Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Better Homes and Deserts

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about a place that I know absolutely nothing about. But I used to do it all the time. Back in 2004, I wrote about this great rooming house in Augusta, Georgia that I couldn’t find any information on. Only this past spring did I learn that the building was known as Kahr’s Grocery and it predates the Civil War. Its age seems almost impossible to believe and now I’m even happier that I got a chance to photograph it. So, maybe someday I’ll stumble across something that will give me a little clue as to the surely fascinating history of this odd dwelling built into the side of a hill deep in Socorro County, New Mexico. However, at the moment I can’t tell you much.

One thing I do know is that this was clearly someone’s living space, a hand-built home on the side of a rocky hill in the middle of nowhere, way out in the Chihuahuan Desert. Judging from the date on a picture painted inside the house, it might have been constructed in the early 1960’s. So I guess the builders could’ve used a truck to haul bedframes and stoves and bathtubs and chairs and countertops and even a refrigerator over the many rough miles to get back here. If that’s HOW it was built, perhaps a better question is WHY it was built. I assume it was used as lodging for ranch hands back when the entire area was being grazed, but, if so, it was far more sophisticated (not to mention higher off the ground) than it needed to be, with cupboards, stone fireplace, two bedrooms with curtained partition and even a second story, which has partially collapsed. Perhaps it was built simply because the view out the front is stunning. Desolate and forbidding, maybe, but if you like that kind of thing, as I certainly do, and aren’t much for food, water, or company, you couldn’t do better than to build yourself a home out here.

There are actually two structures, the main living space with entryway and fireplace, kitchen, bedrooms and a bathroom with tub, sink and toilet, and an adjacent building that is much smaller and contains only a stove and sink. I’m assuming this second structure was just a kitchen. Maybe it was too hot to cook much inside the living area. Or too dangerous. Both structures are backed up to exposed rock, which provides quite a nice effect. Small shelves were constructed wherever a natural rock formation lent itself to such a thing, and some of the rock walls were painted green or yellow or white and, as I alluded to, there are also paintings done right on the rock. One, signed “Molina, 2/18/62,” is of a few people standing around and is almost cartoon-like. A smaller painting is a representation of the landscape right out front. A bit of realism, I guess.

The thing that strikes a person again and again is the remoteness of this house and how at odds it is with its construction. How did they get water out here? There is indoor plumbing and faucets and that tub and it all seems like more than a cistern would be likely to collect most of the year. And how did they get electricity? That refrigerator didn’t run on firewood. But to have pulled a chair up out front to watch the sun go down (or rise, for that matter) must’ve been quite a reward for a hard day of cow-punching. If you’d like to visit…well, don’t! Trust me, you’ll never find your way out here and it’s probably better for both you and your vehicle that way.

Next time we’ll check out another place in Socorro County I know almost nothing about. These posts sure are easier to write when they contain no historical information. Probably easier to read, too.