C is for Cabezon (and the Census too) (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 26 Mar 2020

C is for Cabezon (and the Census too)

... You thought C would be coronavirus or COVID-19, I bet!

Well, I won't pretend I'm not as obsessed with it as everybody else. Of course I am. But, house-bound as we all are now, let's try to think about other things at least now and then. It's healthier.

[Cabezon Peak] One of the distinctive peaks here in northern New Mexico is a butte called Cabezón, west of the Jemez near Cuba.

It's a volcanic neck: the core of an old volcano, part of the Mt Taylor volcanic field. Once a basalt volcano stops erupting, the lava sitting inside it slowly cools and solidifies. Then, over time, the outside of the volcano erodes away, leaving the hard basalt that used to be lava in the throat of the volcano. It's the same process that made Tunyo or Black Mesa, the butte between Los Alamos and Española that's been featured in so many movies, and the same process that made the spectacular Shiprock.

Dave and I have driven past Cabezón peak several times, but haven't yet actually explored it. Supposedly there's a trail and you can climb to the top (reports vary on how difficult the climb is). One of these days.

Last week, Dave was poking around in a Spanish dictionary and discovered that -ón in Spanish is a suffix that denotes something larger. So, since cabeza means head, cabezón means big head. (Looking for confirmation on that, I found this useful page on 18 Spanish Suffixes You’ll Never Want to Let Go Of.) Apparently it can also mean stubborn, ditzy, or just having big hair.

But hearing that cabezón meant big head took me back to my childhood, and another meaning of cabezón.

When I was maybe ten, my father decided to take up fishing. He bought a rod and reel, and brought me along as we headed out to the docks (I don't remember where, but we were in Los Angeles, so it was probably somewhere around Santa Monica or San Pedro).

This didn't last long as a hobby; I don't think dad was cut out for fishing. And mostly he didn't catch anything. But on one of our last fishing trips, he caught a fish. An amazing fish. It wasn't especially big, maybe fourteen inches or so. It had a big head and a triangular body, with a flat belly as the base of the triangle. It had weird fins. It was dark olive green on two sides of the triangle, with a dull yellow belly. It looked prehistoric, and sent me running off to the books when we got home to make sure we hadn't caught a coelocanth.

[Cabezon, Scorpaenichthys marmoratus] After some research at the library (this was way pre internet), my father concluded that he'd caught something called, you guessed it, a cabezón.

Searching for photos now, I'm not so sure that's right. None of the photos I've found look that much like the fish I remember. But I can't find anything more likely candidates, either (though I'm wondering about the Pacific staghorn sculpin as a possibility). I guess fish identification even now in the age of Google isn't all that much easier than it was in the seventies.

I don't think we ever ate the fish. It sat in his freezer for quite a while while he tried to identify it, and I'm not sure what happened after that.

So maybe I've seen a cabezón fish, and maybe I haven't. But it was fun to learn about the -ón suffix in Spanish, to find out the meaning of the name for that distinctive butte out near Cuba. One of these days Dave and I will go hike it. And if we make it to the top, we'll try not to get big heads about it.

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[ 19:17 Mar 26, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]