Summer 2021 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 1: Santa Fe Plaza

Pulling into Los Sueños de Santa Fe was a challenge on June 24, 2021. First the horrendous traffic on Cerrillos Road came as a shock. Then the lack of a sign for the RV Park made us think the GPS lagged behind. If it hadn’t been for a patrol car blocking traffic behind us, we might still be sitting in the median waiting for cars to clear.

Was it the drive, the traffic, or the campground that made Jon lose his happy camper attitude? He hated everything about the campground: no sign, uneven site, too close together, only one washer and dryer. I counted us lucky, given the Fourth of July weekend fell in the middle of our stay, and we had only made reservations two weeks prior.

Our home for two weeks at Los Sueños de Santa Fe

Once he confirmed reservations elsewhere were not possible, he was back to his happy self. In the long run everything turned out okay. We only had neighbors on our patio side during the weekends, neighbors on the street side were quiet, and we found a clean laundry place a few blocks away.

To start off this series, here are a few Santa Fe details:

  • Founded as the capitol of Nuevo Mexico, a kingdom of the Spanish empire in 1610
  • New Mexico became a US territory in 1848 and Santa Fe continued as the capitol
  • In 1912, US granted New Mexico statehood with Santa Fe as its capitol
  • Soon after statehood, artists, writers, and retirees arrived for the dry climate, picturesque landscapes, and cultural wealth
  • Population in 2020: 87,505, a 20,000 increase from 2010
  • Santa Fe boasts 12 museums housing historic, cultural, and artistic creations

The Santa Fe Plaza downtown is first on our list of places to see. We hopped on The Loretto Line, an open-air trolley tour of the historical downtown to get our bearings. The driver concentrated on driving, while the guide entertained us with historical stories—some true, some maybe not—and gave us ideas about places to see. He also included tips and tricks about where to park, eat, and shop. We would have missed a few sites had we not taken the trolley.

New Mexico History Museum

Plenty to see at New Mexico History Museum

Three connected buildings house the New Mexico History Museum. The oldest building is The Palace of the Governors, built in 1610 by European settlers.

“In the beginning” story of indigenous peoples

The museum’s website states the 1610 Palace of the Governors is the “oldest public building in continuous use in the continental United States.” Various renovations and installation of modern amenities have occurred over the centuries.

Artifacts depicting Spanish rule over territory that became New Mexico

We spent most of one day at the museum following the historical record from the early indigenous habitants, through the Spanish rule, early settlers, and artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, and writers such as D. H. Lawrence.

D. H. Lawrence’s satchel used between 1920 and 1940 during his worldwide travels
Up the stairs (or take the elevator) for more history

We learned about railroad activities, the impact of World War II on the community, and even the communes and social experiments of the 1960s and 1970s.

Part of railroad exhibit
Exhibits pay tribute to the New Mexican men who fought in the Battle of Bataan and faced the Bataan Death March in the Philippines, and to the Navajo Code Talkers
Mabel Dodge Luhan attracted writers, including D. H. Lawrence, and artists to Taos, New Mexico
Here come the hippies
Significant and historic places around the State of New Mexico

After viewing the museum’s first floor, we took a break for lunch at Tres Colores.

I spotted this couple while eating my lunch. The man’s gallant gestures toward the woman and the expression of appreciation and happiness on his face gave me the impression they were very much in love and had been for decades.

Simple Love

No selfies, no social media, just two people enjoying each other’s company while sharing a meal. In this age of technology and the internet of everything, the couple reminded me that it’s the simple joys of life that are the most meaningful.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi Archdiocese of Santa Fe

Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy built the Cathedral Basilica between 1869 and 1886. The limestone block masonry, round arches, columns, and towers are typical of the Romanesque Revival style. Rooted to the earth at the end of the street, the building’s magnificence exudes a sense of superiority, strength, and security that commands a viewer’s attention.

Original plans for the church called for spires atop the towers. Lack of funds prevented their addition.
The keystone in the arch contains a triangle with the Tetragrammaton, the four letter Hebrew word YHWH, or Yahweh.
Arch Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy spent much of his life seeking funding to complete construction. Statue created by Jeno Juszko
Statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the dioceses, installed during 1967 renovations
Patron Saint of the Environment Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) “Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha” created by Estella Loretto from the Jemez Pueblo and installed in August 2003

Visitors and cameras are welcome inside the church for a self-guided tour on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Check website for times.

The stained glass window was imported from Clermont-Ferrand in France.
Twelve apostle windows also were imported from France
The reredos (ornamental screen behind the altar) depicts Saint Francis surrounded by saints of the New World
Women at crucifixion

Across the street from the Basilica is the Sena Plaza where visitors will find shopping and La Casa Sena Cantina. Originally built in 1846 as a house in an old hacienda style.

Find shopping and have a bite to eat at the Sena Plaza
La Casa Sena Cantina uses a common color scheme seen in Santa Fe. Is it true the turquoise doors and window frames prevent evil sprits from entering?
La Fonda on the Plaza is also across the street from St. Francis Cathedral

IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is one of 37 tribal colleges in the US. The school was established in 1962 as a high school formed under the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Two-year associate degrees began in 1975 and in the 2000s, the school expanded its offerings to include baccalaureate degrees. IAIA ventured into graduate programs in 2013 when it began the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program. They have since added an MFA program in studio arts.

Statuary garden behind the gate

IAIA moved its Museum of Contemporary Native Arts to downtown Santa Fe in 1992. We enjoyed the opportunity to walk through the exhibits and admire the colorful paintings and murals created by the talented students. Each exhibit included a bio of the artist so we could get a sense of who the person was and what inspired their art.

Architectural contrast
Sculpture with a corn theme
Mural depicts American Indian themes

The museum had on exhibit works created by Linda Lomahaftewa. Lomahaftewa was among the first group of Native American youths to study art at the high school when it opened in 1962.

A study of horizon and sky in abstract
More colorful abstracts
“Weaving Memories of our South Pacific Ancestors” by Linda Lomahaftewa

Other Plaza Sites

The pink-clad Scottish Rite Temple sports a different type of architecture from what is typically seen in Santa Fe. This building was used in Tina Fey’s 2016 movie Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot.

Scottish Rite Temple built in 1912 in the Moorish Revival style

During one of our excursions downtown, we came across a gay pride and celebration at the plaza.

Pride celebration in the plaza

Allan Houser (1914-1994) was an Apache Indian artist, painter, and sculptor. He was honored in 1992 with the National Medal of Arts. His works can be seen in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., as well as in numerous museums.

JT cozies up to Allan Houser

Next up: We explore a few sites beyond the plaza: the capitol building, Loretto Chapel, oldest church and oldest house.

Safe travels

Summer 2021 Ruidoso Episode 4: White Oaks, Cedarvale Cemetery, and Hurd Gallery

In this episode we visit a ghost town and cemetery, walk through a lava field, and finally find a surprise.

White Oaks Ghost Town and Cedarvale Cemetery

The first thing we encountered on our way to White Oaks was the Cedarvale Cemetery.

Help! Let me out.

Near the entrance, a New Mexico historic marker honors Susan McSween—Alexander McSween’s widow from the Lincoln County War story. She moved to White Oaks after selling her ranch holdings and is buried in the cemetery.

Susan McSween Barber earned her very own historic marker
Wood planks, marble stones, and iron fences mark the gravesites
Plastic flowers add a touch of color
March 9, 1895, eight men died in Old Abe Mine
Names of the men who died in the Old Abe Mine
Lizard on alert
Joe and Nedra Always Together
Visitors leave coins on Bell’s headstone

Driving up to White Oaks, it’s hard to imagine the town was once the second largest in New Mexico during the 1880s. It teemed with merchants, brothels, saloons, miners, ranchers, and lawyers. People came from the east, bringing their business acumen, architecture, and greed. Cattle rustlers, including Billy the Kid, considered the town a resort.

The museum was open, but no one around
Burros take advantage of the shade
Come on in and look around.
Rear of the house with ADA ramp
Inside is a kitchen
The parlor
One bedroom, the other one had twin beds

The town got its start in 1879 when John Wilson, an alleged escapee from a Texas prison, told two friends of his gold discovery in the Jicarilla Mountains. Wilson sold out to his friends, who established two claims, made a profit, and eventually sold them for $300,000 each.

Expanded adobe home

White Oaks may have prospered even after the gold mines petered out had the Santa Fe and El Paso Northeastern railroads selected White Oaks for their route. When I read the Wikipedia article as to the reason why the railroad bypassed White Oaks, it evoked an image of greedy businessmen twirling their Snidely Whiplash mustaches in anticipation of a bidding war for right-of-ways.

School house and museum
No one around
Facilities come equipped with hand sanitizer
Antiques in the schoolyard

That image vanished when I chanced upon the White Oaks New Mexico Goldrush (WONMG) website. They claim Wikipedia’s account of the railroad, which is not supported by references, is a fictional story repeated over the years by others.

Hoyle’s Folly built by Watt Hoyle in 1893
Possibly the Exchange Bank Building, or former Postoffice Building, or maybe both at different times

Supported by documentation, WONMG asserts the railroad pulled away from White Oaks after the Lincoln County Leader, White Oaks newspaper, published an unflattering article about Jay Gould after his death. Gould, often referred to as an unscrupulous robber baron, controlled the railroad. WONMG infers the family chose Carrizozo because the article angered them. Gould was the subject of plenty derogatory articles and political cartoons. Would they be so indictive?

No Scum Allowed Saloon, “Come out back for music and fun. But only when we’re around.”
Stage and patio in the back of No Scum Allowed Saloon
Not everything is bleak in White Oaks
Little black bugs feast with a butterfly

No matter the reason, Carrizozo was the recipient of the railroad stop and became the state capitol, while White Oaks continued its demise. There’s still sign of residents in town. One lady came out to water her plants, a handful of cars rolled through the street, and a sign said White Oaks Pottery was closed for the day.

Valley of Fires Recreation Area

After White Oaks, we drove to Valley of Fires Recreation Area managed by U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Created 2,000 to 5,000 years ago, the lava field covers 125 square miles of the Tularosa Basin. In the center it measures up to 160 feet thick.

The 1-mile Malpais Nature Trail loops through the lava field
Pahoehoe lava

We found a small visitor center; picnic shelters; 19 campsites (14 with electricity) including sun shelters, water, restroom and shower facilities; and the Malpais Nature Trail.

Yucca and cholla and other desert plants grow in the lava
A big hole reveals a collapsed bubble

The 90-degree temps had us slathering on sun screen, donning hats, and grabbing water, before walking the concrete path. Numbered posts and a pamphlet told us what we were seeing.

Estimated age of this juniper is 400 years
Hiding spot for rodents and lizards and snakes
Yucca in bloom beside the road

Only a 10th the size of Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Valley of Fires is still an impressive site and more accessible.

Surprise Find: Art and Wine in Hondo Valley

Twice I had seen a sign advertising the Hurd Gallery while driving through Hondo Valley and by San Patricio on US 70. Not sure what we’d find, we drove to the gallery on our last day.

Below the highway, the Rio Ruidoso runs through the valley of green fields and trees. It felt like leaving civilization behind when we dropped into the valley and St. Jude Roman Catholic Church came into view. Was the adobe-style building 100 years old or more? The sign out front gave away its true origins, recognizing the dates of 1967-2017 as its 50th anniversary. I still liked the architecture so took photos.

St. Jude Roman Catholic Church Mission

From the outside, I thought we had pulled up at a house. A sign directed us to the left. Inside, we found small rooms and hallways filled with paintings, sketches, albums, and memorabilia from five artists representing three generations.

Hurd La Rinconada Gallery. Enter the gallery on the left, walk through the large space in the middle, and sip wine on the right.

June greeted us and filled us in on each person with works displayed in the gallery. The artists were Michael Hurd, his father Peter and mother Henriette Wyeth-Hurd, NC Wyeth, and Andrew Wyeth.

Peter Hurd studied with N.C. Wyeth, where he met and married Henriette. Henriette had studied with her father from the age of eleven. N.C. Wyeth is best known for illustrations of Treasure Island and other popular stories of his time and created nearly 4,000 works of art. The Roswell Museum of Modern Art houses the largest collection of Wyeth’s work. Henrietta’s younger brother Andrew painted, among other works, Christina’s World, which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The talent of these artists amazed us as we wandered around the small space and dropped into a gallery large enough to hold a party with singing and dancing to the tune of the piano in the corner.

Then we heard about the wine. Beyond the large gallery, we entered the tasting room. We appreciated having the place to ourselves while Elaine filled our glasses with generous pours and told us more family tales.

Jon enjoys a snack while tasting wine

At one point, Michael came into the room, introduced himself, and hung one of his new paintings. If there had been room in the trailer and space on a wall in my home, I would have purchased one of his paintings. The dilemma would have been selecting which one. We settled on a few bottles of wine.

As we sipped our last tasting, two men arrived. One of them grew up in Dublin, California, the town on the other side of the freeway from us, so we had an interesting conversation. Small world. The other man owned race horses that competed at Ruidoso Downs, one of which won a sweepstake the past weekend, so they were celebrating.

To learn more about Hurd La Rinconada Gallery, the artists, and winery, or to rent one of the four adobe-casita guest homes, go to Hurd Gallery.

Some days, we venture out with no particular expectations. Then wham! We drive through a beautiful green valley, find a renowned art gallery to explore and a tasty selection of wine to drink and buy. And Surprise! We end up with one of our best days in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

That’s a wrap for Ruidoso, New Mexico, a wonderful place to relax and explore. I’ll end with a moving-day sunrise that seemed to say, “Are you sure you want to leave?”

Ruidoso Sunrise

Next Stop: Santa Fe. All aboard.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Tour Ruidoso, New Mexico, Episode 3: Wild Horses, Grindstone Lake, Lower Cedar Creek Trail

In this episode, we encounter wild horses, drive up to Grindstone Lake, and take a hike. I know at the end of last week’s post I teased a hike, a ghost town, and a surprise, but I couldn’t shoehorn the ghost town and surprise into this post. They’ll pop up in next week’s episode. On to the horses.

Wild Horses of Lincoln County

We followed the directions and signs to the Monjeau Lookout, hoping for clear skies and a fantastic view. The dirt road lead through Villa Madonna, a small community tucked among the trees and hills. Jon shimmied past a Jeep on the side of the road and parked. Up the hill, a herd of horses grazed in a field.

Wild, or feral, horses keep watch to protect their herd

A young family walked toward us, so Jon asked if the Monjeau Lookout was up ahead. “Yes, sir, but the gate’s closed,” said the father in a polite Texas drawl. Jon asked, “Do you know if the horses are wild?” “Yes, sir,” the father said, “They’re feral.”

Wait a minute. I’ve heard of “feral” cats, but “wild” when referring to horses. Was he being friendly or making fun of us oldsters? If the later, we were glad we could make them laugh.

Villa Madonna community saved from a fire

As the family walked back to their Jeep, I noticed the father’s gun on his hip. People walking around with guns at their waist or strapped to their thigh is not something we ever see in the San Francisco Bay Area. I suppose carrying a gun in this part of the country might not be a bad idea. Besides horses, elk, and deer; bear live around Ruidoso. I’d sure hate to bump into a big black bear without some kind of protection. We should think about making more noise while hiking. The crunch of gravel under our shoes may not be enough to keep a bear from our path.

How did this one tree survive the blaze?

Watching the horses graze on the hill cured our disappointment in not seeing Monjeau Lookout, a site we’ve put on our list for our next visit to Ruidoso.

Grindstone Lake

Completed in 1987, the Grindstone roller-compacted concrete dam stores water from the Rio Ruidoso and Grindstone Canyon Creek as a community water supply. The dam sits at 6,918 feet above sea level and has a surface acreage of 40 acres. In front of the dam, the lake is 115 feet deep. Well, maybe not that deep with the water level so low.

Kayaks and canoes for rent at the lake

Ruidoso Parks and Recreation operate the recreational activities at Grindstone Lake and WiBit Water Park. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding, among other activities, are available. The Dam House has boat rentals, fishing equipment, and snacks.

There’s still enough water for Wibit Water Park fun

A fee is required to park at the lake and advanced reservations are required Friday through Sunday. An additional fee and reservations are also required for the Wibit Water Park. No one is at the water park in the photo because it was closed the day we visited.

View homes dot the hilltop and anglers try their luck

Lower Cedar Creek Trail

Behind Smokey Bear Ranger Station on Cedar Creek Road are trailheads that lead to several paths used by equestrians, bicyclists, and hikers. One morning, we chose the 1.5-mile Lower Cedar Creek trail for an early morning hike.

The V Tree

A squabbling congregation of crows greeted us at the trailhead. Their debate followed us several yards as the trail wound its way near the creek, and finally abated as we continued up and down hills, and through a varied landscape of junipers, pines, and cactus. (Note: Yes, I know “murder” is the technical term for a group of crows, but I liked the ring of congregation or crows)

Small pond in a wetland area
A middle tree?
Prickly pear
Jon powers up the hill
How many seedlings will survive?

The crows were still squabbling when we returned to the trailhead. Apparently, they hadn’t resolved their disagreement. Back at the truck, Jon realized his hiking shoes had carried him for the last time. A trip to mid-town to buy a new pair was added to our daily to-do list, but first we needed food. Cars had crammed into the parking lot in front of Log Cabin on previous days when we passed by. On this day, we lucked out with a spot in front and enjoyed a filling breakfast.

We recommend Log Cabin Restaurant for breakfast

Brunell’s in mid-town had a large selection of shoes for Jon to choose from. The friendly staff stacked boxes of shoes and boots around him. After trying several on, he found the perfect pair and wore them the rest of the day with no soreness or blisters.

That wraps up this episode. Next week for sure we’ll share our visit to the ghost town, a lava field, and the surprise find.

Safe travels

Summer 2021 Tour Ruidoso, New Mexico, Episode 2: Billy the Kid, Fort Stanton, and Lincoln

One day we took Billy the Kid Trail to Capitan, Fort Stanton, and the Village of Lincoln

Smokey Bear Historical Park

We missed seeing the Hubbard Museum, but were lucky to find the Smokey Bear Historical Park open for business in the Village of Capitan. The Historical Park contains a museum with various fire prevention displays, Smokey Bear memorabilia and trinkets to purchase, and a garden filled with native trees, plants, and flowers.

Smokey Bear memorabilia
Available for purchase
Firefighting displays
Photo of CCC crew. The first time I saw this photo, the guy leaning off the stake bed truck in the far right center drew my attention. He brought the picture to life for me.

After wandering through the museum, we headed out back to the shady garden where they buried Smokey Bear and where little plaques identify plants and trees and flowers.

Tiny cactus
Cactus bloom
Image of Smokey as a cub in the garden
Firefighter memorial
JT poses with Smokey

Here are a few Smokey Bear fun facts we learned:

  • While fighting a fire in the Capitan Mountains, a group of soldiers from Ft. Bliss, Texas, found a badly burned bear cub clinging to a charred tree on May 9, 1950.
  • Ray Bell, a New Mexico game warden, flew the injured five-pound cub to Santa Fe where veterinarian Dr. Ed Smith treated him.
  • Ray Bell’s wife and daughter, Ruth and Judy, helped nurse the cub back to health.
  • An article written by Dorothy Guck, a Lincoln County newspaper reporter, and photographs taken by Harold Walter brought national attention to the plight of Hotfoot Teddy, Smokey’s original name.
  • A formal fire prevention campaign began in 1942 by the USDA-Forest Service, adopting a bear as its symbol in 1944 and the message “Remember . . . Only YOU can prevent forest fires” in 1947.
  • Once recovered, Hotfoot Teddy became Smokey and sent to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., becoming the “living symbol” of fire prevention.
  • The Secretary of Agriculture controls the image of Smokey, which has allowed the collection of millions in royalties for forest fire prevention education efforts, including the Junior Ranger Program.
  • Smokey had received so much fan mail by 1965 the postal service gave him zip code, just like the President of the United States.
  • Smokey Bear was buried at the historical park, as is the original 1993 Smokey Bear Balloon, which was destroyed during a flight on October 10, 2004.

The message “Remember . . . Only YOU can prevent forest fires” must have worked on me all these years because whenever I’m near a forest, those words pop into my thoughts. In April 2001, the slogan was updated to “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” I think the shorter version has more punch.

Fort Stanton

We said goodbye to Smokey and headed down the road to Fort Stanton. Fort Stanton is one of seven New Mexico Historic Sites and is managed by the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Main Museum and Visitor Center, originally constructed of local stone in 1855 and used as barracks for enlisted soldiers. Extensive remodel occurred during the hospital years and used as an administration building.

Founded as a military fort in 1855, it served a number of functions during the past 166 years including a tubercular hospital, Civilian Conservation Corps camp, state hospital, drug rehab, correctional facility, and since 2001, a living history museum.

The colors on the jackets symbolize the rank. Not sure which color goes with which rank.

There are 25 locations or buildings surrounding or near the parade grounds, nine of which are open to the public. The open buildings we went in contained equipment and furniture of the times along with information posters and signs detailing the history and people that worked there.

Photos and historic stories
Saddle and photo room inside visitor center
Parade grounds
Originally built in 1883 as a duplex to house two officers and their families. It’s now used by the Bureau of Land Management.
Fort Stanton Marine Hospital built in 1936 for up to 85 tubercular patients. Doctors were also tubercular patients.
Period furniture and equipment occupy the hospital rooms
X-ray machine in an exam room
A dentist office.

I lost interest in the buildings when grazing horses appeared on the parade grounds, and I set out photographing them instead of browsing inside buildings. I seem to remember that hunger was also a factor that kept us from exploring the fort in more detail.

One of the grazing horses
This building, built in 1855 as a single story building, was used for Fort Administration. During hospital years, it became the amusement building, with a general store, telephone exchange, post office, and a theater.

Lincoln Historic Site

Settled in 1849, the village of Lincoln became the county seat when Lincoln County was established in 1869. Except for the paved main street, the town has preserved the look and feel from the late 1800s, with a few alterations. The site boasts 17 territorial-style adobe structures and outbuildings, 6 of which are open for touring (4 opened yearly and 2 seasonally).

Built in the 1850s, the thick walls of the Torreon (the keep) protected Spanish Americans from the Apaches. The Murphy-Dolan group stationed sharpshooters in the structure during the Lincoln County War.

So what is so special about Lincoln that earned the entire town as a New Mexico historic site designation?

The Lincoln War

In the early years of New Mexico Territory, range wars were common occurrences that pit one group of cattle ranchers against another or three or four. The Lincoln War, however, turned out to be one of the deadliest waged by both respectable and criminal types alike.

The saga is filled with a cast of characters with greed in their hearts, guns in their holsters, and in their minds, murder.

The Covento building, built in 1868 as a flat-roofed adobe building was used as a saloon, dance hall, community center, a county court, and a local parish of the Roman Catholic Church.

Instead of filling this post with a doctoral thesis on the Lincoln War, I present an extremely short synopsis.

Inside a portion shows the Covento as a courthouse.

Lawrence Murphy and James Dolan enjoyed an economic and political monopoly over the Lincoln area after procuring lucrative federal contracts to supply Fort Stanton and reservations nearby. They enjoyed the fruits of those contracts until November 1876. That’s when John Tunstall came to town with cattle rancher John Chisum and attorney Alexander McSween. They were intent on upsetting the monopoly by establishing a ranch, store, and bank to compete with Murphy-Dolan.

Additional displays tell stories about historic events or people. These panels tell the story of the Horrell War, which also resulted in numerous deaths.

Sides were drawn, gangs were formed, harassment and cattle rustling ensued, killings occurred, which led to more killings. Tunstall’s group formed the Regulators and Billy the Kid joined them. The Regulators and the Sheriff’s posse battle it out a few times and more men die.

San Juan Mission building

Then came the Battle of Lincoln. The Murphy-Dolan faction surrounded the Regulators in Lincoln on July 15, 1878. For the next three days, gunfire rang out in the town, along with a volley of taunts and shouts. The US Army troops arrived, pointed cannons at the Regulators, causing many of them to flee.

Inside the San Juan Mission building

The conflict culminated on July 19 when the Murphy-Dolan group set the McSween house on fire where McSween, two women and five children, Billy the Kid, and other Regulators were holed up. The women and children were allowed to leave, and the fighting continued until the Regulators fled. Some of them were gunned down during their escape. Billy the Kid escaped unscathed.

We missed seeing the Tunstall Store Museum as it was closed.

Not much resulted from the war other than the killing of at least nineteen men. The new governor of the territory declared amnesty for the remaining individuals involved in the war. As it turned out, the governor did not include Billy the Kid in the declaration. Sheriff Pat Garrett and his posse tracked Billy and two of his compadres, killing all of them in July 1881.

Old Dolan House. A sign out front advertises it as a B&B, yet it was closed during our visit.

One might say the person who benefited from the war was Susan McSween, Alexander McSween’s wife. She amassed a large amount of ranch holdings that averaged between 3,000 and 5,000 head of cattle and became known as the Cattle Queen of New Mexico. She died on January 3, 1931, at 85 years old.

After reading article after article and falling into research rabbit holes, I’m still debating who was respectable and who was criminal. Both sides engaged in a deadly game of tit for tat, so it’s hard to tell. Maybe the Old West definition of justice meant something totally different from how it’s defined today. Or maybe it is the same, minus all the killing. Or maybe I just have a Pollyannaish sensibility, looking for the good guy where one does not exist.

Up next: We stretch our legs on a hike, visit a ghost town, and stumble upon a surprise.

Safe Travels