Tag Archives: Acoma

Picture This – New Mexico

24 May

We just returned from our annual field trip to New Mexico. For those who may not know, every spring another professor and I take students on a journey through the land, art and cuisine of the Land of Enchantment. This was one of our best experiences with great students and great learning opportunities. Instead of chronicling the entire venture, I decided to post my favorite photograph from each day.

On the drive out, we stopped at Cadillac Ranch, one of the most famous examples of Pop Art, and we all added our own touch to the masterpiece. 

On the second day, we made our way closer to the final destination of Santa Fe. However, we stopped at the home of artist Peter de la Fuente along the way. He is the grandson of Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd and does everything he can to carry on the family tradition. Currently, he does it on an 80,000 acre ranch.

Once in Santa Fe, we went on daily excursions that included hikes and moments of historical instruction. However, the highlight of the next say was our meal at Horseman’s Haven. If you love breakfast burritos covered in green chili sauce, then that is the place you need to go.

By far, my favorite hike is at Tent Rocks. It is a stroll through a slot canyon before a climb to the top of a mesa. Its true name is Kasha-Katuwe.

Our most time-consuming excursion is the drive to Chaco Canyon, the home of the Anasazi. No one knows for sure what if the canyon was a religious center, a commercial center or the home to thousands. It could have been all of that. 

We also drove to Taos. However, we did not stop in town. We went straight to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and walked across to get some great pictures and some great shakiness over the height.

Acoma Pueblo is always one of our favorite stops. It is the oldest inhabited community in North America. There are great views from the top of the mesa on which the pueblo sits. However, I am always amazed by the streets within the community. I expect Henry Fonda to ride up on a horse at any minute. In fact, he did ride up on a horse in My Name is Nobody.

We also visited the ruins at Bandelier National Monument. Climbing the 140 foot ladders is always a highlight. However, it best moment is when we convince the students to sniff a tree.

On the final day, we did something completely different and new to our trip. A few of us went to Meow Wolf, an interactive art experience supported by Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin. It was a weird and awesome thing to do.

After that, we made the long drive back to Tennessee. Hopefully, this trip to New Mexico was a learning experience for everyone.

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Shadow Horse – Man, Myth, Legend

15 Jun

Long time visitors to this blog have read about the Shadow Horse Gang, a pack of desperadoes that roamed northern New Mexico. The gang was legendary but has dwindled in recent years. Trader Dave tired of the trail and disappeared into the hills of Tennessee. Doc Pete settled down in Santa Fe but can still be enticed into the occasional adventure.

However, Shadow Horse, the legendary leader of the gang, has not given up his life of outlawry. He is rarely seen, but, last month, there were several sightings of Shadow Horse. It made people wonder.

Were there patterns in his movements?

Is he building a new gang?

Only time will tell.

One of the first sightings of Shadow Horse was at the end of the Tent Rocks Trail. After making his way through the slot canyon, he performed the Medicine Wheel ceremony. Using the knowledge of his Indian heritage, Shadow Horse called upon the spirits to protect those who were traveling with him.image-20

Next, he was spotted in the vast reaches of Chaco Canyon, home of the Ancient Ones and the perfect hideout for a gang of outlaws.image-21

It was in Chaco Canyon that Shadow Horse was seen conversing with others who had made their way to that distant locale. Was he trying to recruit them?image-15

Shadow Horse is afraid of no man, but, at Acoma, he ran into conditions that were almost unbearable. It was raining, and high school kids were everywhere. As I wrote, Shadow Horse is afraid of no man, but rain and kids make him extremely uncomfortable.image-16

For years, Frijoles Canyon has been a place of refuge for the Shadow Horse Gang. Old habits die hard. Almost as hard as old outlaws. Visitors saw someone who looked like Shadow Horse in one of his favorites haunts. They did not want to get close, but they swear that it was him.image-17

Shadow Horse may have thought they were too close. It was not long before he fled the canyon and made his way to Tsankawi, a side trail that only he and a few others would know about.image-18

The last appearance of Shadow Horse was at Pecos. He made his way through the Pueblo ruins along the old Santa Fe Trail.image-19

Shadow Horse was not seen again. Some say he left northern New Mexico under the darkness of early morning. Others say he remains in the area and is trying to rebuild his gang. The certainty is that he will make an appearance next spring. Doc Pete might be riding by his side. The Kid might be leading the way.

All I know is that the good people of northern New Mexico need to stay on the lookout for the return of Shadow Horse and the reemergence of the Shadow Horse Gang.

The Faded Dreams of Kit Carson and Cactus Slim

23 Oct

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it was fun to experience with her the things I usually experience with students. It was also fun to visit Santa Fe in a more relaxing way. We hit a bunch of the cool spots that I have written about before.

Acoma Pueblo

Tent Rocks

The Santa Fe Plaza

We also ate at some fantastic restaurants.

Maria’s

Horseman’s Haven

Santa Fe Bite

Along the way, we found time to go to an awesome movie theater, and my wife spent some time in the spa at our hotel, the Inn at Loretto. We also visited a former member of the Shadow Horse Gang.

Oh yeah, we also bought a piece of Native American art that dates back a couple of thousand years.

It was a great trip, and I am glad that my wife and I spent some time in one of my favorite places. Two people driving around in a regular vehicle allowed us to do some things that are not possible with a bunch of students in a 15 passenger van, and a couple of those things led me to some deep thinking.

On Saturday, we made our way to Madrid, an abandoned mining town that became home to some people who wanted to get away from the bonds of society. I have been there many times, but this time was different in one respect. We got to sit and have a beer. While drinking that beer, we listened to a band called Cactus Slim and the Goat Heads.image-3

As we listened, I realized that the band was made up of locals who had, as I wrote earlier, made their way to Madrid to find freedom from the stresses of our world. One table was filled with other locals who had done the same thing.

The table in front of us was filled with people who looked for freedom in another way. There were two couples who had ridden their motorcycles to town. Madrid has become a destination for those weekend riders who want to spend Saturdays and Sundays on the roads with the wind in their hair. After all, helmets are not required in New Mexico.

Listening to the music and watching the people made me think about the larger city down the road. Santa Fe has also become a place where people want to be free to pursue their dreams without society getting in the way. Artists come from all around to be inspired by the environment and make a living off of that inspiration.

On Monday, we went to Taos and explored the town. The stop that I had to make was at Kit Carson’s home. He is one of the great characters of the American West, and I wanted to walk in his footsteps. Before going into the house, we watched a movie about him, and one scene struck me to the core.

The narrator said that Carson went into the West to escape American civilization and society. However, the trails he blazed would be used by others to bring that civilization and society into the West. In essence, he could not escape the bounds of his world because he brought them with him.

That made me think of Cactus Slim and the citizens of Madrid. Like Carson, they moved there to be free of society and the stresses that go with it, but that same society followed them there. My wife and I brought it with us. The man in the blazer who my wife thought was Robert Redford’s brother brought it with him. The bikers at the next table brought it with them.

Madrid is no longer an escape from the outside world. It is an attraction to the outside world.

The same can be said of Santa Fe. It was a place for artists to live a life unnumbered. Now, it is a place of art galleries filled with expensive pieces. It is a place of nice hotels with spas and fancy restaurants. It is a place for people like us to walk around the streets and find our own sense of temporary freedom.

The dreams of Kit Carson and Cactus Slim were to escape the world. Those dreams were shattered by the fact that it is an impossible feat. No matter where they go the rest of us are going to follow.

There is one other sad part of those broken dreams. The people who went into the corners of the West to left one society and ran into another. Madrid, Taos and Santa Fe sit on land that was once the domain of Native Americans. Now, those Native Americans are on reservations and come to those towns to sell their wares.

The dreamers looked for freedom by taking that freedom from the people who were already there. Then, the freedom they thought they had achieved turned out to be temporary.

Kit Carson and Cactus Slim come from different times, but their dreams turned out the same.

 

 

Listeria – Heartbreaking Historic Sites

22 May

The May 2014 issue of True West contains a great article about historic sites in the American West. It is titled “16 Historical Destinations That Will Make You Weep”, but that title is misleading. Yes, there is a list of sites that will bring a tear to your eye and a break in your heart. However, there are two other lists that, to me, are just as emotional.

In this outbreak of Listeria, I will describe the sites that I have visited in the weeping category.

16 Historical Destinations That Will Make You Weep

1. Great Plains of North Dakota: The Near-Extinction of the American Bison – The destruction of these beasts is one of the great tragedies of United States history. I tend to focus on the plight of humans rather than animals, but, in this instance, they are intertwined. The massive loss of bisons helped bring the loss of every aspect of life for the Native Americans of the Plains. North Dakota is not the only place this is felt. It can be felt throughout the middle of the continent.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 302

2. Acoma Pueblo: Acoma Pueblo Battle and Massacre, Acoma, New Mexico – If not for required meetings I could have been at Acoma this week. The article focuses on the conflict between the Pueblo and the Spanish, a conflict that remains in the hearts and minds of the people. However, the sadness continues. Every year, we take students to Acoma and always stop to see Norma Jean, a lady who sells pottery along the side of the street. Last year, we learned that her husband had cancer. When Trader Dave called to check on her, he learned that her husband had died and his family had kicked her out of the house. She owns a house on the mesa and moved there. However, on the mesa there is no electricity or running water.SONY DSC

5. The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas: The War of Texas Independence – In Texas, this site takes on mythic and almost religious importance. I have not visited the site in years, but I remember that it was disappointing. It sits among downtown buildings and has been whittled away through the years. I figured if something was this important, then it would have been taken care of better.

7. Battle of Little Big Horn, Montana – I have written about this site many times and will not repeat myself. However, it is my favorite historic site and a place where the emotions of both sides of the conflict can be felt.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 126

11. Canyon de Chelly, Arizona – This is a sad and beautiful place to visit, but the surroundings affected me more. Driving through the Navajo Nation to get to the canyon takes you through complete poverty. If anyone wants to see the effect that United States expansion had on Native Americans, then they need to drive through this land. To get through the canyon, you must be guided by a Navajo whose family owns land within its walls. The tour is informative but talking to the guide about reservation life is the real education.

West 2010 214

The next couple of posts will describe places I have visited on the other two lists.

Family Time in New Mexico

30 May

When my nephew travels, he takes thousands of pictures. He takes pictures of everything imaginable, but he doesn’t take any pictures of himself. This drives my parents crazy because they think family vacations should have pictures of family. I understand this, but he doesn’t. Why does he want pictures of people that he sees all the time? He wants scenery and cool stuff.

He went on the trip to New Mexico with me, and I promised them that I would get plenty of pictures of us both. He didn’t want to waste his camera space, so we used mine. These are some of the results.

The first picture was taken at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. It is a somber place, and I felt funny taking a touristy picture there.BB-New Mexico 069

Next, we stopped at the big cross in Groom, Texas and sat in on a famous meal.BB-New Mexico 078

After spending the night in Tucumcari, New Mexico, we took a walk around the ghost town of Cuervo, New Mexico. That’s not Jose lurking in the shadows. It’s Trader Dave.BB-New Mexico 085

Later, we went to the shores of the Rio Grande at Coronado State Park.BB-New Mexico 087

We didn’t cross the river. Instead, we climbed to Nambe Falls and found a big rock to sit on.BB-New Mexico 092

Then, we went to the church at Chimayo where there are stories of dirt that heals all wounds.BB-New Mexico 096

The next day was rough for my nephew. He was sick and had to stay behind as we went to Chaco Canyon. However, he bounced back and was able to visit Acoma. We took one picture in front of a kiva.BB-New Mexico 122

We took another picture with Enchanted Mesa behind us. According to the sign, I couldn’t throw my nephew over the edge.BB-New Mexico 123

After Acoma, we drove west to El Morro and had our photo taken on top of that. I kept thinking that the box canyon below would be a great place for a hideout.BB-New Mexico 128

We hiked up the Tent Rocks trail and had another picture made. I’m not sure what the man in the background is doing. He has on a Skipper shirt and a Gilligan hat. That’s all I know.BB-New Mexico 133

The next one did not involve a climb. It involved making our way to the church ruins at Pecos National Monument.BB-New Mexico 141

Finally, we drove to the overlook at White Rock.BB-New Mexico 147

That’s it. That is family time in New Mexico

Pueblos, Pottery and Captain Vla

22 May

I have returned from the sojourn into New Mexico with fellow faculty and a class full of students. Fun was had by all, and it would be impossible to cover everything we did in a blog post. With that in mind, I will provide a brief synopsis by describing my favorite activities from each day. Hopefully, this will provide an entertaining glimpse into our adventures.

Day 1 – The beginning of a trip is always the best part of the first day. The students are anticipating the places that they have yet to see, and the teachers are anticipating the return to an interesting part of the country.

Day 2 – We can’t drive vans to New Mexico in one day, so we check out some things along the way. My favorite part of the second day is driving through Hereford, Texas, the citizen-proclaimed “Beef Capital of the World”. I don’t know if that is true, but there are definitely more cows in Hereford than there are people. Holding pens line the highway and railroad as thousands of head of cattle wait to be shipped to the plates of America. The students could only discern the smell, but I find the beef industry, both its past and present, interesting.

Day 3 – We made it to Santa Fe, our ultimate destination, later this day, but we had one stop along the way where I had the chance to talk about some history where that history took place. Billy the Kid is buried in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Well, most people think he is buried there. Conspiracy folks believe he survived instead of being killed by Pat Garrett. Anyway, I was able to tell the students about Billy the Kid next to his grave.

Day 4 – Our plans to hike Chaco Canyon were rained out, and our leader had to develop a day full of activities on the fly. We went to the Santa Fe plaza, but my favorite part of the day was spent at the Shidoni Gallery. The building and surrounding grounds are full of metal artwork that has been forged at the on-site foundry. It is interesting to see what people consider art and the prices they are willing to pay for it.

Day 5 – On this day, we went to a few places that we had never taken students before. The Very Large Array, or VLA, was the best. This is a series of giant satellite dishes used to study the far reaches of space. I don’t have a good picture of these, but if you have seen Contact with Jodie Foster, then you have seen the VLA.

It was cool to walk around them, but the real fun was on the periphery. On the way, we drove through sunshine, rain and hail. On the way back, we drove through snow. This is the first time we have seen precipitation in New Mexico – much less three different kinds. Also, one of our students, with my help, began calling himself Captain Vla. He imagined himself a superhero who could fly through space, powered by the satellite dish that emerges from his butt. His only weakness would be his limitation to travel by rail while on Earth, just like the VLA dishes. He even had a theme song – Super hearing! Super sight! He can travel through space at the speed of light! (For those readers who know the students who went, I will give you one guess who turned himself in Captain Vla.)

Day 6 – We visited my favorite place on the entire trip, the Acoma Pueblo. The oldest continually inhabited place in the United States, Acoma is located on top of a mesa and has a history of survival from the elements and European invaders. Native American docents take groups on a tour through their pueblo and their culture. Along the way, tourists can buy pottery from local artisans. One of our teachers, who shall remain nameless, buys pottery from the same lady every time we go. He also gets a hug.

Day 7 – We always eat well in New Mexico, and this trip was no different. The New Mexican cuisine is wonderful, especially the sopapillas that are always served for dessert. On the seventh day, we ate at Rancho de Chimayo, one of the great restaurants of the area, but dining was not the only enjoyment. There is a pottery shop inside, and two of the faculty members on the trip are addicted to buying Pueblo pottery. It so happens that the shop had a pot that they were lusting after. As they bickered back and forth about which one was going to purchase the $1,400 piece of pottery, the third teacher, not me, stepped in and said he would buy it. They both stood there with their mouths hanging open.

Day 8 – This was an easy day with little driving and little expended energy. Believe me when I say that everyone was ready for it. We were also ready to visit Madrid, New Mexico, an old ghost town that was resettled by flower children in the early 1970s. It is like going back in time to a place where peace, love and other things were still possible. The guys found a blonde in the ice cream parlor/art gallery that they wanted to find peace with. I found the first person to move to Madrid in 1973 and had a discussion about his life.

Mel Johnson was a dean at the Art Institute of Chicago and gave that up for a life in Madrid. In the following years, other people followed him until the town was filled with artisans and free-thinkers. Before I left his studio, I had found an interesting story and bought a painting.

Day 9 – Once again,  I was able to talk about history where it actually took place. We visited Los Alamos and a museum that is housed in the only remaining building from the days of the Manhattan Project. I find World War II history interesting and have a special interest in the building of the atomic bomb. One reason is that Oak Ridge, Tennessee was one of the secret locations. Another reason is that my mom’s uncle worked in the Manhattan Project and told a lot of stories about it. People have different opinions about the use of the bomb on Japan, and it is great to discuss the different views of the students. In the end, we agreed that hindsight is 20/20, and we can’t place that hindsight on people who were making decisions in the moment.

Day 10 – This was our last full day in New Mexico and was really a time to wind down. We hiked the mesa at Ghost Ranch and spent some time back on the plaza in Santa Fe. On top of the mesa, the students and I spent a spiritual moment reading a Native American poem, an ode to the land of New Mexico. I think we all felt a twinge of sadness because we were soon leaving and a sense of happiness because we had a great time throughout the trip.

Day 11 – We left Santa Fe at 5 am and drove over 700 miles to our original hotel in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. After a meal at Western Sizzlin’, the professors pulled chairs from our rooms into the Super 8 parking lot and discussed the trip. We deemed it a success.

Day 12 – We left Sallisaw at 5 am and headed home to Tennessee. It seemed that we got faster the closer we got to home. Like most trips, we were glad that we went but also were glad to get home.