October 29, 2017
A visit back in history….
My birthday was yesterday. But since it fell on a weekend, and since we had no football game to travel to, I had some free time and chose to do something on the spur of the moment. I love New Mexico (second only to Texas, of course and followed close by Colorado). Anyway, I rousted hubby up early Saturday morning… 5 a.m… and we hit the road for the mountains of New Mexico which are four and half hours away.
My purpose was two-fold. I wanted to do something ‘different’ on my birthday and I wanted to see the mountains and breathe their air and possibly get some more ideas for a book that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for a while. Anyway, the drive from our home to the mountains is along a straight road that eventually empties off the Llano Estacado (mentioned in one of my books, Along Came a Ranger) and into the valley floor at which end rises a majestic mountain in the Capitan range.
For the adventure, I ventured off through the rugged mountains to a small town of 50 inhabitants… Lincoln, New Mexico. Some of you history buffs of the early wild west days might recognize it as the sight of the infamous Lincoln County Range Wars of the 1870s-80s. The most notable character being Billy the Kid. Lincoln sits along either side of this two-lane blacktop with its historic buildings having been restored as best as the state can at this point. Others sit in quiet decay with their fading adobe walls. As I walked through the old courthouse where Billy stayed and then made his deadly escape from, I kept thinking what those old walls would say if they could talk. What history they have seen in over a hundred years.
And there was a surprise awaiting us in Lincoln. Seems the small inhabitants of the town came up with an idea to draw more people to their locale other than in August for the big reenactment of the Escape of Billy the Kid (look it up and visit it sometime… kids will love the real horses and outlaws strolling the streets and more) Back to the present… October and Lincoln is celebrating Dia de Los Muertes… Day of the Dead. The townsfolk had gotten into the spirit… most of them… with faces painted and clothing of the period of the town and bright tissue paper flowers on tables displaying all sorts of wares commemorating the day. This was their fourth year to host this little celebration and it has grown each year. I am glad we came across it. There were performances by mariachi groups, strolling musicians, and the requisite outlaws, gamblers, and saloon ladies mindful of the days of Billy the Kid.
There is a marvelous house that figured prominently in those days in the 1880’s… The Dolan House. It has been a lovely bed and breakfast and tea room for the last couple of decades. The owners are a delightful couple. He regales the diners with the history of the place and she cooks up and serves some delicious lunch items. You are seated at dining tables with other diners and it was our lucky day. We ended up sharing our lunch table with two local gentlemen who are long-time Lincolnites. Both my husband and I were fascinated as we found out many interesting facts about our dining companions and were even invited to be overnight guests of one while the other turned out to have survived one of the most vicious bear attacks ever in the Capitan mountains. Authors will understand that my mind was in Heaven!
It was hard to take our leave of such great dining companions, but we had to move on to my next favorite spot… Fort Stanton. This is amazing and holds its own reenactment of its days as a cavalry fort in July. Yesterday, it was my favorite time there as fall was in the chilly air and leaves were falling. I could sit on a bench on the empty parade ground in the center of the fort’s buildings, the mountains surrounding us, and the wind carrying nothing but incredible silence. The place has such incredible history and not only was it a fort in the early 1800’s, but was able to reinvent itself up until the late 1970’s. Its buildings are an amazing collection of a calvary outpost with the rows of rock and adobe stables, to a tuberculosis hospital encampment after the war, then the first POW camp for German soldiers and sailors on American soil, to housing General Pershing and hosting Lew Wallace, then Governor of New Mexico, while he wrote part of his legendary Ben Hur… and finally a residential site for at-risk youth. I think the small native rock chapel is one of my favorite spots there with its old pump organ.
In a perfect world, if I had the time, funds and could spend all of it there, I would be working to wake some people up in the government of New Mexico, and find out why they are not doing more to preserve such natural treasures. Small groups of dedicated citizens are trying to do their best to keep these places alive and keep them from simply fading into the New Mexico dirt, but they need help. So, I’ll make my pitch here… if you and your family are looking for unique places to visit on your vacations, consider the historic areas of Lincoln County, New Mexico. The beauty of the land will enchant you (after all, the state motto is Land of Enchantment) and the people will dazzle you with their hospitality and pride in their heritages. You won’t be disappointed.
And last, but not least to me, thank you one and all who sent texts, tweets, FB wishes, and calls to make my day awesome. You are treasures to me.