We’ve all been to wonderful places that bring memories flooding back to us. Places of awesome beauty, like the Canadian Rockies. Places of great excitement like the Grand Ole Opry. Even a quiet spot under a tree at Grandma’s house. Here’s one of the places I remember from my own past.
In the summer of 1955 my dad and Bill Conner and Judy Truelson, both of whom I’ve written about under “People,” built a cabin together in Ute Park, New Mexico. You may wonder what there is in Ute Park to draw people there, and the answer is “Nothing.” That’s the whole point.
Our parents weren’t seeking a place where there’s a lot to do. They wanted a place of rest and relaxation with nothing in particular to do, and Ute Park was perfect for that. It’s nestled into a wide spot in Cimarron Canyon on U.S. 64, halfway between the booming metropolises of Cimarron and Eagle Nest. All it has to offer is fresh air, pine trees and spectacular scenery nearby.
All it took was an 11 or 12 hour drive to get there. The lack of scenery along the way made us appreciate Ute Park even more. You approach Cimarron from the east or the north through flat plains, but when you leave heading west, you immediately enter Cimarron Canyon, surrounded by high mountains. Those last 12 miles make the first 585 worth the while.
Our cabin had year-round air conditioning provided by a six inch gap between the walls and the ceiling. At 7500 feet, that kept the place comfortable even in the middle of the hottest afternoons. Besides, it rained at 4:00 every afternoon. That may be a slight exaggeration, but not much. It did rain almost every afternoon for about 15 minutes, and it always came very close to 4:00.
You climbed some stairs to the front porch and entered into the multi-purpose kitchen/dining/living room. There was a long picnic table with benches on both sides where we all ate. Between meals, it served as a bridge table for Mother and Dad and Judy and Louise Truelson.
There were two bedroom to the left of the main room with privacy afforded by a couple of curtains that almost closed. Didn’t make much difference, though, since the boards of the interior walls didn’t quite meet either, except around the bathroom, which was behind the kitchen and across the main room from the front door. I remember curtains for the bathroom door, also, but my sister says there was a real door there.
To the right from the front door, through the kitchen, was a door to a breezeway with screens at both ends, and there were two more bedrooms across the breezeway. One bedroom on each side of the cabin was sort of a master bedroom, with a double bed and a little extra room. The other bedroom on each side had a double bed and two bunk beds.
The Truelsons occupied the front bedroom, since they always got there first, and Mother and Dad had the main bedroom across the breezeway. Then when the Conners came, they had the front bedroom since Mother and Dad were already settled on the other side. For some reason, us guys always stayed on the side with the Truelsons or Conners, and the girls on the other side with my parents.
There was a pond just down the road from us where Cimarron Creek widened out, and we frequently went swimming there. The creek was almost icy, but the pond was a bit warmer. It was also very muddy. The mud would ooze between our toes.
When we weren’t swimming, we’d hike around in the woods or walk a mile or so to the Heath family’s Phillips 66 Station where you turned off the highway to enter Ute Park. If I had any money, I’d buy a candy bar there.
One other thing that sticks out in my memory was the spring. We had running water at the cabin for bathing, dishes, etc., but it didn’t taste very good, so we would gather up several gallon milk just or other suitable containers and go to the spring a couple of miles west of Ute Park on the highway to Eagle Nest to get water. It was the coldest, sweetest-tasting water in the world. Thirty years or so after we sold that cabin, my wife and I drove through there on the way home from a vacation, and I stopped to let her taste this fantastic water, and it was horrible. What a disappointment. Another example that you can’t go back, I guess.
Ø What are some of the places you remember from childhood—or maybe from last year?
Ø What do those places mean to you.
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