Taos Gorge Bridge

A Site about the Vendors at the Taos Gorge Bridge

The gorge bridge is a place where a group of rugged individualists sell their goods in a setting of astonishing natural beauty. There is no formal regulation, the vending is a free as the nature that surrounds it. It is open to anyone but not for everyone. The weather can be harsh. Wind, rain, snow, extremes of heat and cold are all part of vending at the gorge. There is often conflict and drama between vendors. In spite of numerous attempts to persecute, regulate and evict them, the vendors have perservered and remain at the gorge and the scene there is as open and free as it ever was.

Badgers Vision, a Vision of Badger


We lost one of our own this past February, one of the most notable and well known of our small community of vendors. He was also one of my closest friends, my partner and ally when times were tough and they were trying to shut us down. We went to court together when the state was citing vendors for “misuse of public lands” and shared the joy of final victory when the statute we were charged with was declared unconstitutionally vague and nobody ever again would be cited for it. We were partners in resistance and like any good partnership, we knew we could rely on each other and each of us had strengths and abilities that the other lacked which made us very effective in the tangled and troubled world of gorge bridge vendor politics. He had a vision for the future of vending at the bridge, a vision that was expansive, open and accepting of newcomers. He wanted everyone to have the same chance he had but he also wanted them to be mature and responsible. His vision went went way beyond the confines of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and the vendors there. One of the things he often said was “You have to eat to make a turd”. That’s it in a nutshell. We all have the right to feed ourselves and keep ourselves alive. If they tell you the way you’re doing it is not allowed, do it anyway, defy and resist them, you weren’t put on this earth to starve to death. When we won in court he felt it didn’t just apply to us, he saw it as a precedent for the whole state of New Mexico.

He was old school in the best way possible, an archetypal American man, the sort you might encounter reading Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, or Jack Kerouac but living in the flesh. He wasn’t formally educated but he was shrewd and clever, an instinctively good businessman and salesman. He was physically tough and lived a rugged lifestyle. He acquired a lot of useful skills in his life. He could fix cars and build houses but he was an artist as well, a talented and skilled wood carver. He lived up to his name. He was feisty and combative but always morally principled. When other vendors were setting up by the highway where the foot traffic was better, he would set up where it was safe and his customers were not in danger of being run over, even if it meant less money. He did his best to get other vendors to do the same. In a community that doesn’t have or easily accept leaders, he was influential and he achieved that with his character, toughness, and vision. He had a young son who was the world to him and several grown children. He was always active and engaged. He wasn’t planning on dying, death just happened to him. He’s left this world but his vision remains, a vision for all of us who vend at the bridge and elsewhere, for all of us who live by our art and our wits.

This is a repost of the original February 21st post of this entry which got eaten up in a web server crash.


Remembering Lorenzo


As this year passes and there have been so many deaths of notable and famous people, it is time to sadly note the passing of one of our own small community of bridge vendors.

This past month we lost one of our more memorable vendors, Lorenzo Dodson. He was dedicated to vending at the bridge in a way few others were. He grew up selling at the bridge and it was his livelihood and lifestyle. He was always a notable presence there. He had issues, many and deep, and died way too young because of them. Now that he’s gone, there’s no point in dwelling on them. It’s his good side we should remember. The best quality I remember in him was his love for his own children and kids in general. Kids would always take to him. They would instinctively trust him and feel safe around him. They brought out the best in him, always. He also had many devoted friends and his heart was always in the right place, even if he didn’t always make the best choices in life.

Goodbye Lorenzo, the bridge vending scene will not be the same without you.


Suicide and the Vendors at the Gorge


I heard recently about the woman who started The Gorge Bridge Safety Nework being on a local radio program and stating she didn’t understand why there were vendors at the gorge. I didn’t hear the program so I can’t directly respond to what she said but I thought it best to write something about how vendors at the bridge have dealt with suicide and attempted suicide there. It is especially pertinent now that we’ve recently had another local man take his own life at the gorge.

Suicide by someone jumping from the bridge is something that almost all the vendors have had to deal with at some time. We notice the car that has been left there too long or the person acting strangely around the bridge. There have been times when we have been the ones who have called law enforcement to inform them of the suicide and there have been times when we have prevented someone from jumping. Here are a couple of personal experiences I’ve had:

It was a rainy Sunday morning, the Sunday after Halloween of 2014. I came to the bridge as the rain cleared and, as I was setting out my tables, two hikers came up from the gorge area and said there was a body under the bridge. I went with them to where they saw it from and saw the body on one of the pillars that support the bridge. It looked like a manikin and I wanted to believe that it was one that had been thrown there as a Halloween prank. But then I realized that it looked that way because it was broken and smashed. I called 911 and reported it and later filled out a written police report about how it was found.

This second one is from around 10 years ago. It was a cold day in the late fall. There were only a handful of vendors. A woman drove up and got out of her car. She was very distraught looking. She started to look at our stuff but said she had no money. She told us her story. She had a sick dog that had died and the vet bill had taken all of her money. Her car was a rental that was already overdue and if she didn’t return it she would have an arrest warrant put on her. She was a musician and all she had with her was a violin and some CDs. Several vendors bought CDs from her to give her some money and one of our better known characters, Rio Grande George, had his guitar with him and they played some tunes. George needed a ride back to town and got her to drive him there on her way back to return the car. She looked much happier when she left. No one jumped that day. Sometimes, all it takes is someone to talk to. It might have been different if no one was there.

There are many instances of vendors actively intervening in a suicide attempt. A lot of times they notice that someone is acting strange and erratic. There have been times when they’ve called law enforcement and there have been times when vendors have physically prevented someone from jumping. One time, a vendor’s teenage son ran to the middle of the bridge and tackled a woman who was getting ready to jump.

The reason the vendors are at the bridge is very simple: They are there to earn their daily bread. The fact that they are there exposes them to the suicide problem in a way few others experience. There would be more suicides if they weren’t there. There is one trend I have noticed over the years. As there have been more and more vendors, the suicides have been happening more and more at night when no one is there. In the daytime, there is a lively scene, raucous at times. It is filled with life. There is art to be seen, things that are beautiful, people that are colorful and interesting. What could be better to counteract the darkness of suicidal depression than a scene filled with creativity and life?



Out with the old, in with the new.


This is the first blog post on the new Taos Gorge Bridge website. As I said on the main page, the old site was abandoned and I took a long sabbatical from the convoluted politics of vending at the gorge bridge. The direction of the new site will place more emphasis on the positive, the beauty and freedom of vending at the gorge. We, as vendors are so lucky to be able to do what we are doing in such freedom and keeping it is, and always has been, well worth fighting for. These are a couple of photos of the view from my vending spot taken last summer. The gorge in the morning and in an afternoon rain.

gorgemorning2 gorgeafternoonrain2