Photos above: 1) DC Car Wash on the corner of Main and Quay. 2) Plate steel cattle drive sculpture. (Images shot with 590 nm infrared converted Nikon)
According to Weatherunderground.com it is 54 degrees this evening in Jal NM. The temperature was about 64 degrees a couple weeks ago while I was driving through before lunch time. It’s the middle of November. Jal is one of those small towns that you could miss if you stay on the 18 going north or south and not look this way or that. The 205 and the 128 pass through but you have to stop at a stop sign at some point and you’ll know you are there. This is the Permian Basin, home to oil and gas production as seen by vast fields of oil derricks, oil storage tanks, flare pipes, and endless pump jacks. And the smell of rotten eggs
Between the creaking, humming, squeaking sounds of a pump jack and the wind, cows graze quietly in the open scrublands. The vast plains set against a blue sky is quite pleasing, really. It’s cowboy country in these parts and many ranches have invested well in both cattle and oil. I always liked this wide open peacefulness of it all.
I drove a few blocks into town and realized not much is given to the streets in Jal. Pot holes were abundant and I drove slowly to avoid the bumpiness of the ride. A middle aged Latino woman walked past with purpose carrying a cloth sack of who-knows-what. I waved at her but she did not look my way. At the end of the street on the corner across from a small church, two men were exchanging tools as one reached under the hood of his dark blue pick-up truck. I passed them and turned left. This neighborhood has not aged well.
I had not been to Jal much as a kid. We went to Eunice for play days at the arena. I’ll write about that later. My parents did not have reason to drive any further I guess and I don’t remember having any reason to be there. My dad may have driven through Jal with us in his red Ford truck once or twice on the way to Kermit or Odessa. As an adult, I’ve passed through numerous times but had not stopped to spend anytime here. Unfortunately, we are in the era of Covid-19 so when I crossed the state line I was greeted with an electronic sign that read, “All visitors must quarantine for 14 days”. I had planned only one day in Lea County.
Unfortunately corona virus hindered my plans for a visit with the librarian, an oil field worker, locals at the coffee shop. There was not much happening that morning. Many stores were closed. Allsups had the most activity, it seemed, with people pulling up to gas pumps, coming and going in and out of the store, grabbing a Coke or some snacks, a pack of cigs. I had planned on capturing some street photography to include humans and maybe a stray dog.
I saw no one downtown on Main except for a few driving their cars and one with a poodle hanging out the driver side window, tongue flapping in the wind as if it has won an all expense paid trip to the Bea Arthur Dog Park. Many of the vehicles in Jal were trucks and had Texas plates. Most work on both sides of the state line in a variety of jobs but mostly the oil fields. The largest building in Jal: The high school building. Maybe. It might be the nursing home. Then I drove past a huge metal garage housing equipment likely for that hole to be drilled west of town.
Main Street remained quiet. The wind picked up and I caught my cap in time. This did not change the smell of the petroleum, though. This car wash in the picture wasn’t open and I had not found one to wash my black beast. An empty plastic water bottle rolled and bounced across the pavement as I closed my car door. I turned up the volume and listened to David Bowie’s “Life On Mars”, turned around at the high school, said goodbye to morning and to Jal and headed north.