Monday, June 7, 2010

Pot Thief Tour 2010 - Days 22 - 24

We spent the last two nights at the Elk Horn Lodge in Chama, a collection of cabins along the bank of the Chama River. No cell phone reception. No Internet. Almost heaven.

The cabins have no air conditioning because they don’t need it. There are elk in the field across the river. We saw a lobo at sunset. We’ve made friends with the people in the next cabin, Clarissa and Rick Lopez. Clarissa is the author of a book called Fisher Chick, a non-fiction account of trout fishing in Northern New Mexico. The woman in the cabin across from us is one of four authors of a collection of stories written by their writers group in Alamagordo.

The 6th Annual New Mexico Book Festival is being held in Chama as were the first five. This is my first time here, but most of the others are veterans, and the gathering has the feel of a reunion.

Chama is a lot like Questa (the place I last blogged about), a small village originally settled by land-grant families from Spain. For four centuries, the most important person in town was always the mayordomo, the person in charge of allotting water from the acequia. Now the most important person is the tourist because that is what the economy is based on. The Toltec and Cumbres Steam Railroad runs from Chama up to Colorado and back each day during the summer, and it is always packed. Motels, lodges, and B & Bs dot the valley, filled with train-riders, fly-fishers, and people just happy to be in the cool mountain air. The snowmobilers and hunters come in the winter.

The chamber of commerce does a great job promoting the place. The Book Fair was created not because they love books, but because they love tourists. However, it turns out that in addition to the people who drive to Chama for the fair, there are a good number of locals who are readers, so the traffic in the building was brisk, and sales were good. We also had a seminar by David Morrell, creator of the Rambo character and author of 38 thrillers. Tonight we have a chuckwagon dinner under the stars with entertainment by someone who plays the guitar and sings western music. Not country music. The difference is that western music deals with outdoor activity such as riding horses and building campfires whereas country music deals with indoor activities such as drinking at honky-tonks and cheating on your wife. A western singer drives cattle. A country singer drives pick-up trucks.