In the Rearview: A chocolate-obsessed bear, op-ed against a missile defense project and a mischievous land dispute


As part of our weekly series, The Taos News dug into the newspaper's archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago. This week, we found a story about a chocolate-obsessed bear, an op-ed against the Cold War-era Strategic Defense Initiative and a battle over 6 square miles of land between Taos and Mora County.

10 years ago: 'Chocolate craving draws bear to Questa', Aug. 9-15, 2007, By Susan Lahey

"Some bears like honey," Taos News reporter Susan Lahey wrote. "This bear likes chocolate."

In early August 2007, a bear reportedly climbed through a 3-foot-high pantry window in a Questa home. The bear proceeded to devour a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix.

"It left the Hershey bars and other food," Lahey wrote. "Then it left the way it came with no further destruction except for some big prints on a freshly painted wall."

Three weeks before, an El Rito couple reported that in the middle of the night, a bear crawled through their Dutch door, which was left open for their cats to come in and out, and proceeded to make loud sounds as it made its way through the house. The couple made a lot of noise until the bear got the message and headed out the way it came.

Descriptions of the bear, if it was the same one, approximated a light-colored adult bear that may have been responsible for eating chicken feed, tearing up a barn and raiding compost bins in El Rito, Questa and Latir.

Manny Overby, a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish conservation officer, theorized that the bear may have been the child of a bear that had brought her cubs into the area in 2004 during a drought. At that time, the bear may have been habituated to humans.

Still, Lahey wrote that "the bear has gotten entirely too comfortable, like a neighborhood dog."

To combat the bear's sense of comfort, Overby suggested that residents be very loud in the presence of the bear, perhaps even set off firecrackers to scare it.

"I think that most of us are feeling very strongly that we want to protect the bear," said Annie Mattingly then, a neighbor whose trash had been raided by bears. "And we want to do that by not giving him anything to eat so he'll go back up the mountain."

25 years ago: 'Against SDI', Aug. 6, 1992, By Rollo Silver, San Cristobal

In 1992, San Cristobal resident Rollo Silver sent a letter to the editor of The Taos News in which he argued that New Mexico's senators should decline to support then-President George H.W. Bush's proposed $5.4 billion budget for the Strategic Defense Initiative, a missile defense project that began during the Ronald Reagan administration, commonly referred to as "Star Wars."

Silver argued that the fall of the Soviet Union meant that the threat of nuclear attack was no longer imminent and that emerging nuclear powers were not yet existential threats to the United States.

"The United States is not in danger of a ballistic missile attack," Silver wrote. "CIA director Robert Gates has testified that no threat is likely to emerge for at least 10 years."

In 1993, the newly elected President Bill Clinton shut down the SDI program, but its efforts lived on in the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which scaled down the ambition of SDI from global to regional missile defense. In 2002, BMDO was renamed the Missile Defense Agency, which is still active today.

Twenty-five years after Silver's op-ed, however, and the escalating tension with North Korea suggests that there might still be some contemporary cause for missile defense initiatives in the present.

50 years ago: 'Two Counties Claim 'No Man's Land': Area Near Tres Ritos Taxed by Taos, Mora', Aug. 10, 1967, By Leslie Bottorff

It seemed like a classic Wild West story - the fight over a parcel of land. In a modern twist to this archetypal struggle, it was about how two counties competed for tax revenue. In August 1967, The Taos News reported that Taos and Mora counties were both simultaneously taxing a 6-square-mile block of land.

J. Robert Rubelcava, a property appraiser working for J.L. Jacobs Co., learned about the problem while assessing properties in southern Taos County. The landowners he spoke with told him that they had paid property taxes in Mora County for years. But according to U.S. Forest Service maps, Rubelcava discovered, the properties were actually in Taos County.

What's more, Rubelcava also realized that a sign that denoted the borders of both counties had been moved three times. In fact, the sign had been moved farther and farther within Taos County property with each subsequent shift, Rubelcava claimed.

The chairman of the Taos County Commission, Luis Martinez, was convinced that the land was in Taos County and Mora County officials had moved the sign to help improve real estate valuation in their county.

"That land is in Taos County," Martinez was quoted as saying. "County [commissioners] can't move county lines."

The boundary spat, however, caught the owners of the so-called "no man's land" in the middle. Many of them were compelled to pay taxes for both county jurisdictions.

"It doesn't make a difference which county I'm in, so long as I'm in one county or another," the unnamed owner of a $40,000 summer cabin community property stated at the time ($40,000 in 1967 is almost $300,000 today, adjusted for inflation). "We've been paying taxes till our faces are red and they keep sending us notices saying that they are going to sell our land for back taxes."


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment