5/14/12 - My plane landed in El Paso last night a little after 11:00 p.m. I know why I developed a penchant for late-night flying--planes used to be mostly uncrowded at that time--but it's been years since a flight was ever anything short of overbooked, so I don't know why I continue the practice, but I do.

Patrolling the Rio GrandeInterstate 10 west just north of the Rio Grande is less crowded in the wee hours, so that counts for something. The drive, fueled by fatigue and coffee, is interesting after sunset. An agent at the obligatory Border Patrol checkpoint west of Las Cruces asks me where I'm going and sends back into the night with an admonishment to be careful. Lightning illuminates the clouds and reveals the depth a distant storm. Two dozen red warning lights flash simultaneously several miles across the inky desert. They suggest where I am along the featureless highway. They are perched atop towers of the wind farm that sits a few miles west of microscopic Nutt.

Nutt, New Mexico lies along a two-lane shortcut between U.S. 180 and I-25. The lightly traveled road has recently attracted attention because the Border Patrol's assertive presence on I-10 forces drug smugglers and trafficers in unemployed aliens to seek alternative routes north. I ponder the dangers of trying to make it to the U.S., whose misguided drug eradication policies continue to devastate Mexico--historically impoverished by corruption, ignorance, and violence--and leave so many hapless yet industrious Mexican citizens no option but to take their chances across the border.

Blue Earth's roadside attractionThese midnight musings do little to explain why I'm out here. I will therefore get to the point, which is a long and entertaining one. I've just returned from my mother's home town--Blue Earth, Minnesota (home of the ho, ho, ho, Green Giant)--where I arrived two days before to carry out Gen's last wishes. 

Becky, Robert, Bill, and Barbara picked me up at the sooty arrivals corridor of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. My arrival was delayed by a couple of hours, so they had been circling the premises for some time, after discovering that the concept of a cell-phone waiting area has not yet evolved in Minnesota. The well-appointed Chrysler mini-van Becky rented had one or two deficits. The first was that although it seats five people with room to spare, it can't accommodate everybody's luggage. My own, being the last to arrive, came to rest clumsily in between the seats of the center row.

Hugs and hellos all around, then Barbara climbed into the way-back and stretched out. As Robert pulled away from the curb, the next deficiency was the eye-stinging odor of a feline bodily fluid. Apparently a previous renter had violated the brand new vehicle by letting a tom cat loose inside.

Becky commented that she smelled it too--had, in fact, been smelling it for a couple of weeks--and speculated that if I could smell it, maybe she didn't have a tumor after all. My immediate olefactory experience didn't clarify why Becky's own nose had been beset by cat piss back in Maryland, however.