A sad tale about three strong women

My step-daughter Kim said recently, “I am blessed….really blessed. I just want to remember that when I encounter obstacles in life.”

I agreed, and I said, “I feel fortunate to be able to dance and play pickleball at my age. I try to thank God every day.”

But I don’t think I have been grateful enough.

In the past 3 days I have read 3 separate articles about 3 strong women who were struggling. Their struggles seemed so unfair, and I found myself in tears. Yet words they said revealed in them a spirit that wasn’t giving up. They were strong and resilient women in the face of severe problems.

Ashley Watt in Monahans, Texas.
An article in Texas Monthly revealed a poignant story about leakage from abandoned oil and gas wells on her ranch in the Permian basin, the premier oil and gas basin in the USA. Some of the leaking wells were owned by Chevron, one of the big five super-major oil companies. The company made over $11 billion profit in the second quarter of 2022.

On the ranch out of Monahans, in West Texas, 35 miles from Odessa, wells were drilled for oil back in the 1940s and 1950s. As the wells aged, the oil and gas production dwindled. When such wells are closed off and plugged with cement, they are referred to as abandoned wells.

Now, decades later, saltwater has been leaking up some wells that had been plugged and abandoned. The saltwater polluted freshwater aquifers and caused spills on the ground surface that killed mesquite trees. In one case, the high-pressure water burst upward as a geyser.

Ashley Watt at Antina Ranch.

The story recounts one ranch owner, Ashley Watt, 35, who decided to seek help from Chevron to fix the leaking wells.

Watt was motivated because her mother died of an aggressive and rare cancer in her adrenal glands. She believes the cancer could be linked to the pollution of groundwater at the ranch.

Watt has testified that a groundwater well close to her home has become saltier than the ocean. “The citizens of Texas, and especially those of us who live in the oil fields, deserve safe and clean groundwater,” she said according to a report.

Chevron did provide resources to plug one difficult well, the Estes 24, although it was a challenge.
But Watt has been frustrated at the level of help provided. One clear complaint was that Chevron, who have made about $18 billion in profits in the first half of 2022, has not been properly responsible.

Watt is not giving up. She insists that Chevron should clean up all surface spill damage and dead mesquite trees, and of course test and re-plug properly all the abandoned wells that are found to be leaking – or at risk of leaking. Watt wants Chevron to be held accountable.
Read more on the above story here.

Grace Vigil standing on silt washed down by flooding on August 19, 2022. Eddie Moore photo.

Grace Vigil in Mora, New Mexico.

It’s estimated that more than 900 structures, including homes, were destroyed by the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires, both of which were started by U.S. Forest Service prescribed burns. When these two fires joined up, they created the largest-ever fire in New Mexico.

What’s left after the fire has burned though everything is what they call a burn scar. Now, summer monsoon rains pour down hardened burn-scars, devoid of vegetation, and deposit debris over the landscape.

In the picture, Grace Vigil, 61, stands on piles of silt washed in around her home by flooding in the nearby Canconcito Creek on August 19, 2022. She says a fence and a line of trees behind her in the picture saved her home from several flooding events near Mora, New Mexico.

Vigil has seen this flooding mayhem ten times since July 4. She was at home for five of these occasions.
Vigil describes the horror:

“You don’t ever want to see it. You would not believe the way (the water) comes down. It starts with all this debris and this black stuff (mud and ash) and behind that you can hear the water, echoing back in the canyon, like thunder.
And then it’s there, 3 feet of it… It’s a disaster. Look at all this debris from wherever. And there’s no help to clean out and widen the creek. I’ve called like 20 people. They need permits. By that time, I’ll be dead. I see all this equipment coming and going. Are they just driving around?
I think there are angels and a God. That’s what has saved me. I spend a lot of time praying.”

But help does exist. Neighbors Helping Neighbors is an organization of volunteers centered in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

They provide lunches, cans of food, clothing, and hygiene products. They also offer assistance to people in filing applications for state and federal grants. They even have a social worker to lead a support group once a week.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors supported 200 people per day while the big fire was burning. The numbers are down to 15-30 per day while the flooding crisis continues.

“Disaster relief crews are just trickling in now. We need more help. Basically, it’s a lack of funding and a shortage of manpower. We have septic systems that are overflowing and roads that are washed out. People are staying in motels because they can’t get back home.”

Donations may be sent to Neighbors Helping Neighbors in care of:
Heart of David Worship Center, P.O. Box 1641, Las Vegas, NM, 87701
or Victory Life Church, 258 Frontage Road 2137, Las Vegas, NM, 87701.

Source: Time Magazine, August 22-29, 2022.

Hasina Najibi and Raihana Rahimi, Fort Myers, Florida.

The third woman is actually two women who had both been pilots flying for the Afghan Air Force. They were and are close friends. The women are both 25.

They were in an aviation training school in Dubai when Kabul was over-run by the Taliban one year ago. Worried about Taliban revenge, they told their parents to burn their uniforms and any other air force paraphernalia in Kabul. “All my dreams were on fire,” Najibi said, “and I was just watching.”

Are the women working now? Yes, they wait tables in a local restaurant in Fort Myers.

Rahimi says, “I think about Afghan women… They lost everything they had. Their lives, their rights, and their dreams are now being held hostage.”

Najibi shared: “The day we flew from Dubai to America, they told us we could only take one suitcase with us. I packed a set of air force uniforms and a few other items… Once, when I felt homesick, I opened my suitcase. Seeing my uniform gave me the hope that I might be able to study again here and become a pilot. Every time I get tired, I think about that uniform, and I feel like I can handle everything.”

Rahimi said: “I lost my life, but I won’t lose my hope. I’m determined to find a way back into my profession. This is the dream that keeps me alive. Even though I sometimes feel exhausted I tell myself I’ll find a way… I am sure I can succeed again.”

The above was excerpted from an article called Far From Home in Time Magazine, August 22-29, 2022.

The first two stories are about environmental damages to unwitting people: the first is about old, abandoned oil and gas wells that are leaking saltwater which is polluting aquifers and killing trees on ranch property in West Texas.

The second is about flooding to properties due to monsoon storms that sent water rushing down hillsides covered with burn scars which can’t impede water flow like normal vegetation would. The burn scars are a result of the largest-ever fire in New Mexico that was triggered by prescribed burning by the US Forest Service, not just once, but twice in two separate areas.

One hopes that justice will prevail and that these innocent people will be repaid for their financial losses and perhaps even their mental anguish and suffering.

For the last two women, it seems more serious as they have each lost their career, their earning power, their family, and their country.

I feel much less deserving than these four women when I say I am grateful to be able to dance and play pickleball. But I will try to be more grateful after reading of their misfortunes and I will send some money to help them.

The Gray Nomad ….. People suffer. People are resilient. I want to be more aware and offer to help more.
He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and that which he has given He will repay to him.
[Proverbs, chapter 19.]


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Don Compton
Don Compton
1 year ago

Thank you, Ian, for sharing these stories. Let’s me know how blessed I am in spite of my small challenges in life. Joining you in prayer for these ladies.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x