Frank Waters & the Spirit of Taos

I am almost finished with “The Man Who Killed the Deer,” a famous book by Frank Waters that was published the year I was born, 1942. Some long time ago I read it and liked it, but at the time had no reference to Taos, not like I do now. I can say it has helped me imagine how things were then, both different and perhaps much the same as in present time. It’s clarified for me many of the things that have attracted me here, most importantly the fragile but firm continuity with the pre-conquest past that lives and breathes today among descendants of native Americans living in the Taos region.



By the way the first photo was taken the October, 2010, at the Taos Pueblo and and shows Willow Creek, potable water that comes directly from Blue Lake and divides the pueblo into two parts. This sacred lake, and the pueblo natives’ desire to gain it back from the US government, was one of the themes of the book, “The Man Who Killed the Deer.”

The photo above was taken around the same time, obviously the Rio Grande. Many times in the book the author mentions the fact that once one has climbed some distance up into the Taos mountains it is easy to see the west side of the gorge cutting through the landscape.


This view of the Rio Grande gorge is familiar to anyone who has driven by on Highway 68, but I include it now to illustrate my mood of fresh appreciation for the dramatic topography and history of the place many of us call home.

I would like to recommend another Frank Waters book I recently discovered in the library (yes, they have a dog-eared copy of “The Man Who Killed the Deer”), The Woman at Otowi Crossing (1966). Though not about Taos per se, this book sheds light on many fascinating aspects of New Mexico’s remarkable history. The main fascination for me was the history of Los Alamos, how it abruptly sprung up from what was a boy’s school campus in an otherwise pristine landscape. But there was also an  established pueblo village nearby, the life of which was also important to the story. The main protagonist is an aging Anglo woman whom I found easy to identify with.


One more book by Frank Waters I can suggest is “Mountain Dialogs” (1981). It’s a collection of essays. The first part talks about Waters’ experience living in the mountains above Arroyo Seco when there were few Anglos doing so. He talks about being able to ride his horse across the mountains and down into the Taos Pueblo and was invited and encouraged to do so by his Pueblo neighbors at the time. His neighbors were there by virtue of Spanish land grants and at that time few had allowed their land to be purchased by Anglos. Anyone living in or near Arroyo Seco would likely find this early part of the book enlightening.

All three of these books I was able to find at the Taos Library. I had to wait for a copy of  “The Man Who Killed the Deer,” but the other two were on the shelves.

A year ago a long-time woman friend of mine passed. She is the first peer of mine to do so and it took me a long time to feel my way through the experience. I created a small collage to honor her passing, which I cropped (to make a square) and put here at the end.


Ada’s Passing