A few strange tales from my recent trip…..
Welcome back. The stone carvings here in the Piedra Lumbre basin in northwestern New Mexico weren’t carved by man but by nature, through thousands of years of exposure to wind, snow, rain and brutal sun. Dinosaurs lived here and thousands of them died here too making this hidden valley called Yeso Canyon home to one of the largest dinosaur discoveries in the world.
In the 1800s another bunch of animals known as the Archuleta brothers would invade the canyon. They were a ruthless gang of cattle rustlers who killed anyone who got close to the secret canyon they had found. Their outlaw ways lasted a dozen years before the brothers met their maker when one brother was shot and the citizens of Abiqui hung the other. It was then that a woman and child showed up who had been held captive by the brothers. Maybe not in their right minds, the pair told their rescuers to beware of six foot long human like beasts that were covered in red hair which the woman called earth babies. They were also quoted as saying that an old witch who had transformed herself into a cow with wings also flew through the canyon.
By 1915 some semblance of law and order had come to the area when a wealthy easterner named Carol Stanley acquired the deed to the canyon with hopes of turning it into a dude ranch for other easterners and the name Ghost Ranch began surfacing. At night guests were terrified by weird screams and as rumors spread the stories about the ranch grew bigger.
A few years later Carol Stanley and another wealthy easterner, Arthur Newton Pack became partners in the property and the ranch really developed. It had it all, a natural stream, good dirt and those multicolored mountains that surround this hidden paradise. Stanley and Pack knew that if they built a few cabins people would come and they did. From movie stars to Presidents, folks came from all over the world.
In the 1920s Arthur Pack bought the whole canyon and with new drive and more money he expanded the ranch. Big name people like the Johnson brothers of the Johnson & Johnson Company built small bungalow style homes on the property and brought their families to stay at Ghost Ranch for months. Georgia O’Keefe visited for the first time in 1935 and eventually moved permanently from New York to the ranch.
World War II brought a different kind of fame to Ghost Ranch and that fame had a name. It was called the Manhattan project and with it came jobs for everyone in the area. The story of the “secret city” of Los Alamos built by New Mexican labor has become the most profound chapter in American history. Many of the scientists working on the atomic bomb in the secret city during 1942 visited Ghost Ranch which is less than 30 miles away as the crow flies. When World War II ended, their involvement with the ranch brought new prominence to this little known area but this is a story that will have to wait for another time.
Now open to the public, you can visit Ghost Ranch and the secret city of Los Alamos yourself. This is a part of our history we should never forget.
Till next week when I’ll be spending time with 5,000 boy scouts outside Cimarron, New Mexico, I’ll see ya down the road.