Wednesday, 15 August 2012 18:13

Alla en “El Ranchito” Grande

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Alla en “El Ranchito” Grande

My personal connection to the Pecos high country.



Arthur Scott

   A bit about me; I was born in 1938 in Santa Fe. My grandfather and father were also both born in Santa Fe as were my children. I lived in Santa Fe from 1938 through 1976 (with some time out for the military) when a promotion and a divorce from my first wife led me to the Washington DC area. Retirement from the USGS led my second wife and I to Florida. My grandfather, Arthur Seligman, was at times on various Territorial Councils, president and a founder of The First National bank in Santa Fe, Mayor of Santa Fe and Governor of New Mexico from 1930 to 1933 when he died in office. My father, Otis Seligman, died in 1943 when I was 5. My mother remarried a few years later to Burl Scott and was subsequently divorced.  My surname was changed at that time by my mother to Scott.

   My summers from the time I was born were spent in our cabin in the upper Cow Creek. My father purchased 5 or 10 acres from Guillermo Varela in the late 20's. They, along with some labor from Pecos, built a log cabin that originally had one bedroom with another added later

The front foundation for the porch was about four feet off the ground and made of stone. Across this they set pieces of white quartz between the stones that spelled out “Seligman.” There was never electricity or water. A wood stove and ice box were in the kitchen, a very large stone fireplace for heat, an outhouse that to a little boy was a million miles up the hill. Light was furnished by coal-oil (kerosene) lamps or Coleman lanterns that burned white gasoline. Water for drinking, cooking, dish washing, and bathing came right out of Cow Creek. Hot water was heated on the wood stove. At one time, I asked my mother about the water purity. Her reply was that my father had the water tested when he and Guillermo built the cabin and it was pure and that “streams were purified by nature every 100 feet for which they flowed.”  Knowing what I do now, that is kind of scary but as they say "I ain't dead yet." My dreaded chores as a child were hauling armloads of firewood into the wood box at the stove and fireplace; and helping fetch two buckets of water or more every day from the creek several hundred feet from the cabin.

    The cabin was located seven miles northeast from Pecos on a one-lane dirt road, now unimproved Forest Service Route 92. At that time it was just “The Cow Creek Road”, was rarely maintained and  totally impassable after a rain storm. I vividly remember riding in the back of a pickup when we spotted a mountain lion and her cub and another time a black bear on our way up to our cabin. I remember often going to sleep to the yowl of coyotes.                           

 Martin dude ranch was at the end of the road and can be seen on the frontispiece map in the lower right corner in Elliot Barker’ "Beatty’s Cabin" on Cow Creek. Proceeding downstream from the Martin Ranch was the Baca ranch owned by Jesus Baca from Santa Fe and complete with one live buffalo. Then was Bustamante's(?) place, he lived in Pecos, the Varela's home (they also had a winter place in Pecos), our place, and then Varela's corrals and pasture. Guillermo had some horses, dairy cows, meat cows, and some sheep primarily for meat but, incidentally for us kids to ride and have our own rodeo. Some of the mutton we ate tasted strangely like venison. They always had a garden and made their own butter and cheese. Most of the animals were moved down to Pecos during the winter. Guillermo and his wife whom I only knew as “Senora Varela,” had five children. Willie, the oldest, came back from the war with a head wound and a “steel plate.” Next in age were Nemesha and Emelda. Both girls at various times worked at Martin’s Dude ranch or Valley Ranch. The two youngest boys and closest to my age were Franke and Cipriano (Cippy.) They were my buddies and playmates when time allowed.

 At a very early age I learned to fish and ride horses. My older sister was the horse nut and had two horses. To me they just got me from point A to point B.  I was allowed when very young to ride and fish by myself or to help Franke bring in the cows. If we came back after dark, there was always a lantern hanging on the porch. Life was much simpler in those days.

   I well remember stopping in Pecos on the way up to the cabin. We stopped at The Casanova to get ice and ice cream, bought necessities at Harrisons (?) groceries across the highway or went to my Dad’s friend Sam Adelo’s general store down the road past the notorious Lone Star Bar.

   My next connections to the Pecos were the stories told by Elliot and Ethel Barker. They were next-door neighbors to my Aunt Ritchie March and Uncle John March on East Palace Avenue. Elliot Barker was appointed first State Game Warden by my grandfather.  When I got my first bicycle at seven or eight, he gave my Aunt three coyote tailsto give me to decorate it with. I was the envy of the neighborhood with a coyote tail on each handle bar and one on  the back of my seat. At that time there was a State bounty on both coyotes and lions.

   During my early childhood we lived farther up East Palace Avenue about four blocks from the plaza. Our next-door neighbor and my mother’s best friend was Consuelo (Connie) Chavez Summers, sister of Katherine Chavez Page Kavanaugh. Connie had a complex of four adobe pueblo-style apartments directly next door to us. She and her son Amado lived in one and the other three were rented. Amado and I grew up and played together. He was a few years older so I was just a pesky little kid. Connie was often at our house and I can now picture her and my mother doing needlework and listening to a large upright radio in the evenings in front of the fireplace in our living room. Because Amado was a few years older, I was often the reluctant recipient of his hand-me-down clothes. Amado spent most summers at his aunt’s Los Pinos ranch.

   I also had a very close association with the physician that diagnosed Mrs. Viles’ (of Mountain View Ranch) diabetes. He was Dr Bergere A. Kenney. “Bergere” is his mother’s maiden name which was given to him as a first name. He was our family physician from the time I was ten or so. In 1965 I too was diagnosed with what is now Type 1 diabetes and I was under his close care until I left Santa Fe in 1976. I believe Dr Kenny died in 1988.

   His cousin had a rather unfortunate Pecos connection during the 1960’s. His cousin was Dr Luna Leopold, a renowned Harvard geologist. Luna was the son of Aldo Leopold an early environmentalist and well known author from Wisconsin. Aldo Leopold was responsible for getting Congress to set aside the first wilderness area under the Forest Service protection. This was the Gila Wilderness area in southwestern New Mexico and is now the Aldo Leopold wilderness area..  Dr Luna Leopold was charge of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Water Resources Division, my employer from the late 50’s until I retired in 1993. Every summer he made a geologic field trip to Santa Fe, most likely because he had two aunts and a bunch of cousins there and also perhaps because summers in Washington DC were miserable. Usually he brought some renowned colleague with him. One year he brought a geologist, Dr. John P. Miller, from Harvard. They were doing a three or four week trip investigating geology of Grass Mountain. Dr Miller became ill and flew back to Boston where he died in a couple of weeks. It was finally determined that he had contracted bubonic plague. It was so rare in the east they could not diagnose the illness. Most likely if he had gone to any doctor in Santa Fe it would have been diagnosed in time to save him. The NM Health Department surmised that most likely he was bitten by a flea at their Grass Mountain camp.  We were charged with burning all their field gear and all of us that worked in the field got plague shots every six months for several years afterwards.

  Another name in the Pecos that I remember well was “Old Slick,” Lamar Lamb. My mother called him a “promoter.” Lamar showed up in Santa Fe and adopted the Santa Fe look, as did most newcomers; boots, a cowboy hat, and tinted glasses. He was always trying to sell something or had a new get-rich-quick scheme. My impression as a child was that he considered himself quite a ladies man and had an affinity for widows with some income. My mother fit the criteria. He was often in our home and had a deep resonant voice with a slight southern drawl. I don’t remember where he came from or if he was a friend or kin to Doug O’Bannon. I really laughed when I read about the Quonset hut/ bowling alley/ dance hall/ gambling casino at Mountain View Ranch attributed to Lamar. I don’t recall anything about them but it sounds just as I remember his endeavors.

   Lamar brought a cousin, Mack Lamb, to Santa Fe to work up at Mountain View as a driver to pickup tourists in Santa Fe. Mack was a one-legged long-haul truck driver from Tennessee. According to him, he lost his leg while trying to a get a ride on a moving box car. My older sister dated Mack for quite awhile. As a boy needing a male role model, Mack was my hero and I clearly remember even trying to affect a Tennessee accent and often wore the obligatory cowboy hat. My mother managed to either pay or lure him to drive us from Santa Fe to San Diego, California so that we could visit my Aunt and some cousins that lived there. We stayed in an apartment hotel for awhile. Mack returned to Santa Fe with our car and we returned sometime later on the train. My sister and Mack broke up some time after that. I have no idea what finally happened to Mack or Lamar.

    Please realize these are childhood memories from sixty years or more ago that can often be clouded with some exaggeration or possibly some inaccuracies.



Read 9845 times Last modified on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 18:21


  • Comment Link George Stumpff Sunday, 23 June 2013 21:18 posted by George Stumpff

    Mr Scott,
    I really enjoyed your article. I have lived in the Cow Creek cabin that was your family's for the past eight years. I've asked everyone around here about the Seligman inscription in the foundation and no one knows anything about the name and why it was put there. Now I know!!
    The cabin and some other property was purchased by a friend of mine who lives out of state. She asked if I would want to live here and take care of her places. I gladly took the opportunity as I have lived Up here off and on for almost forty years. I worked for the Martins many years and do contract work still for the new owners.
    Thanks again,
    George Stumpff

  • Comment Link Kathy Capron Tully Friday, 07 September 2012 22:36 posted by Kathy Capron Tully

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us...Dr. Kenney was our doctor and friend. I love reading these histories with so many familiar names. That is what this wonderful journey is all about....exaggerations and all!

  • Comment Link Allan MacGillivray III Sunday, 19 August 2012 23:29 posted by Allan MacGillivray III

    Your story reminds me of the years that we stayed at our cabin in Holy Ghost canyon. The dreaded hauling of water resonated, as did the personalties that you mentioned in Cowles and Cow Creek.
    Our cabin in Holy Ghost was on the north facing side about 150 verticle feet from the river. A cable was attached to a pine tree on the side of the hill which ran down to the creek and attached to another tree. A pulley wheel was set on the cable where buckets would be attached with a rope attached to the bucket. We would let them glide down to the stream where they sank and then filled with water. Then one would haul the filled buckets up the cable to you, disconnect it and haul buckets another 100 ft to the tank in the cabin. It was a wonderfull day when electricity finally reached us and we installed a jet pump below!

  • Comment Link ed Saiz Thursday, 16 August 2012 22:37 posted by ed Saiz

    Senor Arthur Scott;

    I enjoyed reading your "personal connection to the Pecos
    high country - alla en El Ranchito Grande" very much.
    Even though they "may be clouded by time" the memories
    are great to look back on and think about.
    A time gone by that was perhaps a better, slower time in
    some ways.
    I sincerely hope that your story will entice other members
    to "tell their story", Perhaps I will tell "my story" in the near
    Again thanks for sharing,
    Ed Saiz

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