Into Max Evans's Hi Lo Country
True West|April 2021
Hit the road and discover the historic and mystic lands of New Mexico’s legendary author.
JOHNNY D.BOGGS

Technically, Chama isn’t in the Hi Lo Country, but it’s a great starting point for this Renegade Road trip, as this town defines just how important Ol’ Max Evans was to New Mexico.

Who’s Ol’ Max Evans? A literary legend— once dubbed “a range-land Mark Twain”—he wrote novellas, novels, short stories, biographies and nonfiction books. Hollywood turned two of his works—The Rounders and The Hi-Lo Country (Hollywood added a hyphen)—into post-World War II Western films. He palled around with Sam Peckinpah, when they weren’t beating each other senseless. And he died August 26, three days before his 96th birthday—a long life, but even longer in Max Evans years (let’s call it 1,219).

While Evans wrote about all of New Mexico, the Hi Lo Country was the name he gave the region that shaped him and most of his writings: the windy grasslands, arroyos and buttes that cover northeastern New Mexico and stretch into southern Colorado, the Oklahoma Panhandle and parts of West Texas. “The indomitable spirit of that land should cover the world and beyond,” Evans wrote.

But Evans was more than just a writer. He was a cowboy, wrangler, artist, mystic, smuggler, actor (The Ballad of Cable Hogue), producer, under-the-table script doctor and World War II veteran who fought in France from D-Day until a mortar explosion sent him home before the Battle of the Bulge.

I’m in Chama because Evans also helped found the New Mexico Film Commission in 1968. America’s first state film commission lured The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969), starring Robert Mitchum, George Kennedy and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

The narrow-gauge railroad was built in 1880 to connect the silver mines in the San Juan mountain range in southwestern Colorado. Preservationists saved the railroad in 1970, and since 1971, tourist trains have run out of Chama and Antonito, Colorado.

Evans also made sure The Hi-Lo Country (1998) was filmed in New Mexico, too.

Taos

But Ol’ Max’s career really began in Taos, where he settled in the late 1940s to paint, mentored by Potawatomi artist Woody Crumbo. Artists had been flocking to Taos since the 1890s, and the Taos Society of Artists, founded in 1915, included Ernest Blumenschein, Joseph Henry Sharp and Eanger Irving Couse. Art still thrives here (Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, Harwood Museum of Art, Millicent Rogers Museum) as does Western history (Kit Carson Home and Museum, Martinez Hacienda).

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM TRUE WESTView All

Overland Trails: Fur Trappers to Pony Express Riders

ENJOY THE ADVENTURE AND HISTORICAL SITES BETWEEN ST. LOUIS AND FORT LARAMIE.

9 mins read
True West
April 2021

Tom Selleck THE LAST OF THE BREED

The renowned film and television star reflects on his 50 years in Westerns and his hope that he will ride the range again on the silver screen.

10 mins read
True West
April 2021

Tracking the Texas Rangers

FOLLOW THE HISTORIC TRAILS OF THE LONE STAR LAWMAN THROUGH WEST TEXAS FROM SAN ANGELO TO EL PASO.

9 mins read
True West
April 2021

“I'm Your Huckleberry” Has a Double Meaning for Old Tucson

Saving the old girl is more than a dream.

6 mins read
True West
April 2021

Into Max Evans's Hi Lo Country

Hit the road and discover the historic and mystic lands of New Mexico’s legendary author.

6 mins read
True West
April 2021

Dining in the Desert

After exploring the natural beauty and history of the Southwestern deserts, retreat to a historic oasis in Death Valley for fine dining and renewal.

3 mins read
True West
April 2021

Highways West!

Be prepared to be surprised by the wonders of the open road, the places you will visit and the wonderful people you will meet on your travels across the Western U.S.

2 mins read
True West
April 2021

A Killer Bullets Couldn't Stop

While fighting for the citizens they swore to protect, two horseback-era Texas Rangers were cut down by a deadly killer.

10 mins read
True West
April 2021

A Big Sky Adventure

FROM THE MAGIC CITY OF THE PLAINS TO THE LITTLE BIGHORN AND THE “GRANDEST” TRADING POST OF THE FUR TRADE, A ROAD TRIP THROUGH EASTERN MONTANA OFFERS NO SHORTAGE OF FRONTIER FUN.

7 mins read
True West
April 2021

William Henry Jackson's West

The great photographer influenced the Western preservation movement and the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872.

6 mins read
True West
February - March 2021
RELATED STORIES

A Soldier's Vision

He lay wounded in the Iraqi desert, ready to accept his death. Then he saw and heard his future

7 mins read
Guideposts
February 2021

2022 Volkswagen Taos

VW slides a small SUV under the Tiguan

2 mins read
Motor Trend
January 2021

GOLD CUP SOUTHWEST

When you roll into the local Quiktrip and one of Tucson’s finest looks at your shirt and asks if you know Corben Sharrah, you can only be in one city in America. Often coined as the loudest city in BMX, it doesn’t matter if there is a single fan or a gaggle of Tucsonans, they know how to bring the energy.

2 mins read
PULL Magazine
November/December 2020

THE CONFOUNDING INSISTENCE ON INNOCENCE

TEN YEARS AFTER HER DEBUT STORY COLLECTION, BEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE YOUR OWN FOOL SELF, MARKED HER ARRIVAL AS A BOLD NEW VOICE IN AMERICAN SHORT FICTION, DANIELLE EVANS RETURNS WITH HER SECOND, THE OFFICE OF HISTORICAL CORRECTIONS, A TIMELY RECKONING WITH, AMONG OTHER THINGS, AMERICA’S HISTORY OF RACIALIZED VIOLENCE.

10+ mins read
Poets & Writers Magazine
November - December 2020

REVINYLIZATION

Bill Evans’s best late album

4 mins read
Stereophile
October 2020

SURVIVAL MODE

How DAYS’s Judi Evans Is Triumphing Over Tragedy

9 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
July 6, 2020

Pueblo Perspectives

Susan Folwell gathers and processes clay for her pots and fires them as her family has for generations.

2 mins read
Native American Art Magazine
June - July 2020

From Grandmothers to Daughters to Granddaughters

The Couse Collection of Native Beadwork

10 mins read
Native American Art Magazine
June - July 2020

Twistin' the Years Away

Flashback

2 mins read
The Best of Times
June 2020

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING ARE BIG IN TINY TAOS, NEW MEXIC0

A countless number of art galleries line many streets of Taos, New Mexico. Reminders of its past as a Spanish Colonial outpost and frontier settlement are everywhere.

3 mins read
The Best of Times
May 2020