Sage Challenge Results: May 2024

Below you’ll find the responses to the Sage Challenge for May 2024.

Entries to the Challenges published previously are found in individual issues of the SouthWest Sage. Public access to the February 2023 to February 2024 issues of the newsletter are on the Sage News page. SWW Members have full access to the Newsletter Archives of issues published from 2004 to 2024.

Go to the Sage Challenge page for details about the current Challenge open to SWW members.

Short Story or Poem

Weave a regional form of landscape into a short story or poem as its central setting. No more than 1,000 words.

By Léonie Rosenstiel

There once was a young man from Kremming
who smiled when he started ballooning.
Once lightning struck, he let go of the rope,
And now he’s no longer ballooning.

Mystic Manzana Mountains
by Rachel Bate

Ancient apple trees adorn you
“Manzana” shall be your name
Civilizations long gone
Leaving marks of love and labor
Mystic memories linger
In fault block granite
Imprints of life
Mysterious Mountains
Whispers of wildlife
Secrets seldom told
Gentle breezes call me
“Rest now in my red carpet”
Return to the Earth red apples
Sing softly for new generations to discover
The Mystic Manzano Mountains

Sensuous Spring Morning
By Reza Ghadimi

It rained this morning
The early morning thunder awoke all, startled
An oddity in this desert world
Dawn’s early light strained through the overcast
Occasional flashes of sunlight reflected from fields of raindrops
Otherwise, there is no change
Not in the way the birds announce the day
Nor in the ennui of drops from the eaves.

The forest, though, seems happy
Her showered scent of freshness
Feels almost erotic
Rustle of a breeze, spray the drops off the leaves
And slide them down the branches,
Caressing stock and body, joyfully
One can almost hear the vegetation
Sigh with pleasure.

A light mist hides the mountain tops
The fog hugs the canyon walls sensually
Sliding within and through crevasses, cleave and folds
Deep in the loins of the earth, the moisture
Loosens rock and root to the pleasure of the land
Nature is ecstatic and euphoric.
We breathe the rhapsodic morning air and
Delight in all its glory.
It is a sensuous spring morning and all are glad to be a part!

Flight 260
By Stephen McIlwain

I loved seeing the sun come up over the Sandia Mountains as Albuquerque becomes bathed in sunlight starting on the west side, then the sunlight moves eastward to the Rio Grande Valley, then to the downtown and, finally, the entire east side of the city up to the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. What was even better was watching the sun set from the airport after arriving from Las Vegas. The west face of the Sandias glowed reddish pink – just like a watermelon – just like a Sandia, Spanish for watermelon.

Some days when it was cloudy or foggy I couldn’t see these things but all that ended when they retired me. Now, the only things I see are the rugged landscape and the steep spires of Domingo Baca Canyon. There is deep snow during the winter and, in the summer, lush foliage and occasional full streams of water cascading down the mountain and into the arroyos that sometimes threaten Albuquerque with flash floods. Lush foliage and running water may seem odd since Albuquerque is in the Chihauhaun Desert, but that’s New Mexico. I sometimes see wildlife at the pools of water – deer, bobcats, an occasional bear or mountain lion. Since the mid-60s, I have seen the Sandia Peak Tram cars climbing up to the tram terminal located 10,300 feet above sea level and watched as they have glided down the cables to the base of the tram. Infrequently I see hikers braving the difficult trial up to the base of the pinnacle where it happened. And, of course, I see the debris.

On February 19, 1955, around 7:00 in the morning, a TWA Martin 404 airplane took off from the Albuquerque airport. Its destination was Santa Fe, a mere 26 minutes away. The route approved by the air traffic controllers went around the Sandia Mountains which were completely shrouded by thick clouds and fog. The size of the cliffs on the west face of the Sandia mountains can be deceptive when viewed from town. They are made of immense Precambrian granite and have a complex landscape comprised of narrow canyons, knife-like ridges and spires that change their appearance when seen from a different vantage point.

The TWA plane disappeared into the clouds and fog and at about 9,000 feet struck a spire at more than 200 miles an hour, killing all on the plane – 13 passengers and three crew members. A search began at noon and was called off after dark. The following day, the pilot of a passing airplane spotted the crash site, and the rescue party began the arduous task of getting to the scene where it found torsos, arms, legs, and feet frozen solid. The rescue team hauled out as many bodies as it could and returned a month later to bury the remaining body parts. The rescue team thought because of the way the wreckage appeared that the plane was going west – back to Albuquerque – when it struck the mountain.

When building the Sandia Peak Tram ten years later, the builders found that the tram cars would pass over the crash scene where most of the wreckage would be visible to the riders on the tram cars. Fearing bad publicity for the airline industry, most of the wreckage was removed and dumped at the bottom of the spire where, when the sun is just right, a brief flash from a part of the plane can be seen from the tram.

For the 50th anniversary of the crash, 17 crosses were placed at the crash site – one for each person killed and one for the airplane.

Over the course of five years, three reports about the cause of the crash have been issued. The first hinted at the possibility that the pilots deliberately flew into the mountain; the last hinted that a malfunctioning navigation instrument may have been the cause. As for the second…

I can still see the tram go overhead and hear the whispering cable as it pulls the tram car to the top. I can see the debris. I can see the crosses. I am TWA Flight 260. I was retired after the crash. I will be here until the Sandia Mountains are washed into the sea.

Sign Up for Elerts  Stay Connected

SWW YouTube Videos

Search Posts


More information about SWW Programs can be found on WhoFish.