My Haunting: A Ghost Town
Everyone needs a Hillsboro. A place that lives in them. A place and time where they can instantly touch their childhood. These are my memories of a place and time. I can always withdraw into these memories and find my innocence.
I could make-up stories with Hillsboro as the backdrop, but I don’t need to. When I think about that place at 5:00 am, the memories flow and seem larger than life with little in the way of conscious embellishment required.
Hillsboro is dust, horn toads, cow patties, bars, and the friendly postmaster. The sleepy creek that is either bone dry or a raging flash flood carrying old tires and young calves in its wake. It is cottonwood trees. It is my widowed grandmothers. It is apple orchards and ranches. It is the general store. It is the ancient Black Hills museum which just seems to keep getting older. It is Pula, operating the “blade” and keeping highway 90 to Silver City clear while collecting stray hubcaps to tack up in his barn. It is stuck in the silver boom of the 1890’s. It is courthouse ruins complete with rusting cell doors. It has a one-room schoolhouse, still in use. It is the soft coo of mourning doves. It is compounds with wrought iron fences and shale lined gardens. It is scorpions. It is loose, barking dogs chasing me as I walk. It is swimming in the rusty water tank,. It is the old the Texaco where you could get an ice cream sandwich. It is the “airstrip” and old cemetery on the hill. It is standing on ant piles. It is going to Truth or Consequences for a Sunday big meal out at the Turtle Inn. It is igniting the hillside with 4th of July fireworks and watching the volunteer fire department respond, It is Apache Canyon, looking at the sheer rock walls and thinking about Chief Victorio and his party, just waiting in ambush. It is watching the sky on fire from a roof top during the August meteor showers. It is the Ghost in Grandmother Hazel’s house on the hill. Much of Hillsboro still looks as it did in 1895, when the silver market busted, but for me, it will forever be 1962 in Hillsboro.
Hillsboro is a ghost town. It haunts me. It lies on the eastern portal to the Black Range. It sits on the Percha Creek, nestled in a narrow valley. To its west lies Kingston. To the south, Lake Valley where the world’s richest deposit of pure silver was found in the famous “Bridal Chamber”. North are a hundred miles of ranches, foothills and arroyo’s until you get to Magdalena. To the east are the Caballo Mountains, whose baron strata look like a child’s watercolor painting. The Caballos overlook Elephant Butte Reservoir and the relatively thriving metropolis and Sierra county seat, Truth or Consequences.
I visited Hillsboro at least once a year from when I was born until I was about 12 years old. I always looked forward to visiting this remote dry corner of New Mexico. It was a sharp contrast to Sacramento, where I lived through 1st grade. It was like another planet compared to the suburbs of Cincinnati where I grew up after that.
Thinking about how to write about my ghost, and my one encounter with the spirit of the dead sheriff that rambled through my Grandmother’s adobe house triggered a flood of memories, stories, smells, sounds and feelings. I made a list three pages long, just so I wouldn’t forget them. I intend to write them all down, for my benefit and to pass to my kids. I also plan to mine the old family picture archives. I’ll be the kid that looks like Alfred E. Neuman. If this is in the spirit of these boards, and you don’t mind my unpolished writing, I’ll post as I go. Oops, I never did get around to saying much about the ghost in this pass…I guess my haunting is bigger than one little bit of ectoplasm.