I met this stranger at the Mother’s Day Flower Show organized by the Albuquerque Aril and Iris Society. This is the same group that organized the mid-April show where I photographed a few gardeners who became strangers in hte beginning of my set.Eva, my stranger 13/100, greeted me at a table where one of her entries had been placed on a pedestal. When we first met, she had received the highest award for judged flower entries. On this occasion, she introduced me to James and some other flower show visitors who were admiring her irises since that were judged as “Best of Show” again!
I had noticed James prior to our introduction. He was wearing a decorative bolo tie and exuded a charisma that I wanted a chance to capture.
Here in New Mexico, ranch lifestyle is one of the many influences on culture, even in urban society. A man is considered dressed up when he wears a button down shirt with a bolo tie. For those unfamiliar with Western wear neckties, here is background to explain the fashion:
A bolo is a necktie style consisting of a piece of cord or braided leather with decorative metal tips at the end, and is secured with an ornamental clasp or slide. Often these are made of silver with inlaid semi-precious stones, such as turquoise. Boleadoras or bolas (from Spanish bola, which means “ball”) are throwing weapons made of weights attached to the ends of cords. New Mexico designated the bolo as the official state tie in 2007. Bolo slides and tips in silver have been part of Hopi, Navajo and Zuni silver-smithing tradition since the mid-20th century. Use of bolos goes back to the pioneer days in the 1800s. Today, many people collect these ornate slides and pass them down as heirlooms. Sometimes women wear them as necklace pendants. Lest you think them mere Southwestern kitsch: men really do wear them; and here was James to prove it.
Since Eva had saved me the trouble of introducing myself, I asked James if I may photograph him for my 100 Strangers project. Kindly, he agreed to be my 35/100.
James and I walked together around the long tables of award winning irises. He was searching for an iris that pleased him so he could stand behind it for the picture taking. Finally he fixed on a purple flower. He had not grown it, but appreciated it immensely. I inquired about what had brought him to the flower show, not having a clue who “he was.”
James told me he likes to see the local flower shows to “keep up-to-date,” with the “newest” irises. Earlier, Eva had explained to me that flowers from rhizomes introduced in 2013 are now the hot commodity in the iris circuit. This sort of local flower show reveals to James the newest blooms growing in New Mexico.
Apparently known to everyone else in the room as Jim Sais, James is a local celebrity in the gardening circles of New Mexico. You could say he is THE Horticulturalist. On alternating Saturday mornings on 770AM (KKOB) he conducts a call-in advice program called, New Mexico Garden Talk.
A native New Mexican, James grew up on a family fruit and vegetable farm in Los Lunas. He graduated from New Mexico State University and the University of Maryland. He served as County Extension Agent in Bernalillo County and was the State Horticulture Specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service of New Mexico State University. For 13 years, James wrote a popular garden column for the Albuquerque Journal, our local newspaper. As Horticultural Specialist, James traveled throughout New Mexico to conduct educational programs on gardening. Jim started the Bernalillo County Master Gardener Program and Master Gardener Programs throughout New Mexico. After 33 years of service to NM State University, and the USDA, he retired in 1992. By that time he was Department Head and Full Professor at NMSU. After academia and civil service, he joined a local commercial nursery for 12 years until that business closed its doors.
So, yeah, James knows Irises.
I have the 100 Strangers project to thank for the excuse to meet James. He is not only knowledgeable but also a helpful horticulturalist.