Taos Mud

muddy Taos road

Actually, I’ve seen it much worse than this…

Halfway through the first big melt! We could have a party to celebrate the coming spring, except the guests would have to drive through shit like this. Most Taoseños would be used to it, though. Sigh. This spot is just past our “driveway” on a road that shall remain forever nameless, so I can tell a story that perfectly illustrates life in el Norte.

When I first moved to our current address, the county regularly graded and plowed the road. Sometimes it took a phone call from the now-dead landlord to make it happen, but the job got done. After he died, something changed, and now there’s zero maintenance. Those ruts you see? They’ll still be there by summer, hard as concrete, only just a little smoother from the garbage truck turning around.

I made inquiries last summer, because the road was so rough, my wife was freaking out and I worried for the car. Everyone I talked to was very cordial, but no one could help. The problem was that the county had determined that this was now a “private” road, presumably belonging to a rich lady who owned property at the bottom of the hill, and no longer in their inventory. That made a kind of sense, since beyond this point, there are no other houses. But they went even further and declared the stretch from this point back to a certain stop sign was also private and so undeserving of county maintenance.

This was news to me and my neighbors, so I persisted. Finally I had the ear of someone in authority (oh no, no names!), who informed me very politely that I had two choices: 1) I could write up a petition asking the county to reconsider and get everyone who lived on the road to sign it—with absolutely no guarantee of success—or 2), I could “make a contribution,” i.e. a political donation, which might align the gods more strongly in my favor. (In some places they’d call it something else, but you didn’t hear that from me.) I couldn’t swear to this in court, because I was having trouble hearing at that point—the voice having dropped to almost a whisper—but I did hear “contribution” very plainly.

Similar dynamics surely apply elsewhere, but here is where we are. The Chamber of Commerce wouldn’t want you to know, but you’re just as likely to have strange problems with your half-million dollar home as with an old adobe rental. The things one has to put up with for pristine air and 90-mile views!

And so it goes, and goes, and goes…

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • mj February 7, 2013, 6:50 PM

    Sometimes, it takes an eager reporter with a minicam on the news channel to persuade public officials! Politicians should want their roads to be safe, right? It would be less headache than being sued, which is quite popular now, I’ve heard. How many doors would you have to knock on to get a petition going? I am sure they would all sign.

    • JHF February 7, 2013, 8:04 PM

      Where are you writing from? Civilization??

      • christian ienni February 7, 2013, 9:26 PM

        no kidding!

        people who live in what’s usually referred to as “civilization” can’t even wrap their brains around how it really works out on the fringes. compared to what they’re used to you’re on the far side of the moon! 😉

        • JHF February 7, 2013, 9:35 PM

          I’ll say. See this? ↓ That yellow sign is the county line, with Colorado on the other side. AIEEEE!!!


  • Ken Webb February 8, 2013, 5:29 AM

    When I was growing up in Abilene in the 50’s quite a few of the town streets were unpaved (including the one our house was on). But there was an interesting phenomenon I haven’t seen elsewhere – some of the otherwise paved streets were checker-boarded with unpaved rectangular sections running from the property lines of certain houses to the center of the street. It was explained to me that in order for the street to get paved at all, the property owners had had to “contribute” to the cost of the job. If you refused your contribution you got no pavement. It must surely have been a shaming thing to have your property wear such an overt and annoying badge of your poverty.

    • JHF February 8, 2013, 7:35 AM

      I sort of remember streets like that, now that you mention it. Not quite the same thing as I encountered, but interesting.

  • terri February 8, 2013, 1:42 PM

    snorted in laughter at your response. Wouldn’t a third, but costly, solution be for all the folks along the road to pitch in $, (gasp) and get one of those small road graders or even hire someone to grade it after the thaw? But then, I am in Albuquerque, land of civilized problem solvers!

    • JHF February 8, 2013, 2:44 PM

      The only way around this is to find a better rental property and move. We’ve been looking pretty hard for several years now, but nothing has fallen into place.

      The fact is, it IS a county road, and they ought to grade and plow it. It was probably taken out of county inventory (along with others) to save some bucks to fund a job for someone’s brother-in-law. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

  • mj February 8, 2013, 9:29 PM

    Yep, I’m from civilization (Texas) where like you, we have roads and bridges to nowhere! A friend of mine lives out on one of those lonesome places and has lined an incline dirt driveway with old roof shingles. At first I thought it was crazy. Hey, it works you can turn the car around and go down the hill now where before all you did was get stuck in the mud.

    • JHF February 8, 2013, 10:36 PM

      Wow, what a great idea! Now where can I get my hands on a truckload of old shingles? 🙂




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