“Go after life as if it’s something that’s got to be roped in a hurry before it gets away.”
– The code of the west/A Cowboy’s guide to life
Legends like Kit Carson and William ‘Billy the Kid’ Bonney may have arrived in New Mexico well before me but you’d swear there are parts of the wild south-west that haven’t changed since the 1800s.
Driving through Nevada across Arizona to Taos in New Mexico, the landscape may look different but there are plenty of reminders of what these American frontiersmen and outlaws would have witnessed. Tumble weeds roll down the road as coyotes roam in search of prairie dogs, scarlet skies light up the landscape at sundown and apart from a few buildings on land where Indian reservations now sit, the Sangre de Cristo mountain range that surround them surely remains unchanged.
Taos Box Canyon, a section of the nearby Rio Grande just west of Taos, reveals a different kind of wilderness which today beckons whitewater rafters from around the globe.
The Enchanted Circle enchantedcircle.org from Taos, Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest to Angel’s Fire presents a mystical drive through spectacular territory that at its peak reaches an elevation near on 10,000 feet. It transports you to another place, one that has attracted visitors going back to nomadic times when hunter-gatherers passed through the area some 6000 years ago http://taos.org/art/history.
The dusty mountain town of Taos has captivated artists since 1898 but it wasn’t until the early 1900s when wealthy New York socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan set up house in 1917 inviting creative luminaries such as Carl Jung and DH Lawrence, Thornton Wilder and Greta Garbo that really put it on the map www.collectorsguide.com. Mabel wanted to create a retreat and centre for creativity and that she did. Her legacy to the arts continues to attract artists, writers and actors to the area today.
You need to visit to understand why Mabel famously wrote to a friend: “I have no news, nothing happens here but miracles.” Taos sits in a valley surrounded by those mystical mountains that literally hum. No one really knows why but the sound enticed a swathe of hippies in the 1970s to set up havens. Those hippies are now “local” artists and artisans in their own right competing with classic-style indigenous Indian art. Stores that dot the famous Taos Plaza, originally a defence fort, provide a showcase for all art, local and imported www.facebook.com/TaosArtisansCooperativeGallery.
Wherever you go down the main street there’s a museum or shrine dedicated to some of Taos’ most famous residents who as pioneers of their day decided to make the town their home http://wikitravel.org/en/Taos. By 1947, heiress and collector Millicent Rogers had arrived to collect native American arts and crafts, which now make up the core collection at her museum. This legacy has driven up the costs of goods and services, but as one Western movie star who resides in the town revealed it is still one of few places in the United States where you can live well on as little as $6000 a year!
So for such a creative and money-spinning oasis that appears to have cropped up in the middle of nowhere, it is sad to learn that the US state of New Mexico has the highest rate of childhood hunger. A Feeding America annual report released on June 11 highlighted as many as 156,000 or 30.6 per cent of 512,460 children in New Mexico suffer from food insecurity, which refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active healthy life.
The study also showed an increase in hunger among all New Mexicans with 417,780 people or 20.1 per cent of the population being uncertain about where they will obtain a meal. Add to that the fact New Mexicans have no savings for a rainy day nor can afford to put aside 70 per cent of their annual income for retirement, and you get the sense that a new wave of wild west pioneers may be on the horizon ready to swoop.
Land is still relatively cheap and given the beautiful surrounds the secret will soon be out that maybe it is time for struggling US citizens to revisit this modern-day wild south west to make their fortune.
Judy Wilkinson is a freelance journalist who volunteered to merchandise a store in the nearby town of Questa where old-timers with wonderful stories to tell and Hollywood actors with all the gossip on the area would drop in.