Forgotten Cimarron

New Mexico's high country is populated with aspens, bison, and ghosts of the Old West

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In October the aspen-draped mountains and hills of the Cimarron Valley explode in red, orange, and gold as cold temperatures return to the high country. Summer campers have gone home, buffalo and antelope are on the move, the roads are empty, and there should be rooms at the St. James.

Ghosts and bullet holes
As the grandest structure in Cimarron, the St. James is a rambling old two-story adobe. Locals jam the hotel bar on weekend evenings to drink with the tourists because there is no place else to go.

More than two dozen bullet holes riddle the 133-year-old tin ceiling in the hotel's original saloon, which is now the dining room. Legend has it that 26 men swallowed their last whiskey beneath that ceiling, where travelers now order bison pot roast, filet mignon, and tender baby quail. But the St. James's current proprietor, Roger Smith, says the death toll in the saloon was more like six or seven. "There's a lot of exaggeration out there about this place," he says.

 

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