Coming from Rhode Island to southwestern New Mexico twenty-six years ago, I was eager to find a Coggshall saddle. Wisconsin-born Charles E. Coggshall, whose family dropped the “e” from the name, established the Coggshall Saddlery in Miles City, Montana, in 1895. Regarded as the Cadillac of saddles, they were well known in the West’s northern states, and cowhands in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico prized them as well.
I’d heard that a saddle maker in Apache Creek might be able to help me. I drove the eighty-some miles south-southwest from my home in Magdalena to talk to this man. He couldn’t help me with my quest. The goal was never reached. I’ve not seen a Coggshall saddle yet.
More rewarding, however, was the sight of the country around Apache Creek in the Tularosa River’s valley, lushly green from the summer’s monsoon rains. My eyes widened. “This could be Vermont,” I thought, which was quickly followed by “I wonder what it would be like to live here.”
Ten years later I moved to a spot along the Tularosa with a view of the Apache Mountains to the north and petroglyphs on cliff walls a mile away. Reserve is the seat of Catron County, the largest in New Mexico, covering some 6,923.69 miles. Much of it is within the Gila National Forest. Only seventeen percent is privately owned, the rest in the hands of various branches of the federal government and the state. In the last census 3,725 residents were counted. The population of the town itself numbers a little more than 300 souls.
(For more information about the area, see “Big Bucks” under the tab for Research Projects on the home page.)
So here I am. I write in a room approximately 35 yards from the base of a snag pine tree that has lost many of the limbs I first saw reaching horizontally sixteen years ago. Yet its silhouette remains stark against twilight skies.
This free-range blog will be updated every two to four weeks. There is bound to be the odd spin-off from my book Gila Country Legend: The Life and Times of Quentin Hulse, along with notes on aspects of life in this area. And most probably comments on books.
“The isolation of Catron [County] and its vast wilderness is (sic) what makes it such a delightful place to live,” Susan E. Lee wrote. “You have plenty of elbow room.”*
*These Also Served: Brief Histories of Pioneers…Short Stories and Pictures Relative to Catron, Grant, Sierra, Socorro and Valencia Counties of New Mexico. Los Lunas: Susan E. Lee, 1960