Mills, New Mexico, from the highway

MILLS

      I see months passing, one into the next, each with its own sensory allusions, but none so bountiful as September. I know by memory the sphere of the blades on a hay baler, the chopping sound of hay being sliced. I can picture in my mind a green John Deere tractor moving like a ship through a yellow field.

QUICK STATS

  • COUNTY:  Harding
  • LOCATION:  On NM 39, 10 miles northwest of Roy
  • POST OFFICE: 1898-1901, 1908-present
  • NAME ORIGIN:  Named for Melvin W. Mills, a local rancher and lawyer

      I smell hay. I have thoughts of autumn, plaid shirts, of captured and tamed pumpkins on doorsteps and their uncaptured, undomesticated brethren hidden among thick green prickly-haired clinging maze-like earth-bound vines. I smell dust in the motionless air in the top level of the barn, where an old tire tied to a rope swings gently in the dusty afternoon, and the sunlight cuts diagonally across the wooden floor, crossing just under the swing, providing possibly the only protection if you fall.

      I see little ghost figures cut from the remains of sheets, tied into the branches of small trees along the road, blowing around in the too-warm-to-be-October wind. I see gray marble slabs in a backyard cemetery, and Caribbean-blue-ocean medicine bottles capturing and refracting the light in the windowsill. I see a forest of trees of the darkest green there could ever be, running along the length of a freshly-baled autumn field. I feel the prickly tickle of a single straw of hay fallen under my shirt, poking my skin.

      I see ruler-straight rows of hay bales in morning "fall in" formation. I see corn stalks cut and tied together like teepees (so fun for little hands to draw). I see fires -- bonfires and "burning out" -- and tiny ashes dancing in the air above the flames. I see the moon always full, the night sky always cave-black, and I know that if that dark sky could be tasted, it would be like bitter black gumballs from a gas station gumball machine. I know a scarecrow is on duty somewhere. I know the crows are nervous but not the geese flying by overhead, each V its own hierarchy of order and meaning, the leader moving the band south for the winter, only to return for the next passing. I see simultaneously the arrival of yet another season and the legacy of the one just gone. And in all of this, I see September.

      And in September, I see Mills.