Why did I stay through the horror of the nighttimes in this way-out-west horse-wrangling town?
I was no southern chic. I was pure alabaster with Yankee blood and city manners; never even rode a horse, didn’t own blue jeans, and preferred my beer dark and heavy. I was out of context, the wrong verb form of myself. Yet I stayed a month. It was the cowboy locals that kept me there, wanting another sunrise.
I had nearly accepted a volunteer position at rainy National Park up in Washington, but I could barely get the bus fare there from my friend’s place in Los Angeles. And I only managed to get to L.A. because I had spent almost all my money on the train there from Miami. And I had only wound up in Miami because I was required to purchase a return ticket before they would allow me into the Bahamas. And I only made it through three months in the Bahamas because I was kinda stuck by a karmic duty; the type of sentiment that is really strong when you live in a yoga ashram. These are the types of serious decisions that vagabonds make, and I was about to choose the dirt path to that haunted hotel.
I pleaded with the hotel to give me a job before the season started, saying I could clean, paint and get ready for the hustle and madness of the summer. I may not have written I AM BROKE in all capital letters on my application, but that was a part of my motivation. I also had this deep fondness for New Mexico. It seemed raw and cleansing; a place of dust and art. But more than either of these things, what really drew me to the state was its license plate. I wanted one of those red and yellow suns bolted onto the car that I didn’t own yet. I liked the idea of having a sunrise attached to me and my travels. And I desperately wanted to live in the ‘Land of Enchantment’.
I didn’t know the place was haunted when they offered me the job. I suppose that even if I had known, it wouldn’t have mattered. There’s a lot of magic that I believe in, but ghosts weren’t any part of it; especially of the angry sort. I imagined it would be a minor curiosity, like the ‘smallest pony in the world!’ at the state fair; somewhat intriguing, but a waste of a quarter.
I was wrong. I literally slept with the blankets over my head and a large jar in my room. Actually, I don’t remember my feet hitting much of the carpetting between the door and the bed. Usually, I would lock the door and simply leap onto the mattress; as if the longer I stayed standing the more vulnerable I would be.
But each night I would sit along the beer sipping horsemen and sing another slow, banjo-y song with them. And from under the blankets, I would hum those western lullabies until the creeps that wandered up my spine became less intense. I never got the license plate that I wanted, but those cowboy regulars, with their big sweaty hats, made me feel like there would always be a sunrise attached to me and my travels, even if angry ghosts were right next door.