Up in the Hills

The valley of the Rio Grande del Rancho just beyond the Llano Rim

A guy who lived just down this road built hot rods but he’s gone

Sometimes I forget we have a river nearby. The Rio Grande del Rancho runs through the valley below. There are pastures you can’t see here that flood from irrigation and attract wild ducks. Although to tell the truth, I haven’t seen that recently, since it’s gotten drier and drier. When I first moved in here, a neighbor told me I could hear the river in April from our house. Ur-hippie myth, I thought, it had to be, but one still night after a rainy day, I had the window open just a little and heard the distant sound of water rushing over rocks.

That was a spring of rain and mud and mist. Clouds hung on the hillsides after storms. There were migrating warblers, orioles, and tanagers just outside the door, and all those hummingbirds. I don’t think I saw a single oriole last year, but we were gone a lot and might have missed them.

“Only crazy white people live in the sage,” old Taoseños used to say, then eagerly sold them lots for building. Wealthy enclaves on the mesas have the benefit of altitude but huddle with their burglar alarms. (No pavement out there, either, fine cars in the mud.) The original emigrants at least knew where the water was, made sure their property crossed a ditch or stream, planted fruit trees, left something for their kids. Now we hang pretty paintings on the walls and wonder what our dirt is worth. I generalize like hell, but look around and argue later.

Just remember, agua doesn’t come from pipes!

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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  

  • Katy George February 27, 2013, 10:42 AM

    i live above the same river. i’ve never heard the water from up here, but i delight in hearing the frogs in the spring!

    • JHF February 27, 2013, 1:16 PM

      Yes, I’ve heard them too, from near your place. Can’t say I’ve had that pleasure up here in the hills, but I did discover an actual green tree frog (fingernail-size) in a plum tree once.



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