05 May 2021

RAPEA - Day 20 - Clovis NM to Ruidoso NM via US 70, US 380 and US 48

Hello blue sky and sunshine! What a difference a day and 213 miles make! We mad a short stop in Roswell NM today just to recon for a future visit. All my life whenever someone mentioned Roswell all I could envision was little green men, spaceship themed buildings and Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in search of the truth. But Roswell NM is so much more than the butt of alien jokes. More on that in a few days.

Our first stop along the way was Lincoln NM. It was the site of the Lincoln County War between rival factions which began in 1878 and ended in 1881 with the supposed demise of Billy the Kid (born by the name Henry McCarty) at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett. I say supposed because in the past 140 years there have been quite a few alternate theories floating around. But no definitive proof could ever be provided as the areas where both the purported Kid and his mother, Catherine Antrim, nee McCarty, were interred were heavily damaged by floods so no DNA has ever been recovered.

Sadly, none of the tourist facilities were open the day we visited and I shot pictures under the watchful gaze of a tuxedo kitty on a nearby roof. But the few locals we met while walking the empty main street were friendly and welcoming, including the mule deer that were sitting in and around the yard of one of the houses. They seemed totally nonplussed by my presence.

Next stop was Fort Stanton, where supposedly "history comes to life" but we had to use our imagination as, once again, everything was closed and we didn't see a soul, living or dead. (Later I discovered they just recently reopened and they're closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And of course we arrived on a Tuesday.) The buildings and grounds were extremely well maintained and I imagine it would be an exciting place to be during a historical re-enactment. Established in 1855 as a military post to control the Mescalero Apache Indians, Fort Stanton may be one of the most intact 19th century military forts in all of America today.

I couldn't depart Fort Stanton without paying my respects to the Patriots interred at the Fort Stanton State Veterans Cemetery that was just up the road. It's a well cared for, captivating location and even though grass is hard to grow in that environment, nature provides its own ground cover in the form of these hardy little desert daisies. During my research I came across this informative video on YouTube produced by Desert Rat Gardener, a local, that I think you'll enjoy. The cemetery entrance is marked by a Blue Star Memorial.

Then it was on to Smokey Bear Historical Park. (No I didn't forget 'the'. That was added later by songwriters.) Established in 1976 to honor Capitan's favorite son, Smokey Bear, an orphaned little bear cub with burned paws, found in the aftermath of the Capitan Gap wildfire. Smokey Bear rose to fame as an icon for forest fire prevention and he lived in Washington, D.C.'s National Zoo for 26 years. When he passed away, the famous black bear was laid to rest in his hometown.  His burial site is a special place within the Smokey Bear Historical Park. And, you guessed it, they were also closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Moral to this story: Come see a bit of New Mexico history...just not on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

As we passed through Ruidoso on Billy the Kid Trail enroute to our motel I happened upon my nirvana...Bears "R" Us. It's the largest chainsaw carved bear shop I've ever seen. But it doesn't just have bears and wood isn't their only medium either. They sell handcrafted pottery, metal art, yard art, wind catchers, etc. Their characters are so expressive they're magical. I need to step across the road to the Billy the Kid Casino and come out a big winner so I can bring home half their creations!

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