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📙 Tales from the Journey of the Dead: Ten Thousand Years on an American Desert by Alan Boye BS MA — free download


Many people have heard of New Mexico's gypsum sand dunes at White Sands National Monument and the enormous flocks of Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Area. But few people, even New Mexicans, know much about the Jornada del Muerto ("Journey of Death"), the vast desert located between the two, except maybe the fact that scientists detonated the world's first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site there in 1945. A landscape bordered by the Rio Grande River and several mountain ranges, it's also the site of Edward Abbey's novel, FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, about a rancher who refuses to move off of his land when ordered to by the US government during WWII. Alan Boye is a professor of English from Vermont whose book combines the history of the Jornada, interviews with its rugged inhabitants, and personal reflections on his hikes there. Who would have thought this desolate, beautiful desert had so much fascinating history? Boye recounts tales of ancient peoples, the coming of the first Europeans into what is now the US on the Camino Real (The "Royal Road"); Apache attacks; and even a dramatic Civil War battle (yes, there were not one but two Civil War battles in New Mexico). The Jornada played a key role in the lives of western legends: Spanish Conquistadores Coronado and Onate; Zebulon Pike, the first Anglo man to see the Jornada; Kit Carson; Eugene Rhodes, the writer; and Victorio, the Apache warrior. But equally interesting are the stories Boye tells about its lesser known people: the ranchers who witnessed the world's first nuclear test and fought the US government to keep their ranches, or the "Wild Man," a legendary recluse who "lived his entire adult life in the outdoor air of the Jornada." Like David Roberts, whose IN SEARCH OF THE OLD ONES and THE PUEBLO REVOLT also mix history with descriptions of personal treks through the southwest landscape, Boye is also very good at this genre. He's more of a poet than Roberts, but he never lapses into sentimentality. The Jornada del Muerto is hard to explore these days. Ted Turner currently owns much of the Jornada on one of his ranches, and practically the rest is on the White Sands Missile Range. But this book makes me want to head to the Owl Bar in San Antonio, New Mexico, for one its famous green chile cheeseburgers, and then set out into the vast Jornada del Muerto to see what I can find as well.

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