Day 221: Spanish Peaks

Laetitia’s group gathered in Chama, New Mexico, a mountain community 7875 feet above sea level that is one of the starting points for the Cumbres-Toltec Railroad. Both the Durango-Silverton and Cumbres-Toltec roadbeds were once part of the Denver-Rio Grande Western Railroad. The group boarded the train and marveled at the scenery as it made its ascent from the Chama Valley and crossed the high trestle over rushing Wolf Creek. As they neared the summit of Cumbres Pass (10,015 feet), they saw a group from the Spanish Peaks Mule and Donkey Association on a trail ride. The woman leading the group was on an especially fine animal, of which she seemed quite proud until it saw the train and began braying loudly, much to her embarrassment.

After stopping for lunch in Osier, the train continued on through spectacular high mountain country to Antonito, Colorado, where the elevation is less and the ground more level. The Cumbres-Toltec track runs along the New Mexico-Colorado border, crossing back and forth several times. Although you may not have heard of the Cumbres-Toltec Railroad, you may have seen it without knowing it. The Cumbres-Toltec Railroad was used for the circus train chase scene in the third Indiana Jones film. Its wooden water tower was also used in the film.

Their bus met them in Antonito, and they drove to Santa Fe and checked into the La Fonda Hotel for the evening. They walked around the Plaza, and some of her guests bought turquoise and silver jewelry from the Indians in front of the Palace of the Governors. At dinner, Laetitia ordered an appetizer for the group of guacamole prepared at the table. Between the appetizer and the arrival of their entrees, she presented the limerick of the day.

A fine lass who rode near Cumbres Pass
Was quite proud of her beautiful ass
That hadn’t a flaw
Except its “hee-haw,”
Which was loud, obnoxious, and crass.

Day 75: Donkey Show

Terryglass is a village near Lough Derg, one of the three lakes on the River Shannon and the third largest lake in Ireland. It was the site of a monastery founded by Columba of Terryglass. This St. Columba is not to be confused with the Irish monk who founded the monastery on Iona. There are at least fifteen Irish Saints with that name.

The village of Terryglass has two historic wells, the Eye Well and the Headache Well. The water from these wells is believed to have medicinal properties. Laetitia and her group stopped at Terryglass to see the two ancient wells and the ruin of the monastery that was burned by the Vikings in 1164. All that remains of the monastery is one wall that has now been incorporated into a pub. Laetitia and her group decided to see the wall from the inside while having a pint of Murphy’s Stout.

That afternoon they went to the Nenagh Agricultural Fair. Nenagh is a market town that serves the agricultural areas surrounding it. The fair featured Irish dancing, vintage cars and tractors, a best dressed lady contest, a boxing exhibition, modern farm machinery, and wild boars on display. Its most popular feature was the Annual Donkey Derby. This was ostensibly a race, but was mostly a contest to see who could stay seated on the donkey until the end of the racecourse. Once a mainstay of Irish farming, the donkey has now mainly been displaced by the tractor, but the animals remain popular and there were several on exhibit or for sale.

Laetitia talked to a young woman from Terryglass, who was upset because she thought the noisy behavior of her donkey might reduce its chance of being sold for a good price. The conversation inspired the limerick of the day.

A fine lass from the town Terryglass
Went to Nenagh to market her ass
Which she proudly displayed
Until loudly it brayed
Unbefitting an ass of high class.