Sunday, October 27, 2019

Rudy Mauldin, Special Agent

I had scarcely started my road trip when my first story revealed itself. I had left the Santa Fe Plaza, headed south on Old Santa Fe Trail, merged on to Old Pecos Trail to I-10. I Drove east on I-10 so I could catch US 285 and traverse the big empty with more cows than people that leads to Texas. US 285, a favorite of mine, starts near Denver, winds south to New Mexico and cuts a diagonal across the Land of Enchantment toward West Texas and my target, Marfa.

I had driven about twenty miles on 285 past Eldorado with a short stop at the Amtrak Station in tiny Lamy when I came upon a long stuttered Standard Oil station on the right side of the road. It was the third occasion that I’ve photographed the forlorn complex.

I bundled up since it was 7:30am and nearly freezing. I was trying to find a different take on the familiar subject, when I heard a vehicle pull in behind mine. My first thought was Highway Patrol or suspicious locals. A cowboy got out of his pick-up and walking toward me. The lean gent asked, “You like it?” A smile in his voice.

I offered that I’d photographed the scene several times and was always drawn to places left behind.

He told me that he was always replacing the padlock on the gate. That folks would pop the lock to access the grasslands beyond.

I asked if he’d always been a cowboy. The answer was yes and no. Yes, he had always wrangled as had his father. But he had been Special Agent for the BLM for 26 years, 14 working under cover. He broke horses at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and worked as a wrangler in New Mexico and Utah. Then the BLM came calling. He told me the Bureau hired five agents and he focused on protecting Indian artifacts. He told me about being part of the earliest DNA testing at a pilfered archaeological site in southeastern Utah. He told me the DNA from a single cigarette butt led to the arrest, prosecution and sentencing of one Earl Shumway to five years in federal prison. He said a documentary called Secrets of Hidden Canyon had been produced about the saga. I googled the title and found the film was made by station KUED in Salt Lake City. I tried unsuccessfully to buy the DVD on the station’s website so will call today to see if I can make the purchase.

“I’m Steve.” I told the cowboy.


We shook hands. I told him that I was from Taos. He said he’d done some work there and that it’s a neat town. I said, “Sure is but that there’s a real divide between the cultures. Superficially it’s welcoming but beneath the surface there’s resentment.”

“Tell me about,” Rudy replied. “I went to high school in Pojoaque and got my ass kicked more times that I can count. I wound up in the hospital with ulcers. That’s how bad it was.”
Pojoaque is one of northern New Mexico's 19 pueblos.

He pointed at a ranch house a mile south and asked, “Ever photographed one of those homesteads?”

I allowed that I had not. “Can I get in?”

He said, “Sure. Follow me.”

I followed him to the locked pipe gate, he opened up and I followed him as far as the house. He told me to make myself at home and that he had to turn on the water at the corral. After I photographed the house, the wood barn and two windmills with missing paddles and wandered to the large pen with a handful of Black Angus cows.

As I was taking my last shots he drove up and I said I’d follow him out, so he didn’t have to hang around. I told him that I’d really enjoyed our conversation and would like to continue it sometime.

He said, “I don’t have any paper or a pen.” I gave him the pad I always keep in my right rear jeans pocket. He laid it on the hood of his truck and wrote “ Rudy Mauldin, Secrets of Lost Canyon, Earl Shumway.”

I was elated to hear Rudy's tale and it reminded me that you have to be there and you have to listen.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Southbound US 285 to 54 to 90

Water Tank as sign, Santa Fe Railyard

I had the occasion to enjoy the open portfolio walk at Review Santa Fe Friday evening and then meandered into the hinterland along US 285 from Santa Fe to Vaughn before heading southwest on US 54 to Carrizozo, Tularosa and Alamogordo. I always appreciate seeing trends in photography from year to year. And Review Santa Fe is just the place to take the pulse of the art form. This time there was, as there always is, a lot of derivative work but also some important story telling. One was an exploration of US communities that voted for Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016. There were 311 such towns according ot the photographer. He cautioned about judging the communities or their citizens by the way they look in his photographs. I told them they looked like Trump voters to me. That meant was I stereotyping these folks that look undereducated and decidedly blue collar. He cautioned me about doing that. I'm going to take it to heart.

Another was a superbly photographed set of portraits of blue color workers displaced from Willets Point in Queens, New York to make way for a new sports stadium, City Field. Willets Point which is part of Flushing was once called the Iron Triangle so named for the junkyards and auto body shops that proliferated there. It had essentially vanished by 2011 with a population of 10.You read that right.

Review Santa Fe was the first stop on my photo safari leading to Marfa, Texas which I’ve wanted to explore for years. There’s more to Marfa than I expected. And, yes, it is a village which gives me the warm fuzzies. The hipsters have definitely found it. All for the better in my opinion since I play one on TV. Not everyone agrees though. Somebody in deep red San Angelo, Texas told Peggy that the Californians have found the town and have "ruined" it. I beg to differ. I'd say "made" it. Then again Marfa was a ranching town and now it's Brooklyn West.

There’s not a hell of lot of copy in this post. So, a short and sweet will have to do until I download and process the gazillion images I will have made by the time this trek is complete.

Airstream gallery that can park anywhere at all.
It's called Axle Contemporary
Another trailer to add to my collection from Encino, New Mexico. It's an acquired taste I grant you.

Hasta la vista, babies.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Los Corrales

I keep going back to this rustic beauty near the junction of US 285 and NM 586 in Tres Piedras. The Sangre de Cristos in the distance lend an epic quality to the scene.

Corrals are among the most evocative icons of the American West. They range from sturdy metal structures back at the ranch to ramshackle affairs made from whatever's available on the prairie. The crudest and cheapest materials suffice; the trunks and branches of trees, for example, and all manner of wire even bed springs. I've observed that they are communal structures that anybody can use if idle. In a hundred westerns the corral is where the new hand proves his mettle by breaking the bronc that can't be ridden.

Another favorite is one on US 64 between Taos and Tres Piedras

On the Taos Plateau's TP 120 on the way to the John Dunn Bridge in the Rio Grande National Monument

Aaron Abeyta and Victor Hernandez closing the gate of the communal corral just north of San Antonio Mountain. 

Late afternoon in Sheep Springs, AZ

In the west corrals host cattle, sheep and horses. Whether you call them corrals, from the Spanish corrales, pens or paddocks they’re enclosures meant to keep valuable stock contained and predators out. They are photogenic contraptions for sure. Add a big sky and it's magic.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Rare Beauty

Of my gazzilion portfolios
Sketches of Winter and the Fog Series are probably my favorites. They’re more graphic and abstracted than my other stuff. And the Fog Series which started twenty years ago keeps growing. In fact I’ve driven to the California Coast three times in the past five years to find more of the moody brew. But last time I was met by blue bird skies and had to find solace in a robust, fruit forward Turley Zinfandel in 100 degree Paso Robles. Have a fall back plan.That's my motto.

On the odd occasion the soup even finds the high desert as it did at our rancho Saturday. We don't need no stinking ocean.