(First posted March 12, 2015. This year’s Father’s Day post — “Rain in the Pecos for Father’s Day” — is just below this Canyon Road story).


My father and I were standing in what we used to call Percy’s Field, a brushy couple of acres that ran from Canyon Road down to the Santa Fe River. The day was bright and hopeful. It was about 1960.

It’s hard for me to realize, looking at the photo, that I would be a problem drinker only six or seven years later, barely graduating from high school. Thirty-five years later, I would nod to a hospital nurse to unplug my hard-drinking father from life support. I think I was 11 when the 1960 photo was taken. Bob Robertson was 32 then, 66 when he died.

He, with the support of my stepmother, Pat, brought two brothers — Pat and Rob — and I back together after separations starting about 1959. I am thankful because I was miserable without him. I was sad without my brothers. Looking back, I see my stepmother was a miracle.

Not long before he died, he and I survived a sailing capsize — probably my fault and he was not well — treading water face to face in the middle of a lake before resolving to right the boat and sail to shore. We went backpacking for his 64th birthday. I set a course too far and steep but he didn’t complain. He neglected to tell me about his failing liver as we sat by a fire at night and slept side-by-side in a two-man tent.

The Canyon Road photo above was taken by Mike James, brother of Claude James, owner of Claude’s bar, a famous hangout a few doors up from Percy’s Field on the other side of Canyon Road. 

My father took me to artist Hal West’s studio at the corner of Canyon Road and Escondido that same morning. I had a bowl of pinto beans from the pot on Hal’s wood-burning stove. I think it was Sunday.


Dad reading on our last backpacking trip.


One thought on “Canyon Road, 1960

  1. Bob Heberle says:

    John, thank you for sharing about your dad and about your growing up; I found it unbelievably interesting. At our Bishop gathering you spoke of some of this but not nearly in so much detail. The love and admiration that pours out of you about your dad reminds me of my feelings for my dad now eight years gone. The bond between a father and son can be so powerful. What also comes to mind is how similar your growing up and your relationship with your father is to Houghton’s. I don’t know if you ever spoke to Patrick about that, but it would have been a remarkable dialogue! I’ll leave you with this thought, John : You’re a special person and the more I learn, the more I’m impressed. See you in August and/or September.

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