History

In the Rearview – This week in The Taos News’ archives

A terrifying lightning strike, a French cyclist on a globe-trotting journey and first contact with “the hippies”

By Harrison Blackman
Posted 6/29/17

As part of our new 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. What we found was a terrifying …

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History

In the Rearview – This week in The Taos News’ archives

A terrifying lightning strike, a French cyclist on a globe-trotting journey and first contact with “the hippies”

Posted

As part of our new 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. What we found was a terrifying lightning strike, a French cyclist on a globe-trotting journey, and the mysterious arrival of what The Taos News called “mythical men” – the hippies.

2007 – 10 years ago: “Taoseño survives lightning encounter”, By Gerald Garner, Jr., July 5-11, 2007.

On June 30, 2007, half of the Taos Land Trust auction had gone on without incident. The event, which was held at the Old Blinking Light Restaurant (now the location of the upscale restaurant Medley), went well until 7 p.m. That was when lightning came down and struck Guillermo Rosette, a volunteer at the auction. Rosette fell to the ground.

“God, it was just terrifying and amazing,” then-Taos Land Trust Director Ernie Atencio was quoted as saying after the conclusion of the auction. “It’s overwhelming and indescribable; we’re all still shaking.”

The lightning had shattered Rosette’s glasses, and more critically – Rosette had no pulse. Fortunately, a doctor and nurse were present at the auction and immediately attended to the man before he was picked up by an ambulance and brought to Holy Cross Hospital.

After a blessing from then-Taos Pueblo governor Gilbert Suazo, the auction resumed and dinner was served.

After an examination at the hospital Rosette was released within two hours, whereupon he returned to the auction.

“He was very hungry,” Atencio was quoted as saying.

1992 – 25 years ago: “Foulon: have bike, will travel”, By Mike Stauffer, July 2, 1992.

On June 23, 1992, Taos had an unexpected visitor – a 33-year-old French cyclist by the name of Bruno Foulon. His path to Taos was quite atypical, however.

Originally a geriatric psychologist, Foulon – who hailed from Northern France – asked his boss for three weeks off to travel. Six years later, he biked into Taos after having traversed much of Europe, North Africa, Canada and 32 of the continental United States.

Despite being involved in multiple accidents that in total broke 17 bones in his body – not to mention having been robbed four times – Foulon was dauntless in continuing his journey. His process involved stopping his trek at 5 p.m. each day, approaching people in neighborhoods and asking them if they would let him pitch his tent in their yards for the night. In Taos, he spent the night at a local house.

That said, in one of his most perilous incidents, Foulon was once struck and dragged 300 feet by a mobile home in Las Vegas. In another, he was almost strangled by a man who found him in his shower. The man had been gone for a few days and hadn’t known that his wife had let Foulon camp at their house – thus he was convinced his wife had had a fling with “this Frenchman.” A difficult conversation in broken English saved his life.

When he was severely injured, Foulon would travel to Canada for physical therapy because there were more French speakers there. To support himself, Foulon sold a brochure about his quest, and on occasion – he worked.

“I realized that life is short and your future is just what you create in your imagination,” Foulon was quoted as saying.

At the time, he claimed he would cycle for the next 20 years, perhaps in California, Oceania and East Asia. But 25 years later, a Google search yielded no easy clues regarding his fate.

1967 – 50 years ago: “Hippie-Hunt Bags Plentiful Comments, But No Hippies”, By Leslie Bottorff, July 6, 1967.

“Somewhere in the area, the mythical men walk. They are here. ‘They are easily recognized.’ They are ‘Hippies.’ “

So began this almost-satirical investigative piece by Leslie Bottorff. In response to rumors of “dirty, long-haired Hippies” camping in Taos, The Taos News reporter was on the case.

One such rumor of hippies Bottorff followed up on was a colony at the old hot spring of Llano Quemado, documented by a so-called “hair-raising” eyewitness account of a nude swimming party.

Bottorff drove to the old springs and encountered two local boys “who had been swimming, decently clothed, in a puddle not much bigger than a normal bathtub.”

“We haven’t seen anyone today,” one of the boys reported. “I guess it was hippies we saw camped at Taos Junction the other day when we were fishing. Beards and long hair and all that.”

Following this apparent lead, Bottorff drove to Taos Junction and met a perplexed fisherman on the shore of the Rio Grande. “Hippies? What is that?” the fisherman was reported as saying.

The hunt continued. Bottorff headed over to Arroyo Seco and had a talk with a local artist. The artist’s response? “Hippies,” he snorted. “You’ll find more of them on the Plaza than you will out here. They’re just illusions and visions. There aren’t any out here.”

More questions yielded more priceless quotes. “I don’t know what a Hippie is. Is it long hair and dirty pants, or what?”

To another resident of Arroyo Seco, the prospect of hippies elicited a response like that of an endangered species – “I don’t know where they are. If I did know, I don’t think I would tell you. They are not hurting anyone and I don’t think they need to be exposed.”

Returning to the Plaza, Bottorff found that shopkeepers held mostly positive views of the “mysterious men” – that the hippies they had encountered were the nicest people who had come into the stores. A supermarket clerk proudly recounted that a hippie had referred to him as as “sir” – “which [was] more than a lot of people who [came] in [did].”

Contrary to rumors, a phone call with a U.S. Forest Service ranger dispelled the belief in any large camping groups in the forest. On the occasion that hippies were found to be camping out, the ranger said, they didn’t cause any trouble. After being told they needed a permit, the hippies reportedly packed up and moved on.

At the end of Bottorff’s search, not a single hippie was found. Apparently, as Bottorff concluded via the testimony of an anonymous Taoseño, “Taos [wasn’t] swinging enough for them.”

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