Picking Your Own Hills Worth Dying For

“Hey!  Congratulations man!  You picked a hill worth dying for and just got your leg shot off instead of dying.  Cool!”

“I didn’t pick it man.  I don’t know who picked it.  Maybe the General.  Maybe the Colonel.  Maybe the other side.  I din’t do any picking.  Nobody asked me anything.”

“Wow.  You got your leg shot off and didn’t even make your own choice about whether it was worth the effort?”

“Higher than my paygrade.  Not my job to figure out whether hopping around on a stump of a leg the rest of my life or spilling my guts across the landscape is worth why they think I should do it.  It’s up to the big brains to decide that.  The Generals, and Colonels and Lieutenants.  The people who see the bigger picture.  I’m not into long-term thinking.”

“Sheeze man.  Tough gig.”

Bloody Valverde.  Measured in percentage of casualties among those participating, the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

Texas Mounted Volunteers were on that mesa, coming down to cross the Rio Grande just below the left end.

Federals and New Mexico Volunteers were below and across the river trying to keep them from doing it.

You can’t get over there anymore without breaking some laws.  The railroad police will arrest you for trespass if they catch you trying to cross the RR bridge.  Last I heard, Ted Turner owns the ranch the mesa is on.  He has riders out there who’ll haul you off for trespass if the RR police don’t get you.

A few cows graze up there and Ted Turner can’t have people up there bothering them by poking around among the pockmarked hideyholes and artillery placements.  A lot of men on both sides died so Ted Turner could keep the right to keep you off his holdings and bothering his cows.

If you sighted across the top of that monument across the end of the mesa and drew a tight bead you’d be looking at a mushroom cloud about 50 miles away when they fired off the first atomic bomb in 1945.

But by 1945 the government and scientists all finally realized the place wasn’t worth anyone getting excited about, getting legs shot off or dying for.  By that time they knew it wasn’t worth anything except for blowing up with an atomic bomb.   You can’t go over there, either, for what that’s worth.

Pretty big hunk of granite for such a little event.  But nobody much winds around those desert roads to look at it.

I used to have a pretty nice cannon ball that came off that battlefield.  Wonder what ever became of it.  Hope I didn’t scare any of Ted’s cows or stir up any future atomic bomb attacks on the place by the US Government.

Old Jules


16 responses to “Picking Your Own Hills Worth Dying For

  1. Wars. Mutilated survivors, wasted lives. For what? You’ve answered that question in such a fitting manner: A wasteland – distant and forgotten.

    Thanks, Ole Jules.

  2. War created these wastelands.

    A nice read


    • Hi Keith: It’s a good one. Getting across the River and the bottomland’s a challenge because if the river’s deep a person needs chest waders, hip waders if it’s shallow. Depends on how much water they’re releasing from the Albuquerque sewer plant and how much rain or snowmelt there was upstream.

      That bottom’s got every rattler in New Mexico coiled up in it underneath beargrass and salt cedars, and loaded with ticks. That’s the attraction of the RR bridge. Poking around below’s not much worth the trouble because the river’s flooded too many times and changed course, everything metal is deep, but up the side there’s place has plenty of interest. Let’s us do it amigo. Good seeing you. J

  4. “A lot of men on both sides died so Ted Turner could keep the right to keep you off his holdings and bothering his cows.”

    That, unfortunately, sums up a lot of American history, even if Ted Turner isn’t always the beneficiary.

    Interesting post, Jules. Thanks for the history lesson.

  5. Rattlers & ticks, rattlers & ticks, rattlers & ticks…

  6. You covered a whole lot of figurative ground here along with the physical, and yes, it’s all tightly interwoven. Fighting to the death and destruction of the undeserving over things that aren’t really any of ours to begin with, and then some power-broker who wasn’t even involved in the fracas coming along later to stake the claim. It’s certainly the heart of American history, if not just plain world history. Your dialog at the beginning gets right to the gritty heart of the matter.

  7. Jules, my friend, you always get it right. Reminded me of Mr. Sandburg.


    I HAVE been watching the war map slammed up for
    advertising in front of the newspaper office.
    Buttons–red and yellow buttons–blue and black buttons–
    are shoved back and forth across the map.

    A laughing young man, sunny with freckles,
    Climbs a ladder, yells a joke to somebody in the crowd,
    And then fixes a yellow button one inch west
    And follows the yellow button with a black button one
    inch west.

    (Ten thousand men and boys twist on their bodies in
    a red soak along a river edge,
    Gasping of wounds, calling for water, some rattling
    death in their throats.)
    Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one
    inch on the war map here in front of the newspaper
    office where the freckle-faced young man is laughing
    to us?

  8. It’s sad how so many people die for land that ultimately nobody wants or needs.

    • Hi Marvin: Ultimately’s a long time. Ted Turner wants it, and if he wanted to sell there’d be buyers. The Apache fought hard for it a goodly while beginning with the arrival of the Spaniards. Jules

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