84 – Clear Creek, Cimarron, on the Santa Fe Trail, Wild West, St. James Hotel

At 8 in the morning, George and I take off for the village of Cimarron, where the west is still wild!

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Predictably enough, we drop by the World Cup for the best coffee in Taos.
Then we get on the seemingly never-ending Route 64 that climbs up towards Angel Fire and Eagle Nest and its still frozen lake. Ah! What names!

It’s already spring up in the high plains between two passes; water gushing over, filling up the low land. Kind of a gentle flooding, sometimes right up to the roadside and that doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

On the other side of the mountain, to get down to Cimarron, we drive through a canyon along Clear Creek.

All of a sudden we get a beautiful view over the river that, swollen by melting snow and last night night’s thunderstorms, spreads out where the canyon opens up.
Lots of birds, residual snow cover, trees and rocks. I grab the pinhole camera and walk over to the river’s edge, toward the woods. George stays in the car:

– Take your time, Marie
I take some photos and when I return, George is asleep

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Cimarron, a town in the middle of nowhere, ranches, horses, streets at right angles, flatness, on the mesa, the huge water reservoir.

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We enter the art gallery-cum-café and sit down on stools which have padded seats the shape and color of a Coca Cola bottle cap. Behind the bar, the milk bottle is marked with the name of the oldest ranch in New Mexico, which is still owned by the same family. The waitress, as one expects, and her customer, showing her the last two necklaces she has made for the charity auction which takes place next Sunday. On the next table there is Indian jewelry and hanging on the facing wall a collection of “patches” that is at least 40 feet long and 3 feet high. As we are looking them over the waitress tells us:

–  “They come from all over America and also Russia, Poland, Argentina.”

–  “Any from France?”

–  No!

While we are sipping our coffee, she starts telling us the story of, Cimarron: the killings, Lucien B. Maxwell, the Colfax County war, the very large plaza, where the emigrants camped, the bullets in the ceiling of the St. James Hotel …

– “You really have to go and visit it.”

An American comes in and starts talking about how homesick he feels after having left Cimarron, his home town, his childhood:

– It was great! I want to come back. Do you know of anything for sale? …

when the city was founded… then the plaza, very big and almost deserted, where the pioneers going even further westward camped. We see lots of murals and old cars everywhere and deer under the trees in front of houses, horses, dogs and wilderness all around.

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We go into another shop, this time totally western … same warm welcome with a desire to tell us about her village. The lady shows us all sorts of cowboy hats, shirts… jeans, cowboy boots and other boots, and shows us, in the back, the workshop of her husband, a saddle maker.

We try on stuff, we buy, and she recommends a tiny “deli”:

  • Go to the Porch, they have good, fresh produce. Yes, quite delicious! Try the vegetables, cheeses and fruits at the front

Of course we visit the must-see St. James Hotel where the owner takes great delight in showing us the ceiling riddled by countless shootings and the bedroom where Lew Wallace wrote part of Ben Hur, and those where Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, Jesse James, Remington and Wyatt Earp slept.

A quote from the Las Vegas Gazette in the late 1870s reads, “Everything is quiet at Cimarron. Nobody has been killed in three days“.

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Le plafond troué – Annie Oakley – Wild Bill Hickock – Pat Garrett

In the lobby there are stuffed heads of elk, bison and cougar, the latter bigger than I thought it would be. It seems that there are still some living in the forest near here.

Back to Taos. Quiet evening with Robbie and Jim at Lambert’s restaurant, which is the best in town according to them. Even better, the owner is crazy about art. Pictures and paintings on the walls… What delicious food, we just love it!  Shared delights

We part company. The farewells have started!

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