Breakfast Club

Recently– last winter- an odd mix of ranchers, cowboys, artists, medical workers, teachers, and even less classifiable types started having Sunday brunch at Tita Dixon’s brief version of the Bear Mountain Cafe. It was so much fun that when Linda Rael Mansell and Kelly Kent opened a good cafe at the old Magdalena Hotel it migrated there, and is now an necessary weekly stop.

My IPhoto DOES NOT WORK;  my upgrade to “Yosemite” has damn near killed my computer– but here are a couple of trial shots. Biggest thing that bothers me other than the computer industry’s insistence on leaving users out in the cold is: GOD, what a bunch of old farts. No one here is more than three years older than I am (well, maybe Ed adds another year) and some are younger. Degrees in medicine and biology and archaeology, ranches and farms bought and sold and managed, children brilliant and difficult, travels to Mongolia and Yemen and Everest Base Camp and the back country of China, as pioneers or guides, hunting in Africa, wild romances, secrets, harrowing work in the third  world and the rubble of the World Trade Center*–  and here we are saying “Kelly, you KNOW I take MILK in my coffee!”

We are missing many I wanted to get– Ken Cason running off to meet a semi full of incoming calves,  a whole lot of friends being weenies about the breeze and sitting inside, ones who fly medical emergency planes or restore stained glass in cathedrals; they were moving fast, and I, knowing I probably couldn’t edit any photo I took, didn’t try very hard. But I have a duty to depict my odd little community of thirty— four?– years. (Big  question today: how many came here intentionally? Even those that sorta wanted to say yes –all of two– wanted to qualify it)…

“Golden girls and boys all must/ As chimney sweepers/ Come to dust…” Click double or right to embiggen, as always.

Above: Libby, me, Mark Cortner; and Vincent’s Pepe, ambassador, and greeter to all. Mark is probably my oldest friend of the bunch– he knew Betsy, and we have traded guns and books and a whole lot of meat and a horse.

Mary Anne Maddy, L, Mark, Vincent DiMarco, Ed Erickson. Pepe is under the table demanding his tithe. And below… the ambassador himself, with Vince.

* It is MAGDALENA. It is the best traveler’s town, at least of its size,  I have ever known– since 1895 or thereabouts we have been everywhere, especially if you count our rural neighbors who come to Magdalena for necessities and socializing. For years they stayed at the old Magdalena Hotel where we are sitting today, (our last cattle drive was in ’72!), right up to the missile tests in the fifties and sixties, when they shot them from White Sands to Fort Wingate; that is, over the ranches. They would pay for the ranchers to stay here, the first place to stay outside of their evacuation zone,  and I bet they covered some serious bar bills…

A few travelers in and out, randomly: Montague Stevens, high- born Englishman, riding with one arm, having lost his other in a hunting accident; rancher, grizzly hunter, finally grizzly protector. Aldo Leopold, of Wisconsin, speaking to a crowd here in 1914, bigger
than today’s whole town population, and taking a local bride back to the
north. Norman Cleaveland,  born a few miles west and off to Stanford and Indonesia. The late Louis Nalda, who used to use his plane to herd his cows and played polo in England after graduating from New Mexico Military Institute; we also spent some good nights in the Bar, and one night (I may tell it someday), he left with us to criticize a painting, with a full glass of Jack Daniels balanced in his pocket. Floyd Mansell from Arkansas, my mentor, self- described (half- Lebanese) hillbilly, houndsman and cocker, who went to college on the GI Bill, and in his words “got a master’s, married an Indian, became a liberal and a Catholic, moved to New Mexico and had nine kids. My family doesn’t know what to think of me!” (He kept his hounds and fighting chickens til he died). From Oklahoma he hired Leonard Parker, my other mentor, Comanche aristocracy, Quanah’s grandson, teacher and trickster…

Our own Ed, born in New York but in this area since he was a child, now a travel agent who will try anywhere himself.  Mark, who grew up in the Canal Zone, whose first wingshooting quarry was
a Toucan; then to Sul Ross, cowboying, a biology degree… poet James Nance, raised off- pavement on the Field Ranch by parents whose brand is 2XS, and who house the Juan Tomas Foxhound pack; a cowboy,  a sherriff’s deputy, but also the youngest Master of Hounds in the US; young enough to be my grandson, published as I have been in the Atlantic (twice),  going to Sweden to help raise his kids…

This footnote grew, didn’t it? Stories, stories… as Ian sings in his song about Charley Russell, “get ‘er all down, before she goes..”

Opening day, Dunhill Ranch, with New Mexico Miscellany…

 2012 and 2014 (what were we doing in 2013?), both with no game in the bag, though this year we saw plenty and expect to get some doves, and with luck GOOD quail. Best grass in years, food plants everywhere, cottontails same, and probably more jacks. Deer sign. If we have a snowy winter we will be back to as normal as erratic arid lands ever are. Too damn warm though.


2012, with a bit of the country. You are looking from Piet and Jessica’s to a neighbor’s place a few miles away, twelve miles or so south of town and further off the
pavement, on the west side of the range. The grasslands are at nearly 7000 feet, the main ridge at ten, the highest peak (off camera to the right) almost eleven. You can see if you look carefully that it was much drier. The first photo, above,  is looking north; this one due east.

Below, P & J’s terrace for post- hunt drinks, looking southeast; highest peak is South Baldy, at 11,720 I think; it  has the observatory and Lightning Lab. Me and Piet, having walked a lot further and seen nothing. For gun geeks, Piet has his old AyA sidelock 20 in all photos; above, my favorite English .410 by Turner; below, Model 12 20.

I wish I had taken a photo yesterday of this view below: it is now all filled in green, and lush. Piet has cut his stock to a minimum and is temporarily feeding them, but apparently the destructive kangaroo rats have taken a population dive, and their mounds, which provide much of the sandy brown in the middle ground, are all fallen in and grown over.

This is good, but don’t look too carefully at your blessings. A neighbor’s dog has just come up with one of the two most unnerving New Mexico diseases- Yersinia pestis; you know, Plague, the Black Death? “Home of the Flea, Land of the Plague”, as the T Shirt used to say. And its reservoir is wild burrowing rodents.

Real West

Novelist- rancher- horseman John L. Moore in his Querencia,  many miles east of the chic part of Montana. If I were ever driven out of here, that is the first place I would go.

These photos were taken by a New York filmmaker, Kelly Colbert, who is doing a documentary on a horse, working title “His Name is Midnight”; she seems unusually open to ways she hadn’t known. John says “She is tracing the roots of an abused older gelding she rescued on the east coast and trying to find the source of his unusual will to live and sense of presence. What she found is the relatively unknown Oswald blood. She is also learning what a true ranch horse is.”

And,  read his Looking for Lynne. I don’t just believe in it; I blurbed it.

Magdalena Old Timers Fiesta

Good week with the hawk and with guest Annie Hocker; bad week with my right hip, and not very productive. But once a year, local patriotism demands I pay some attention to Magdalena’s only event that brings out of towners in. Yeah, it’s hokey and country and so what? We missed it when water worries  cancelled it last year, and I always see unexpected people, especially but not always from the ranches.  As always right or double click to enlarge.

A cowboy bunch– Wade Dixon, Vida Trujillo (widow of Viejo, who you can search up), Shonda and Darryl Welty. The Welty ranch is 60 plus dirt road miles away, and Wade works in Catron county, so we don’t see them every day.

… in our bar

We have a parade- candidates…


…  unclassifiable New Mexican oddities…

Dead animals (yes, that oryx has one horn pointing up and one down)

The mayor (in the back, playing)

Wonderful old cars (I long for when they drove wild cows through town ahead of the cars, but I am beginning to sound like I was born in 18 not 1950)

Our  reporter (and beer maker) John Larson, and him shooting the float with Paul Pino’s band, who in one incarnation or other have provided a soundtrack for my last, what, 34 years? Paul’s stepson Rudy was one of the dedicatees of my pigeon book Aloft.

Dogs enjoy OT in their own way

I’m backing my friend Ed for sheriff. There is a persistent rumor that a popular TV series mined a period in his life for its first season. I’ll never tell…

Two women I love: Sylvia Troy and Hilda Kelly, Tom’s wife. Hilda: “Take those three and call it three Magdalena hookers!” Me: “No Hilda, not unless you get in too.” She did, immediately. Unfortunately that one didn’t come out. She has been married to Tom, below, with Jeannie and Tita, who makes an appearance in Hibben’s Hunting American Lions as a “young cowboy”,  for longer than I have been alive or than there has been a paved road to Magdalena. He is 86. I won’t presume to ask a lady her age.

Serendipitous semi-random hound meeting

This is a very preliminary photo batch, as we are having dinner with Joel, and photos are not yet all in. But Dutch Salmon invited us to meet him at the Owl in San Antonio (our S A, NM not  TX) where he was picking up a young female part- Azawakh from Marya. (I hadn’t seen him since his successful Deep Brain Parkinson’s op). We were barely seated when Sis Olney came in, with a phone full of SCENT hound pics (her unique Gascon crosses, now hunting lion in at least two states), trail hounds with French genes and heat- tolerant sighthounds & how & why &…

Two more random observations: we live in a culture where “PHONE full of trail hound pics” is natural; and, if I continue to be vain I must eat less…


John Davila, one of my oldest NM friends, is an unreconstructed Catron county rancher, an unconventional soul who used to raise game chickens in the old days, not to mention cattle and stranger things.  I bet he likes the quote from a distant relative, 20th century philosopher Nicolas Gomez Davila, courtesy of David Zincavage’s Never Yet Melted:

“The modern world will not be punished.

“It is the punishment.”

Local Color

Bar owner Darryl Pettis, new mayor Diego Montoya, and some library donations from Darryl — because I can, and because I support both. (I am on the library board).

Not a secret, but I bet Libby and I are the only Magdalenians who have been there other than her: Diego’s mother came from Waltham, Mass. Montoyas? I live in one of the oldest houses in town, dating to the 1870’s. I am the first non- Montoya to own it,  albeit I have had it for more than a few years, and my electric bill address is still “Montoya Rock House”. Though this may be the first time Dieguito ever heard it!

(Albuquerque Journal photo)