Land of Enchantment: Coming of Political Age in New Mexico
Continuing the tale of New-Mexico-Love after the epiphany in Valley of the Fires. For the next two years, I lived on Holloman AFB with my Air Force husband and two grade-school rabble-rousers. Our sons insisted on letting their white-blonde hair grow long, only gradually realizing the disadvantages. While that long hair did establish their independence from standard military fashion, they were apparently the only two little boys living on the base with long hair so when the little mini-gang of neighborhood friends struck their dad would inevitably get a call from base security.
By now I had discovered politics…well actually that particular epiphany happened previously while listening to JFK’s inaugural address followed by an interest in Minnesota’s Eugene McCarthy and living through the three assassinations. But I hadn’t done anything yet and now seemed like the right time. Women’s Lib was in the air—the concept of strong women taking charge, working their collective asses off, and being smarter and more determined than the men around them was not new to me. My conservative Christian farmer mom would not have admitted it for the world but she had all of those “Lib” qualities…another story.
My Holloman Air Force wife years were consumed with commuting to Las Cruces to finish up an undergraduate degree in education (minor in History) at NMSU. I was listening, with car and house windows wide open and the music up loud, to Helen Reddy’s
I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again…
and Judy Collin’s “Marat Sade”
Fighting all the gentry and fighting every priest
The business man the bourgeois the military beast
Marat always ready to stifle every scheme
Of the sons of the ass licking dying regime
I suppose you could say I had attitude.
I was studying history, thinking politics and wearing my husband’s camouflage jacket to NMSU’s pathetic little peace rallies. My teaching supervisor and I drove to El Paso to hear Gloria Steinem and a woman traveling with her (who gave the opening address and said f*ck more in one sentence than Anthony Bourdain can manage 40 years later. I hung out on the freaks side of the student union; once some kids from the cowboys’ side beat up one of my friends. We drank gallons of coffee, smoke cartons of cigarettes, and talked volumes of political truths! This was heady stuff for an air force wife from rural Minnesota—all happening in my new state of New Mexico.
So…me and New Mexico. Loved it during those years. I student taught in the underwhelming little town of Alamogordo, drove up into the Sacramento Mountains to Ruidoso or down to Juarez on day trips, and especially loved the drive to school through White Sands Missile Range. Early morning New Mexico, empty roads, think/ plan/muse/dream, sometimes halted for awhile so a rocket could be launched. Occasionally my friend, also from the base, rode down with me—the friend who was having an affair with my husband on weekends while I was studying—obviously she was a quicker study than I! Oh well.
Obviously politics was of growing interest and New Mexico was a good place to get started down that particular long and twisty road. Such a sparsely populated state, you really could get to know the cast of characters pretty easily. At this stage it was mostly through the media but before long I would get to know them—well the Democratic them—more intimately.