Thursday, October 24, 2013

Three Snapshots of New Mexico

Essay by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
As we traveled to and from the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and to and from the White Sands National Monument (on Interstate 25), we saw small signs along the highway that advertised Silver City. Once again, we packed a lunch, and our trip took almost three hours from Elephant Butte where we were staying at the Cozy Cove RV Park. We left shortly after 9 a.m., and immediately upon entering Silver City asked about a park where we could eat our lunch. Gough Park was the suggested location, and it was situated in the center of the city.

"Perched on the edge of the Gila National Forest in a high-desert wonderland of ponderosas, deep gorges, and red-rock mesas, Silver City is a bit rough around the edges," says one website. The town sits on top of a site that has been home to Native Americans, Hispanic, and Anglo settlers for hundreds of years. It was formed in the 1870s after the discovery of silver and quickly became a boom town. The silver industry crashed in 1893.

With approximately 10,000 inhabitants today, Silver City "is noted as becoming one of the most popular small town destinations for visitors to explore in America. Voted the best small town in New Mexico, Silver City offers the best of small town American charm and true American beauty," says another website.

Although we did not have a chance to investigate the local culture, history, exciting events, or beautiful scenery, we did visit a number of the two dozen art galleries and studios in the central city.

What we discovered was well worth our time. Some of the artists maintain superb retail sales areas where most are actively working as well as selling their products. In one, we relaxed and had ice cream in a back corner of the shop amidst a fabulous display of a wide range of the artist’s paintings. It was truly an aesthetic experience. (There was a slight aroma of incense.)

Talking to some of the local artists, we discovered that Western New Mexico University, located there, has an excellent Art Department and through shows and other cooperative efforts, helps support some of the many local artists. Also, Silver City itself makes certain that the local artists can afford to operate shops downtown and live inexpensively in the local community.

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We left the White Sands Missile Range Museum heading back toward Elephant Butte, New Mexico, when I proposed to our group that we go to Las Cruces (only slightly out of our way) and eat Mexican. There was unanimous support for the suggestion. Having to do a little banking, while others conducted their business, I asked a woman in the bank where the best Mexican restaurant in town was located. She asked which was more important, the price or the atmosphere. Thinking that it is difficult making quality distinctions with Mexican food, I opted for atmosphere.

Not only did she direct us to the La Posta restaurant, but she drew us a map as well. It was a bit difficult to find since it sat back from the main thoroughfare, but it was worth the little difficulty we had.

The restaurant occupies a mid-18th-century adobe building that is the only surviving stagecoach station of the Butterfield Overland Mail route from Tipton, Missouri, to San Francisco. Kit Carson, Pancho Villa, Douglas MacArthur, and Billy the Kid were all here at one time.

Quoting from the Frommer’s review of La Posta at the New York Times, "Las Cruces" travel site: "The entrance leads through a jungle of tall plants beneath a Plexiglas roof, past a tank of piranhas and a noisy aviary of macaws and Amazon parrots, to nine dining rooms with bright, festive decor. . . .The tables are basic, with vinyl and metal chairs." The ambiance alone made our visit worthwhile—and, besides, we were all starving.

La Posta offers traditional "New Mexico" Mexican dishes made from century-old recipes handed down over the years from the Fountain, Chavez, and Griggs families. Because we had no background nor history of their food, we took our excellent waiter’s suggestions and ordered the Tostada Compuesta—which originated at La Posta in 1939. The dish consisted of a toasted corn tortilla cup filled with frioles, red chile con carne, topped with chopped lettuce, diced tomatoes, and grated cheddar cheese.

Others tried the green chile amd the "Locals" favorite, the sour cream enchiladas. That dish consisted of corn tortillas smothered with green chile sauce, topped with grated Monterrey jack cheese and sour cream. Also, it included refritos, rice, and La Posta’s tasty Mexican slaw.

I am not one who normally enjoys Mexican food, but this meal was delicious— and filling.

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The third and final snapshot comes from Truth or Consequences, NM. It is our visit to the Geronimo Springs Museum. There were at least eight different rooms in the museum, and I will focus on just two of them: the Pottery Room and the Miner’s Log Cabin. There is so much more to see than these alone.

In the Pottery Room we found the largest prehistoric southwestern pottery collections with pottery ranging from A.D. 200 to A.D. 1350. Most of it was the Mimbres and Tularosa black-on-white pottery from southwestern New Mexico found within the Sierra County area. Their collection of early tools, effigies, bone artifacts, and arrowheads is also impressive.

The Miner’s Log Cabin came from the Black Range Mountains and is accessible through the Museum. Dismantled log by log and reconstructed on site exactly as it was built, it includes displays of items from early mining history in Sierra County such as a pedal-powered grinding wheel for sharpening knives and early gasoline and diesel jackhammers.

The Geronimo Museum includes a Ralph Edwards room celebrating when he came to town in 1950, the time the town changed its name to Truth or Consequences to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the radio show by that name, and his contributions to the town and the Ralph Edwards’ Fiesta—celebrated annually to this day.

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At the Geronimo Springs Museum website, you can read about the other six rooms of the Museum and the displays housed there.

Visit the Silver City, Grant County, Chamber of Commerce’s official website for additional information on Silver City.

The New York Times website labeled, "36 Hours in Silver City" includes a wide range of things to see in Silver City. This is one of the most useful sites on the City.

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Copyright October, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC

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