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Thursday, June 4, 2009


Did I tell you about our trip to the ghost town? I don’t think so.

The first week in May Notah loaded me up for a “ride.” It turned out we were going to a ghost town. New Mexico has quite a few of them scattered around. This one was neat.

When I think of a ghost town, it is an eerie, lonely, shadowed place. There may be a couple outlying houses, but mostly the whole town consists of a general store type building, a ‘hotel’, a combination stage station, post office and maybe a barn/blacksmith establishment and some connected houses all along a central street. The boards of the houses are weathered, the roofs are falling in and there are dangerous holes in the floor. Tumbleweeds pile up against the wooden walks and porches. Winds blow the dust along and sand has collected in the deserted wooden buildings. There are usually a couple twisted, dying trees somewhere long the street. The ghosts of long dead cowboys and pioneers drift in darkness through the doors and along the board walks.

Riley isn’t like that. This ghost town is scattered across the bottom beside the river with mine buildings on the hillside above them. The only wooden buildings were the ones used by the mining company offices; all the others were adobe or stone. There was no obvious ‘main street” The disintegrated and crumbled buildings seemed to be randomly placed until you came to the section along the river. Most of the ones there faced the road which paralleled the river.
Most were the remnants of mud brick corners standing on stone foundations.

Sometimes there was enough of a wall left it was evident where a door or a window had been. The adobe bricks have ‘melted’ back into the landscape and every storm washes a bit more of each one away.

The collapsed walls have left pyramids of dirt, rubble and wire scattered across the slopes.

Sage brush and rabbit bush have taken root close up against the protected area and those which may once have provided shade for the door yard have taken over the space.

The only building in any kind of repair at all is the church. This had obviously been cared for many years and has only recently been abandoned to the elements. The windows were gone and so were the doors. An empty belfry soared above the doors. From the inside, the roof was a mosaic of light and dark. Walking across the floor required a balancing act to avoid gaps in the boards.

How different it was from the shadow-y lonely place my imagination made of a ghost town! It sparkled in the sun. The contrasts were brilliant and the towering rocks all around embraced it in a bowl of light. And even though the buildings were nearly gone it was still a friendly place and we were welcomed visitors. There were only a few tumbling tumbleweeds and the trees were all bright green and not twisted or dying. A very un-ghostlike ghost town, it was poignant in its record of times past and men long gone. As I have many times before I wished I could have seen it a hundred years ago.

We followed the road along, then across the wide shallow river and back up the opposite side from the vestiges of the town. Still only two wheel ruts across the desert hillside, the road finally looped back on itself and we were headed back out (only two hours more) to the main road. Think four hours of dirt road with not too much maintenance work done on it. Think sore knees to start with. Think another two hours or so to get back home to my recliner. Yep, you have the picture. My knees took a few minutes to straighten out and decide to work… And my recliner looked and felt wonderful.

But the memories and the pictures were great! If you ever want to see a ghost town, don’t go to one of those that ‘everybody’ talks about and recommends. Find one that only a few people know how to find that takes at least a couple hours on crooked bumpy roads. THOSE are the ones worth seeing.

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