Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back at the Ranch

A few weeks ago we visited an unusual house on a hillside nestled deep in the barren wilderness of Socorro County, New Mexico. A hippy pad in the middle of nowhere or the most eccentrically outfitted ranch house ever built...who's to say? For this post we'll stay in Socorro County but check out a place that makes a lot more sense: the Old Stapleton Ranch.

True to its name, the Old Stapleton Ranch was clearly once just that--a working ranch. In fact, the place still attracts cattle and on the day we visited they were milling all around, lowing and looking alternately angry and confused by our presence. The noise actually made it hard to concentrate on exploring. Thankfully, they eventually got bored and wandered off into the desert somewhere. Exactly when the ranch might have been abandoned I have no idea, but I'd say it's been empty for a few decades now. There are still some canned goods in the kitchen, but I wouldn't eat them if I were you.

Adjacent to the ranch is a holding pen and a water tank, so the cattle weren't there for nothing. Apparently some ranchers must still be using the site to hold livestock, but it didn't look like the house had been entered in quite some time.

The 1940 Chevrolet truck out front and the whitened branches of dead trees provided appropriate atmosphere, as did the name of the valley in which the ranch is located. Valle del Ojo de la Parida could translate as "Valley of the Spring of Nonsense (or Stupidity)," which leads me to believe that someone went looking for water nearby and didn't find it. Or the water made them crazy. It could also be something like "Valley of the Spring of the Young Mother." Frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to be a young mother way out here. While the name certainly refers to a spring, I do like the idea that "ojo" could translate as "eye." There's just something about wandering around in the "Valley of the Eye of Nonsense" that appeals to me. At least until I collapse from dehydration.

The only other thing I could learn about this area is that there used to be a fair amount of mining going on. Oh, and there’s a lot of the mineral thomsonite lying around. Otherwise, the whole area is pretty much shrouded in mystery as far as Google is concerned.

Alright, that's all I've got for this one. Next time we'll go to Ancho, which is one house away from being a true ghost town. Years ago Ancho would've been a find not unlike Chloride, but that time has passed and much history is now slowly rotting away out there in central New Mexico. At least what wasn't sold on EBAY. Seriously. Stay tuned.


Maribeth Robison said...

Don't suppose you provide directions to the locations you go to. I will be in the Socorro area soon and would love to go by and see this place, especially the vehicle. In our travels lately we have been poking around some areas where we have found old vehicles and it is now becoming a goal for my husband to get an old vehicle for his FaceBook Page.

jmhouse said...

Hi Maribeth,

The Old Stapleton Ranch is on NM State Trust Land within a matrix of BLM Land and so I see no reason not to give you the directions. Although it really is hard to get to and more complicated to explain than what I can write here. So, if you send me an e-mail at the address associated with my profile (profile link above) I'll give you the directions as best I can. JM

Brett said...

Appreciate your thoughtful write-up. The Stapleton Ranch was likely abandoned around 1964 based on the erstwhile (ca. 2005) presence of a calendar from that year still hanging on the kitchen wall. It's too bad the calendar was looted as it was a classic, with numerous newspaper-style ads of the day festooned throughout. Incidentally, the ranch (as well as the nearby cliff house you reference) both appear along the route of the Grand Enchantment Trail. If you'd happen to have a direct link to this post through your Facebook page, I'd be interested in sharing it on the GET's page.

jmhouse said...

Thank you for your comment, Brett! I don't hear from many people that know this site. Abandoned in 1964, eh? Wow. It is a shame someone absconded with the calendar, but thanks for that clue. I never would've guessed. At least they left the can of Clabber Girl Baking Powder.

As for a Facebook link, I posted this piece today on the City of Dust page. You can find it HERE. I'd appreciate you sharing it anywhere you like!

By the way, you don't know anything about that cliff house, do you? I did a POST on that place, too, but it's even more mysterious than the Stapleton Ranch.

Thanks again! JM