On December nights, I walked with Buddy along the ditches. The skies were usually clear, and December’s waxing moon, cutting its highest annual arc in the sky and all but unchallenged by artificial light, bathed the valley in a brilliance that revealed the very face of the night.
One morning several days before Christmas, it began to lightly rain, but soon the rain was accompanied by our neighborhood’s first snowflakes. Buddy, perhaps new to the phenomenon, stood dumbstruck in the downfall and snapped at the wet flakes as they lazily approached his nose. The snow briefly accumulated on our lawn before disappearing into the thirsty earth.
When the storm clouds finally lifted, they revealed snow that had accumulated on the higher elevations of the Franklin Mountains, where it would linger for days. A mere 5,100 feet in maximum elevation in the New Mexico portion of the range, forever parched and crushed beneath the daily hammer of sunlight throughout the summer and fall, the Franklins now had an almost Alpan grandeur, appeared far loftier than they really were, and the sight gave me a twinge of nostalgia for the Rockies far to the north.
Very early Christmas morning, while Linda and my in-laws slept, Buddy and I drove in another wet snowfall out to Lanark, another vanished settlement along the Southern Pacific tracks in the desert southwest of Anthony. There, Buddy flushed out rabbits while I investigated a melancholy string of snow-mantled boxcars on a siding.