” You an appraiser? ” the ball capped man, leaning against a pickup, asks me as I stand in the street and take a photo of a house for sale.

” No, ” I say, ” I’m just taking pretty pictures. ”

There are plenty of pretty pictures in Madrid, and some of them are Quirky. Madrid is a New Mexico ghost town about thirty five miles northeast of Albuquerque, closer to Santa Fe, and it has a storied history. Some say ghosts are still hanging out here on moonlit nights with coyotes howling and winds gently blowing the cottonwood trees that line the hamlet’s streets.

Madrid, that had an official population of 204 in 2010, used to be a mining town, and the company town produced anthracite coal for passenger trains because it burned cleaner.  The town mostly huddles close to New Mexico Highway 14 and some notable sights to see are the Mineshaft Tavern and Museum, the Old Boarding House that was the only place to get coffee this morning, the Oscar Hubar Ball Field that was the first lighted ball field west of the Mississippi in the 1920’s.

Madrid was owned by corporations and when the demand for coal trickled down in the 1940’s, the town shut down. It was reclaimed by hippies and non conformists in the 1950,60’s and 70’s. There are numerous shops along Highway 14 through town that sell pottery, jewelry, turquoise, art, spiritual counseling, and Tarot readings. The town is a popular destination for motorcyclists, and, in 2007, the movie ” Wild Hogs ” was set and filmed here. In one of the opening scenes of the popular television series ” Breaking Bad, ” Walter White, after cooking some meth, calls his wife, Skyler, and suggests a trip to Madrid for a family lunch.

Today, the town is virtually shut down by a decree from our Governor, and walking the street is pleasant.

Some of the highlights of the visit are having hot coffee in the Old Boarding House, discovering Heaven, finding nooks and niches in the town that shows it’s ” attitude. ”

People, who live here, seem to have long beards, give you an extra long look, and all have three or four dogs around their homestead.

I’m guessing that some of the town’s residents still mine a little coal for their pot bellied stoves on cold winter days when the winds whip down Main Street and even dogs don’t want to be out.

For those with a little extra time, Madrid makes a close place to Albuquerque to see and enjoy.

As the same man who asked me ” if I was an appraiser, ” said, ” Getting out of the city is always good. ”

We don’t mine coal anymore but it sure feels, today, that I’m working for the company store. 

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