Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘New Mexico’ Category

Get Ready to Rope

Bev Hachita 001A short true adventure

Cowboys began roping as part of ranch work to brand or medicate their calves. It became a contest to see which cowboy could do it the quickest. Their goal was to throw a lasso around a calf’s head, jump off their horse, tie three of the calf’s legs together, and finish the trick as fast as possible. This led to roping contests at rodeos and fairs.

   Recently, a new type of roping sprang up. My first experience with this happened in a small town of about thirty people called Hachita, New Mexico. The only disturbance in this small town might be a dust devil coming down the street or a Border Patrol helicopter flying overhead.

   One week in 1996, they decided to try this new kind of roping…a chicken roping. Yes, chickens, with feathers flying and beaks crowing. One roper told those watching, “If it has legs, it can be roped.”

   Bev Chicken Roping 001   Now this kind of roping would not be done from a horse and would require a different kind of lasso. Just a heavy piece of string is used, so they don’t choke the chicken.

   Just like in the world of cattle, the chickens they roped all had names. The meaner the animal, the meaner its name. Names like Jalapeno Joe, Cholulu Chuy or Red Hot Flame were typical.

   A large crowd of over fifty people gathered to witness the chicken roping. The chicken would be let out of a box and the cowboy would be timed to see how fast he could rope it. The one who roped it the fastest won a Chicken Roping Belt Buckle with a turquoise stone found in the Little Hatchet Mountains nearby.

   Small towns often have fun in unusual ways. A mural of the Chicken Roping was painted by a traveling artist on the outside of the bar there. Inside on the wall were pictures of the winners. It soon became an annual event with even larger crowds.

   And afterward? What else, but a good old-fashioned chicken BBQ.

Hachita Liquor Saloon was no longer in operation on my last trip west. The paintings on the building were done by an old friend, C.M. Scott, a cowboy artist.

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Chiricahua Desert Museum Educational Oasis in the Desert

New Mexico Desert Museum

New Mexico Desert Museum

In the middle of nowhere, or at least it seems, you will find an unexpected gem – a desert museum operated by people who enjoy being away from the crowds.  Here in the small town of  Rodeo, New Mexico, The Chiricahua Desert Museum found a home. The idea began as recently as 2006 and opened for visitors in 2009 when my first visit occurred. The Chiricahua Desert Museum has made major improvements since that time and during this recent visit has added many educational programs as well.

Tile Gila Monster at Museum Entrance

Tile Gila Monster at Museum Entrance

The museum sits in the middle of the desert between the Chiricahua Mountains and the Peloncilos. Here in the southwestern corner of New Mexico, the border of Arizona is only across the road. Desert plants, rocks and sand create a beautiful entrance way to the museum as you walk over a large tile design of a gila monster, a heavy, slow-moving, venomous lizard.  Mountains make a beautiful backdrop, especially as you enter the Botanical Garden.

Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden

This corner of their large Botanical Garden is a place to relax and learn about the plants of the desert. Besides the plants, there are beautiful statues as well as a small pond. Here you might see a box turtle or lizard… if it isn’t too hot.

Dancing on a Dwarf Statue

Dancing on a Dwarf Statue

The museum itself contains many items found in the desert and beyond.  There is a large collection of arrowheads and pieces of pottery found in the area.  If enough pieces were found, they have been reassembled into beautiful vases and bowls. A collection of liquor bottles all contained the names of reptiles, such as: Blue Tongue Premium Lager, Granny’s Turtle Juice, Python Ale, or Mojave Red Premium Lager. A large bronze statue, Dancing on a Dwarf, was a centerpiece of the main museum. Wildlife artist, Tell Hicks, displays many of his paintings at the museum and his prints are favorites of those who visit. Often Tell sets up his easel at the museum so visitors can watch him create another amazing desert scene.

An interesting new addition is the state-of-the-art Reptile Exhibit.  Here you will find over 60 rare species enclosed in glass cases, but well and alive! Rattlesnakes and rock lizards are popular features as well as rat snakes and mud turtles. Personally, it was a relief that they were enclosed in glass!

Before leaving, check out the excellent gift shop with an outstanding selection of books and upscale souvenirs.  Beautiful turquoise and Indian style jewelry is on display and for sale at fairly reasonable prices. You can also find many good books and great artwork. This is not your ordinary gift shop, but quite superior with unusual treasures to view or purchase.

New Mexico 067Afterwards, lunch at the Rodeo Cafe was a real treat before heading to the Chiricahua Mountains through the small town of Portal, where neo-tropical birds hang out – a bird watcher’s paradise. The dirt road into the Chiricahuas and the Coronado National Monument was a spectacular, yet slow, two hour drive.  Billy the Kid was said to have a ranch here during his outlaw days.  What a great place to hide a herd of rustled cattle!

The Chiricahua Desert Museum is located in Rodeo, New Mexico in the Southwest corner of the state very near the border of Arizona.  From I-10, take Exit 5 South on NM 80. After about 30 miles of beautiful desert scenery, you will arrive in Rodeo. The Chiricahua Desert Museum sits on the left side of the road just a couple miles east of Portal, Arizona.

Deming Luna Mimbres Museum Sundry Southwest Collections

Deming Luna Mimbres Museum

Deming Luna Mimbres Museum

Variety is the spice of life…and of museums. No matter what your interests, chances are you can find something to arouse your curiosity at the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum in Deming, New Mexico. Everything there is from the private collection of local residents, or former locals.

Housed in an old National Guard Armory, their unusual exhibits range from Mimbres pottery to Geodes and Gems to a Military Room. There is something that everyone can enjoy. Visiting the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum is a great chance to explore the history of Deming as well as the Mimbres heritage.

Since there is such a large variety of rooms to explore, only a few favorites will be visited here. This is one of those places where you could go back again and again to absorb the history that pours from its treasures.

Doll Room Teddy Bear Collection

Doll Room Teddy Bear Collection

The Doll Room happens to be just inside the front door so is a natural place to begin your visit.  This impressive collection contains about 1000 dolls, the oldest of which are those with China heads. Being a bear enthusiast, the teddy bear exhibit caught my eye. There is even a doll brought back by a sailor from  the rubble at Hiroshima after the Atom Bomb exploded. But there is much more in this room than just dolls.  Here you will find wonderful old books – the oldest I spotted was one by Louisa Mae Alcott, Jo’s Boys, dated 1866. Beautiful doll houses, antique toys and bears are scattered throughout the room.

Mimbres Pottery

Mimbres Pottery

Another spot of high interest is one of the best collections of Mimbres Pottery in existence. The Mimbres Indians lived in this area in approximately 1000 A.D. Bits and pieces of pottery found in the area are displayed here with the black and white pieces being a favorite of Mimbres followers. Pictures of their burial method proved interesting as the deceased were placed in the ground, usually under their houses, in an upright sitting position. Then one of their beautiful bowls was placed on their head with a hole in the top so their spirit could go to another world.

Square Grand Piano

Square Grand Piano

A square grand piano caught my eye in the solarium of the Art Gallery. Made of Brazilian rosewood with two strings per key, this 1867 treasure was created by Hallet, David & Co in Boston. Grand pianos were often the centerpiece in Victorian parlors.  Perhaps you might enjoy listening to a Brahms Waltz played on a Square Baby Grand.

An historic replica of the famous Silver Stake was on display in the Transportation Room. Back in 1881, Deming was the meeting place of the second transcontinental railroad in the United States where Southern Pacific and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroads joined together with the Silver Stake ceremony. Situated ten miles east of its present location, Deming at that time was a town of tents and shacks. Author James McKenna stated, “The great event in town was either the arrival of the stagecoach or the train.”

Admission to the museum is free but donations are accepted…after you have seen the exhibits. You can’t get much friendlier than that!

Veterans ParkOutside a well-tended Veterans’ Park remembers wars, conflicts and attacks all around the world. The sign reads:

Do spread the word

Tell the passerby

That in this little world

Men knew how to die.

Deming Luna Mimbres Museum and Veterans Park can be found near downtown Deming, New Mexico just off I-10.  From the east take Exit 82B and from the west take Exit 82A. This should exit left on Pine Street, which leads right downtown. Turn left again on South Silver Street, which leads to the courthouse. The museum and park are on the left side after two blocks.

White Waves of Desert Sand

White Sand as far as the eye can see!  Beautiful waves and dunes of sand cover 275 square miles of land near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Approaching from Cloudcroft, a mountain village with an altitude of about 10,000 feet, the view of White Sands in the distance with a mountain background was spectacular.

Surrounded by military installations, White Sands National Monument, the largest gypsum sand dune field in the world, was an unusual environment to explore. White Sands Missile Range surrounds the place and was where the first atomic bomb was detonated. Holloman Air Force Base was just east of here and a few miles farther on you will find a landing site for space shuttles.A couple times a week, traffic will be stopped for a few hours as test missiles are being shot overhead. This is truly an interesting place for those interested in space travel, as in nearby Alamogordo you can find the International Space Hall of Fame.

Reaching White Sands National Monument, first stop is the Visitors Center, which was a 1938 WPA project constructed of adobe in Spanish pueblo style. Adobe bricks are usually sixteen inches long, ten inches wide, and four inches thick so this is a solid building which has stood the test of time. Two men would work all day to form about a hundred bricks. Set in a landscape of native plants, this is truly a Welcome Center to the area.

Outside it is time to explore. Don’t forget your water bottle because if the sun shines, this can be a very hot desert scene.  This is an especially unusual scene as gypsum is seldom found in the form of sand. But located here in a basin, the white gypsum  is captured, because there is no outlet to the sea. The dunes are constantly changing shapes as tiny grains of sand are blown into ripples across the vast white desert. This area, with shelters inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, makes a great place for a rest, or to watch the antics of others on the dunes.

You will probably want to take a leisurely drive through the White Sands area, just to get the feel of things. There was a paved road for a couple of miles, and then you were on your own, to decide if you wanted to venture off driving on the gypsum highway through the hills of sand.

There were also a couple of walking trails – one mile-long path through the sand and another an actual boardwalk. Climbing to the top of one of these large dunes is a challenge and fun.  But this is one place where coming down is the hard part! Children have the right idea here as they use saucers or cardboard and slide down the dunes, resembling what a youngster would do with a sled in the snow.

Animals lived in this ocean of white sand in an evolved state as they became part of their environment and were thus camouflaged against the white desert scene. Salamanders, spiders and the Bleached Earless Lizard were white…just like the sand.

Drive, hike, walk the boardwalk, or go sledding!  So many options! But definitely an unusual place to enjoy the beauty that nature provides, including beautiful sunsets.

White Sands National Monument is in southern New Mexico along U.S. Highway 70, which can be reached off I-25 from Las Cruces or off U.S. Highway 54 from Alamogordo. Personally think the approach over the Sacramento Mountains on U.S. Highway 82 gives a great overview. Remember the roads may be closed at times for missile testing with a possible wait of several hours.

Roswell, New Mexico – The Truth Is Here

UFO or Weather Balloon? When people hear Roswell, they immediately think of the 1947 UFO alien invasion,  a subject which still interests many people. But there is definitely much more to this town of Roswell, New Mexico than aliens!

As soon as you enter the town, the presence of the New Mexico Military Institute is obvious from the beautiful campus to the polite, young cadets walking the streets. Started in 1891, this four year high school and two year junior college has been the starting point for many officers in the US military, as it is the only state supported military institute in the western United States. Among its most notable graduates are Conrad Hilton, Roger Staubach, Sam Donaldson and Major General Edwin Walker. In 1921, the school adopted the honor code of : “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” That code is still enforced today.

During WWII, a prisoner of war camp was located in nearby Orchard Park. These German prisoners assisted with many construction projects in Roswell.   Along the banks of the North Spring River, the sides were paved with stones. In one section the stones were strategically placed to form the outline of an Iron Cross, symbol of the German Army. Nearby was a piece of the Berlin Wall, which was sent by the German Air Force for their nice treatment as POW’s there. Today at the POW/MIA Park, there is a relaxing walkway along the river where you can appreciate the hard work involved and the beauty that they created.

The Roswell Museum and Art Center has many beautiful and unusual paintings by well known artists such as Peter Hurd, Henriette Wyeth, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Of special interest here is the Goddard Wing, which contains a reproduction of the workshop of liquid-fueled rocket pioneer, Robert Goddard. He tested prototypes of this fuel in Roswell from 1930-1941.  While there, noticed this Native American sun design at the gift shop, and now it often hangs in my car to bring a feeling of warmth and peace. Still makes me smile to realize that this beautiful sun is made from the bottom of a Coca Cola can!

Of course, no visit there would be complete without visiting the International UFO Museum and Research Center, and taking a trip to the site where the mysterious crash occurred. Here at the Museum you can find information about the Roswell incident, crop circles, UFO sightings, ancient astronauts, and Area 51. Living up to their motto, “The truth is here,” their library of books and films is a great place for the curious and the serious to explore the unexplainable.

One interesting film told the story of a young boy, who had seen inside a space ship in 1947 and told his parents he saw fine wires with colors flashing.  In the 1990’s, this now adult man worked in maintenance and was called into a phone room for repair work.  He exclaimed, “That looks just like the spaceship I was in!”  Fiber-optics!

Responsible citizens who witnessed the crash were very quiet about it until their retirement. Once they told their story, tourists began to visit to learn more about the possibilities. The event known as the Roswell incident: the crash of an alleged flying saucer, the collection of debris and bodies, and the ensuing military coverup, still leaves lots of questions unanswered. The debate continues to this day.

Many local businesses have joined in with the UFO theme as Roswell has suffered a tough economic time, especially after the closing of Walker Air Force Base there. Local gas stations have aliens pumping gas, Wal-Mart has an Aliens’ Welcome sign, and now McDonald’s has built a theme park restaurant there. Yes, you guessed it, McDonald’s is shaped like a UFO with aliens in the play area.

Roswell even has its own small zoo, which is a great place to take a daily walk with the animals. Spring River Park and Zoo is a free zoo run by volunteers and local donations, and has a wide variety of animals from prairie dogs to buffalo and even a black bear. For only a quarter, children, or the young at heart, can ride the miniature train ride or the antique wooden carousel. This is one of about a hundred wooden carousels left in the country and features hand-carved horses.

All ages are sure to find something to enjoy while visiting Roswell… but watch out for those little green men peeking around the corner.

Roswell is located South of I-40 on US 385 or East of I-25 on US Highway 380 in the southeastern  corner of New Mexico. US 380 is also Main Street  and there is a handy information center near the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Lonesome Town Near Mexican Border

Just by accident, travelers might find the little town of Hachita, New Mexico.  As you travel through the Southern part of the state, Hachita is a small town not far from the Mexican border and located in the Little Hatchet Mountains.

This is one of the few towns I have visited where all of the streets are still unpaved. During my first visit to Hachita, the town consisted of a bar, store, and post office along with about a hundred people in residence. The post office is located in the center of town and you can see the dirt road to its front door step, but the American flag is always flying. Another interesting event in years past was the Chicken Roping.  This town was filled with cowboys and Cattle Roping was a year long event there.  One year, the owner of the local bar thought that chicken roping would be an added attraction.  This was a real event and was depicted on the side of the bar by a traveling artist.

This was once a mining area so at one time was a booming and prosperous community. But that was Old Hachita, which is located down the road just a couple of miles and set back off today’s main road.  You have to have a local guide that knows the area to lead you to the remains of the Old Hachita town.

The local guide also took us back in the desert region very close to the Mexican border. We actually had a picnic of ham sandwiches and potato salad with refreshing cold drinks under a giant sycamore tree located near a rare spring.

As we headed back towards Hachita, we came across a sign posted by the Border Patrol which said: Attention!  You are in danger of dying if you do not summon help.This was one of those unusual signs that you come across off the beaten path.

Even attended a town meeting while visiting in the area.  They were discussing their new grant for water for the small town.  Currently, there is an old water tower but water is not really safe to drink.  The new project will have a safe water supply and a better water volume available.  After the meeting, nearly everyone in the town brought a covered dish and had delicious food as well as friendly town talk.

Border patrol frequent the town driving through both day and night as well as covering the surrounding area.  Most of the locals don’t even lock their doors at night as they feel well protected.  This is the place to really get away from it all.

Desolate New Mexico Highway

Appearances can be deceptive as Route 9 across the bottom of New Mexico seems to be a desolate stretch of nearly one hundred miles.  But upon closer observation, the beautiful desert scenery holds many interesting experiences especially since it is just three miles to the Mexican border.  This road is not as lonely as it first appears.

As we leave Columbus, NM and Pancho Villa State Park, the desert is filled with low growing plants and the roadway is lined with the burnt orange blossoms of the Indian Paint Brush. You might even notice a Mexican here or there hiding behind one of the mesquite bushes.

One industrious rancher added an artistic touch to this desert road. They have piled up rocks in various formations and painted them in brilliant colors to add a little interest to the lonely road. A bright yellow cross catches your eye.

Listen! Overhead you hear a Border Patrol helicopter watching for illegals crossing the border. It sounds like it is getting closer. Hope they aren’t after us! This is a new and interesting landing as they are right behind us and landing in the road. Let’s keep on going but watch behind as the Border Patrol gets out and heads to the desert on foot. Something or someone close must have been spotted from above.

Cows roam across the road as we travel on since this is Open Range territory. You will notice the absence of fences replaced by cattle guards.

Ahead a man is standing in the road beside his truck and trailer and waving his arms. Let’s slow down and see what he needs. We can see that he is dressed casually with sandals, shorts and tee shirt and he has a long white beard and ponytail. A flat tire seems to be his problem. Since there is no cell phone service in this area, he asks if we will call 911 in the next town about forty miles away and have asssistance sent.

“How about a ride?” we ask.

“No way,” he replies. “My motorcycle is in the trailer behind and I can’t leave it here unguarded.”

Just then the Border Patrol appears in their SUV and as usual give needed assistance. While the illegals try to hide from them, the Border Patrol is a real safety net for those traveling the area. As we pull away, notice the lettering on the back of his trailer: All Who Wander Are Not Lost. That has always been one of my favorite sayings!

Up ahead you see a small town called Hachita located between the Big Hatchet and Little Hatchet Mountain ranges. There is a gas pump here and a small store for essentials. If you want to get away from it all or hide away, this would be the perfect place!

Many think this is a lonely road, but as you can see it is never boring.

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