6-22-00 - Roswell, NM to Ruidoso, NM - Lincoln, NM - Mescalero Apache Reservation

I left Bottomless Lakes State Park this morning thinking of Bart Shrum's suggestion in mind, the man in the Eurovan I met a few days ago, the ex-police captain from Santa Barbara. "You should check out Lincoln, it was Billy the Kid's hangout, a nice little historic town." So, to Lincoln it was.

New Mexico is a pretty sparsley populated place, something I'm not really used to. The roads to Lincoln were meanderous and seemed little traveled. The landscape was intersting, hilly, rocky, mountainous, but full of conifer trees and shrubbery. I stopped at an old, old cemetary and took a few black and white pictures. All the names on the stones were Spanish and I didn't see any dates after about 1960.

I finally came upon Lincoln. I must say I was pretty clueless on my way in, I was only going on Bart's suggestion.

I stopped at the visitor's center and Lincoln museum first. I parked in the lot and then began to walk towards the building. It seemed like an awfully small building for a visitor's center and museum, and there was a pick up truck parked right by the door, a screened door. I opened it.
There was a woman and young girl there eating their lunch in a kitchen.
"Oh, I'm sorry, this must not be the visitor's center?." I apologized.
"Oh, that's okay. The visitor's center is right there, but feel free to go around to the front to check out my sculptures." the woman replied.
I shut the door.
"I'm going to check out the museum for now, I'll stop in when you're done with lunch." I replied.
WHOOPS! I turned around and right in front of me is this huge sign and door, across the driveway announcing the "Lincoln, New Mexico Visitor's Center and Museum" it was right in front of me the whole time.

I went in and paid my 6 dollars which allows you to tour the museum, and several, about 4 of the buildings in the town, all significant to what was know as the "Lincoln County War". Now I don't want to get too detailed here because I don't have my usual reference materials in front of me. I may summarize it quickly by saying that back in the last half of the 19th century this was still very much the old west indians, white settlers. soldiers, etc. There was a trading company in Lincoln that supplied surrounding military troops and out posts with supplies. A young Englishman with money to invest saw a place for a second trading company in Lincoln. The two businesses began vying for government supply contracts etc. Soon townspeople took sides, guns were hired. The famous guns of young William Bonny, better known as "Billy the Kid" and his regulators were some of those guns. The conflict went on for several months, attacks going back and forth and whatnot. In the end the young Englishman was killed along with a lot of other people. Today the buildings still stand, well, most of them. Including the courthouse where Billy the Kid's famous jail break occurred, when they blew the whole place apart busting him out of jail. There are still bullet holes in the walls where The Kid shot his way out...one of the bullet holes in the wall was made by a bullet after it went through and killed one of the deputies guarding him.

In any event, a walk through the museum will give you a much clearer picture of the whole thing. I should mention though, that this town was originally settled by Mexicans, most of the population was Mexican. Some of the buildings were neat..and one empty lot. That's where U.S. Marshall's trapped Billy The Kid and his gang, they set fire to the place in an effort to run them out. The place burned to the ground and was never rebuilt it's just a grass lot now.....The kid, and the surviving members of his gang escaped. The events that occurred in Lincoln are what they "based" the movie "Young Guns" on, starring Emilio Estevez, Keifer Sutherland, et al. Their characters were real participants in the "Lincoln County War."

All of Lincoln wasn't 1/2 mile long. A quiet country road lined with some old buildings. One of the more interesting buildings was the "Torreon", the tower the town's first settlers built. It's where they would seek refuge when the indians attacked, which they did often, as their presence wasn't looked upon with favor by the indians.

There was a church, like any good Spanish settlement.....San Juan Bautitsta, that photo came out pretty well.....it seems to be all about the clouds.

The dark grey building below was "Dr. Wood's House". He was the town doctor during the Lincoln war, and remained in Lincoln through the 1920's. I toured the house, really just walked around with a group of about four other people while an English woman explained everything to us. She was very animated and did a great job. She would be a good person to employ pushing those products on info-mercials, that sort of energy...plus the English accent appeals to couch potatoes looking for new "Salad Shooters". Was I really learning about the old West from an English woman? I guess I was. After everyone left I stayed inside to ask this woman how she ended up here.....really in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico, as close to the real old west as I've ever seen.

"Well, I married an American man." she stated...simple enough. "He was in the Coast Guard, he was stationed in the U.K. and that's where we met." she said.

We talked about the pros and cons of living in New Mexico...
"You know, I used to just take little walks or hike around our property, but my husband always insisted that I not do that, he said that I must take water, and a rain coat, and tell someone where I was going because you never know what could happen out here. The weather changes so quickly, the sun is so hot, we have mountain lions here. So I don't just take little walks anymore without telling someone where I'm going and when I plan on being back."

I told her about my trip and we talked for a while longer.

"I didn't expect to learn about the old West from an Enlgish woman." I admitted, "but you really did do a good job, thanks."
"Well, thank you! And have a nice trip, make sure to keep your petrol topped off driving around out here too."
"I will, thanks." I replied and I was on my way.

Some very dark New Mexican clouds were rolling in and it looked like little Lincoln was about to be poured upon. I made my way back to the car in the visitor's center parking lot.....but AH! I had one more stop to make.

Next to the visitor's center I went up to the front door of the place where I had interrupted the woman and little girl having lunch earlier. The woman was on the front porch with a drill or grinder of some sort in her hand, an elaborate looking face mask that kept her from breathing the dust created from her stone sculpting, and big goggles. There was a young boy, maybe 12 working in a similar fashion, and a young girl about the same age polishing some stones.

She took off her mask as I approached.....
"Hey, how ya doin'?" she asked.
"I'm doin' pretty well, thanks. This is neat stuff you've got here." I said.
"Oh, thanks, it's a lot of fun. Go on in the gallery and take a look around if you want." she pointed me towards the front door.
I went inside. It was a tiny room, maybe 10' x 8'. There were sculptures of bears and indian women and turtles and the like, all made from rock, polished to within an inch of its life. The work was impressive, not cheesy stone carvings or junky stuff, but all very nicely designed. The prices were a little out of my league, but where would I put a big piece of alabaster in the van anyway? As I walked back out to the front porch I saw a sign on the front door, if the door were closed, if the studio were closed this is the sign you'd see...."WHOOPS! Sorry I missed you....I must be at my day job. I'll be back in a few hours, take a card for now." and there was a sleeve full of her business cards. I went back out to the porch and we began to talk again.

"Do you really have a day job? or is that just a joke?" I asked.
"Oh, no. I have a day job. I teach art and sculpture on the Apache reservation and offer sculpture classes to people."
"Have you had the studio for long?" I asked.
"Well, I've actually had this studio for less than a year. I've been an artist for a long time. I used to sculpt with clay, and I was into bronze for a while, but once I started carving stone I knew I was hooked." she admitted. "I was talking to a friend of mine one day and I said, 'it sure would be great to live in Lincoln.' and he said, 'oh really, they're thinking about moving the library.' and so this used to be the old library."
"Huh, that was convenient." I replied.
"Yeah, they were looking for more room for the library." she added.

There was a puppy at her feet wrestling with a rope in it's mouth.

"Is that a blue heeler?" I asked.
"It sure is. It's daddy was a full dingo that's where he gets those big ears. The mom was a heeler." she replied.

The only way I even know what a blue heeler is, is because some family friends of ours who live near Georgetown, OH have had blue heelers over the years, good farm dogs...they're actually Australian cattle dogs.

We talked about dogs for a while and then the subject changed to my trip. I told her about Katie and Benjamin's farm in Pennsylvania.
"I used to help my grandmother plow her fields when I was a little girl. She lived a few canyons over from here. We'd till the canyon floor with a team of Belgians and we'd uncover all sorts of indian pottery and artifacts."

That spawned about another 20 minutes of conversation......plowing fields with Belgians and finding indian artifacts.....cool.

I was there for about an hour, while she probably didn't get much done during that time....I don't think it mattered. She was sitting on the front porch for a reason.

I said goodbye and got back in the van right before the storm began...the sky opened up as I was pulling out of Lincoln. It poured the way I've only seen it pour in New Mexico....but 15 minutes later....sunshine.

It was time to find a place to camp for the evening. I looked into a national forest campground near Ruidoso, but there was so much construction all over the place, flag men, cones, I just couldn't find the place. I did enter the national forest, but the road dead ended, full of private cottages and houses, no campground. So I went back through Ruidoso the way I came and as I was just about out of town I saw a sign...a construction sign, and on the back of it was spray painted....."cedar creek recreation area 1/4 mile" with an arrow pointing down a gravel road. Well, I figured, as long as "cedar creek recreation area 1/4 mile" wasn't a code word for "suckers, this way" I might get lucky.....down the gravel road I went.
So I'm going down this little gravel road for a little while and I see another sign, "Mescalero Apache Reservation Boundary". So I keep going and I come to a trailer with a stop sign next to it, and another sign which reads "Camping permit required - all vehicles must check in."

A Blue pick up truck had followed me in from the turn off back at the main road, it pulled up and stopped behind me. I got out and walked up the few steps to the door of the trailer. As I reached the top step an old man opened the door, came out, and sat down at a table next to the trailer door. He had a baseball hat on, low down over his eyes, I could see that he wore glasses, he was at least 70.
"Kin I hilp ya with somethin'?" He asked.
"Yeah, hi, I'm interested in camping for the evening" I replied.
I looked over my shoulder, back at the Westy, and noticed the guy who got out of the blue pick up truck behind me was inspecting it pretty closely, pressing his nose up against the side window and covering the sides of his face with his hands to cut down the glare so he could see inside better. He looked about 65 or so.
"What are ya fixin' ta do?" the old man in the chair in front of me asked.
"I'll sleep tonight, and then get up and go into Santa Fe in the morning" I replied.
"Well, do ya wanna be in the RV section or do you wanna be in the tent section here." he pointed down the road to the right.
"Well," I began, "what's the....."
"The difference is two dollars" he interrupted.
"Do you have electricity in the RV area?" I asked.
"Oh yeah, electric and water" he answered.
"I'll take a spot in the RV area then." I replied.
"Alright." He opened a drawer in the table he was sitting at and pulled out a little green card, he stamped it with the date and then handed it to me.
I gave him 12 bucks.

The other guy who had been looking in the van window was up at the table by now as well.
"Howdy" greeted the old man who was helping me.
"Whatcha doin'?" asked the other guy.
"I'm just working away up here, you can see that" the old man replied.
I figured they knew each other.
"What you been up to?" asked the campground guy.
"Awe, mowin'." replied the other guy.
"Where ya been mowin'?"
"Over at the Guthrie's place," he paused, nobody was in a hurry here, he looked up onto the grass topped mountain above us, "you know, Guthrie, that wealthy guy from San Antonio? He bought that big place up behind Krager's. He's comin' up with the family so I'm mowin'. I got done 'bout half way through and got outta town."
He smiled like a young boy who'd skipped out on his chores.

All of this time I'm just standing there...not really waiting for anything, just standing there, taking it all in, like these guys were. In these sorts of situations I find that I really have to make an effort to stay put and soak it in.....In my life I'm so used to running from this thing to that, tearing through Chicago city streets, battling to get to the next place... it's almost difficult to stay in one place without a specific reason.....these guys sure didn't seem to need a reason. In fact, the guy in the blue pick up truck came out for no other reason than to shoot the breeze and look up the mountain.

The older guy pushed a plastic container towards the other guy. He opened it.
"Awe." he smiled real wide, the box was full of fishing lures.

The older man pulled a big long cigarette from a pack in his breast pocket and lit it. He looked back at me....while the other guy inspected the fishing tackle.
"Did you bring your own water?" he asked.
"Yea, I've got some." I replied.
"We got water up there too," he said, "don't build no outside fires though." he added.
"Oh no, I won't." I assured him.

He looked back at his friend inspecting the fishing tackle...."I brought my refrigerator too." he said patting a small cooler sitting on the ground next to him.
"Awe, Hoot. Yer gettin' serious." the other guy replied with a chuckle. He looked at me and then at the van, he had inspected it well, and then back at me....
"Volkswagen huh? That thing's pretty neat. I took a peek inside, got cabinets and a stove it looks like."
"Yeah, the top pops up and makes a bed, you got the stove and refrigerstor, and sink in there too. It's and '82 model with an air cooled engine, only 67 horsepower, that's why I was going so slow up those hills on the way in."
He smiled, "Straight shift then?" he asked.
"Uh, yeah." I replied...even though I don't have a clue what "straight shift" means...must mean stick shift.

The conversation turned from the van back to the old guy sitting down.

"I seen some elk up air." said the guy who followed me in in the blue truck.
"Shoot, I seen about 50 of 'em up on that mountain," replied the old guy, "a big herd a cows and calves."
The other guy smiled like he was glad to live in a place where you can see such things, he had a genuine smile....he was a nice guy.
The old man sitting down began again, "The mustangs ar up air, got the three colts with 'em too."
"Is that right?" the other guy remarked, he looked at me, "Old Hoot here saved one 'em colts." he declared with a nod.
"Yep," Hoot replied, "One 'ems born next to the lake, he could hardly stand up and he kep' fallin' down on the muddy bank an' he slid into the water. Got his legs clear out front of 'im, couldn't git out. So I get on over air an' I grab 'im by the ears and I pull 'im out."
The other guy chuckled at the thought of old Hoot pulling anything out of the water by it's ears, "Colt woulda drown, ole Hoot hadn't a saved 'im" he finished.
"I reckon." Hoot agreed with a nod....he really used the words I reckon.

After a long reservation pause the guy from the blue truck asked me where I was from....

"I'm from Chicago. I drove old Route 66 from St. Louis to Amarillo then headed to Roswell. I was in Lincoln this morning and......"
"Here yar." Hoot completed the thought.
I smiled, "Here I am" I said with a nod.

"Route 66." said the guy from the blue truck. He smiled and kicked a pebble from the porch, like he was remembering a trip he took on Route 66 back when it was in its hey day. "What's yer name?" he asked.
I was embarrassed I hadn't introduced myself yet.....I put my right hand out promptly, "David Tobin, Sir."
We shook.
"I'm Bob Stevens, this here's Hoot Gibbs." he pointed to Hoot, Hoot nodded.

You've gotta love a guy with a name like that....double letters in his first and last name, both only one syllable. Hoot lived in this trailer on the reservation, but I couldn't tell if he was an indian or not, Bob was definently not an indian.

I looked up the road towards where Hoot pointed when he mentioned the RV area of the park.

"So, the campground's just down this way?" I asked.
"Yee-up, 'bout a mile." Hoot replied.
"Okay, well, nice to meet both of you." I said.
They both nodded and I went down the few steps toward the van.
"Don't catch them mustangs an' try to ride 'em now." Hoot called after me.
"And don't catch none a them bears either!" Bob added with a smile.
They were nice old guys.

I went up to the campground and picked a spot, there weren't more than about 4 occupied spots in the whole place.

I set up camp (popped the top) and began writing in my journal. The above text is taken directly from my journal...the first time I've actually copied anything out of the handwritten journal verbatim to post on the website......unfortunately I did not take a picture of Hoot and Bob...god I wish I had. They had character.

I was sitting in the van and I kept hearing things buzz by, shoot by, very quickly...like giant bumble bees or something. Well, I just had the most amazing experience. A humming bird flew right up to the side of the van and hovered right outside. I flinched at first, thinking I was about to receive the most painful bee sting of my life, but then I noticed it was a humming bird. I have never seen one so close before. Then all of a sudden he shot into the van, right in front of me, inside the van!. He seemed a little startled so he shot forward, running into the windshield, recovering, and shooting out the open driver's side window...amazing. So this little humming bird ended up doing laps through the Westy all evening.....four times he entered through the door and exited. The campsite and entire campground was nice.

As the sun set I heard the snorts and neighs of the mustangs Hoot mentioned....slowly moving from the valley floor up the mountain. By the time I had finished dinner they had appeared. It was very difficult to get at all close to them for a picture, but I got a few from a distance...notice the colts in the group.

Site of Billy the Kid firefight


San Juan Bautista Church

Dr. Wood's house

Misc. building on Main Street

The Seventh Direction studio

Westy parked at the Mescalero Apache Reservation.


The vehicle