September 7, 2011
White Dog and The White Dog Army
Wonderful World Wednesday
Many of you will remember when wildfires swept through New Mexico earlier this summer, much as they are doing now in Texas. It was a fearful time of sadness and loss and the aftereffects will haunt us for decades. The White Dog Army is always heartened by how quickly people, total strangers, rush in to provide help and disaster relief. But often, the immediacy fades, the crisis is averted and it is assumed that life goes back to normal.
For many involved in the devastation of Katrina, in the floods of Joplin, in the fires of New Mexico and Texas, the nightmare continues long after the media has moved on to new catastrophes and their needs are slowly forgotten. But in some cases, amazingly, the community steps in and in the true spirit of the word, support and care continue the rebuilding process.
Such is the case of the Dixon Orchards, a landmark in our area for generations. First came the severe Spring freezes that destroyed 95% of their apple crop. In June the Orchard waited for rain, which hadn’t fallen there in nearly a year. The earth all around had been so dry for so very long. Our state’s worst fear was Fire.
At the end of June, New Mexico was besieged by wildfires savagely chewing through our wildlands., Our friends at Dixon's Apple Orchard were devastated by the Las Conchas Wildfire (NM’s largest ever). Thankfully, no one was injured and the old orchard only lost 300 trees. But their family home was destroyed, along with several storage facilities and essential equipment. The fire combined with the nearly complete loss of this year's crop due to frost, have made for a catastrophic year for the Mullane family.
Most horrifying of all, the beautiful forest of Cochiti Canyon where the orchard resides was destroyed. What once was majestic forest is now barren, ash-ridden rock and dust. Having no protection of forest has left the area victim to floods. The need for hard work continues at New Mexico's most famous apple orchard: rehab from the state's worst-ever forest fire and protection from a new threat - flooding.
During recent monsoons a wall of tar-black, ash-filled floodwater surged through the little stream that meanders through the apple trees. It came from rain higher up in the charbroiled canyon near Cochiti Lake that has been home to the orchard since the 1940s.
Dixon’s has put countless smiles on the faces of generations of New Mexicans. We picnicked there on Easter Sunday. Thousands travel to the Orchard each Fall in an annual rite to pick apples and spend the day outdoors. Weddings are held among the blossoms in Spring. Graduation parties continue into the starry clear night scented with ripening fruit.
Being a state trust land, the orchard earns money for public schools, universities and hospitals. As their friends, neighbors and customers, the community is grateful for all they've given us and all wanted to give something back.
The orchard is on state trust land, and the Mullanes pay the taxpayers for it in a lease agreement with the State Land Office. Much protective work has been done, but there is still much to do to shore up the suddenly fragile steep canyon walls. The Mullanes say they can do some of the work themselves (with the help of an army of volunteers), if regulations permit, but they must rely on the state to help with the overwhelming environmental crisis they're facing.
In mid summer, the community put out a call for ideas on how to help and it started what seems like another wild fire. Individuals, community groups and businesses came together to create a fundraising benefit to help the family and this historic land. Wrapped in the cloth of hope and a brighter future, the Event brought families and neighbors together to remember good times spent picking apples, picnicking in the groves, dancing under the stars…and in the process connecting with the timeless tradition of farming communities all over the world: saving the family farm.
White Dog and the WDA like the idea that so many from the entire area (not just the farmers) have reached out to help the rebuilding. It is knowing how naturally hands reaching out are grasped by other hands and paws to form a chain to overcome hardship that convinces us that the World is truly a Wonderful Place.