Category Archives: Taos

Midnight Star Ladder

“Midnight Star Ladder,” David Gary Suazo, ca. 2018, Collection of Wendy and Charles Needham

The table of six at Ojo Verde Inn began to eat their food and those facing Paseo de Norte looked out of the window next to the street and saw eighteen wheelers carrying logs from fresh cuts in the Carson National Forest. Snow had frozen to the bark of the fresh cut logs…. Those at the table that faced away from the street glanced upward at vigas in the ceiling and at artwork for sale on the wall. The prices for artwork of local Ojo Verde artists were priced to sell and the Pinion-Buttermilk Pancake woman eyed the brilliantly-hued painting of the Tulona Pueblo….

“I will buy that painting and make a place for it in my living room,” the Pinon-Buttermilk Pancake woman said to herself. When brunch was over, she went to the front desk of the Ojo Verde Inn, and out of her billfold she carefully placed seven-hundred dollars on the counter, buying the painting outright. As time went on in her life, she never regretted the purchase and her children rotated the painting amongst themselves after she died…. The Pinon-Buttermilk Pancake woman gave an additional tip to her server at the Inn because she wanted to remember and enlarge the morning at brunch as a generous morning, a time punctuated with giving, and with art.

From Jack Matthews, The King Manassa Murder.

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King’s Manassa Turquoise

King’s Manassa Turquoise (photo by Jack Matthews)

Some of my current writing involves turquoise extracted from mines close to Taos, New Mexico. I purchased this 25 carat piece of turquoise that came from the King’s Manassa mine near Manassa, Colorado, that is just over the border from New Mexico north of Taos. The lapidary had begun to polish the turquoise and I bought it in this unfinished, but impressive, state. It was not expensive in its unrefined state. The provenance was documented by the jeweler at the lapidary in Taos. Notice the golden matrix (not gold, the color gold) and slightly greenish cast along with the cerulean blue. The Manassa mine is not worked anymore. It was originally a mining site by Ancestral Pueblo peoples. L.P. King in 1890 found stone hammers and mallets about the site. King’s descendants still own the claim on private land.

The purchase of this King’s Manassa turquoise is an object of inspiration for my writing, like an old photograph or piece of music that is played. I think you know what I am writing about, don’t you? When you write a letter or email to a close friend, do you not have a photograph to remind you of your connection?

I have a close friend in Amarillo, Texas, who is in poor health, but when I write him, I have in front of me a group picture of us (with other friends) to remind me of when we were young and robust and had years (we hoped) in front of us.

So it is with this blue-green turquoise with golden matrix that is placed to the left of my word processor when I write of northern New Mexico mining claims. The stone helps me start thinking. Below is a photograph from Joe Dan Lowry and Joe P. Lowry, Turquoise Unearthed: An Illustrated Guide, that shows King’s Manassa turquoise in jeweled splendor.

From Joe Dan Lowry and Joe P. Lowry, Turquoise Unearthed: An Illustrated Guide (photo by Jack Matthews)

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Sage to Meadow Shalakos and a little more news

Shalakos and Mudheads, Pop Chalee, Taos Pueblo, Ca. 1930. Exhibit at Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico. Photo by Jack Matthews.

Pop Chalee’s Shalakos and Mudheads is a large painting, about eight feet in length. I saw this painting a few months ago. I’m not for sure it is still on exhibit. You need to email or call to find out if it is still displayed. I am currently in Taos and may go to the museum today.

I retired from teaching in 2015 at Cisco College. I had been teaching college students since 1965, starting as graduate assistant at Texas A&M.

Currently, I am conducting research and writing historical monographs relating to acequias and Old Spanish metrics of measurement in the 16th and 17th centuries as applied to explorations in New Mexico.

I am also writing fiction and have an accumulation of finished short stories as well as some longer pieces.

I spend a lot of time writing and conducting research in Fort Worth, Texas, and Taos, New Mexico.

When I can I will post photographs and posts on Sage to Meadow.

Several ceremonies are scheduled at Taos Pueblo over the next few weeks. Consult their website for more information.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

–Jack

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Filed under Acequias New Mexico, Christmas, Dancing, Life in Balance, New Mexico, Taos

El Camino Real: Picuris-Talpa-Taos

Arroyo Miranda, the final leg of El Camino Real looking south towards Picuris. This photo taken on the outskirts of Talpa, near Taos, New Mexico, April 18,2017.

This photo is framed for a historical record.  It is not a pretty picture per se , but accurate as to the Royal Road from Mexico City northward to Santa Fe, the pueblos, and Taos.

According to Spanish documents, this final part of the Royal Road leading to Taos went from Trampas to Picuris Pueblo, slightly east to Vadito, then up Telephone Canyon around Picuris Peak, and then connecting with the Arroyo Miranda, traversing the east side of the arroyo.  The above photograph is looking south, up towards the Picuris Peak area.  Lying behind me is Talpa that is close to Rancho de Taos and Taos.

The map below indicates the route into Rancho de Taos.  Note Telephone Canyon, Arroyo Miranda, Rancho de Taos, and Taos.

Carson National Forest Map, 2017.

The following are my field notes from the trip, showing the route as I described.

Jack Matthews Field Notes, April 18, 2017.

The El Camino Real is only partially open to public transit through the Carson National Forest.  The final leg is on private land and closed to public transit.  The Royal Road, however, can be followed within two miles of Talpa and one can sidestep to SH 518 and hike into Taos.

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Filed under Field Log, New Mexico, Taos

Merry Christmas 

Snow on the west side of the Ranchos de Taos St. Francis Church is in the photograph above–although I am sure everyone recognizes the church. It snowed about five inches this morning. Junipers and piñon hold snow.  The sun will come out and warm us.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Filed under Christmas, Taos

Life is a Ditch: Acequia de Llano San Juan de Nepomuceno

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photograph, J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010)

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano.  Water rights since 1789 (Photograph by Taos Properties).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Rio Santa Barbara Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph and data by Taos Properties).

(This new post derives from my previous post, “Not mine, not yours, but ours:  Penasco Upper Llano acequias,” October 2011.)

From Amarillo, Texas, I drove to northern New Mexico in 1968.  I traveled by way of Las Vegas, Mora, and Penasco, making camp along the upper watershed of the Rio Santa Barbara for a few days.  I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by residents and survey crews, but the long lots reflected a community, a meshing of rural families alongside a water greenbelt.  In later anthropological field trips, I took my Amarillo College students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who brought laws respecting community water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other long lots of community property.

This particular piece of property with the house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Several good books and narratives have been written about the acequia culture.  Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that attracts me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year for politicians.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I do not romanticize the acequia culture because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits.  Nonetheless, there exists an association of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant needing water that flourishes from the earth.  Having an acequia culture forces upon us the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision, and we will meet again.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.  Water is life, and in this case, Life is a Ditch.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

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Rio de Pueblo

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As I traveled this week from Mingus, Texas, to Taos, New Mexico, I stopped in the Kit Carson National Forest, alongside the Flechado Day Campground that bordered the Rio Pueblo seen above. The water was cold, flowing, gurgling, clear.

Back home today at my ranchita in Texas, I filled water troughs with Barton Creek Coop water so that my last horse of the remuda I once husbanded can have water to drink in addition to the cow tank that is the lowest I have ever seen.

I placed cedar posts in all three of the water troughs–stable, corral, far field round trough–so that squirrels when they fall into the water while slacking their thirst can have something to climb onto and escape a watery grave.  Three squirrels have drowned in the stable water trough and a roadrunner was nearly drowned when I pulled him out several years ago.

Rio Pueblo, Barton Creek, and my water trough in the far field proffer life.  I accept the gift.  When the animals of this semi-arid region accept a gift of water, I can, at least, make sure that it is not their last benefit.

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Filed under Salt Creek, Taos

Cloud portal to the coast

Thundershowers on either side of Interstate 20 west of Cisco, Texas, May 2012

Last Friday, May 11, 2012, I drove to Abilene for commencement at Cisco College where I instruct.  West of Cisco, on Interstate 20, I saw this cloud portal — at least that is what I call it.  I sped between the two thundershowers.  A few drops fell on my car.  The first couple of weeks in May is a time of showers and cool temperatures in west Texas.  That is not always true, for this time last year, I was busy writing about wildfires in my area.

I have a friend at Cisco College that teaches English and he traveled to the Oregon coast last year, staying near Seal Rock and Newport, soaking in cool temperatures and consuming seafood and local white wines.  He talks about moving to Oregon, selling his ranch and settling in the cooler climes.  I think about the higher altitudes of northern New Mexico around Truchas and Taos that have sharp winters and cool nights during the summer.

We both will probably stay put: he in Santa Anna, me in Mingus, for there are mild winters and days in May where thundershowers bring out the Cut-leaf Daisy, Fire Whorls, Queen Anne’s Lace, Purple Dandelions in brilliant colors while horses and cattle graze in lush Spring fields of gramma and bluestem.  I should like, however, to go to the Newport and Depoe Bay area of Oregon where my friend says, ‘There is a resident pod of whales for ten months out of the year about the coast.  You can see them surface and dive, surface and dive.’

I want to see that scene some day.  The cloud portal in the photograph above opens to the west, towards the Pacific, towards the whale.  And away from home.

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

Depoe Bay was added as an additional site my friend visited.  It is a central location for beautiful scenery and whales.  The boating outing in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was filmed in the area.

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Filed under Adventure, Rain, Taos, Weather, Wildfire

Shadows and Eric of 203

I suppose we all have nested away some items, some event or photograph we cherish.  I published a photograph several weeks ago on the feed bin in the far field with clouds that I had set aside in the files, but every time I came across the feed bin and clouds photograph I wanted to post it and share it with readers in the blogosphere.  I present two things here with a short story line, one is the long shadows in Stall 1 of the stables, the other is an artwork of Eric Andrews of Taos, New Mexico.

* * *

A January 28, 2011, photograph of Stall 1 in the stables

When this photograph was taken on January 28, 2011, the late afternoon shadows of the stall panels were surrounded by cold mist of a winter’s day. I was terribly sad because I had recently sold three of my prize horses at an auction in Oklahoma City, and the absence of Hija, Fanny and the foal-to-be was anguishing. The economy had gone sour and I had — through my own ineptitude — lost money on the stock market. So had other people lost money, but they had not be forced to sell their companions. I sold the horses — no small relief, to be sure — to fine people in Canada and Missouri and I was comforted in the transfer. The photograph illustrated to me the emptiness in my life at the time.

* * *

Walking the Acequia 2, Eric Andrews, 203 Fine Art Gallery, Taos

Eric Andrews’ painting, Walking the Acequia 2, is one of his current paintings for sale and is a good example of his art.  I possess one Eric Andrews painting.  He and his wife own the 203 Fine Art Gallery in Taos, New Mexico. After the death of my mother in 2003, I wanted to invest my inheritance in either fine art or land.  I eventually settled on buying the Flying Hat Ranchito. Before I bought the Flying Hat, however, I traveled to Taos and Santa Fe to put together an ensemble of southwestern paintings of the Taos Society of Artists — Bert Geer Phillips, Ernest L. Blumenschein, Joseph Henry Sharp, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse and W. Herbert Dunton.

As I made a laundry list of the paintings I might purchase, going from art gallery to art gallery, I met Eric Andrews at the Parsons Gallery in Taos. It was an immediate friendship. I traveled to his studio out on the High Road to Taos from Santa Fe to visit with him and his wife and see their work. Although I made the decision to buy my ranchito, I bought Eric’s Vadito II that hangs over my fireplace (you can see it on the “About” page of Sage to Meadow). The painting above, Walking the Acequia 2, illustrates my acquaintance with Eric and my deep interest in all things acequia.

_____________________________

Founders of the Taos Society of Artists at the...

The Taos Society of Artists -- image via Wikipedia

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Filed under Horses, Shiners Fannin Peppy (Fanny), Sweet Hija, Taos

Not mine, not yours, but ours: Penasco Upper Llano acequias

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph by Taos Properties).

Forty-four years ago, in 1967, I traveled to New Mexico from Amarillo, Texas.  It was my third and most memorable trip for I dreamed for days about colors and pottery and adobe and silver.  I would lie down, fall asleep and pass into a dream world of silver and blue skies — northern New Mexico.  It was not all pleasant because I became ill from eating different Native American and Mexican foods, but that never deterred me from returning again and again and again.

Aside from digestive and dreaming events, I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora, the unpaved streets about the Taos plaza and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by survey crews, but also reflected a community, a meshing of farmers.  What was there about those fertile strips that drew me in?    In later anthropological field trips, I took my students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who adopted the local customs of water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one automatically gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other strips of community property.

This particular piece of property with the adobe house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture that I admire:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that pulls on me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I shall not be accused of romanticizing the acequia culture — oh, go ahead and accuse! — because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits, but there is an association, a group of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant that flourishes from the soil that is watered.  Having an acequia culture forces the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Santa Fe, Taos