Catron County, New Mexico has about 400 miles of paved road, and we're planning to walk every mile of it ... eventually ...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Out of the rut

We had to make a roadtrip to Albuq. the other day. Funny how you get into habits, like the habit of going from point A to point B, no detours, no deviation from the routine. This time we did a little sightseeing.

The first stop on the tour was the dead porcupine - still there on the north side of the road between Aragon and Old Horse Springs. I was wondering why, and then I realized - porcupines are covered with sharped spines. Duh. Coyotes aren't stupid, and ravens aren't either. That's who's doing the roadkill removal these days, I think, as the turkey vultures have moved on and the eagles haven't arrived yet.

Next stop: two very large raptors on telephone poles between Horse Springs and Datil. Not redtail hawks, I don't think. My guess is Ferruginous Hawk or Northern Harrier --seems too late in the year for a pair of Swainson's Hawks. Forgot to take a picture.

Next stop: Datil. Just before Datil we stopped to take a picture of the sky - between the clouds, backlit by the sun, you can just make out the full moon in the middle of the day.

Then, just for fun, we drove around Datil for a little while looking for a WPA building, but didn't find one. That doesn't mean the WPA didn't build anything in Datil. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. We did see a neat house, actually looked like two little square one room houses joined later by the addition of a hallway between them, but that's a guess.

Then on to Magdalena, where I bought a lottery ticket - when the pot is USD340 mill, give or take, why not? Hey, I'm feeling lucky... And found a little old building with a pretty recent sign on it. Magdalena was a hopping place at one time. Cowboys drove cattle as many as a hundred miles or more to ship them on the railroad. Then, with a few bucks in their pockets, they'd live it up a little - have a few drinks at the saloon, visit the little red whorehouse on the hill - then they'd pick up the mail, buy a few supplies and let their horses haul their hungover butts a hundred miles or more back home.

Last bit of fun - Socorro, where we spent twenty minutes driving around the campus of New Mexico Tech. Nice college. Fun to look around a little instead of just driving past as usual.

Posted by Picasa

** Posted by Picasa

*** Posted by Picasa

**** Posted by Picasa

***** Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I don't know if you can really see the heavy lintel over the doorway - I'd love to get up close and see the hinges. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 17, 2005

Walled courtyard - very spanish. Posted by Picasa

Got to find out about this one, in Aragon. Was it a boarding house? Factory? Posted by Picasa

This is the Square Deal store and gas station in Aragon. One I know the date of! Built from 1937-1939. Posted by Picasa

I'm really curious about this one. U-shaped floor plan with a second story - not all that many two - story houses around here. Posted by Picasa

Seems like the second story was added on later. Posted by Picasa

This house and the building in the next photo are on the same property along with some stables and outbuildings. Posted by Picasa

Here's a little building that I'd love to know more about. east of Cruzville. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Cruzville to the Lower Frisco

I've got the bug for sure now - can't stop driving around taking pictures and wondering who built the houses, and when, and how. Later this week, I'll have a chance to talk to two people who can maybe tell me more about the builders and the time periods. One lives in a house built by the very person who built the house I live in, and the other got a grant to go around and document abandoned and derelict adobe houses on what is now public land, if I understood the project correctly. A third person I hope to speak with soon is a woman in Aragon who's in her late eighties, and recalls playing in the house I live in, as a child - now may be a bad time, since her son is ill. I'm hoping that these people will have lots of information, and be able to give me introductions to people who have even more.

The demographics of Catron county are changing. There is a solid core of families who've been here for many generations; ranchers, and back when there was more rain, pinto bean farmers. There are families who moved here when logging became a big industry, who are still hanging on even though the sawmill has been shut down - some of the families were Okies escaping the dustbowl years - think Grapes of Wrath - who lived in tin shacks in logging camps. Afer the sawmill was shut down, the economic outlook became pretty bleak for many, and the population of the county dropped as families with children moved elsewhere to find work. Now the population is rising again as subdivisions are being created and populated with retired folk who are trading their urban mini-mansions for 5 or 10 or even 20 or 40 acres in the country and building ugly lincoln log kit homes that look as out of place in this landscape as the adobe houses look at home.

That's my general impression, anyway - I may have some of the details wrong.

So here are some more old houses which I hope to find out more about.

This is the other WPA building I know of in the county, although there could be more. This was the Cruzville schoolhouse, built in 1938, now a private residence. The sunroom on the left was only added on a year or two ago. Posted by Picasa

Detail - WPA 1938 Posted by Picasa

Detail - Cruzville School WPA 1938 Posted by Picasa

I'm wondering if this house, south of Reserve, is older than the ones in Aragon -- maybe more Spanish-colonial in style. I'm looking at the roof, which is flat and only slightly pitched. The depth of the house would have been limited by the length of the timber available for the beams, which you can see poking out the front. Posted by Picasa

Cruzville again. This is house appears to have a square floor plan and pyramid-shaped roof. The horizontal log construction, chinked and probably originally plastered with adobe, is called fuerte, whereas poles stuck vertically into the ground to form a wall which would then be chinked and plastered with adobe, is called jacalPosted by Picasa

I love this one, but I'm not really sure what's going on with it. First level appears to be a house, but what's with the door on the second level? Was there a balcony of some kind, or a hayloft? Posted by Picasa

Here it is from the other side. Posted by Picasa

This house is my favorite in the whole county, owned by artist Andres Giron. Posted by Picasa

Here it is from another angle. Wish the van wasn't in the way. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rooflines and things

Well, I admit it - I'm a wuss. Bicycling would definitely be the answer, if only I weren't a complete coward. I'm afraid there's not enough hunter orange spray paint in the world to make me feel safe out there, especially in hunting season when the two-lane country roads are inundated with truck-driving yahoos towing ATV's, all loaded up with guns and ammo and camo and beer. I think they start drinking as soon as they cross the county line. The other road hazard: small, elderly persons with poor eyesight and poor reflexes driving RV's the size of railroad cars -- wearing hats. On foot, you get to face oncoming traffic, and step calmly off the side of the road, but on bicycle, rapid avoidance maneuvers are likely to send you flying off your bike and into barbed wire fences, or face down in the broken glass and beer cans with your bicycle on top of you. There's a reason you hardly ever see a bicyclist on these narrow country roads....

Speaking of seeing things on country roads, I saw my first porcupine roadkill today. I've never seen a porcupine before - didn't expect it to be so big.

The pictures that follow are my attempt to reconcile myself to not finishing the walk when I had planned to - if I can't get out there and move about the county, I can still take a closer look at the county that's right outside my door. What I'm focussing on right now are the houses that look the oldest.

These are, by definition, adobe houses (adobe meaning mud.) Early New Mexicans would have built their mud houses on a slope or well-drained site, with stone foundations that "prevented moisture from entering the walls by capillary action." (This is from Marcia Southwick's "Building With Adobe" by the way.) Adobe is structurally weak, according to Marcia, so the walls were made thick, and the heights were kept low, and they didn't make them too long, either, unless they were buttressed. Doors and windows would have been centered, away from the corners where the walls met. Later the adobe might have been covered with a lime plaster.

Here in Catron county, we have snow in the winter, and wood was more plentiful on the mountainsides here than on the plains at lower elevations, so you had to have a pitched roof. Instead of sun-baked adobe bricks made of mud, you might have logs set upright into the ground and plastered with mud. Actually, according to another book, by Robert Adams, which talks about architecture of early hispanic Colorado, you can find adobe construction using everything from adobe bricks to "adobe combined with logs, field stone, cut stone, concrete, chicken wire, lath, stucco and wooden siding."

The impression I'm getting is that the local architecture - the old stuff - falls loosely into a category called "mountain gabled style" with, in general, these kinds of characteristics (and here I'm quoting from a book called Ageless Adobe by Jerome Iowa): "single file floor plans (straight, L or U) with adobe walls and plaster, Neo-Greek doors and window casing, painted white or blue, and high pitched metal roofs with overhanging eaves." I'm not sure exactly what Neo-Greek means, yet.

Without being too nosy and trespassing on private property, I only found one or two places with a straight single file floorplan, and none with a U-shaped plan, but numerous old houses with an L-shaped plan. I can only date them in a vague approximate way, so far - many of the houses in this valley are a hundred years old, give or take twenty or thirty years. The church, I am told, was built around 1900.

Note the stone foundation, the pitched roof with overhanging eaves, the adobe brick and mixed media construction... Posted by Picasa

I think this one's a two-room straight floor plan as well, but someone lives here, and I felt awkward about getting too close. Posted by Picasa

The addition on the back is clearly newer. Posted by Picasa