Photographs by Sharon Niederman, studio by Daniel Sagan, mosaic by Devon Miller-Duggan, bookshelf people by Richard Feldman.
Facing Goat Hill
My interior GPS places the coordinates of my desk south of Old Glory;
southeast of Iridium Layer; parallel to red-tailed hawks’ thermal waltz; north
of strutting stag; east of Santa Fe Trail; west of red neon Raton sign, and
southwest of red, white and blue electric star.
Where I write from is an oak desk beneath a window facing Goat Hill. The house
where I now live was built in 1906 on a small parcel of the Maxwell Land Grant,
the biggest chunk of real estate in the western hemisphere. Mountain man Lucien
Bonaparte Maxwell married well, wedding the 14-year old Luz, daughter of his
partner Charles Beaubien, Taos land grant heir.
Architect Isaac Hamilton Rapp, better known for his Santa Fe style, built this
house, a quirky hybrid with imposing Corinthian columns and cozy fireside
ingelnooks, for hardware merchant Asa Hobbs. Hobbs and his childless wife,
Laura, entertained theTerritory’s most influential figures in their mansion on a
It has always been painted yellow.
The Hubbards lived here next: Margaret with her flaming red hair and five
daughters. People still talk about her, her Irish humor, her sharpness at
bridge, and her fondness for “sipping.” Dr. Hubbard couldn’t save little
Charlotte, and he never forgave himself. I believe Charlotte, the girl in a
straw hat who greeted me on the staircase the first time I walked into the
house, died in this room now filled with my books, my projects.
Before that, this place was a barrio of goatherds, and before that, the
hunting grounds of Utes and Apaches. And before that, Folsom Man wandered, fresh
from the Ice Age, spear in hand, hunter of bison and mammoth, clever carver.
Yet eons before that, rock remnants declare Goat Hill bore witness to the
planet’s most stupendous mass extinction, that meteoric collision that destroyed
the dinosaurs as well as 75 percent of all life.
Iridium, the result, the record-keeper, is visible here.
Ancient is the ancestry of eagle, deer, and bear, creatures who inhabit this
particular portion of sky and scrubby, sandstone-strewn ground. Pinon and
juniper scatter the hillside with deceptively casual attitude, and to the casual
eye, there is nothing special about this place.
Here is where I pass my days, facing Goat Hill.
Sharon Niederman lives, writes and blogs in Raton, NM at http://embracingthenorth.wordpress.com. Her two forthcoming books are: New Mexico’s Tasty Traditions: Folksy Stories, Recipes & Photos (New Mexico Magazine, 2010 and Shrines & Signs: Spiritual Journeys Across New Mexico (Countryman Press, 2011). She is the author/editor of a dozen books of SW food, travel and history. Her debut novel, Return to Abo (UNM Press, 2005) was a WILLA Award Finalist.