SCRATCHING THE LAVA
On my recent visit to New Mexico over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the opportunity to do a little dumping. My nephew, Jason, who lives there, had discovered that the old lava fields in the western part of the state were loaded with old beer cans. He happened upon this discovery when his 1967 Range rover broke down for the umpteenth time. He was forced to walk miles along the old highway to the nearest phone. The old road goes right through the lava fields and he noticed all kinds of cracks and crevasses along the way. He noticed that in these cracks were numerous old rusty cans. It was apparent that after the cans were thrown from passing vehicles they ended up in these cracks. Jason had gone dumping with me before so he has an idea of what type of cans I'm looking for. He grabbed one can to show me because he knew I was coming for a visit soon. The can he happened to pick up was an 11oz Falstaff flat from El Paso with ounces on the top front of the can (not listed or shown in the new book). Not a rare can but a fun can for variation
We headed for the lava fields the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It took a couple hours to get there. When we got close, I asked where should we start looking? , He replied," anywhere you can find a pull-off". Sure enough, the first spot contain lots of cans although mainly were surface cans. It wasn't until we started looking in the cracks before we found anything that was in decent condition. Anything that was remotely near the surface or wasn't at least 6 inches deep was sun burnt and faded. It was the cans that got trapped and suspended in the cracks that were the best shape- Water would run right past it and it was protected from the sun. By the same token though, anything that rested at the bottom of the crevasse was poor condition. One thing Jason failed to mention was that this lava rock was SHARP!!!!! There are mainly 2 types of dried lava rock, the slow drying SMOOTH Obsidian and the fast drying sharp Pumice type. Of course most of the places we were picking the cans out of was the sharp kind. It was hard on the knees and
hands. At the end of the day my hands looked like hamburger and the knees of my jeans were shredded. These cracks and crevasses ranged from inches wide to feet wide and the same went for the depth. In places there were like little caves one could crawl into.
This was the right time of year to do this type of beer can excavation as the cold weather eliminated any chance of running into New Mexico's native poisonous critters such as rattlesnakes and scorpions. The 40-degree temperature also made it easy not to get over-heated in our quest for cans. Usually wherever we found one can, we found a dozen as that first can would create a dam of sorts and trap other falling cans. By the same token though, once you released that first can the others would go tumbling down. The vast majority of the cans were Coors followed by national brands of Bud, Schiltz, Pabst and Hamms but all from their California branches. Included with the beer cans were soda cans and lots of oil cans. The
first non-regional /non-national brand was a Red Fox from Best brewing of Chicago. I
had seen the can trapped down in a semi cave and sent my nephew to retrieve it for me. As soon as I saw the split red and white label I knew it was a Red Fox. Funny how it should be from one of my favorite breweries because cans from Best were in the first dump I ever dug. Also it being from my hometown of Chicago made it pretty cool too.
We would drive a little, park the car and he would walk one direction and me the other. We would clean out all we could reach then drive a little further down the road to do the same. It appeared Chicago cans were to rule the day as we found Embassy Club and Banners from Best. Finding Chicago cans in New Mexico is not uncommon. Since they didn't have any breweries that canned beer everything was shipped in. My guess is they shipped the stuff right down old RT 66 . The cans that were in the best condition happened to be 2 Canadian Ace extra pale cans perfectly suspended and they came out to be almost grade 1. We also found white and red A-1s,Grand Prizes, Country Club Stouts, Burgermeister 12 and 16oz and even a Muelebach flat from my current residence. There were some crowntainers but none that made it down to the protection of the cracks. But we did find some standard size cones, which were 2 different types of Koenig Brau cones. We found lots of those small Super Cola cones and even a cool flat top of Snappy Tom tomato juice which pictured a Mexican tomato man in a sombrero. Lots of oil cans were found too, mainly national brands but we found a very cool label of AREOIL from Texas. We also found a paint-over can. It was a Drewrys with the shield , which had faded through a gray primer to reveal a Tavern Pale-? 2 more Chicago brands!
After 2 or 3 hours we literally found hundreds of cans but only kept a case each of beer and oil cans. A return trip is definitely warranted because there's 60 miles of road that goes along the lava fields and then figure both sides of the road! I will bring thick leather gloves and probably a rope with a strong magnet at the end to retrieve the cans deep in the nooks and crannies. Also a long broomstick with a hook on the end would be most helpful. The only thing disappointing was, we really didn't find many IRTP cans which
may suggest the road was built after 1950 . A little more research will have to be done.
All in all not the rarest stuff found but it was sure fun.
Until next time