Driving in New Mexico often involves long hours spent in a car on roads with minimal traffic. The environment is conducive to prolonged, random thoughts. On a recent road trip I passed the time having an internal debate between me, myself and I about whether, in general, New Mexicans are more like hobbits or dwarves. I’m not sure what provoked the “Lord of the Rings” analogy, but with little effort I came up with 10 similarities between hobbits and New Mexicans.
The internal debate regarding our dwarven characteristics occurred afterwards, because, well, there are a lot of cranky New Mexicans; grumpy, surly, crusty and cantankerous. Whereas many of these individuals are good-hearted, loyal friends, they are just as likely to bury an axe into an unwanted intruder as bury a plant in the ground.
Ultimately I opted to go with the hobbit similarities, because I already had a list of ten and the internet seems to have a fondness for lists. This is not intended as a sleight to the folks in New Mexico who are more like dwarves, elves, orcs, goblins, etc. Generalizations always have exceptions. New Mexico is an exceptional place of enormous variety. However, this is for the hobbits.
Feel free to weigh in with your opinion in the comments section below.
The Habits of Hobbits
The movies are probably better known than the books, but J.R.R. Tolkien expounded thoroughly on the history and characteristics of hobbits in his literary tour-de-force.
“Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.” — The Fellowship of the Ring
1) Hobbit are “small in stature with thick leathery soles on their feet.”
This may not be a terribly flattering depiction, and there are a few tall New Mexicans, but the average height in New Mexico is slightly below the national average. Tall and lanky is the exception rather than the norm. Though basketball is the college sport of choice for most New Mexicans, many of the players hail from other regions (or countries…thank you Australia).
Anyone that goes barefoot in New Mexico has to develop leathery soles to withstand the abundance of goat heads and the searing ground temperature, which is like walking on hot coals most of the year. People from humid climates may be taken aback by the power of New Mexico’s sun to dehydrate on contact. Proper footwear, hydration, and frequent application of moisturizer, are the only things inhibiting the development of a leathery, reptilian texture from head to toe.
2) Hobbits are described as having “a preference for beautiful, serene, natural environments, with a distrust of humans. They hate when people drop by without notice.”
For most New Mexicans, there is comfort and solace in our open spaces. Taking a break from human concerns couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is drive a half hour in any direction. While polling people about what they love about New Mexico and their favorite places in New Mexico, I noticed that the vast majority of locals reference different aspects of the natural environment, citing weather as a major asset and usually referencing a favorite place outside the city limits.
Once you stray from the main highways, amenities like gas stations, cell phone reception and other motorists become few and far between. There are many dirt roads stretching across endless vistas, where you would be unlikely to see anything other than lizards, small critters and the occasional cow. For people more accustomed to densely populated areas, the environment can be perceived as either liberating or daunting. It depends on the individual’s perspective.
In such a sparsely populated region, absent development and infrastructure, sustainability becomes a necessity. A large number of New Mexicans live ‘off grid,’ preferring more distance between themselves and human settlements. There seems to be a correlation between how far off grid someone has moved and their receptivity to unannounced visitors. In the city, dropping by unexpectedly might be perceived as rude. In more remote areas, it may be perceived as a threat, met with more hostility and/or firearms.
Though people from outside the area don’t associate New Mexico with fertile fields, mistakenly assuming that the entire state is a desert, the reality is that rural New Mexico’s economy is heavily dependent on energy and agriculture. New Mexico produces far more than just Hatch’s famous chile, though that is a staple crop. Other top crops include hay, onions, sorghum, corn, pecans, wheat, cotton, potatoes, peanuts and marijuana. On that note…
Based on the aforementioned cash crop, and the state mantra (Land of Mañana), it should come as no surprise that more than a few New Mexicans are fond of smoking various herbs from a variety of pipes, with NORML citing marijuana as New Mexico’s #2 cash crop.
As a medical marijuana state, with many expressing envy for our Colorado’s more lenient stance, it seems probable that New Mexico will join the fold of states allowing recreational use sooner rather than later.
5) Hobbits enjoy “foraging for mushrooms, gardening, drying herbs and collecting rocks.
New Mexico is a haven for geologists, botanists, herbalists and mushroom hunters. Hiking is one of the most common pastimes. The more a person enjoys time spent in nature, the more they will enjoy living in New Mexico. Chickens in the city? Sure. Bees in the backyard? Absolutely. Your neighbor’s peacock is keeping you up all night. Ok, that’s actually a little aggravating.
6) According to Peter Jackson’s trilogy, hobbits enjoy “seven meals a day: breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and, later in the evening, supper.”
I have noticed that a picture of a simple sopapilla or tortilla consistently elicits far more response on social media than any blog post. The most popular content is consistently related to food. Quite simply…we are hungry all the time, particularly if chile is involved. Right after a breakfast of Huevos Rancheros, the thought of a delicious breakfast burrito slathered in chile provokes anticipation for second breakfast.
With so much good food to choose from, decisions are difficult from breakfast onward. Where to eat? What to eat?. Would it be possible to eat more? New Mexicans can relate to the desire for second breakfast and the occasional need for a second stomach.
In tandem with the aforementioned love of food is a love of ale, with the Green Dragon Inn serving as a social hub for the shire. We understand. For a state with less than 3 million people, the preoccupation with pilsner has formed a booming business for beer. Santa Fe Brewing was the first of New Mexico’s microbreweries, but the craft beer ‘scene’ has exploded over the last several years. There are over 40 breweries concocting a variety of award-winning beers statewide, with new breweries opening regularly.
8) Hobbits are not pretentious.
There is a Native American fashion movement afoot and Santa Fe is known for art, food and fashion. However, the rest of the state operates on the premise that jeans with no holes constitutes formal attire for most occasions. Outside of the cities, there’s no one to impress. The inevitable cattle and roadrunners encountered don’t care about flair.
White won’t stay white for long. Walking in high heels isn’t practical. Too much dirt and sand. If what you wear defines you, your fashion choices may inhibit your recreation options. The lack of fashion pretense may be due to sparse population. Who are you going to impress? The lizards?
Classic New Mexican formal wear can be witnessed at the Santa Fe Opera. Gentlemen don sport coats over button-up shirts, with blue jeans, a cowboy hat and nice boots. Whereas this ensemble wouldn’t be perceived as high fashion in other parts of the country, the stylish threads popular in New York City wouldn’t hold up a day in New Mexico.
The hobbit homes depicted in Tolkien’s books and Jackson’s movies are creative, quaint and comfortable, blending into the natural environment. New Mexicans are also fond of earthen homes that blend into the environment, using adobe bricks to craft beautiful dwellings that retain heat in the winter and stay cool in the summer. Whereas our dwellings are more reminiscent of pueblo style than pit houses, the charm and coziness are distinct and unique. The neutral colors blend into the environment. Private, walled courtyards are common. For extreme examples of southwestern hobbit homes, look no further than the Taos earthships.
10) Often overlooked by the other denizens of Middle Earth (the US).
By the time the other denizens of Middle Earth realized that hobbits existed, the species had already been around for a lot time. Well, New Mexico joined the United States in 1912 as the 47th state. Over a 100 years later a significant percentage of the country, and world, forgets that we are here. Though it is an unfortunate oversight in terms of local commerce, it is a boon in terms of having all of the natural splendor to ourselves. As desert hobbits, we don’t mind having the place to ourselves.