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UNM Lets D.H. Lawrence Ranch Wither

March 13, 1998

SAN CRISTOBAL, N.M. (AP) _ Wind whispers through the pinon trees dotting the 160-acre mountaintop ranch that inspired writer D.H. Lawrence during a New Mexico sojourn more than 70 years ago.

The scene is peaceful, yet melancholy: The property where Lawrence wrote ``St. Mawr,″ given to the University of New Mexico with the promise that it be forever maintained, is falling apart.

Paint curls off the walls and doors dangle from their hinges in the mausoleum that holds Lawrence’s ashes. Cobwebs hang from the ceiling inside his rustic cabin. Visitors complain that the caretaker is cantankerous and rude.

An alumni committee considering renovating the ranch voted against taking the lead role in the project, alumni association president George Friberg said today. Repairs could cost $5 million.

``It just turned out to be too big of a project for us,″ Friberg said.

The university could make the improvements itself, or it could sell it, trade it for other land or do nothing.

University officials blame lack of money for the ranch’s decline from asset to eyesore.

``It just isn’t a priority,″ said David Mc Kinney, UNM vice president of business and finance. ``It’s a long distance from the campus and it has been difficult to find the resources to fix it up.″

Some who have made the trip 150 miles outside Albuquerque complain that the ranch’s 84-year-old caretaker, Al Bearce, was as likely to snap at them as to show them around.

Bearce has run the ranch for 40 years and ``thinks he owns the place,″ Friberg said.

Bearce has refused to be interviewed for stories about the ranch.

Hubie Williams, a professor emeritus from Appalachian State University, was among visitors disappointed by the ranch’s condition and Bearce’s attitude toward Lawrence, the English author of ``Lady Chatterley’s Lover, ``Sons and Lovers″ and ``Women in Love.″

``He has no respect for D.H. Lawrence, and he’s trying to discourage people from coming by being rude,″ said Williams, who now lives near Albuquerque. ``At this time the ranch is not an asset to the university, but it could be.″

Lawrence’s wife, Frieda, gave the ranch to the university in the 1950s, specifying that 10 acres, including the mausoleum, be maintained and open to the public.

The cabin where Lawrence lived still contains the writer’s typewriter and one of his denim jackets. But Bearce doesn’t allow all visitors to explore the little house.

In the 1960s and 1970s, thousands visited each summer, attending conventions and educational seminars. The university’s English department once invited writers to spend six to eight weeks there.

As time passed, the university failed to allocate sufficient money to maintain the property, said Floyd Williams, retired UNM plant manager. The conference headquarters at the ranch was shut down by the early 1980s.

Ricardo Medina, a friend of Mrs. Lawrence who worked at the ranch for 23 years, said the university has not lived up to its agreement to maintain the ranch.

``I don’t think she would be comfortable with it,″ Medina said. ``It hasn’t been well taken care of.″

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