Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh
See also: At the Museum
Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns
‘John Wesley Hardin: Outlaw or Champion?’ — Curtis and Lidia Flynn and Patricia Kiddney will assume the role of historical characters in a presentation of first-hand accounts of the notorious John Wesley Hardin, his wife Callie. and his love interest Beulah M’Rose in a presentation at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, in the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library’s Roadrunner Room, 200 E. Picacho, Las Cruces. Devoted to a life of gambling and guns, the notorious John Wesley Hardin spent much of his time outside the law. Information: (575) 528-4005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Southwest Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society — The society meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, at El Sarape Restaurant, 5103 Montana. Program is “Life and Times of a Female Railroad Engineer on the Union Pacific” presented by Yvette Lerma. Visitors welcome. Information: 760-5775.
El Paso Genealogy Society — The society meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, 7000 Edgemere. Program is ”Researching your Mexican Ancestors” presented by Doroteo Franco. Visitors welcome. Information: 591-2326.
Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meet at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. Program is “History of Railroad Police Protecting Passengers and Freight” presented by Woody Bare. Visitors welcome. Admission is free. Information: 591-2326.
El Paso Corral of the Westerners — The monthly dinner program is 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, at Holiday Inn El Paso-West 900 Sunland Park Drive at I-10. Program is “Camp Cody in Deming, N.M.” by Jim Eckles. Cost: $20. Visitors welcome, but RSVP needed by Jan. 14: 759-9538.
El Paso Archaeological Society — The society’s monthly meeting is 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at El Paso Museum of Archaeology, 4301 Transmountain. Bryon Schroeder, an archaeologist at the Center for Big Bend Studies of Sul Ross State University, will discuss “Maize, Baskets, and Atlatls, the Radiocarbon Record from Spirit Eye Cave in West Texas.” Admission is free; the public is invited. Seating is limited. Information: 449-9075 or epas.com.
The current interest of research has been on the duration of maize use on the Big Bend of the Rio Grande and the extent and spread of perishable industries across the Southwest and Trans-Pecos regions.
Fort Bayard Tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society host walking tours of the historic fort beginning at each Saturday in January at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark, six miles east of Silver City, N.M. off U.S. 180. Tour begins at Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26). Museum hours are 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday. Tour takes about 90 minutes; call for time. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 956-3294 or (575) 574-8779, (970) 222-2433, or (575) 574-2573.
Fort Bayard served as an army post from 1866 to 1899 and army tuberculosis hospital from 1899 to 1920.
Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society will host its annual Membership Dinner 6:60 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at Cross Point Church on Hwy. 180 East in Silver City. Guest speaker is author and professor Dr. Richard Meltzer. Doors open at 6 p.m. with a Mexican Buffet served; dinner reservation is $20. Reservations: (575) 574-2573 or (575) 956-3294.
Meltzer was recently been honored by the Latino Literacy Now for his latest publication “Captain Maximillano Luna - A New Mexico Rough Rider.”
Lost El Paso Paranormal Tours — The group specializes in original historical El Paso ghost tours. Tours listed are hosted by “Weird Texas” author Heather Shade or other costumed guides. Space is limited for many events. Information: 503-8960, email@example.com, lostelpaso.com or on Facebook. Tickets at squareup.com.
Old Fort Bliss — Building 5054, corner of Pershing and Pleasanton Roads, Fort Bliss. The Old West days of the “Soldiers of the Pass” are relived through replicas of the original adobe fort buildings and military artifacts of the Magoffinsville Post, 1854 to 1868. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; by appointment only Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 568-4518 or 588-8482 or on Facebook at Old Fort Bliss.
Chamizal National Memorial — 800 S. San Marcial. The National Park Service operates the memorial on land once claimed by Mexico as part of a decades-long dispute over the international boundary. The visitor center has an exhibit on the history of the Chamizal dispute, including a video presentation. Park grounds and picnic area open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for both foot traffic and vehicles; visitor’s center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273 or on Facebook at ChamizalNationalMemorial.
“Tales, Tails and Tots” stories and visits with park mascot Chami are 11 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 3-6 the fourth Saturday of each month.
El Paso History Radio Show — The show runs 10:05 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KTSM AM 690 (and streamed at KTSMRadio.com). Documentary filmmaker Jackson Polk hosts the show with reenactor and historian Melissa Sargent. Details of each upcoming show, plus podcasts of previous programs, are at EPHistory.com. Information: 833-8700.
El Paso Mission Trail Visitor Center — El Paso Mission Trail Association’s center supporting the three historic churches in the Mission Valley — Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and San Elizario Chapel — is at 6095 Alameda (at Zaragoza). Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free. Information 790-0661, 851-9997 or visitelpasomissiontrail.com.
EPCC Archive Collection donations — El Paso Community College will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2019, and is documenting the history of the college by establishing the EPCC Archive Collection. Anyone with memorabilia to donate to the collection such as posters, awards, photographs, brochures, programs, college publications, architectural records, documents on the beginning of the college or more are invited to share. Information: Antonio Rodarte at 831-4052 firstname.lastname@example.org; or Gale Sanchez at 831-4458, email@example.com.
The community is also invited to share their favorite experiences, funny stories, memories of campuses and colleagues. Information: epcc.edu/contact/Pages/ShareYourEPCCStory.aspx.
Fort Bliss Historical Association — The group meets at 1 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Fort Bliss museum complex, 1735 Marshall. Information: 269-4831. Dues are $25 a year ($10 students and junior enlisted soldiers).
Los Portales Museum and Visitor Center — 1521 San Elizario Road. The museum is operated by the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, and is housed in an 1850s Territorial-style building across from the San Elizario church. It offers gifts, family trees, historical artifacts as well as information on the “First Thanksgiving” and the Salt War of 1877. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: 851-1682.
Mission Trail — Three historic churches lie within eight miles of each other in El Paso County’s Mission Valley.
• Mission Ysleta — Spanish and Tigua Indian refugees from northern New Mexico founded the community in the 1680s. The first mission was built in 1692 and rebuilt completely in both the 18th and 19th centuries. The current structure was built in 1851. It’s near Zaragoza and Alameda on the Tigua Reservation. Information: 851-9997 (El Paso Mission Trail Association).
• Mission Socorro — The first adobe structure in Socorro was built in 1692, and like nearby Mission Ysleta, was destroyed by floods in later centuries. The current structure dates back to 1843, with additions completed in 1873. It’s off Socorro Road two miles southeast of Ysleta.
• San Elizario Chapel — Established in 1789 as a Spanish presidio, or fort, to protect the Camino Real, San Elizario was the first county seat of El Paso. The church was built in 1877, replacing a church built about 25 years earlier. Technically, San Elizario Chapel is a presidio church, not a mission. It’s on the San Elizario plaza, off Socorro Road, 5.5 miles southeast of Socorro Mission. Nearby is the famous jail that Billy the Kid reportedly broke into to rescue a friend. Group tours are available. For San Elizario tour information, call 851-1682.
San Elizario Veterans Museum and Memorial Walk — The museum, operated and managed by the non-profit San Elizario Veterans Committee of the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, is at 1501-B Main Street in San Elizario. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: Ann Lara, 345-3741 or Ray Borrego, 383-8529.
San Elizario walking tours — The San Elizario Historic District hosts free, guided walking tours of its nationally recognized historic district at noon and 3 p.m. the fourth Sunday of the month starting at Main Street Mercantile, 1501 Main Street. Learn about the 17 historic sites of San Elizario, about the arrival of Don Juan de Onate to the area in 1598 and the First Thanksgiving Celebration, the Presidio de San Elizario and the San Elcear Chapel on the Mission Trail. Information: 851-0093 or SanElizarioHistoricDistrict.org.
To get there: Take Loop 375 to Socorro Road then go east seven miles to San Elizario. District is on the right. Look for the brown signs.
Scottish Rite Temple tour — The Downtown El Paso historic landmark, 301 W. Missouri, is open to the public for a free walking tour at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Learn about El Paso’s Masonic history, the design and architecture of the theater. Information: 533-4409.
Fort Selden State Monument — The monument, 1280 Fort Selden Road in Radium Springs, 13 miles north of Las Cruces, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5; (ages 16 and under free). Admission for New Mexico residents with ID is free the first Sunday of each month; and for seniors with ID each Wednesday. Information: (575) 526-8911 or nmmonuments.org.
Fort Selden was a 19th century adobe fort established to protect early settlers. The monument seeks to preserve the remaining ruins and has a visitor’s center with exhibits of military life at the post. From Las Cruces, take I-25 north to Exit 19.
Fort Stanton — The fort was established and built in 1855 by troopers of the 1st Dragoon Regiment to serve as a base of operations against the Mescalero Apache Indians. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday (Hours may be shorter in winter — call for schedule). Admission is free. Information: (575) 354-0341, fortstanton.org.
Shakespeare Ghost Town — The small pioneer settlement and mining town on the trail to California is just south of Lordsburg, N.M. A 1½-hour tour at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend of the month; call to confirm. Cost is $4 ($3 ages 6-12). Information: (575) 542-9034 or shakespeareghostown.com.
To get there: From Lordsburg, take the Main Street exit (Exit 22) from Interstate 10 and turn south. Follow signs to Shakespeare.
Cornbread & beans left great memories
An old bachelor named Nick Woods taught me how to make cornbread and beans during the later years of my days at the Cowboy Trading Post. I’d started the store in my garage in 1974 and finally sold the land to a developer in 1998. I had lots of good help starting out, and the nearly quarter-century I was in business, they became dependable friends to whom I will be forever thankful.
After Nick got sick with cancer is when the schooling began. He got sick of eating sandwiches so he would coach me on what to cook. He would sit in the kitchen, with his elbows on the table, hands in front of him folded as if in prayer, telling me step-by-step what to do.
I learned and would cook a fresh pot of beans every Tuesday and Thursday. On the odd days I would refry the beans with added cheese. It got to where people would come by just to be invited to eat lunch. Cornbread was part of the schooling, too. I could have read the instructions off the package, but Nick had a few little tricks he taught me. People would stand around waiting for the hot pans to come out of the toaster-oven. The smell was worth the wait. Some guest smothered their first slice with beans, then getting another slice for jam as a dessert.
The word got out about beans on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and more and more folks started to show up. Sometimes I would have as many as 23 people standing in the kitchen or in the saddle room sitting on saddles, all enjoying a warm meal. It was fun.
The regulars started bringing things. Bill Mayes, our local farrier, would bring ice cream. Joe Smith would bring fresh butter from his work. Bob Amy, trail boss of our Sun Country Trail Riders and school bus driver, would make an enchilada pie big enough to feed an army. We ate well toward the end.
One guy, George, spent a lot of time hanging out at my place. If I hadn’t cooked, he wouldn’t have eaten a regular meal all day. His wife had kicked him out of the house and he was “batch-ing” with a buddy, so the beans and cornbread worked for him and served lots of other people as well.
Nick wound up dying months later of cancer. He and I had all his final plans worked out, just how he wanted things to be done. He was cremated. I spread his ashes out on the mesa west of the store, on a trail where the horses would walk over his bones.
That did that cause a turmoil! The funeral home called first, yelling, “John, what the hell were you thinking, spreading those ashes out like that and then putting the box with his picture under a creosote bush?” Then the crematorium called screaming the same message. I told them both that I was just following Nick’s wishes. I thought I had found the perfect place, a quiet trail that had been shown to me by John S. A. Martin, a friend who lived nearby and traveled that way to check his coyote traps. I took rides up that way for a time, and apparently others enjoyed it also. Finally, I saw that the box was gone.
Bob Amy died a year or so after Nick. We all gathered in Bob’s memory for years after his passing on New Year’s Day. We’d eat enchilada pie and lots of other good food that some 70 people would bring to the ride in his honor. Bob was one of the main figures in our Sun Country Trail Riders Club and what better way to welcome in the new year and pay tribute to him than an early morning trail ride.
Joe Smith moved with his family to run another dairy operation somewhere in Oklahoma, I think. Joe oversaw the moving of all the milk and cheese around the southwest for a processing plant.
Bill is still with us, as ornery as ever, but has moved to Kansas to be with his daughter. He shod horses until he finally had to retire. Now he’s chasing grandkids around like a lot of us.
George finally divorced and moved to Colorado, showing the years that have gotten by us. Not long after arriving there I heard he died in his sleep, too young at age 61.
All this on the account of Nick and his cornbread and beans.
John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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