Socorro County continues to attract a wide variety of people who are wanting to relocate. Linda Swisher-Smiley moved to the Magdalena area some 25 years ago. Seeing a need for residents to share daily information within the community, she set up an email resource called MagEBoard. It began by sharing info on lost pets and pot lucks with friends and has since become a vital service for over 550 recipients.
Where are you from originally?
Vermilion, Ohio. Right near Lake Erie.
Where were you before moving to New Mexico?
Why did you leave?
Tucson was just too hot. It was clear that I needed to be in a different place. So my husband, the late Bill Smiley and I just decided to go on a little trip as a break. Back in the 60s and 70s Bill had been with Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm in California, and he would drive the Hog Farm bus. They were self-sufficient. I’d call them social hippies. They would drive around the country and help people register to vote and things like that.
Hippies in a bus?
It was a different time back then. That was when hippies were given a rough time, by some. They were thrown in jail. Some were beaten up a little for having long hair. You know that time? It was in those days. They had brought the bus through Magdalena for a stopover at one point. Bill said he was sitting in the West Bar and this rough-looking cowboy came over to him and Bill thought, “Oh man, this is not going to end well.” But the guy said to him, “Hey, how do you get the taste of peyote out of your mouth?” There was no hassling at all. And so Magdalena had a special place in his heart, and on this little trip we took he decided … well, I’ll just show you Magdalena. Within a month we were living here.
How did that come about?
If it weren’t for David Rael who ran the Big Bear Cafe, we might not have found a place. We were eating there and David said we ought to go up and look at Three Mile Ranch. So we went up, and we loved it. It’s part of Bear Springs. We found documentation that it has water rights going all the way back to when it was homesteaded. We meet so many people who have lived there over the years. Or have worked on it.
What did you do before you retired?
I was in academia. A speechlanguage pathologist with an emphasis on research. I got my BS at Ohio State. My Master’s is from Stanford. And I have a doctorate from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
How did you come to be in Canada?
I didn’t go up there to get a doctorate. I went up there to work. There was a school of human communication disorders, and I would go to the director with questions. One time he said, “Linda, you’ve got all these questions, why don’t you learn how to answer them?” I thought, okay.
What is your PhD in?
Brain and language. The biological basis of language.
Is that something like speech therapy?
No. There’s a difference between speech and language. Speech is a physical endeavor and language is cognitive. And my interest is in cognitive. I had a Department of Education funding to educate doctoral and postdoctoral students and we studied children with language disorders. We discovered in an MRI that children with language disorders have an abnormality in the brain in the same areas where adults who have strokes end up having language problems. It’s something that happens with some kids in utero. And you know, when I got these results I thought parents weren’t going to like hearing what we found But they were glad to know that. Like knowing it wasn’t their fault. That it wasn’t something they did wrong.
Back to Magdalena, many people know you from providing the email list called MagEBoard. How did that start?
We had a need for communicating in the village. It was after the Mountain Mail closed down, and at that time, we had a postmaster who didn’t allow local postings on the post office bulletin board. Communication is what I am all about, so if we couldn’t pass along notices and local happenings, why not use the Internet? So I just kind of started with my friends and now we’re sending it out to almost 600 e-mail addresses. It’s pretty much established by now.
What sort of information do you share?
It’s truly community-driven. Whatever people want to send me. But I don’t permit negative criticism unless there are positive suggestions. But you know, there just hasn’t been many problems. I might send it back and say, hey, this word’s gotta go, and they say, okay. But that’s not much more than five times in all these years.
What kind of announcements do people send in?
We have several sections. That’s a good way to think about it. We have a section for pets and animals, and that’s mostly lost and found. We have ads where people are selling something or looking to buy, but I do have a rule; nobody can make a profit from it.
Besides lost and found, what else do you share?
There are other different categories. We have school updates, Village Hall updates, and if the Marshal needs to put out something, we do that. For instance, somebody found an illegal dumping place, so I posted that. That time the mayor responded back that they had actually cleaned it up. But, we also share announcements from the clinic and the Samaritan Center. John Briggs sends in astronomy updates, too. Basically whatever they send, I just cut and paste it. We stay away from politics.
How has it evolved since the pandemic?
I try to give them health information. At first, I pushed ad nauseam the importance of people wearing masks. I immediately had people send directions on how to make a mask, with pictures and step by step by step instructions. And as masks developed, better ones became available. I covered all of that. I also pass along all the safety practices. I really want to keep the number down, and I do post the science behind it. I do not share any remedies, unless it becomes verified. People from the community step forward. Like Dr. Sonnenfeld from New Mexico Tech. If I have a question about a study he’s more than willing to answer anything.
It sounds like it takes up a good part of your day.
It was running sometimes four to five hours a day. I pay for the server. No one makes any money off it.
What do you do for relaxation? If you have time, that is.
I do read a lot. I’m actually very much into The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair. I love reading them. But it kind of varies. I like histories and historical fiction. And mysteries.
How about TV? Do you binge?
Right now we are just loving Gotham. And Breaking Bad. We signed up for Netflix discs, because there are better movies.
Is there any other place in the world you’d like to live, if not here in Socorro County?
At one time I’d have said San Francisco. But not now. It’s like it used to be. We’re staying put at Three Mile Ranch.