What Do You Do Down Here?

I am often asked by people who visit the ranch, “What do you do down here?” They look around and wonder how it is we survive. “How far is your closest neighbor?” they ask. “Is there a restaurant around here? What do you do for fun?” Ron and I are generally too busy to give a proper answer to any or all of these questions, but if folks are ready to put on a pair of work gloves and help out, we are happy to share our story.

The truth is I am guilty of asking these same questions when I am driving through small towns or down the Interstate. I wonder where people shop for groceries and what kids do when they are not in school. I think about broader issues like health care, education, and employment. I find myself creating stories about the people who live in these places, and there is a sense of bewilderment in my scenarios. I should know better because the people in these rural towns live like I do. Except I don’t know them. I don’t see them at  Valley Mercantile or at the Fourth of July parade. I don’t attend their school functions or writing groups. I have no history with them. They are strangers so I can make them into whomever I see fit. Instead of admiring the garden in a local park, I may see run down homes and think the whole town is poor. Instead of complimenting the cook on a great meal in a local restaurant, I may gripe about the terrible service. It’s easy to paint a community’s story with broad strokes when you have nothing invested and everyone is a stranger. I don’t want this for you or for my community when you pass through, so I’d like to share what the last month looked like down here along the border:

Animas High School Spring Play. Dinner and a show!

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Animas High School graduation Class of 2019! Twenty-three graduates and over $700,000 in scholarships. Yes, we are all proud of these young adults!

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Two open mic nights. One in Sierra Vista, AZ at Broxton’s Coffee and one in Rodeo,NM at the new Sky Island Grill and Grocery. We have amazing talent in our communities!

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Open mic June 1 , 2019

My dear friend Denise Hoyos and I went up to the Chiricahua Mountains for a little bird watching and got caught in a rainstorm until a nice gentleman took us back to my truck. We had lunch at the Portal Peak Lodge Store and Cafe where a couple from North Carolina helped us identify some of the birds we saw.

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I went up to the annual Cave Creek Garden Party in the Chiricachua Mountains in the Coronado National Forest where I met wonderful neighbors and had a terrific lunch sponsored by Friends of Cave Creek. On my way home, Ron called. Three of his fly buddies flew into the ranch to spend the night. The winds were too strong to fly back to Phoenix. We set them up in my studio, and then we all headed back up to the mountains for dinner at the Portal Lodge and dancing. Entertainment was provided by Al Foul and his band. Al’s from Dudleyville. I’m not even sure that’s on a map!

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And to answer that question about what it is we do down here, well, we do a lot!

Broadway in Animas

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24195Before the summer wedding invitations arrive, there is prom and high school graduation. It’s a busy time of year for teachers and parents who hustle to keep up with hectic schedules. The Animas Drama Troupe recently put on The Saga of the Golden Horseshoe directed by English teacher and drama coach, Alysha Wagley and assistant coach and math teacher, Carrie Massey. Family, teachers, and friends showed up early for the spaghetti dinner that was served by parent and student volunteers. As the lights dimmed in the auditorium, I was prepared for something akin to what I sat through each year as a high school student—the dreaded Spring play.
Wow, what a performance. These young people were fabulous. Their comedic timing was spot on, and the acting was brilliant. But it shouldn’t surprise me. These are the same kids that went to the state drama competition at New Mexico State University and that helped take the Animas Panthers to the second round in state for girls’ volleyball and basketball and took the boys’ football team to the state semi-finals. 24189
This year, sixteen students graduated Friday night from Animas High School. To compete in anything, everyone needs to pull their own weight. The end result are kids who exhibit more self-confidence than some adults I know. But it takes a village. Without parents and teachers willing to give up their weekends to drive sometimes eight or nine hours one-way to events, or family and friends stepping in to watch the ranch while folks are away, none of this would be possible.
24193I began my teaching career in public schools. After eight years, I was so exhausted, I couldn’t find it in me to sign another contract. It’s hard work with little financial incentive. I marvel at teachers like Alysha and Carrie who work their regular jobs, raise families, and still find time to support students outside the classroom. When asked why she gives so much of herself to the drama troupe, Alysha said, “I see shy kids open up, and it helps students develop leadership skills. It literally changes lives.”
24199Alysha is unabashedly proud her students, and she deeply appreciates their dedication not only to the drama troupe, but to all the extracurricular activities they are willing to participate in. “Without the kids, we wouldn’t be able to offer the programs,” she said. Six of the actors were seniors who have been in the troupe for four years. They brought experience and talent to the stage and mentored underclassmen. Alysha also recognizes that Animas is a small community where there just isn’t a lot of opportunity for people to come together. “I enjoy bringing quality entertainment to our town,” she said.
24205There is a lot of rhetoric in the media and in general regarding teenagers. They’re rude. They’re lazy. They don’t care about anyone other than themselves. That may be true for some teens, just like it is for some adults. I say, give teenagers a chance. You don’t have to be a parent or a teacher to attend a basketball game or to enjoy a school play. As founder and long-time host of Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor wrote, “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”
Animas isn’t perfect, but what teachers and parents in this community seem to understand is that when it comes to kids, the show must go on! 24209
Cast: Rayce Wagley, Haley Bender, Laurena Avila, Orin Offutt, Brenda Acosta, Patrick Needham, Kylee Guilliam, Hailee Cruz, Brandon Hoffman, Tiana Gibson, Brenda Elias, Abigail Cushman, Brittney Sjoblom, Jennifer Acosta, Ryan Estrada, Ryan Shultis,Dashiel Krick, Britney Gibson, Hailey Russo, Ty Wagley, Rybecca Webster, Heather Klump, Jaiden Ybarra, Chance Kipp, Jessica Reyes
The Crew: Stage Director, Carrie Massey; Sound, Lindsey Massey; Lights, Levi Gulliam; Advertising, Elizabeth Mendoza; Program, Layla Shewell; Stage Construction, Mikey Sheehan; Opening song written by Kip Calahan Young and performed by Tiana Gibson; Photos courtesy of Alysha Wagley24207
Special thanks to: Kip Calahan Young, Sam Wagley, Mikey Sheehan, Levi & Missy Klump, Saucedo’s Super Market, Ricky & Bobby Massey, Scott Massey, Jacque Davenport, Kacie Peterson & Lighting Dock Geothermal, Amy & Justin Kip, Loren & Debra Cushman, Parents helping with dinner, Parents of cast and crew