It seems like every time March rolls around, I get the itch to get moving—get bouncy and hop out of this chair, grab my camera, and go for a drive. And I don’t mean that interstate beeline to Albuquerque. No, rather, motoring along a two-lane blacktop out to where cell phone reception is spotty, at best. I’m talking about the western half of Socorro County past Magdalena, out Highway 60 over rolling hills past Tres Montosas, and down into the Plains of San Agustin.

The northern stretch of the San Agustin plains goes on for about 15 miles, and right smack dab in the middle is the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, the “vee-el-lay,” if you will. I’ve driven past there a million times, and I’ve always been compelled to pull off and take pictures. Yeah, I know, some people say if you’ve taken one photo of the dishes, you’ve taken them all, but I always think maybe the next one might be a little better. What I hope for is a few cows or antelope grazing around one of those giant dishes, capturing the dichotomy of tradition versus high tech, putting things into perspective artistic-like.

Speaking of the Plains, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on how it’s spelled. Some spell it San Augustin and others San Augustine, even on maps. But, since there is a town in Spain called San Agustin, that’s the way the plains are spelled on the historical marker on the pull-off on 60. Back when members of Don Juan Oñate’s expedition were scouting around the area, perhaps one of them came from San Agustin, and there you go. Maybe it was the same guy who named Magdalena Peak after Mary Magdalene. It’s just a guess.

While we’re on the subject, El Defensor Chieftain’s annual publication, The Source, will be hitting the proverbial streets in a couple of weeks or so. Everyone at the newspaper office hopes to make it the best one yet, and hopefully, we can spread the word to new-to-towners and vacationers who travel through on what there is to offer in this little corner of New Mexico.

It’s a reminder for all of us to appreciate what a remarkable place this is. As anyone can attest, the more you see, the more you see there is more to see … quote-unquote. From the Quebradas and Grumble Gulch on the east side to the San Mateos and the abovementioned VLA on the west, and everything in between, it must be said that this is a pretty amazing and beautiful county.

Actually, bragging about Socorro is nothing new to this newspaper. In looking at the archives, 136 years ago, Chieftain editor William Tell De Baun had this to say in the March 24, 1888 issue:

“Socorro is pleasantly situated on a gentle slope, the Rio Grande rushing by at its feet, while the majestic Socorro mountain towers above it three miles from the center of the city,” De Baun writes. “A soda water factory, brewery, wagon factory, pottery works, filigree jewelry and cigar factories and other manufacturers are in constant operation. There is a convent, an academy, and good public and private schools, with a large number of pupils in constant attendance.”

He goes on to ballyhoo the mining industry and agriculture, and wraps it up: “All authorities agree that the climate of New Mexico is the finest on the continent, while that of Socorro and the surrounding country is the finest in New Mexico.”

I don’t need to tell you that while springtime in Socorro County can be glorious, it can also be, as Mark Twain said, “In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” Trees are budding, daffodils are blossoming, and pastures are greening up—a veritable color spectrum that can only be appreciated by getting out in it.

I know, I know. It’s not exactly a botanical garden, but hey, a little bit of color goes a long way in Socorro County.

Anyway, when it comes to vernal color (and since March is Optimism Month), this coming Monday afternoon Chelsea Lyons at the Socorro Public Library is throwing a Holi party, recognizing the Hindu Festival of Colors, celebrated with much laughter and carousal. It’s inspired by the allegorical immolation of Holika, a demoness who tried to kill Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu.

So there you have it. Holi symbolizes the burning of ego, negativity, and evil from one’s life, a reminder that good always triumphs over evil.

As good a reason as any to have a party where everybody throws colored powder all over each other with glee and wild abandon. Of course, unless the wind dies down, the rest of the city may be covered in layers of red, yellow, green, and purple Holi colors.
Just in time for spring cleaning.