I've just gotten back from three days at the Black Range Lodge (www.blackrangelodge.com) in Kingston, NM. Kingston is about thirty miles wast of Truth or Consequences which is 300 miles south of Las Vegas. Look at a map.
The Lodge is one of the few original buildings left of the silver-mine boom town that went teats-up after the US went from a silver-backed currency to a gold-backed currency. All that remains of a bustling town with 20 saloons, one church, and a semi-famous Madam named Sadie Orchard is the Percha bank (now an Art Gallery, thank you Bonita, resident artist extraordinaire), the Assay office (a private residence) and the Black Range Lodge. The Lodge is 120 years old and is run by a very lovely couple, Katherine and Pete. It's property lines are adjacent to the Gila (hee-la) National Forest, full of pinon, juniper, and mountain mahogany.
Thursday night after check in, I'm snuggled up in my sheep pajamas under the down comforter reading "Henry and June", relating a little too well with Anais Nin, when I hear something similar to a jet taking off outside my window. I keep reading, cuz I'm dumb that way sometimes. A few moments later I hear someone calling my name outside. The handyman, Dan, is banging frantically on my door "Angela! Fire!" I throw something that won't be laughed at in the morning, grab the dog, my suitcase and the CD's and run out the door. Dan lit the path down to my car with a flashlight but he needn't have bothered. The back of the Lodge was completely engulfed in orange light and sparks where whirling into the dry juniper trees around us. We got Wanda into the car and the three of us moved across the street just as the emergency vehicles where coming into the drive. Fortunately the volunteer firehouse is just a few doors down and neighbors were quick to act. I watched from the car as flames shot up over the roof of the three story building. When I looked away from the fire, I saw a falling star. This is it, I thought, this is the end of 120 years and the end of Katherine and Pete's dream.
When the smoke cleared, the Lodge had been just slightly damaged, but the workshops in the back as well as an old fig tree had been completely immolated. The hillside hadn't gone up in flames and no one had been seriously hurt. The old hot water heater had exploded. It could have been a tragedy. Twenty feet from the flames sat two propane tanks. All around the Lodge lay construction materials; wood, straw bales, and miscellaneous scavenged items. It all could have burned to the ground and taken the national forest and all the neighbors with it. Good neighbors, good angels.
Katherine offered to give me my stay for free, which I declined. I stayed the entire weekend, as planned. Wanda and I walked for miles in the forest, picked pinon nuts, saw javelinas in the broad daylight, and deer on the hillside. None the worse for wear and I have a dramatic story to tell on Monday morning.