In the different novels I’ve written, one small town that gets it’s share of telling is a small town called Los Sauces, Colorado.
The tiny sleeping village is mostly homes, fields and the church today. But once it was the going concern complete with a store, dance hall and a post office.
The town was established in 1863 or about and was founded by Antonio Marquez, Jose Rodriques, and Fernando Borrego. They named it Los Sauces (Spanish for willows), but there was in error made when applying for a post office and the “O” was transposed into an “A.” Depending on the map, you might find it referred to by either name. It’s generally referred to by the correct name by locals.
Nestled on the Rio Grande River banks, it was one place where people forded the river to get from the east side of the San Luis Valley to the west. Any further north, and you’d be adding to your trip. Further south and you’re now dealing with the beginnings of the Rio Grande Gorge, and it’s high walls.
The biggest feature is the church. La Capilla de San Antonio de Padua was built in 1880, and then replaced in 1928. It’s a small church, and mass is still said in it at least once or twice a month. My biggest memory of the church was going with my uncle there. He was a Catholic Priest on leave, and had come home to the valley. Often times he went out and said mass, and on this occasion, he was going to Las Sauces to say mass. He needed a Lecturer and altar boy, and since I did both, I agreed to go help him.
My uncle spent the night there the day before he was to say mass. The church has a small rectory in the back which would provide living quarters for the priest. In this case, think efficiency apartment with a small bed, almost as small kitchen, and a bathroom so small you had to step outside of it to change your mind. He described it as one of the spookier nights he’d ever spent. The old adobe structure creaked with every slight wind and he didn’t sleep at all well.
There’s some fascinating stories about the town associated with the occult and unearthly sightings.
One of my personal favorites has to do with a guest at a community dance. I’ll say this for the community. There have been some heart-breaking, beautiful girls come out of it. And the same must have been true back in the early days. Since it was a crossing, it wasn’t unusual to have strangers in town.
Well, this night there was a dance in town. Attending the dance was a man. Movie stars didn’t exist yet, but this man would have been considered “movie star handsome” by today’s standards. The ladies were all taken with him, and according to the story, he’d been dancing all night long. He seemed especially intrigued by one of the more beautiful girls in town.
He’d been dancing with her when someone noticed something odd about him.
He had a barbed tail, and it was sticking out of his pant leg. Legend says it was the Devil. Realizing he’d been caught, the Devil proved he was also a gentleman. He thanked the ladies for the dances, kissed his dance partner’s hand, said good night, and disappeared in a flash of light.
Just an aside, this story seems to be famous throughout the Southwest. So either everyone and then some has stolen it and put the name of their town into it, or the Devil enjoys a good party, dancing with a pretty girl, and gets around some.
It makes you wonder how he finds time to create the mischief he’s blamed for.
There’s also an odd formation of rock almost due south of the community. I know it as the Devil’s Biscuit. The locals call it “Witches’ Hill.” On some nights, mysterious lights have been seen dancing around it. Brave souls have claimed to have gone out there and witnessed women dancing naked with demons. What get’s interesting is when they start naming names. I think Freud would have a field day with these guys.
Of course, I’ve never seen a thing. To me, it’s just an outcropping of lava rock, with a little interesting geology on the side. The rock does have a high content of iron in it, and I’ve often wondered if the lights seen aren’t some kind of natural electrical discharge like St. Elmo’s Fire.
Another incident that happened, again in the vicinity of Witches’ Hill, happened back in the ’60s. Several locals returning from a dance were going down the county road when they observed what they thought was a helicopter come up over the flat top mountain. The next thing they know, a bright light has flashed down on them, and they witnessed a saucer-like object fly over them and down towards the gorge. I used that incident as a basis in a chapter in Book Two.
More recently, the small community made the news with the discovery of the remains of several people who had been murdered. I’ve been following the case, but rightfully so, not much has been put out about it except that a suspect is in custody and at least one set of remains has been identified.