The Faded Dreams of Kit Carson and Cactus Slim

23 Oct

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it was fun to experience with her the things I usually experience with students. It was also fun to visit Santa Fe in a more relaxing way. We hit a bunch of the cool spots that I have written about before.

Acoma Pueblo

Tent Rocks

The Santa Fe Plaza

We also ate at some fantastic restaurants.


Horseman’s Haven

Santa Fe Bite

Along the way, we found time to go to an awesome movie theater, and my wife spent some time in the spa at our hotel, the Inn at Loretto. We also visited a former member of the Shadow Horse Gang.

Oh yeah, we also bought a piece of Native American art that dates back a couple of thousand years.

It was a great trip, and I am glad that my wife and I spent some time in one of my favorite places. Two people driving around in a regular vehicle allowed us to do some things that are not possible with a bunch of students in a 15 passenger van, and a couple of those things led me to some deep thinking.

On Saturday, we made our way to Madrid, an abandoned mining town that became home to some people who wanted to get away from the bonds of society. I have been there many times, but this time was different in one respect. We got to sit and have a beer. While drinking that beer, we listened to a band called Cactus Slim and the Goat Heads.image-3

As we listened, I realized that the band was made up of locals who had, as I wrote earlier, made their way to Madrid to find freedom from the stresses of our world. One table was filled with other locals who had done the same thing.

The table in front of us was filled with people who looked for freedom in another way. There were two couples who had ridden their motorcycles to town. Madrid has become a destination for those weekend riders who want to spend Saturdays and Sundays on the roads with the wind in their hair. After all, helmets are not required in New Mexico.

Listening to the music and watching the people made me think about the larger city down the road. Santa Fe has also become a place where people want to be free to pursue their dreams without society getting in the way. Artists come from all around to be inspired by the environment and make a living off of that inspiration.

On Monday, we went to Taos and explored the town. The stop that I had to make was at Kit Carson’s home. He is one of the great characters of the American West, and I wanted to walk in his footsteps. Before going into the house, we watched a movie about him, and one scene struck me to the core.

The narrator said that Carson went into the West to escape American civilization and society. However, the trails he blazed would be used by others to bring that civilization and society into the West. In essence, he could not escape the bounds of his world because he brought them with him.

That made me think of Cactus Slim and the citizens of Madrid. Like Carson, they moved there to be free of society and the stresses that go with it, but that same society followed them there. My wife and I brought it with us. The man in the blazer who my wife thought was Robert Redford’s brother brought it with him. The bikers at the next table brought it with them.

Madrid is no longer an escape from the outside world. It is an attraction to the outside world.

The same can be said of Santa Fe. It was a place for artists to live a life unnumbered. Now, it is a place of art galleries filled with expensive pieces. It is a place of nice hotels with spas and fancy restaurants. It is a place for people like us to walk around the streets and find our own sense of temporary freedom.

The dreams of Kit Carson and Cactus Slim were to escape the world. Those dreams were shattered by the fact that it is an impossible feat. No matter where they go the rest of us are going to follow.

There is one other sad part of those broken dreams. The people who went into the corners of the West to left one society and ran into another. Madrid, Taos and Santa Fe sit on land that was once the domain of Native Americans. Now, those Native Americans are on reservations and come to those towns to sell their wares.

The dreamers looked for freedom by taking that freedom from the people who were already there. Then, the freedom they thought they had achieved turned out to be temporary.

Kit Carson and Cactus Slim come from different times, but their dreams turned out the same.



15 Responses to “The Faded Dreams of Kit Carson and Cactus Slim”

  1. Andrew Petcher October 23, 2015 at 04:32 #

    Nice thoughtful piece Rick. Madrid sounds like an interesting place, interesting to think about a place such as that compared with Madrid in Spain.
    I’d like my idetails about that two thousand year old Native American art. Anything that old in the UK would have to go straight into a museum!
    Kit Carson was an interesting guy, the World is unlikely to see the likes of him ever again!

    • Rick October 23, 2015 at 12:53 #

      I’ll write about the artifact when I get a good picture of it. The interesting thing about Madrid is that it’s not pronounced like the other Madrid. The emphasis is on the first syllable.

  2. Marilyn Armstrong October 23, 2015 at 04:39 #

    Sounds heavenly. I’ll be thinking about you when we hit Arizona in January. I was also wondering about the art. Nosy people would like to know more. I have some very old Chinese porcelain, but they are just pottery and there is a lot of it around.

    • Rick October 23, 2015 at 12:54 #

      I’ll write about the artifact later. What part of Arizona?

      • Marilyn Armstrong October 23, 2015 at 13:35 #

        One of our best friends lives in Phoenix, but we have plans to make it up to Monument Valley too (yes, I know it’s a long trek, but John Ford beckons) …

      • Rick October 23, 2015 at 21:07 #

        Monument Valley is my favorite place. Be sure to take a tour and go to John Ford Point. It is where John Wayne lowered Jeffrey Hunter at the end of The Searchers.

  3. Agatha Ann October 23, 2015 at 16:49 #

    Sounds like a great trip! A lot of amazing history and scenery down there!

    • Rick October 23, 2015 at 21:07 #

      It is a beautiful place to visit. I can see why Kit Carson and everyone else was attracted to it.

  4. Bantering Ram October 25, 2015 at 05:13 #

    This evokes memories of an article I read recently about Slovenia. The author pondered months before publishing it because she felt that its beauty is perhaps best kept quiet lest growing popularity lays it to waste. She did eventually write about it but when I met her recently it looked like she was still troubled by that decision.

    • Rick October 25, 2015 at 13:09 #

      People should experience beautiful places, but how to we prevent those people from messing it up?

      • Bantering Ram October 25, 2015 at 16:15 #

        That desire to have people experience that beauty is finally what decided it for her.

  5. jcalberta October 29, 2015 at 18:39 #

    Another coincidence Rick. I had been mentioning to my wife that a trip into the Sante Fe area might be fun. But I know nothing about the area. So thanks. I know the natives arts and pottery and blankets from that area are beautiful.

    • Rick October 29, 2015 at 18:54 #

      If you need some help let me know. I know the area well.

      • jcalberta October 30, 2015 at 15:18 #

        Thank you kindly.

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