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Approached from any direction the little town of Zia stands forth boldly against the sky, a low line of gray white buildings capping the stony promontory, which rises abruptly from the river to the height of 250 feet, and finds its connection with the mesa beyond in a narrow ridge to the north. The church of the Jesuits, occupying the highest site, is not large, but built for a much larger population than is to be found here. Evidences of shrinkage are everywhere apparent in the ruined foundations of houses long since deserted, as well as in the dilapidation of vacant tenements. From the church to the plaza at the other end of the town, a distance of 200 yards, stand the houses that now remain. Little regularity in construction is observable, save that the buildings have been placed in parallel lines and face the 4 cardinal points. They are constructed of cobblestones and volcanic scoria, great care being observed in the selection of stones of one size. These are joined in rows of adobe mud. Occasionally the surface is plastered, and the whole whitened. To the west of the town is a series of stone corrals. Every Saturday night the stock is driven into these and the herders are changed. Up the rocky sides come lines of horses, burros, mules, and cattle in headlong precipitation, hurrying to escape long whips carried by the herders and by the awaiting members of the community. Zia owns 300 horses, 40 mules, 100 burros, and 650 cows and oxen. The herders appear in the village with the necks of their horses garlanded with wood rats and other game which arrows and chubs have secured. Sunday, therefore, is a day of feasting. Toward the town from the west the river winds slowly through its wide bed for 3 miles. Above this its course lies northward. On the north and south are vast tracts of sandy and unproductive territory, and to the east following the river, thence until it joins the Rio Grande, the soil produces nothing, There are 26 spademen in this community, and they cultivate, in isolated patches, less than 100 acres of wheat and corn, The farming is performed in a shiftless and half-hearted manner. Neighboring Indians call them lazy, and this bad opinion of them was manifested by their Santa Ana brethren 2 years ago. When sending to them for aid in time of starvation; offering ready money obtained by selling their trinkets, the Santa Ana Indians refused them supplies, saying it was time they perished from the earth. Their neighbors at Jemez were more considerate. In 1876, out of good fellowship, they aided them for 3 days with a force of over 100 men in the construction of acequia. This was allowed to fall into decay, and is now overgrown. They complain that much of their property was damaged by marauding bands of cattle, especially from Santa Ana. On application to the agent a paper of warning was given them, but as no one could read its contents it became a matter of derision, and the authority it was said to contain was held in abeyance for proof. The women are able to supplement by their skill in the art of pottery the modicum of support provided by their husbands. The kilns of this village have a just reputation for the shape of their models and for refinement of decoration. The olla is that sun baked, the painting is then applied, and the whole fired. Powdered gypsum is used for a white ground. Colored powder, obtained from red sandstone and trachyte, is mixed with water and applied by short stub brushes of grass. The sharpness of the edge and cleanness of the line thus effected is surprising when compared with the clumsiness of the implements. The design upon pottery is never a matter of fancy, but has significance, historic or mythological. The shapes frequently assume the form of animals and birds. The art is practiced entirely by the women, who show considerable steadiness of hand in applying their colors without the aid of a maul-stick.
Besides their scanty crop of wheat and corn, red peppers are grown. These do well in this soil and are produced in most of the pueblos. The chili verde is used as food. Only 2 small orchards are maintained in Zia, most of the inhabitants preferring to live upon their rocky site to descending and maintaining a home upon the plain.
Zia has a grant of 17,515 acres.