuel with energy to finish this book tour I began in October of last year. (I pick back up February 19 in Roswell, NM.)

I do however ride everyday—the girls are fit and receiving much attention from yours truly.

It is rough, luring, rocky country with mesquite and creosote bush, and prickly pear cactus. Everything pricks and pokes at us. I follow sandy arroyos and climb jagged ravines only to be stunned by the vista. It’s all browns and tans, no color what so ever. The Rio Grande River runs through the east half of town and provides habitat for wildlife—mostly birds this adds birdsong color to the barren surroundings.

My daily routine includes a half-hour soak at Indian Springs Bath Houses. Indian Springs must be one of the oldest spas in town. I chose it because the name reminds me these WERE indeed the American Indian’s hot springs.

There is evidence that Native Americans have inhabited New Mexico for over 2,500 years. Early ancestral Indians lived for centuries as hunter-gatherers throughout the Southwest. About 1,500 years ago some of these groups, commonly referred to today as the Anasazi, began practicing agriculture and established permanent settlements, which are now known as pueblos. They used these natural hot springs as we do today, perhaps in a much more healing and spiritual way.

Each night I step from my Ford, which parked out front of the spa looks like a scene from a movie. A gentleman appears at the door, his TV screen flashes brightly from inside. I say good-evening to him, he says good evening to me. He has a short gray neatly trimmed beard and a quiet voice. I hand him a five dollar bill, he says thank you very much, I say thank you very much. (We have not spoken much more than that, ever.) The wooden door to the soaking room is behind me and I turn and walk across roughly laid bricks into a cave-like space, into the earth. It smells of salt and water and earth. The space is small and nearly dark. The pool is small, about the size of a small hot tub. It is lined in stone and masonry. I melt, I float. Mostly, I do not think.

Night-time temperatures freeze the water buckets while day-time temperatures warm me to the bones. “It’s a retirement community,” said the fire chief. I like it here. A small town with plenty of culture and amenities.

On another note… I realize Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday has long passed, but I read these quotes in the Sierra County Sentinel. They are from the Truth or Consequences Middle School. I found these remarks touching. Most wanted peace and a clean environment.

D.A. “ I have a dream that there will be no one living in the streets or being wrongly treated.”

J.J. “ I have a dream that every one learns to tolerate each other.”

J.G. “ I have a dream to create a substitute for plastic that is affordable and disposable to stop pollution.”

F.T. “I have a dream that there will be no more bullying at any school.”

G.G. “I have a dream to stop all the wars in the world.”

and then there were…

A.A. “I have a dream I can catch the biggest catfish ever and win a world record.”

E.R. “I have a dream our school will get better basketballs.”

Will these young thoughts grow with them as they mature into adults? I wonder.

Liska Pearl and I having lunch.

The Desert Sun, a regional newspaper, had two interesting stories. Marjorie Lilly reports in a story titled “The Wheels of Progress,” “…A new wider Port of Entry signals increase in commercial trucks crossing into New Mexico at Columbus due south of here.”

Another story, “La Casa del Migrante” by Morgan Smith, “…Across the border, coming face to face with asylum seekers.” Being this close to the U.S./Mexico provides an entirely different view. While the topic of THE BORDER fuss and fume throughout our country, here, life goes on. One would think it was a war zone along the border after reading or listening to much of the national news.

It does seem unfair, however, to have this level of luxury (well, for this lady long rider it is luxury), comfort, and security while so many struggle with enormous uncertainty. From what I read, these people are not coming here from Honduras and other Central American countries because they just damn well want to. They either leave or die. The countries from which they flee are cesspools of corruption, violent, and economically unstable to say the least.

They have no desire to leave home, family, and community. These are desperate situations they are undertaking.

A letter to the editor in the same newspaper, reminds us of the M.S. St. Louis, an ocean liner carrying 900 Jewish refugees to America in 1939, fleeing an impending war in Europe. They were turned away.

Turned away from Cuba and Canada, and turned away from America under the guise of the “Quota Law of 1924.” Some found shelter in the Netherlands, France, and England, but 254 died in the Nazi gas chambers of Auschwitz. We must consider the implications of our actions.

The world is a complicated place—I realize this. I realize there is no simple, one-sided answer. Not everyone wants peace, or fairness, or has empathy and understanding. But if we could solve the problems and bring peace to these countries that are crumbling in despair, people could and would not want to leave their homes. When I rode the border last year, I met nearly a hundred border patrol. Only two said a full-scale border wall would work. What then will we have with a wall? Refugee camps building up against the border wall as we see in other middle east countries?

Like I said there is no simple answer. But lacking empathy is not the answer either.

I am greeted by cool, star-studded, dark skies when I leave the Indian Springs spa this evening. It’s quiet. The church steeple is lit, pointing sharply in contrast to the heavens. As I turn the corner and pass the silent church the sign reads, “Keep trusting God to work it all out.”

Umm, we shall see, seems like a big order.