CANO’S CASTLE – WORTH A DETOUR TO ANTONITO
By R J Furth
When I planned the trip to Austin, over 2000 miles round trip, I plotted the shortest, most direct route. That meant stopping in Amarillo on the way down, Lubbock on the way back, and driving the entire way through some of the flattest, lifeless land in the US. The area covered is awesome in the true sense of the word, as you are in awe at the vast stretches of nothing. You’d better not let the fuel tank drop below 1/4 because you might have a hundred miles before the next service station. I was fine with that route until Anthony asked if we’d be driving through Antonito again, then I realized that a detour was required. The result was one of the best days of the entire trip.
Antonito, in southern Colorado just a few miles north of New Mexico, is the home to Cano’s Castle, an extraordinary structure made almost entirely of junk. Half a dozen years ago Anthony and I did one of our great drives: Denver to Canyonlands, Utah, to Durango, Colorado, to Sante Fe New Mexico and back to Denver. From Sante Fe we drove north on US Highway 285, one of my favorite roads in the country. My home in Denver is not far from 285 and over the years I’ve driven most of its hundreds of miles. 285 winds through the heart of the Rocky Mountains and down to southern New Mexico. It runs through Roswell (for UFO fans) New Mexico and South Park, Colorado (for fans of the great cartoon series). As Anthony and I were driving the first time north on 285 he shouted out, “Pull over.” On that trip I did all the driving so that Anthony could enjoy the sights. Besides, as an artist (not only is he a gifted guitar player, he makes amazing stained glass art) Anthony sees things that I tend to miss, which is why he takes such wonderful photos. I pulled over and glanced out the window to see what had caught his attention. There, a few blocks north of 285, were two silver towers sticking out above the one-story houses. I turned and made my way to the towers and we sat in awe at our first view of Cano’s Castle.
Thirty years ago Cano Espinoza started to collect trash and use it to decorate a structure on his property. Old tires, hub caps, strips of metal, cans and bottles, all and more were used to decorate the building. Soon the hobby became an obsession that has lasted for three decades. We saw Mr. Espinoza six years ago but he refused to talk with us. As we walked around taking photos from the road, other cars pulled up. Like us, these people got out of their cars and stared in amazement. The same happened this time. Instead of seeing Cano, we saw his dog walking around the yard. Every step resulted in metallic sounds; the bowser was apparently walking on stacks of hub caps and metal scraps. The same signs remained from our last trips, signs about Jesus, the evils of tobacco and alcohol, and the healing power of marijuana. Not much had changed in six years, yet Anthony was right in suggesting the detour. Sure it added 3-4 hours, but the rewards were significant.
Another benefit of the 285 detour―besides Cano’s Castle and the gorgeous views―was that we got to spend the night at the home of John and Ann McGovern. I worked with John and Ann at a home for severely emotionally disturbed boys in Evergreen, Colorado, in the late 70s and Ann was our daughter Jody’s first caretaker. Jody’s first word was ‘Ann’. They live in a lovely home between Salida and Buena Vista, just beneath Mt. Princeton. I hadn’t seen John and Ann in a few years. After five nights in hotels of mixed quality, we woke up in a friend’s house near a rushing stream high up in the Rockies. Life doesn’t get much better. The shortest route is not always the best and some detours are worth every minute.
ANTHONY’S STAINED GLASS FOR THE OCTOGANAL WINDOW IN OUR BEDROOM