The New Mexico state motto is Crescit Eundo (It grows as it goes). From the epic scientific poem De Rerum Natura (On the nature of things), it refers to ‘the increasing strength a thunderbolt gradually gains when going across the sky’. Crossing the state line from Texas, the state slogan proclaims New Mexico to be the land of enchantment – and, in true thunderbolt fashion, as we travelled across the state, it grew as we went.
I have a habit of counting things, particularly train carriages, but New Mexico trains defied any attempt to add their length. Miles and miles of trains travelled alongside the Interstate and Route 66. Endless links of carriages going to and fro. I was half expecting to see Smith and Jones appear on horseback and hold one of them up.
The Navajo, America’s largest Native American Group, have a reservation that covers 14 million acres of New Mexico. It’s officially a bi-lingual state with one in three residents speaking Spanish at home. Sheep and cattle by far out number people – the state has a population density of just 12 people per square mile. There’s plenty of land for sale for as little as $250 per acre – and tempting though the scenery might be, the sheer isolation, coupled with the heat, would be hard to manage.
Driving along I40 was trance-like. Mile after mile of road stretched out ahead giving plenty of time to contemplate the extremes that New Mexico can claim. Native Americans have lived here for 20 000 years. And it was here, too, that the world’s first atomic bomb was exploded on 16 July 1945. Atom bombs. Arrowheads. American Indians. And that’s just the A’s.
Rumour has it that in the town of Carrizozo, women are not allowed appear in public, unshaven. And in Las Cruces, it’s illegal to carry a lunchbox down the main street. In some of the more remote towns, such as Coyote, a form of sixteenth-century Spanish is still spoken. And in Clayton Lake State Park, about five hundred dinosaur footprints have been preserved – which explains the plethora of dinosaur statues lining the interstate. And given that State Officials ordered 400 ‘sexually explicit words’ to be cut from Romeo and Juliet, one has to wonder about the dinosaur thing.