Tuesday, Oct. 28 – San Antonio, NM

Hiking early today, I’m joined by Mike Bilbo, a local reenactor and an employee of the wonderful Socorro BLM District Field Office. Mike, in both his official and unofficial capacities has been very helpful and encouraging. He’s also someone who cares about the history all around him.

We tool out of the Socorro Plaza just after 8 AM and Mike regales me with all the local information. When we were at Rancho de las Golondrinas early this month, Mike and I didn’t get to spend much time together. We were both pretty busy with our respective reenacting responsibilities, so I didn’t have a good opportunity to get to know him. It was delightful to find that Mike is a renaissance man – well versed and knowledgeable regarding many things.

Socorro is old – very old. The original pueblo predates the arrival of Juan Onate in 1598. That was just 400 years ago, so yes, Socorro is old. At the same time, they’ve got a lot going for them now. The Battalion men and Lt. Emory note the mineral deposits. The New Mexico college of mining was established here in the late 1800’s. Lots of students still. Juan Onate named it Socorro, meaning “succor” or “aid” as here his group were hosted well by the native tribe. We’ve been treated well also.

Our route south out of town led past the old Dragoon (cavalry) camp, then along the base of the bluffs and beside the acequia (prn: Ah-SECK-e-ah) or canal. Through this whole stretch, the canal stayed beside the bluffs and away from the river, just where you’d also expect the road to be. The new canals are much larger and longer than the old ones, but the principles still apply on where things should be located. There’s a good logic to it.

As we pass a canal work site, Mike casually mentions how cloudbursts will create flash floods that bring down lots of rocks, gravel and sand from the mountains. If the storm is severe, the debris may cross over the canal and block it, requiring a thorough cleaning; shoveling it out so water can flow again. I note that just downstream of the partially blocked canal, there’s a section of water moving faster – like a mini-rapid.

That triggers my mind on a Battalion member (was it Hancock?) mentioning there being rapids in the Rio Grande. The comment seemed out of place when I read it since the Rio Grande isn’t the kind of river to have rapids, but the comment stuck in my mind. When Mike tells about having to clean out the acequia’s, the rapids comment finally makes sense.

REALLY severe floods or repeated floods from the same canyon would carry debris out past the canal all the way to the river, creating either a constriction or a complete damming of the river. This would create a rapid at the blockage…AND…the blocking material would form a large alluvial fan and “push” the river to the opposite side of the valley. HA! The journalist comment finally makes sense and the casual comment may make it possible to pin down another location along the Rio Grande. Gotta find the comment and check the maps to find a BIG alluvial fan for the day they recorded the rapids.

The communities were getting very few and far between in 1846. In fact, as we pass through this area, it represents the last set of communities until the Battalion reached Tucson in mid-December.

San Antonio is small and I refuse to give any free publicity to a restaurant that serves below average hamburgers that are overpriced – even if they have fancy-schmancy chili pepper sauce.

In the evening, Mike and his wife Barbara treated us to dinner at a local restaurant. After eating, we just sat and chatted for over an hour about all kinds of things – a continuation of our earlier wide ranging discussions. We enjoyed the time away from camp and the opportunity to converse with someone other than ourselves.

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