Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Rio Arriba County moment

Life in a rural place has its advantages

So far, this weekend has been good. I mentioned that a reporter, to be known as Lois Lane, came sailing with us last weekend. Her story came out in this past Thursday’s edition of the Santa Fe New Mexican (I checked, and so far, it’s not available in the free online edition of the paper, although I’m sure it’s in the edition that’s available to paying subscribers). All in all, it was a good article, with only a few relatively minor inaccuracies and a whole lot of enthusiasm that came from Lois and Cub’s adventure on Black Magic, and it came with a great picture of Tadpole at the jib sheets.

The publicity has had a positive effect: Saturday, a couple of prospective new members of the sailing club visited the marina as the club was gathering for a semi-potluck dinner in the pavilion (the club provided burgers and dogs; side dishes were potluck). This couple had been camping at Heron regularly for many years, but hadn’t checked out the marina or the club until they saw that article. They have just recently become empty-nesters, and they used to sail many long years ago (she out East, he in Texas), and they’re looking for something to do now that their offspring have become self-sufficient. They even looked at a boat that one of our members has for sale that’s the right size and price range for them.

But the most truly idiosyncratic Rio Arriba moment on Saturday didn’t happen at the lake. It happened when Pat and I took a break from the marina, partly because there were looming thunderclouds that we wanted to let pass before we went sailing, and partly because we needed to take out the trash at Five O’Clock Somewhere.

Taking out the trash in a rural area isn’t as simple as parking a bin out at the corner of the driveway for someone to empty on a regular basis. Instead, we must drive into Tierra Amarilla to the county Solid Waste Transfer Station, where, for $10 a month or $100 a year, we get the privilege of tossing our trash bags into an open-top semi-trailer that, when full, is taken to a landfill. The whole arrangement is pretty nifty: There’s a steel building with two levels. The lower level is a sort of tunnel with garage doors at each end, in which the semi-trailer is parked; the upper level has big garage doors through which vehicles back up to unload trash into the trailer below. The transfer station is open only limited hours, Thursday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. However, this being Rio Arriba County, sometimes the guys who operate the transfer station close a little bit early.

We got to the transfer station at 3:48 p.m. and found the gate locked, so we turned around and were heading back toward the main road, when one of the transfer station attendants came around the corner in front of us going the other direction and waving out of his truck window at us. So we turned back around and followed him to the transfer station gate. “I saw you coming,” he said as he unlocked and opened the gate. “Go on in. The door’s broken, so it’s open.”

So we went on in, and we tossed our trash into the semi-trailer, and on our way out, we stopped at the gate, where the attendant was waiting in his truck, and we gave him our customer number so he could write it on his clipboard.

This is the sort of moment that defines Rio Arriba County and makes me glad to be here. Either the attendant passed us on the road and recognized our car, or he lives so close that he can watch the gate. He even remembered our last name, AND how to spell it. Last time I went to the transfer station, Pat wasn’t along, but the attendant remembered him and asked how he was doing. This is a “small” place – that is, even though the Chama Valley encompasses a huge land area, there aren’t so many people. This means people can notice each other, help each other out, and just generally be neighborly. It’s a great place to be.


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