My pal, Yacht Cowboy Michael, points out that I have been on the road a year and I’m yet to cross the Mississippi. In fact, I have only been in five states since I left California, and that’s counting a corner of Nevada I clipped while aiming for Arizona.
Now, ready to leave New Mexico, I gave myself one last 5-day Madrid fix before heading east. Not surprising, I added new tiles to the mosaic of Madrid in my mind.
I got better acquainted with Annette, who has owned the 18-room Boarding House for thirty years. The building started life in Kansas and was transported to Madrid when lodgings were needed during the coal-mining boom.
Annette gave the Old Boarding House Mercantile a second life as a grocery and general store. There is an all too well-kept secret that from Annette’s ovens come superb baked goods. Her cinnamon rolls will be featured when I get around to publishing The Cinnamon Bun Lovers Guide to the Universe.
Annette has seen Madrid evolve from a town of dropouts, hippies, escapees, brain-battered ‘Nam vets, struggling artists, and others who simply want to be left alone and make their own rules of behavior. After collecting Madrid stories in my several visits, I wonder if “30-year soap opera” may be more descriptive than evolution. Many of the leading players are still there, somewhat faded, mellowed, and short a few teeth.
Has the core character of the town changed or merely acquired a thin veneer of normality? Today’s shops offer the artistic fruits of polished craftsmen, old hippies gather at the Java House on one end of town or the porch of the Boarding House at the other end just 300 yards away. People arriving in more recent decades seem like younger versions made from the molds of the earlier settlers.
Madrid is a destination for motorcycle clubs worldwide since Wild Hogs, was filmed here in 2007 (http://www.IMDB.com/title/tt0486946/) with John Travolta, Tim Allen, William Macy, and Martin Lawrence. While I was there, a Harley-Davidson club from Berlin, Germany, stopped for photo opportunities.
Madrid is managed rather than governed by the Madrid Landowners Association.
Madrid has been built-out with about 200 who live in houses with electricity and water and another 200 who don’t. The hookups to the town well have reached the capacity of the water supply.
Law enforcement in Madrid befits the neighborhood-like character of the town. Once a day, a police cruiser ambles through town without stopping. Only newcomers call the police—usually for the things they used to solve by calling their mother.
Old-timers settle small disputes between the parties. Sometimes they take it outside and get it on.
Bigger issues are handled in a manner more reminiscent of the Old West. Madrid has been adopted by The Banditos, a motorcycle club from Santa Fe, where the police regard them as outlaws. They have chosen Madrid as a neutral place where they can relax and enjoy themselves.
Here, they are good citizens, routinely contributing to community projects such as “Schooltime Duds,” which provides clothing to the town’s needy school children.
But if a local individual is behaving abusively, a call could be made to The Banditos, who would exert an influence that would be more immediate and effective than conventional law enforcement.
In the past, big-time acreage has been devoted to the cultivation of marijuana by major crime families. The farms were soon discovered, raided, and shut down by federal agents.
The occasional one-man patch still survives for a crop that was never destined to be more than a cottage industry. A few pounds are harvested annually for personal, medicinal, and sacramental purposes.
In Madrid’s Boneyard, is a grave of a woman, Tina, who wrote an article about the town’s cottage industry. The local growers had an understanding with county law enforcement as long as the harvests were small, the police had more important things to do. Tina’s article came to the attention of the Feds for whom no fish is too small to fry. Their annual raids manage to destroy a few plants and put an aging hippie or two on the food-stamp rolls.
Tina’s name never comes up in conversation without parentheses identifying her as the woman who couldn’t keep her mouth shut.
The history books will always remember Madrid as a coalmine town. But for this miner of stories, Madrid is a gold mine town.