The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, ]r.rnThe Wind ListethrnSome say the world will end in fire, somernsay in ice. Speaking fi-om experience,rnrather than poetic Irenzy, I say both. Thernspring winds blowing white at home inrnWyoming blow red down here in NewrnMexico, a howling gale that seems to bernreturning to the Dustbowl the errant Oklahoma,rnKansas, and Texas dusts thatrnhave been sojourning in Southern Californiarnfor 60 years. They might be windsrnfrom Hell, though on this Easter weekendrntongues of heavenly fire is plainly arnmore appropriate metaphor.rnThe storms make their first appearancernas skirmishing clouds of pink dustrnon the western landline, blotting thernFlorida Mountains and sweeping onrnacross the endless flats toward the RiornGrande. Hot winds lift the dust to anrneven height beneath a clear blue sky, arndr’ and scouring fog rolling in from anrnocean of red desert upon the springtimernvalley of green fields and blossomingrnfruit trees and the East Mesa, where thernOrgan Mountains vanish behind thernblowing dust raised by 60-mile-an-hourrnwinds and the houses around blur to reddish,rnindistinct shapes. Sheets and ribbonsrnof dust race across the roads, andrndust like red talcum powder works itsrnway in under doors and around windows,rnsifting through the skylight and draftingrndown the chimney. The parching, hot,rnand suffocating air inside the closed-uprnhouse has a claustrophobic effect which,rnadded to the nervous bombardment ofrnpositive ions, produces a feeling of mildrnpanic arising from a sense of entrapmentrnfrom which there is no escape. Aroimdrnsundown the storm abates; the sun’s reddenedrneye appears above the horizonrnthrough separating clouds of dust, andrnthe wind dies by degrees, in fits and gusts,rnleaving small piles of sand against thernliouse and in the angles of the stone wall.rnThe dust storms blew up for PalmrnSunday and banged around during thernfirst part of Holy Week before ceasingrnabruptly on Good Friday. I emergedrnfrom the house before sunset, swept therndust off the truck, and drove across townrnto Mesilla. Behind a sign posted on thernfront doors to keep the tourists out, SanrnAlbino was crowded beyond its seatingrncapacity. I heard the service from thernback of the church. Father Conrad alternatingrnbetween Spanish and English asrnhe proceeded. The Spanish ladies’ choirrnin their white dresses and mantillas sangrnfrom the choir loft, and at Communionrntheir steps were heard on the woodenrnstairs at the back of the church as they descended,rnstill singing their melodiousrnrepetitive chants, for the Eucharist. Followingrnthe service a procession, beginningrninside the church and led by twornmen bearing a tortured-looking cadaverrncarved from a tough-looking, dark-coloredrnwood and lying in a sort of crib, filedrnout and around the plaza, past the wideopenrnshops and the marveling tourists,rneach member of the procession carryingrna lighted candle while the church bellrntolled with a stark and tragic solemnityrnon the stroke of every minute. New Mexicornhas its drawbacks, but it is nice to livernin a Catholic country, especially duringrnHoly Week.rnAs Easter weekend inaugurates thernbullfight season across the river in CiudadrnJuarez, I had spent the proceedingrnweek alternating religious devotion withrnattempts to obtain tickets to the upcomingrngran corrida mixta at the Plaza Monumental.rnIn addition to two highly regardedrnmatadores, Sefior Hurtado’srnprogram featured a novillero 15 years old,rnJulian Lopez from Madrid, who was therntalk of the local aficionados. On the Saturda’rnbefore the fight I drove down to ElrnPaso through the Mesilla Valley wherernthe cottonwoods were in leaf and thernpecan orchards stood under several inchesrnof soaking water and walked across thernRio Grande under a hot sun to the KentuckyrnBar in search of good tickets and arncold drink.rn”Quiero dos boletos por la corrida elrndomingo que viene in el primera fila,” Irntold the barman.rn”We don’t have the tickets yet,” thernbarman said in perfect English. “Monday,rnmaybe, or Tuesday. Tuesday couldrnbe better. Come again on Tuesday forrnthe tickets.”rnThe barman took a calendario fromrnthe end of the bar and gave it to me. Irnread it and saw that the fight was scheduledrnfor April the 11th.rn”The corrida is Saturday?”rnThe barman nodded. “They couldrnnot arrange for Lopez to be here Sunday.rnSo he will fight on Saturday instead.”rnThe gentleman standing next to me atrnthe bar leaned over and tapped the programrnwith his finger.rn”This El Juli is a superb bullfighter,”rnhe said, also in English. “If you want tornsee a real torero, go see El Juli next Saturday.”rnI bought a big Cuban cigar andrnsmoked it while I had another beer, partlyrnbecause it tasted wonderful and partlyrnto keep the CIA on its toes. The barmanrnbrought me a bullfight poster carefullyrnrolled, and afterward went back for a rubberrnband to keep it that way. Conversingrnabout the corrida in the Kentucky Bar, Irnfound it easy to forget that Juarez is arnplace where over a hundred people,rnAmericans and Mexicans, have disappearedrnin the last couple of years andrnnearly 120 young maquiladora workersrnare thought to have been raped and slainrnsince 1993 by a serial killer. I bought anotherrnCuban stogie when I left and wanderedrnaround in the adjacent neighborhoodrnto smoke it. Nobody paid me anyrnattention in my pointy-toed boots andrnwide straw hat until, when I was gettingrnrid of the cigar, a peddler, penetratingrnmy disguise, thrust a piece of coiled lariat,rnpatriotically decorated in the colors ofrnthe Mexican Republic and a tiny leatherrnsaddle—the kind of thing you hang onrnthe rear-view mirror of your pickuprntruck—into my hand.rn”Gracias senor, pero no.”rnI tried giving the thing back to thernman, but he refused to take it.rn”Cinco dolares, sefior.”rnYou hate to tell them no. I opened myrnJULY 1998/49rnrnrn