New Mexico product of evolution

Don McAlavy

Only a blue sky and a blue-green sea — that was New Mexico when its story first began. Only a blue sky with white clouds moving. Only a blue-green sea with lapping waves.

We do not know how long nor why a sea was here once upon a time in the long, long ago. We know only, that once a sea was here and then little by little and year by year it slowly dried and became a swamp.

Old Indian stories of this age always begin by saying, “In the days of old, when the earth was soft.”

But even the swamp lands dried, getting smaller and smaller as the water went away. Mountains pushed up and great plains began to show. After a long time, nothing was left but rivers and lakes and swamp places in the valleys and on the plains. Years and years passed by. Trees grew on the mountains, and mesas were formed from the high plains. Grass grew in the valleys and on the flat lands. New Mexico became a land — a lovely land of earth and sand and colored rock cliffs and growing plants.

New Mexico was very cold in this long ago. There were more rivers and lakes and swamps then there are now. The forests were greater and the grass was thicker.

Animals lived near the swamps and in the forests. We do not know from where they came nor why they came. We do not know how long they lived nor what made them disappear. These animals were strange and fierce looking.

Among them were the giant sloth, the three-toed horse, camels and elephants. They looked somewhat like our animals of today, but some were larger and some were smaller.

Deep in the ground near the lakes and swamps that used to be, today sometimes, we find the bones of these strange beasts. When we put those bones together we can see how those animals really looked.

These prehistoric animals did not live alone in the cold, beautiful land of forests and grass covered plains. There were people living there, too.

We think they were Indian hunters who had followed the herds of great animals to kill them with spears and darts for food and for clothing.

Nowadays when we talk of these early people we call them the Folsom Men.

We do this because traces of their early homes have been found near Folsom.

It is believed that these Folsom Men of the long ago lived in caves. They made perfect spear points of stone and bone. They hunted the great beasts of the forests and the swamps. We do not know from where they came, nor when nor why they went away.

We know only, that they lived here in the days of the of the prehistoric animals. By the time New Mexico had become dry and more like it is today, the great animals and their hunters were gone.

All that these ancient Folsom Men have left are perfectly made spear points and tools, signs of their cave homes, their campfires and the bones of the great beast they had killed and eaten.

If the swamps and the many lakes and the wide rivers had not dried up, perhaps the Folsom Men and the great beasts would not have disappeared.

But New Mexico did not remain a swamp land. It became dry and other men and other animals came to take the places of the spear makers and the mammoths.

This did not happen quickly. It took thousands and thousands and thousands of years for the land to change. It took thousands and thousands and thousands of years for the mammoths to disappear and for the Folsom Men to come no more to hunt them. The people who came next left many things behind them to tell us what they looked like, what things they made and the way they lived.

New Mexico is very old. From hunters of the great beasts of the swamps, then seed-gathers, then the growers of corn, the people have changed with the land, slowly, slowly through the years.