Adventures in the Land of Enchantment

FIRST SAINT — Gracing the outside of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe is this statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as the Lily of the Mohawks, who is the first Native American to be given sainthood. Beatified in 1980, the Algonquin-Mohawk woman was canonized by Pope Benedict XVL in 2012.

By Ed Martley

There’s something about the combination of a powerful car, a warm night and a beautiful, empty highway that compels you to cruise hour after hour at more than 100 mph, windows and radio wide open. That’s how my decades-long love affair with New Mexico began.

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE MADRID — Madrid is a hippy hamlet near Santa Fe. As you can see, it’s pretty easy to end up in trouble. At our last visit a few years ago, sanitation at the settlement’s elite eatery consisted of an outdoor Port-a-Potty. It is unknown what other establishments used.

In the late 1970s; I was operating a clothing store in South Dakota, and a good friend was working in Las Cruces, N.M. So I drove down to visit — after all, 1,000 miles is nothing to an old road warrior in an Oldsmobile 98. Las Cruces was a nice town of about 35,000 then and has grown to more than 100,000 today. Anyway, I decided open a branch of the store there. Which I did, got tired of the commute after a couple of years, and sold out. But in the years since, we have traveled throughout New Mexico, always finding adventure, always finding something new.

Our most recent visit, in early December of 2016, was to attend a feast day observance of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the pueblo of Tortugas, which adjoins Las Cruces. You can read Suzanne’s observations about the fiesta in last week’s Rapid City Journal. More on the rest of that trip in a subsequent installment of this series of stories.

That is only the most recent adventure. Early during our years of discovery roaming the Land of Enchantment, I took my daughters, ages 12 and 15, to Santa Fe, state capital and one of the great towns on the planet. There is a downtown square of a block on each side. In and around the square are handcrafters, artists, jewelry makers, fortunetellers, acrobats, musicians and dozens of delightful characters doing weird things — all hoping to relieve you of some of your money.

HISTORY TO THE 1600s — The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is a prominent landmark in downtown Santa Fe. The diocese was established in 1850; Catholicism had come to the area with the Spanish conquistadors in the mid-16th century.

We stopped at one table of handmade jewelry where youngest daughter was examining a nose decoration. The idea was, you shoved a little magnet up your nose to hold a jewel to the outside of your nose. She tried one out, and after much grimacing and contorting, was up to the second joint before she got the hang of it. The magnet didn’t hold well so we didn’t buy it; the vendor wiped the magnet on his sleeve and tossed it back in the box.

As we walked away, oldest daughter asked, did you notice that guy who was watching you? Youngest daughter said no, who was it? “Eric Clapton,” oldest daughter replied.

On that same trip, we visited the museum at Los Alamos where we got an education on the atomic bomb, which was designed and built there.

CAVE DWELLINGS — About an hour’s drive from Santa Fe is Bandelier National Monument, where you can actually go inside the cliff dwellings.

Not far from Los Alamos is wonderful Bandelier National Monument, where you can crawl around in some ancient cliff dwellings. The girls were delighted when they looked into one of the cave-like rooms and saw a pair of elderly women on their knees, crying and reciting unintelligible words, perhaps praying to or for the spirits of the long-departed residents? The so-called great mystery of the disappearance of the original Anasazi residents has filled popular books and TV shows. (According to current theories, they moved out when their water source ran dry. Their ancestors live in communities down the road, making pottery and silver jewelry in the same designs as artifacts found at the site.)

We will be offering several more stories and many pictures about New Mexico travels in subsequent weeks. This coming spring, we will be in New Mexico again, although briefly. We plan to drive a portion of fabled Route 66, heading westward out of Albuquerque.

St. Francis Cathedral, built between 1869 and 1886, is open to the public.

DUMP YOUR DIET — The coffee shop in Santa Fe’s famed La Fonda Hotel is the home of some of the best pastries ever baked.

WOOD AND TILE — Few hotels will rival the La Fonda in beauty. It glows with woods, its walls and floors are sheathed with tile. The price tag for a nice room is also pretty memorable. Toward the top of my bucket list is the hope of saving enough to stay there for just one night.

Over the river, through the woods: a Black Hills Christmas

(Editor’s Note: If this story sounds familiar, it is because it has been printed somewhere every holiday season for the past 15 years. We do this because it brings back the best of holiday memories.)

Over the river and through the woods to Grandpa’s and Nonni’s cabin they came for Christmas, and once all had arrived, we counted 34 legs (seven people and five dogs.)

Christmas Day activities really start with preparations the day before, so we will begin there.hhra or vert -- reindeer cookies

Wife Suzanne (“Nonni” to the grandchildren) and I left town, driving over the creeks and through the woods to the cabin, buried deeply within the peace and beauty of the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. The first thing we saw when we pulled into the yard was that the chipmunk table was in use again.

The chipmunk table is a chunk of log about a foot high and 10 inches in diameter. It stands on end, and until last springs, a chipmunk had been using the wood as a dinner table, evidenced by the stack of pine cone fragments. But last spring, the table’s user drowned in a rain barrel, which we immediately dumped. The table remained unused all summer, so we were highly pleased to see someone else move in.

Just behind the chipmunk table was a nail on the back of the cabin. The week before when we were hauling water to the cabin, a six-gallon container leaked and soaked my shirt, so Suzanne hung it on the nail. We forgot it, and when we saw it hanging there that day, it was badly torn. The sleeves were pulled out of the shoulders, and there were jagged little rips all over the garment. Can’t you just see a couple of young coyotes gleefully yanking on it? We left the remains of the shirt on the nail in case the Canis latrans wanted to have another go at it.

Christmas morning, we began preparing a traditional dinner with turkey and sweet potatoes and dried-corn pudding, all crammed into the little oven of the elderly propane stove.

Cooking in that oven was a challenge because the temperature is either 250 degrees or 450 degrees, the oven regulator being contrary. The trick was to adjust it often to come up with an average of about 350 degrees.

I guess we got it right, because aside from a few charred parts, everything was perfect.

The cabin is not terrible large. When you have five adults occupying the seating, two babies creeping as fast as they can to touch that fascinating wood stove, and a maelstrom of five swirling dogs whose aggregate weight is 347 pounds, there is little time to relax.

It was fun — it was hilarious.

Track of the cat, in front of our cabin.

Track of the cat, in front of our cabin.

And it was tiring. That night, when all of the family except two of the dogs returned to town, Suzanne and I put our feet up and relaxed, sipping tea and enjoying the warmth of the wood stove. As bedtime approached, she took the dogs out for their evening constitutional, only to bound back into the cabin moments later. She heard what sounded like a child screaming, and the dogs had taken up an agitated patrol around the cabin perimeter.

It is a lead-pipe cinch there were no children around in the snow-filled forest that time of night. And there were reports of mountain lions moving back into the Black Hills. We dragged the dogs indoors, possibly depriving a lion of its Christmas dinner.

Finally, blessedly, we crawled into bed. A word of advice: On winter nights, don’ t drink a lot a tea before bedtime, especially when outhouse is 60 feet away.


Sheridan Lake in winter leads off this collection of frosty images, with our holiday best wishes to all.

‘Blender, Colorado River Dog,’ is a top Christmas gift for dog lovers of all ages



Here I am, happy as a peach orchard boar. The river is fast and  smooth, my tourists are busy being stunned by the beauty as my raft sweeps by those red cliffs. I am at peace, and then some yayhoo starts yelling, “Hey, what’s that in the water. Hey, it’s a dog — Hey, do something quick before it drowns.”

Well, for Pete sakes, it is a dog, swimming for all he’s worth. I set my oars to slow us down best I can, and the tourists start grabbing for the dog. They get him and drag him aboard and then everyone on the boat is making over him and feeling like some kind of heroes or something. A couple of them give the mutt some of their lunch.

I get to thinking, “What’s a dog doing out here in the middle of the Colorado River? There ain’t any other boats around, and we’re not close to any houses; it don’t make sense.” But then I can’t think about it any more because we are in the rapids and I start earning my pay.

When we finally take out for the day, the dog bounces out of the raft and runs off. Pretty strange.

So the next day, there I am in the middle of the river again and some yayhoo tourist starts hollering, “Hey, what’s that in the water? Hey, it’s a dog — Hey, do something quick before it drowns.”

So begins “Blender, Colorado River Dog,” our all-time best selling book.

“Blender” is a 60-pound redbone hound with shoulders and haunches like a quarter horse and ribs like a picket fence. He is the joy and aggravation of his owners, who live along the Colorado River in the red-rocks country near Moab, Utah.

Our hairy hero’s story has been told by newspapers around the world, and his book was serialized in its entirety by the Saturday Evening Post.

One of Blender’s most well-known activities was swimming in the Colorado River, hoping passing rafters would pull him out water and feed him, especially if they had an extra ham sandwich.

Here are a few of the newspaper headlines:




PADDLIN’ POOCH IS A MOOCH — Salt Lake City Tribune

The book is loaded with color photos of the red-rocks area as well as illustrations by Lakota artist Marty Two Bulls.

It is popular as a gift for dog lovers of all ages, and is found in many elementary school reading classes. It sold thousands of copies, and we have what might be the last 23 books available for retail sale.

For your copy, send a check for $11 plus $3 for postage — a total of $14 — to Top Dog Publishing, 2718 W. St. Patrick Street, Rapid City, SD 57702. Be sure to send the address where you want the book shipped.