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When I was almost six, my father decided we needed some adventure, so he accepted a job teaching a college biology class in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Top photo is of me and my mom and sister taking a break from driving out there. It was a huge trip then (1950) with no interstates and took us three or four days. The school picture is of me in first grade in the same shirt. Let's hope I had another shirt.
The move was a big shock for me because I had grown up with the green of West Virginia and where we lived was flat desert - dry cracked earth, spikey plants like yukka and cactus, scorpions and rattlesnakes. There were mountains but they weren't the rolling and tree-covered rain forests of WV. I missed the green lushness. I missed my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. I missed the farm in Nicholas County with its farm animals.
But there were bright spots because I was a kid and kids are always ready to have a good time. Some of my classmates were American Indians and Mexicans and that was a revelation. My dad took me to White Sands and we collected various rare rocks, minerals and gems just lying around in the sand. We camped in the Rockies and had a horse that roamed the desert but came to our door each night during dinner to beg for handouts. We took a family trip to Indian pueblos and saw a woman baking bread in a large, outdoor adobe oven. I had horned toads for pets and ate chili for the first time. We bought Indian rugs by the side of the road, two of which I still have.
But at the end of two years, my dad had had enough and we began the long trek home. And he never left again.