Stan's Tuesday Walks

A Weekly Feature
by Stan Evans,
President, Santa Fe Always Online

June 5 , 2001

June 5, 2001

GRASS—what a different meaning the word has today than it did 50 years ago, when I was a kid. I liked the old meaning better, and today on my morning walk I was thinking about it.

Federal Building
Side of the Federal Building Complex

The subject of grass came to mind as I walked around the Federal Building Complex and looked over the low railing that surrounds the property. Suddenly the large expanse of green grass, so rare in Santa Fe, was reminding me of my childhood. With Santa Fe’s recent efforts to conserve water, large expanses of grass are getting harder and harder to find these days, except around government buildings and city parks. But things used to be different.

In 1949, when I was in elementary school, my family moved into one of the first subdivisions in Santa Fe. In those days subdivision homes came with no improvements—just the house itself. There were no drapes or carpets inside, and no landscaping or perimeter walls outside. That quickly changed, however, as the women busied themselves turning the bare houses into homes, while the men were landscaping the yards and building walls.

Within a year after we moved in, most of the houses in our area had enclosed back yards with beautiful bluegrass and flowered landscaping. Many young trees had also been planted, giving property owners high expectations of fruit, shade or both in the future.

But the front yards were different. It was as if there were an unspoken rule, which allowed only luxuriant lawns to be planted in front. Flowers, if any, were set close to the house so that the grass had no obstructions. Moreover, no walls were erected in the front yards, which gave a friendly, open feeling to approaching visitors. The only things that broke up the continuous expanse of grass were the driveways leading to the garages of the houses. To us children of the neighborhood it was like one gigantic athletic field, with the driveways conveniently providing stripes. If a football game ensued and the ball carrier got by the defense, he could just keep on running forever—or at least until the last defender gave up and stopped chasing him.

Walking along the perimeter of the Federal Building Complex with these memories of my Santa Fe childhood, I reflected upon the old adage that “Good fences make good neighbors.” I wondered if it was really true. At least when I was a kid, I think a better phrase might have been, “Good fences are the kind that do not separate good neighbors.”

But that was then, and this is now. Sadly, I have to say that the original adage is probably correct today, not only in Santa Fe, but all across the country. With all the crime and violence in the news, privacy and caution are important. But how nice it would be if someday we return to that gigantic football field mentality of yesterday, with no walls between us.

These great memories of yesterday made me want to make today a great day as well. So this morning I stopped at the French Pastry Shop without a trace of guilt. And returning to my house afterward, I recalled once more the green, green grass of home, so long ago.

Have a great green day yourself.


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