Taos Primer: Old Mike

Old Mike Peak in Taos, NM

Telephoto shot from the window by my desk in Llano Quemado, not a cloud in the sky

The main thing to remember is, this isn’t Wheeler Peak. (I thought it was for years!) Almost the same height, too, over 13K ft. You can hike to it after climbing Wheeler, though. The latter is out of sight behind Taos Mountain on the left. Every year I say I’m going to get myself up there, and every year something happens. Looks like you could do it right now with snowshoes and a death wish.

But really, “Old Mike Peak”? Who decided that? It used to be San Miguel, duh. Now that makes sense. Old Mike sounds like the way my father used to smell, only his name was John. Tobacco, booze, and aftershave with hot electric razor motor scent. Crossword puzzle and a cigarette, ten goddamns before his fried eggs.

Old Mike, indeed!

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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  

  • KarenK in Portland February 5, 2013, 3:09 PM

    In his later years, my grandpa, Roy, ran an auto repair shop out of his garage in the middle of the Mojave Desert. He always smelled like chewing tobacco, engine grease and body odor. My siblings all remember that particular grandpa smell, too. It was subtle and surprisingly comforting — not at all the bad odor you would expect. (He uttered his daily share of goddamns, too, more often than not followed by “hippies.”) Thanks for making me think of that!

    • JHF February 5, 2013, 4:19 PM

      Know what you mean about the “comforting” part. Funny, that. I just hope your grandpa didn’t also drink a tumbler full of vodka before 8:00 a.m. most days like my old man in his later years.

      • KarenK in Portland February 6, 2013, 3:45 PM

        Nope. I don’t remember him drinking much and I’m sorry your dad did. Any additional scent probably would have put that “comforting odor” over the top. However he did blaspheme so often it made my ears burn — even as an adult. His cussing vocabulary was extensive and quite inventive.

  • Ken Webb February 5, 2013, 6:06 PM

    I heard my father say “damn” once and once only and never any other swear word. I never saw him touch alcohol of any sort. Until his mid-30’s he was a 3-pack-a-day man, but stopped smoking on a dime at that age – I never saw a cigarette in his mouth. He never saw the need to warn against any of these things.

    Yet he was full of various furies against the world. He was always getting cross-wise with the church, and he was proud of being a union man and liberal Democrat (he voted for Jesse Jackson once) in a town – Abilene – not known for progressive politics.

    Smoking, cussing, drinking, church-going, politics – all interesting in their way, but none of them tell you much about a person.

    • JHF February 6, 2013, 4:39 PM

      You’d draw no conclusions whatsoever about someone consuming a fifth of vodka every day? About the state of his psyche, and what he thought of himself? About how his wife and children are affected?

      Tells me plenty, but then I was there.

      • Ken Webb February 6, 2013, 6:06 PM

        I reckon it does say something, at least in the case of alcoholism. I suppose what I’m reacting to is the hanging judge approach to it. There were furies in my old man, too, unrelated to alcohol or the other obvious things. It would be easy to make a case against him. It doesn’t seem right to do that, for reasons I can’t quite make out – something approaching a taboo against turning the guns full force on the ones who gave us life, whatever their failures. Let the dust rest. Soon enough someone will dance on the grave of every mother’s son of us.

        • JHF February 6, 2013, 9:08 PM

          Oh, piffle. Don’t mistake honesty for judgment! Of course, there’s a taboo against that, too. (I’m not judging, but a reader might…) Anyway, I’m not required to explain or seek a “balance,” and I don’t care about taboos. That’s how I can do this stuff and others can’t!

  • Ken Webb February 7, 2013, 10:13 AM

    I will add “poppycock” to your “piffle” and “a dread of things that go bang in the night” to your “taboo”. There’s no foolishness that this old West Texas boy isn’t capable of getting up to.

  • Sunday Tidwell February 7, 2013, 8:05 PM

    Can’t anybody lay it out and wrap it up like you do, JHF.
    I do the school marm versus roughneck on my husband every time we go somewhere very nice. For so long he was a self-described “broke dick mother fucker” that that’s what he calls everybody — that or “son of a bitch.” He ruined his hearing around loud engines, so he either mumbles or yells. I will bring him and his guns up there to you in Taos come summer. Is “guns” a bad word? Anyway, he’s of your generation and gets a kick out of the blog.

    • JHF February 7, 2013, 8:34 PM

      “Broke dick mother fucker,” I love it. (No, “guns” is not a bad word. :-)) Me, I ruined my hearing around loud guitar amplifiers, or is it genetics? Anyway, I’d be proud to meet any son of a bitch who gets a kick out of this blog. See you then!

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