What brought you to New Mexico?
When I met my wife, Jane, 33 years ago, she said one day I’d like to move out west. We’re both veterinarians and in 2001 there was a veterinary conference in Albuquerque and she wanted to show me around New Mexico. We went to the VLA and we drove through Magdalena. In 2005 we started coming back to New Mexico every fall and working on reservations with a group called Native American Veterinary Service, primarily Zuni and Hopi. We’d work on sheep camps in Zuni, and it struck me that you would see petroglyphs and pottery sherds as you’d be walking along. Some, in places nobody can get to unless you’re a tribal member. The history is so deep, because these pueblos, like Acoma and the Hopi, they go back a thousand years.
So why Magdalena?
We were looking at places in New Mexico to move and looked all around. Roswell was too hot and flat, Santa Fe was too expensive, Deming is too “deserty,” and Datil was too cold. We wanted to be near a university. We wanted to be in a small town. And we like the western lifestyle. Magdalena was just right. We purchased a small place of sixty acres named Running Quail Ranch just north of the village and in 2015 we made the move.
From where did you move?
We moved here five years ago from Rising Sun, Maryland.
There’s a town called Rising Sun?
There was a tavern there by that name so they named the town Rising Sun. It was one of William Penn’s colonies in the late 1600s.
How did you come to be a veterinarian?
I am a University of Delaware graduate and then I went to Cornell University in New York for veterinary college. I opened my own practice in 1978 in Oxford, Pennsylvania. Then in1984. I decided to start a large animal practice on my own. Strictly equine. It was just me and I hired a girl to be my secretary. It’s called Unionville Equine Associates and has grown to 11 vets and 20 employees.
What’s the best part of being a horse doctor?
The thing I enjoy most is that there are no owners of animals more dedicated than horse people, as a group. I enjoyed the people that wanted to dedicate their lives to the horses. And I enjoyed the horse activities, the horse shows, and the racing. I love the industry. I just love the dedication most of my clients have shown. It’s a commitment. I think it’s, well, it’s like moving to Magdalena. You can’t move to Magdalena on a whim. And you can’t own a horse on a whim.
I’ve heard that there has always been a connection between humans and horses. Your thoughts?
There’s an innate attraction with certain people to a horse. I can’t explain it, but it’s been that way through history. For instance, you go to any art museum in New York or London and what do you see? A painting of Wellington on his favorite horse. Or Robert E. Lee on Traveller. There’s that innate relationship between horse people. But not just a horse and person. It’s bigger than that. It’s been basic transportation forever.
That’s certainly true in the American West.
Before that. The horse has been such an integral part of human history. It’s almost like the dog. Dogs have been with humans as far back as we know. And pretty much as far back as recorded history goes, horses have been involved. What was the biggest change in the Native American population when the Spanish came over? Horses. I’ve often said to people that giving the plains Indians horses is like giving the Germans tanks. I mean they just knew what to do with them. Their world opened up. Look at the changes that came because of that.
It’s almost like you’re saying a horse was the technology of its day?
Say, if you’re an indigenous person living in Florida or what’s now Mexico, and suddenly these guys get off their ship with these animals they couldn’t even comprehend. But it caused the next step in technology.
How many horses do you reckon you’ve treated?
Thousands. On average I would be responsible for the care of about 400 horses. That’s at any given time over my 41-year practice.
Do you have horses here?
We have 13 Arabians and two thoroughbreds at the ranch. Back in Maryland, we showed them and we raced them. Almost all of them are 14 and older. They were done with their careers and still going strong, so we brought them with us out here, and now, basically, we run a retirement home for our horses, six stallions and the rest are all mares.
If not Magdalena, where would you like to be living?
Datil. The only other place would be in Arizona, but I don’t want to live in Phoenix, it’s too hot. We looked at Show Low, but it was too cold. Socorro’s too busy. So I’d say Datil as the only other place.
What appeals to you about this place?
I heard somebody say Magdalena was eclectic. That’s how they described Magdalena. The mix of people here. My wife has a cousin in Germany, and she came out here and said, “We’ve been all over, everywhere in the world. And there’s no place like this, like the southwest.” And there isn’t. There’s nothing like it.
What do you like to do in your spare time? What do you like to read?
Histories mostly. American history. Because I’ve been on the pueblos so much with the NAVS, I’m really interested in the Spanish-Native American interaction. I like to read. Mostly history, like the Civil War and New Mexico history. Also adventure novels. Tony Hillerman, Anne Hillerman and Stephen Havill come to mind.
What about music? What do you listen to?
The 1960s. That’s all I like to listen to, oldies. Motown’s my favorite, you can dance to it. I went to a wedding and they were playing something Motown and the young people were dancing to it, but when they played something newer, they started sitting down. But when they went back to the oldies they started dancing again.
What else do you recollect about the sixties?
I always had a job, especially in the summer. They encouraged you to do stuff. My dad would say, ” You need to get experience.” They were always big on useful experience. The two summers I worked with younger kids at a camp was a useful experience. Working at the yacht club was an interesting experience. Worked at a dairy farm one summer.
How about hobbies? Entertainment?
I don’t go to the movies very often. Don’t have a VCR. We watch Longmire on Netflix. My wife is a big fan. I used to collect model trains. I have 20 Lionel trains, maybe more, but haven’t set them up for 30 years. I don’t know if that counts as a hobby. My ranch and my horses have really been my hobby. And just being in Magdalena.