Judith Vaughan (Judy), born in New Orleans in 1944, is the author of Strawberry Roan, Growing up in the Shadow of Hermit Peak. A True New Mexico Coming of Age Story. It is her first published work.
Judy was the youngest of three daughters, born in the desperate closing months of the second World War. Her grandmother, sure she was born to be her Daddy’s boy, asserted that Wallace would be a fine first name regardless of the baby’s gender. Her mother, Elizabeth Lee Beil, a graduate of the University of Missouri and kindergarten teacher, did not agree. Her father, Wallace C. Beil, a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School, specialized in ophthalmology. His growing interest in horses led the family to New Mexico in 1950 and sparked Judy’s obsession with horses and medicine. Her youth in New Mexico is detailed in Strawberry Roan as is her education and young adult life.
Wallace and Elizabeth brought the family to Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1950. They bought a pueblo-style house in Montezuma, six miles from the town of Las Vegas as their first home. Wally bought a cow pony for Judy and Tennessee walking horses for the older daughters, Betty and Mary, and himself. He developed a stable on five acres near their Montezuma home. He bought a unique walking horse stallion. And soon ran out of space.
Thus began the development of their much larger home and horse ranch in the Gallinas Canyon. They moved to their custom home in 1956, and continued to raise walking horses and later Morgan horses.
Medical Education, Marriage and Children.
After her boarding school education at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Judy studied premed at Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota and the University of Minnesota. She became a part of the second class of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. In 1968, she married James E. Vaughan, a recent graduate of UNM’s law school. She was the only woman to graduate in the MD class of 1969. She completed a Rotating Internship and a Residency in Neurology at the University of New Mexico Affiliated Hospitals in 1973.
Judy went on to be both clinician and medical director of two state facilities, the New Mexico State Hospital and the Northern New Mexico Rehabilitation Center, in all serving the indigent of the state for fifteen years. In those years Judy and Jim had three children, Betsy, Ellen and Lyman.
This ranch in the Gallinas Canyon was the setting of much of Judy’s coming of age detailed in Strawberry Roan. The book is a series of linked stories that provide the detail and heart for these basic facts.
In Strawberry Roan, Judy tells of adventure and challenges in New Mexico, mastering her first horse, a dangerous climb up near-by Hermit Peak, and an encounter with a ghost. She relates life changing experiences at an unusual college-preparatory school and at Carleton College. She shares the summer she participated in the Civil Rights Movement, and how this facilitated her admission to New Mexico’s new medical school. She shows the reader how she trained the horses, how she relished their births, and weathered inevitable setbacks.
Judy’s coming-of-age touched many aspects of New Mexico culture and history. Hermit Peak is the best known mountain in the state, visible for miles around Las Vegas. Montezuma is home to the Victorian Montezuma Hotel, still the preeminent tourist site in the region.
She was fascinated with the local rodeo, a reunion not just of cowboys but of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. She ran for rodeo queen and learned to barrel race.
She grew up in the only ranch house designed by New Mexico’s architectural icon, John Gaw Meem, built for her parents in the Gallinas Canyon at a cost of $100,000 in 1956. Meem is best known for preserving the classic architecture of Santa Fe.
She experienced the struggle of many adolescents—a feeling that she would never fit in with her peers. This memoir is the story of Judy’s path towards her own sense of normalcy, a woman who still treasured horses, but could be a doctor, mother and contributor to the Las Vegas community. Her unique life holds the kernels of the universal, uncertain self-acceptance combined with a naïve drive to take on what she wasn’t quite prepared to do.
New Mexico as a place, its sun, sky and mountains, graces Judy’s memoir. She still dreams of the sweet warmth of horses and the wind in the pines.