Tag Archives: bridge vendors

Another Good Man Gone

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William died some time ago, but I haven’t been ready to share my thoughts and feelings about him and his passing with the world.

I knew William from the Bridge. He was a good man. He was one of the area’s native people, one of those Indians, he always called himself with pride. He sold at the Bridge, alone when I first new him, then later with his mother.

When I was homeless and sleeping in a picnic pavilion at a rest area, William was one of the few men I wasn’t afraid of. He and another nice guy named Tommy set up next to each other every day and could always scoot over just a little to make room for me. William always treated me politely, respectfully, as a friend.

William struggled with alcoholism during the more than five years I knew him. His mother thought he was doing ok if he only drank beer. She pretended his drinking 18 cans of Bud Light nearly every day was no cause for concern. If he was only drinking beer with a low alcohol content, she could believe the amount he drank wasn’t an issue.

Some days I got really annoyed with William. When he was drunk, he’d lie to the tourists at the Bridge. If visitors saw him with beer can in hand or at lip, he’d tell them it was his birthday, which he thought would make it ok to be drinking alcohol in public, at work. If the birthday fib let to a sale, all the better. He told potential buyers that he collected all the rocks on his tables and polished them too, even though I knew all his rocks came from other vendors. He even bragged about collecting rocks from other people’s mining claims; I was almost positive he’d never done any such things and was only repeating stories he’d heard from unscrupulous rock guys. I suppose he thought claim jumping sounded exciting and was a good story for the tourists. In the end, I realized it wasn’t my place to get upset by William’s lies; he was only doing what he thought he had to do to earn the money he needed to live.

William had been elected vice-president of the Bridge vendors association and was so proud of his position, even though in reality it meant very little to anyone else. I’m the president of all of this, he’d tell tourists while gesturing broadly. Sometimes he’d boast I’m the president of this whole bridge.

He was also proud of the times he’d stopped people from jumping off the Bridge. I never witnessed him doing such a thing, but William had stories about stopping people from jumping by hugging them or tackling them or ushering them back to solid ground. Even if none of these events actually occurred, in his heart, William wanted to save everyone who was sad, distraught, suicidal. In his heart, William surely wanted to be a hero.

William had a daughter. He’d become a father when he was just 18. The girl grew up in California with her mother who William said had a drug problem. The daughter was barely an adult when William died, but at least she had a dad throughout her childhood. I think of that girl and my heart aches for her. How difficult it must have been for her to grow up with a father suffering from alcoholism and a mother suffering from drug addition. I wonder if she’s following in her family traditions or if she thinks it best to remain a teetotaler.

When I was around, friends would occasionally try to talk to William about his drinking. Of course, he didn’t want to discuss the problem. I’m just me! William would proclaim, or he’d say loudly I do what I do! He didn’t think he could be anyone other than who he already was. He didn’t think he could do anything other than what he already did.

Sometimes when I saw and heard William interacting with tourists, I wondered uncharitably how he could stand to be a stereotype. I guess like many of us, he just wasn’t ready to be someone else or do anything different.

I’m not sure exactly how William died. I was in California when it happened, working on top of a mountain. I learned about William’s death from Facebook, that twenty-first century town crier. William had been sent to live with his aunt in the city. In the past, this aunt had been able to impose discipline (and sobriety, I suppose) on William when his mother could not. I don’t know if his aunt cut off his supply of beer entirely and the cold turkey sobering up killed him, or if it was just too late for him to benefit from ceasing to drink alcohol because his liver was already shot. In any case, the family is proud to say William was sober when he died.

William was a father and a son and a nephew and a brother and a friend. Like the rest of us, he had his faults and his stumbling blocks, but he was a good man. He loved the Denver Broncos and his daughter and selling at the Bridge. In his way, he really was the president of the whole place. He cared about the other vendors and the tourists who visited there too. He only wanted to love everyone. He only wanted everyone to get along.

By way of farewell, he’d tell vendors and tourists alike, Love, peace, and hair grease. When I remember William, I picture him standing in front of me, sunglasses on, swaying slightly, and I can hear him say, Love, peace, and hair grease.

William was a good man, and he is missed.

Love, peace, and hair grease, William. I hope you are healthy and whole and free now, soaring above us all, an eagle in the sky.

Bald Eagle Flying Under Blue Sky during Daytime

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/bald-eagle-flying-under-blue-sky-during-daytime-60086/.


The Ten Best Things About Taos, NM

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The town of Taos is a rather small place, but there’s so much to see and do throughout the county. I really fell in love with New Mexico as I explored Taos County, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Today I’ll share my favorite things about the Taos area.

The Ten Best Things About Taos

#1 I love the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge! At somewhere between 565 and 680 feet above the Rio Grande Gorge, the bridge is high. In 1966 the American Institute of Steel Construction awarded the bridge “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category.

#2 A community of vendors sells on the side of the highway just off the west end of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. At various times since 2012, I’ve been a vendor there. I sell hemp jewelry and warm, colorful yarn hats that I make with my own two hands, as well as shiny rocks. (I can’t take credit for the shiny rocks; Mother Nature does all that work.) The vendors at the bridge are like an extended family in many ways; sometimes we argue and get mad at each other, but overall, there is a lot of love and generosity flowing among us.

#3 At almost 7,000 feet, Taos is cooler in the summer than a lot of other places. The

relative humidity typically ranges from 17% (dry) to 88% (very humid) over the course of the year,

which helps too. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to drop 30 degrees overnight, even in the summer, at least giving folks respite from the heat of the day. If day time heat gets too bad, I drive fifteen or so miles to the Rio Hondo, sit among tall pine trees, and put my feet in the icy snowmelt river water.

#4 Someone has added UFOs to many of the the cow crossing signs in Taos County! Sometimes the Department of Transportation removes the stickers or puts up new signs, but the UFOs always seem to reappear.

#5 I’ve never encountered a goathead in Taos County. I’d never even heard of a goathead until I traveled to Sierra County in southern New Mexico. If you’ve never heard of a goathead, here’s a description:

A mature goathead is a solid lump of wood a quarter inch or more in diameter, with several very hard, very sharp, quarter inch spikes arrayed around it…Goatheads are basically tetrahedral in shape, meaning that–no matter how they fall to the ground, no matter how they get kicked around–they will always have a spike pointing straight up…

As you may have guessed, if a goathead goes into a foot, it HURTS! They are a nuisance at best and a REAL PAIN at worst. Oh, how glad I am to be away from them when I leave Truth or Consequences and return to the Taos area.

#6 Taos (and especially the Gorge Bridge area) is known for its sunsets. Unfortunately, the camera on my phone does no justice to a Taos sunset, but believe me when I say I’ve seen some gorgeous ones.

#7 I’m also seen fantastic rainbows in the rural parts of the county. During my first summer and fall in the area, I saw more rainbows than I had seen in the previous forty years of my life.  Some of those rainbows were absolutely vivid too! One afternoon I saw a rainbow so bright, I imagined someone had given a second grader a box of crayons and instructed the kid the draw a rainbow across the sky.

#8 There are natural, free, clothing-optional hot springs on public land in Taos county. My favorite is Blackrock Hot Spring near the John Dunn Bridge, but there’s also Namby (also known as Stagecoach) Hot Spring. I’ve never been to Namby, but I’ve been to Blackrock  several times. I’ve heard rumors of other hot and warm springs, so I may have new Taos County explorations ahead of me.

#9 The mountains around the town of Taos are fantastic! I grew up in the flatlands, and I didn’t even know I was missing the mountains, but now that I’ve met them, I love them! I especially enjoy the mountains when there’s a little snow on the top, but I could look at them all day, any day of the year.

#10 Most people around Taos don’t think it’s too strange when they hear someone is living in his or her van or car or an old school bus or even just camping out in the sage. Folks in Taos have seen a lot of people living in a lot of different ways and have maybe even lived in some unconventional housing themselves. There’s not a lot of judgment placed on people getting by without electricity or running water or even a permanent place to call home.

Any questions about the town of Taos or Taos County can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

I took all of the photos in this post.