The Dusty road sign welcomes infrequent visitors


     After visiting Dusty, I went to a record store and bought a Glenn Miller CD. It took me awhile to realize that the two events were related.  The sound of the wind at Dusty had reminded me of clarinets, the ranch buildings had been strung out like a string of pearls, and the entire trip had somehow put me In the Mood for a little 1940s swing.


      Content to sit idly on a backroad between T. or C. and Magdalena, Dusty has the same inexplicable feeling of gentle niceness that comes from a red caboose. Dusty is self-effacing. Under the words "Dusty, NM" on the one and only road sign in town, someone has stenciled the mileages to Socorro and Albuquerque. Dusty knows you're just passing through. There are no hard feelings.

      Yet as I drove past Dusty, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was more here than met the eye. Little whirlwinds of dust rose up occasionally before me like dancers on the desert. The cows I saw were all in groups of three (Andrews Sisters, anyone?) And the distant melody of Pennsylvania 6-5000 echoed in the back of my head. I half expected a Cigarette Girl to knock on my window and ask if I wanted a pack of Lucky Strikes.

      Dusty had a swinging, jazz-like feel to it. Maybe it's the power in improvisation. Consider the note in a crescendoing musical passage, held an extra second longer than written -- stretching across the time signature into the next measure where it doesn't properly belong. That momentary suspension of inertia is what Dusty felt like. Dusty seemed improvised, as though if I were to go back today it would look completely different than before, and the next day so different from today that I would hardly recognize the place.

      Was it just a feeling or had I really missed something?  Maybe Dusty saw me coming, packed up its clarinets and trombones, reordered its houses, took down the streamers, and sat quietly while I passed. Then, when my rising dust trail left the horizon, it broke everything out again and started the party over. Maybe those stenciled mileages weren't just a navigational aid, but encouragement for people to pass by quickly, so the beguine could begin again without much delay.

      I saw nothing unusual from my rear-view mirror that would confirm my suspicions. Dusty passed into the distance as nonchalantly as it had appeared. Maybe the cows were just cows, and the dust storms just dust storms, and the nightingales were still singing in Berkley Square.  


(click on the thumbnail image to see a larger picture)

The Dusty Cemetery waits just
down the road from the town.