Sunday, December 14, 2008

Roswell, N.M.: No Aliens. Just "Angel Hugs" and a Tumbleweed Connection

In about 10 days, the children of Roswell, New Mexico, like millions of children elsewhere, will point their gaze to the sky. No, they will not be looking for UFOs. They will be looking in eager anticipation of Santa's magical sleigh ride through the crisp night sky.

But Mr. Claus made an early stop in Roswell to spread some seasonal good cheer. Only in this case, kids, just between you and me, it was really one of Santa's helpers.

Albert Delgado honourably filled the big guy's shoes (and red coat, and hat, and beard). The event, organized by the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce, was called "Angel Hugs." Cid Standifer of the Roswell Daily Record reports.

After Delgado was suited up, he and his helpers piled into cars and drove to the Heartfelt Manor home for the elderly and the Roswell Refuge for Battered Women, where they sang Christmas carols for residents and distributed holiday stockings full of goodies.

Former RHCC director Steve Landez started the project, and gave it the Angel Hugs name.

"I can only speculate that it was (about) trying to bring that warmth and caring to the kids and the elderly that are home-bound," explained current chamber Executive Director Juan Oropesa.

As the real Santa Claus is busy making last minute preparations for the big day, and double-checking his naughty and nice lists, I think that he can safely include Albert Delgado, Steve Landez, Juan Oropesa, and the other members of the RHCC on the "nice" list.

Meanwhile, there is a seasonal hazard lurking in the town. This is the time of year when Fire Marshalls warn of an increase in house fires. And Roswell is no exception, except that the fire hazard in question is not the "usual suspect" of candles, holidays lights, and unattended cooking.

No, in the desert town of Roswell, New Mexico, it's needlegrass and tumbleweed. Rob Lawson of the Roswell Daily Record reports.

According to Midway Fire Department Chief Ornell Fuller, these pesky plants build up around the county when some farms lay dormant and cropless. The dry farms collect the weeds, and the wind will blow them right onto nearby properties. Such is the case for one farmer, according to fuller, that lives on Crow Road near Dexter.

"He has tumbleweeds all the way to the top of his house," said Fuller.

Neighbors and nearby farmers who fail to clean up the weeds collecting on their land, poses a fire threat for those nearby.

In fact, it appears that there is no law in Roswell that would compel a farmer to clean up the weeds and sage brush that collect and blow around the community.

Needlegrass is an extremely flammable desert weed.

"It's like gasoline," noted Fuller. "They're just an accident waiting to happen."

According to Fuller, there have been at least three different structure fires resulting from needlegrass in the last month. Fuller also mentioned that this year has been the worst he's ever seen in the area since 1967.

"It flys," Fuller explained. "It's like feathers in the wind."

However, it's generally not mistaken for UFOs or, indeed, for Santa's sleigh.

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Roswell Daily Record

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