I visited Taos countless times in the 1970s. I lived in Amarillo, Texas, and by leaving Interstate 40 at Tucumcari, traveling north on state highways, I could be in Taos in six, six-and-a-half hours.
Taos and its people offered me a chance, on two occasions, to move and reside in the high desert country. I regretfully declined the offers, but I think back everyday of an non-lived lineament of my life.
The first offer came from Jim and Voyce Durling-Jones who had land and a home out near the Three Sisters Peaks, in the old Carson, New Mexico, area. At the time, they managed the Sagebrush Inn and built their adobe home near Three Sisters. They offered me a parcel of their land to build a bunkhouse or cabin near their place. Jim was also a metal worker, a sculptor, and Voyce, an artist. I declined because I couldn’t afford to build a casita and I did not have the equity to borrow.
The second offer I had came from a Taos Indian woman who asked me to marry her. I had met her cousin, Leroy, and he had taken me, the Indian woman, and her brother up on the road behind the pueblo that goes up the mountain in the direction of Blue Lake. About a third of the way up the mountain, we stopped, got out the chuckbox and ate lunch under the aspens. We had lunch meat, onions, tomatoes, and peaches along with Coca-Cola and water. I got out the guitar and played and sang a few songs. It was good and happy time. Leroy, I remember, took a bite out of the onion as if it was an apple. It never occurred to me that here was this white face up in the mountains with three Indians. I drove them up to the lunch in my Volkswagen, a dark blue “bug” with a sun roof.
When we finished lunch, we loafed awhile and chatted, then I drove into town with the Indians. They showed me a back road that went by Mabel Dodge Luhan’s house. As I drove, the Taos woman looked at me (she was sitting in the front passenger seat), and with a broad wave of her arm, sweeping the Taos reservation, the mountains and the desert, she said, “Jack, all of this can be yours, too, if you will marry me.”
In all seriousness, she proposed. I thought it a rather quick courtship. Her name was _____. I replied that I was already committed to a woman back in Texas and I could not break my promise, but that I would always remember her proposal, the sweep of her arms across Indian land, and that day we lunched under the aspens. Her brother and Leroy in the back seat, said, almost in unison, “Yeeehaaay, Yeay!” She was not shamed by my rejection and I was honored. And, her male relatives were not displeased. We spent another hour or so together and I took them back to the pueblo and let them out near their home, close to the old graveyard and church. I’m not sure she was serious, but neither did she laugh when she proposed. I know I would have had to sustain a courtship with her for it to be respectful. I never saw her or Leroy again, and, I’ve often wondered what became of her.
So, twice, Taos has called, and twice I have declined. If it calls me again, I will submit, and move with livestock and family to a beautiful, open, soaring, and inspiring place that has beauty above it, beauty below it, and beauty all around it: Taos.