Narrative painting: A Golden Nugget

There are local legends about the Devil in Taos. He appears in plenty of places, even visiting folks in their homes but one of the more striking kinds of stories is of his visitations in the popular watering holes and dancehalls of the past.

To be accused of the devil visiting your home was no light thing. Even the most innocent of occurrences could result in your neighbors questioning your devotion to goodness. In the old days, at night, if your fire in your fireplace threw out too many sparks, it was the horseshoes and hooves of the devil’s steed on the roof of your house making those sparks – not just a big sticky patch of piñon sap.

But what about being duped into dancing with the devil? That’s a story that gets told over and over. Many of the stories are about bars and dance halls that are no longer standing. The story goes pretty much the same though. 

The night is late and spirits are high and everyone is having a great time and in walks this guy that is so good looking all the women are clocking him and all the men are asking where in the hell and Taos County is this guy from? He’s so charming and so good-looking. He’s telling all the best jokes and buying drinks all around, and he’s dancing with all the ladies, not just the pretty ones, which endears him to everyone, but wait … and this is where the story starts to change.

All of a sudden this charming guy just goes a little bit too far, somehow. The laughter gets a little too manic and then people report those shiny boots have turned into hooves of the beast and a tail is suddenly visible.

Everybody comes to the same conclusion all at once. “This guy is not only too good to be true, he’s not even human. He’s the very Devil, and we’ve all been partying and dancing with him for the last two hours – and now he’s gone!” 

(It was a) Wild Night at La Pepita, 24×36 oil on canvas by Melwell