We Are Stupid – Episode 91

Some people know all of the rules to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, but many, many more do not. Here’s a list of the things we screwed up in our never-ending search for Pathfinder perfection…

Every once in a while I get the opportunity to freshen these columns up with something we haven’t seen before. This week, I have the privilege of doing a short column not on Pathfinder rules but about American National Historic Landmarks and Monuments.

In Episode 91, when trying to describe the unique carvings in the cliffside that once appeared to be large openings but have collapsed and been filled by rock slides over time, Grant drew a very poignant comparison to the pueblo cliff dwellings in the southwest United States near Los Alamos, New Mexico. Skid, confident in his knowledge on the subject, proclaimed the dwellings to be in “Ballarat.” “There are cave dwellings near Ballarat in New Mexico,” he declared.

Well, Skid is stupid. But since Skid is actually a genius, upon further examination I found that he is not only partially correct in his statement, he’s more accurate than he could even know at the time. Allow me to explain.

What Grant was referring to was most likely the Puye National Historic Landmark in northern New Mexico, or the nearby Bandelier National Monument. These landmarks are along the eastern slopes of the Jemez Mountains and preserve the cliff dwellings of Pueblo Indians that lived in the area between around 900 and 1500 CE. Bandelier, which Skid almost certainly meant when he said “Ballarat,” is actually a pretty fascinating place that I’ve seen with my own eyes. I was there briefly in 2006 while making a visit to Santa Fe and Los Alamos and had since completely forgotten the name since I, also, am stupid. I wanted to write this article, though, because I knew exactly what Grant was talking about, and thought it was a great comparison.

So why is Skid a genius even when it’s by accident? Well, it turns out that my research on the name “Ballarat” (other than the town in Victoria, Australia, which I doubt Skid was referring to) revealed a small ghost town in the southern California desert. The town popped up around a few mines at the turn of the 20th century and serviced the miners and their families for roughly a decade before the mines began to close and become abandoned. Today this ghost town, according to Wikipedia, has one perennial resident, and generally gets around 300 campers seasonally as tourists. We didn’t know at that point in the episode that what we were looking at were actually old dwarven mines, so Skid was actually more right than he even knew. The sign of a true genius.

But for the purposes of this article, he is stupid.

I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into the fascinating world of historic cliff dwellings and 19th century mining ghost towns in America.

Until the next mistake!


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