Out and About: Tranquil Trails

Nov. 5—Darlings,

These months keep rushing by, don't they? One minute it's summer and the next it's time for the holidays, and I wonder where will I have Thanksgiving dinner since Furr's Cafeteria is permanently closed. Poor darling me, the Perils of Pauline.

While I'm worried about Thanksgiving, Cate Adams (Sotheby's) and her husband, Ron Adams, are adjusting to the end of daylight savings time (as of midnight!), as well as recovering from their three-week trip with Cate's siblings to Scotland. Cupcakes, don't get me wrong — it's not a return to standard time, nor was it an Adams Family vacation that hampered their recovery. One day before their scheduled departure, Cate found out that she actually had a fractured foot (as opposed to a simple strain), the kind of news that made her contemplate canceling the whole trip. But her good friend and world traveler, Deb Bodelson (Santa Fe Props), put her foot down and said, "Wear a boot and get on that plane." Cate did.

I swear, Honey Bears, I thought I was scouting for the perfect movie location when author Mark Cross and I turned off the High Road to Taos and drove up a winding, tree-covered lane. There, amid ancient, towering cottonwoods, sat a sprawling adobe. Gip Brown, the owner of Rancho Ancon, a historic landmark in the Pojoaque Valley, came out to greet us. In faded jeans and worn cowboy boots, he fit this Northern New Mexico scene perfectly.

"When was this hacienda built?" I asked, staring at the expanse of it.

The original house, he said, goes way back, somewhere before 1900. Guesthouses were added on by an early owner, Eugene Van Cleave, in the 30s (that's going way back, too), so that his friends could stay briefly . . . or a few years. The guesthouses eventually became rentals, especially for those folks who wanted to stay longer than briefly. Filmmaker Robert Downey, Sr., and his young son, Robert, Jr., stayed while filming Greaser's Palace, a box office flop in 1972. However, it provided a cameo role for seven-year-old Robert, Jr. Today, Rancho Ancon is still popular with the film industry. Locals love it, too. In 1969, artist Douglas Atwill and his then partner, Pete Stewart, rented a guesthouse after they had sold their "gentleman's farm" in Virginia but before they bought property in Santa Fe and started their design/build careers.

Gip's great-aunt, Agnes James (Santa Fe's famed clothing designer and owner of the Town and Country store, at the corner of Lincoln and Marcy, in the 30s and 40s) bought Rancho Ancon in 1950. She loved it so much that she asked her favorite nephew — Gip — to move there. In exchange for taking care of her as she aged, he would inherit Rancho Ancon upon her death. A wonderful gift, and a huge responsibility. Agnes died in 1989, and Gip, true to his word, has lived there since 1974. He and his wife, Joni, continue to faithfully take care of the house, the guesthouses and the grounds. We ended our visit sitting in Adirondack chairs on the front lawn, late in the afternoon, sipping iced tea on a hot summer day. Kiddos, I want to live in one of the guesthouses.

On the other side of Santa Fe, a few miles from the Village of Pecos, I visited one of my very first customers in real estate, who happens to still live on the very first property I ever listed. It's exceedingly rare when anyone in Santa Fe lives in the same place for 43 years, but James Congdon (Santa Fe Props) is a rare individual. Gumdrops, I knew very little about real estate when I listed that property in La Cueva in 1980. Fortunately for me, in 1980 a purchase agreement was maybe three pages long, and I could say "I don't know" to almost any question that was asked. Jeez Louise, have things changed, or WHAT?!?

My listing consisted of approximately five acres with a fenced area for horses; a tiny, dilapidated structure that could maybe become an artist's studio; and a barely habitable mobile home. James and his wife were urbanites fresh from Chicago and Philadelphia, respectively. They looked at their future digs, the mobile home, then they looked at each other. Kittens, even before James became a realtor, he understood the three principles of real estate: location, location, location. The property in La Cueva was perfectly situated between his new job at Brush Ranch and Santa Fe. The Congdons bought the property.

James has been a successful realtor since 1998. Now, forty-three years after he purchased the La Cueva property, the horse pens are gone and the land is transformed. James lives in a comfortable two-story passive solar home. The dilapidated structure has been remodeled into a studio-cum-guesthouse, and what was once a mud hole has been unearthed to reveal an old swimming pool. It is now a cold plunge, with direct access to the sauna and bath in the small cabin James built. Fruit trees dot the landscape. And the mobile home? James moved it to a permanent location in Ilfeld, NM, where it continues to produce a monthly income. Pumpkins, I fully understand James' statement, "I'll never move from here. This is my little piece of tranquility." A realtor needs a tranquil place to call home in today's real estate world, where purchase agreements approach 80 pages. Realtors are expected to know EVERYTHING about a property and the million disclosures that accompany the agreements. The best thing at the end of the day is a closing where everyone is satisfied. Turtle Doves, I drove away, wondering, "Why didn't I buy that property?"

All this tranquility has made one thing clear. Santa Fe has much to offer: myriad dining possibilities, more interesting people per capita than anyplace else, the Opera, the Lensic, the CCA, Meow Wolf, the Video Library. All these entertaining choices could change in a minute, but one thing remains static — the landscape. Truly the Land of Enchantment. (But then again, I've not been to Scotland.)

So long, Sweetpeas. ...Until next time,

Oakley Talbott

Out and About: Tranquil Trails