By Arthur Delaney
ALAMOGORDO, N.M. -- From next to the dead tree in his backyard, Ernie Soto can see the big house where he used to live. It's perched on the side of a mountain overlooking Alamogordo, a town of 36,000 on the eastern edge of New Mexico's Tularosa Basin.
In 2007 Soto moved downhill to a smaller house with his wife and son. They needed fewer rooms since their grown son and daughter had moved out, and Soto wanted to sell the big house and use the proceeds to start a mechanic business. He figured he'd be better off as an entrepreneur in case the economy worsened.
Their downward mobility has continued, thanks to both mistakes and misfortune. "We just couldn't backpedal fast enough," he says.
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