Fritz Thompson | For The Sunday Journal
February 14, 2010
People who live in country towns might well know this type — tough, independent, multiskilled, resourceful, wise in the ways of the weather, a good man to have on a horse. Add to that a born storyteller and a hands-on historian.
Quentin Hulse epitomized all those qualities, so much so that his many admirers might be tempted to call him a sort of rural renaissance man.
Author Nancy Coggeshall is a transplant from Rhode Island who came to New Mexico, where she met Hulse and not long after joined him (“for all intents and purposes, we were married”) for a life in the rugged splendor of the high Gila country of southwestern New Mexico. Hulse’s family had established a ranch in those parts more than 50 years ago.
A man such as Hulse indeed generates a legend, and in this biography Coggeshall has captured his essence in stories from friends, neighbors and Hulse himself, who was esteemed at mixing cowboy humor with learned history. It is said that every time he showed up at Uncle Bill’s bar in Reserve, he would attract a crowd.
The best-known and oft-told story about Hulse came from a practical joke he pulled on a good friend who was then the state-employed mountain lion hunter and trapper. Hulse came upon the trapper’s camp one day while his friend was away, and Hulse proceeded to round up his burros, load them with everything in sight — including coals from the cook fire — and move them to a spot three canyons away. His friend rode to the campsite that night only to find a barren patch of ground; being a trapper, he tracked down his own campsite totally restored but certainly not in the place he had left it.
Hulse himself was a hunter and trapper. He spent a good deal of his time as a Gila country guide for hunting and fishing expeditions. Those sojourns into the wilderness generated many of Hulse’s friends and their stories about him.
A scary episode occurred during the dizzying ascent of a 300-foot-high canyon trail, a route Hulse had traveled many times over the years. On this fishing expedition, a balky pack mule lost its balance and rolled down the slope toward the cliff, where its downward path was fortunately stopped by a sturdy tree stump. Hulse and another man immediately climbed down the slope, unloaded the pack mule, freed it from the stump and drove it back up to the trail. The trail-side cliffs in that area are a dead-drop to the canyon floor.
Coggeshall interviewed more than 200 people who knew Hulse. They produced hundreds of stories and anecdotes about his remarkable life. He died in 2002 at age 75.
Those people were the richer for his acquaintance. For those who never got a chance to make his friendship, this biography is the next best thing.