Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh
See also: At the Museum
Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns
Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meet at 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. Program is "See & Hear Stories of Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls' Collections.” Visitors welcome. Admission is free. Information: 591-2326.
Braintrust Bag Lunch — The free monthly outdoor mini-lecture series at Magoffin Home State historic Site, 1120 Magoffin is noon Wednesday, Feb. 12. Guest speaker to be announced. Bring a bag lunch and some friends. Information: 533-5147, visitmagoffinhome.com or Facebook.
Doña Ana County Genealogical Society — The society meets is 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Thomas Branigan Library, 200 E. Picacho in Las Cruces. Sally Kading will talk about cemeteries, including being able to read the different symbols on headstones and burial options for today’s changing world. Information: (575) 527-1833 or dacgs.org.
Southwest Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society — The society meets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at El Sarape Restaurant, 5103 Montana. Program is "Mexican Railway History.” Visitors welcome. Information: 591-2326.
Daughters of the Republic of Texas — The Rio Grande Chapter meets at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at El Paso Country Club, 5000 Country Club Place. Program is “4th and 7th Grades Essay Winners for Statehood Day, Feb. 19, 1846.” Anyone interested in Texas history encouraged to attend. RSVP: 760-5775.
El Paso Corral of the Westerners — The monthly dinner program of El Paso Corral of the Westerners International #26 is 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at Holiday Inn El Paso-West 900 Sunland Park Dr. at I-10. Program is “African Women in the West,” presented by Sharon Owen. Cost: $20 (includes dinner and program). Visitors welcome; RSVP needed by Feb. 17: 759-9538.
Fort Bayard Tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society host walking tours of the historic fort 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at each Saturday 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). Tour takes about 90 minutes; call for time. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 388-4477 or (575) 574-8779 or (970) 222-2433. Web: fortbayard.org
Fort Bayard served as an army post from 1866 to 1899 and army tuberculosis hospital from 1899 to 1920.
The “Rising to the Challenge: Allied World War II” Winter Film Series runs through March 19 at 7 p.m. Thursday at Santa Clara Armory. Admission is free. See “Film Scene” for schedule.
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.
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.
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). New Mexico residents enter free the first Sunday of each month. Free entry each Wednesday for seniors. Information: (575) 526-8911, (575) 202-1638, 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, 7 miles southeast of Capitan, N.M., 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.
Dad’s gas disrupts dozing dachsund
Growing up we always had dachshunds. Small dogs, low to the ground, fast and spunky, they made great companions. We named them all Fritzy.
Our first Fritzy was long and mostly black. He did everything with us kids: fishing along the drainage ditch in the Upper Valley, dove hunting in the bosque west of the Boy Scout camp and camping out in the desert around Kilbourne Hole, the volcanic crater northwest of El Paso. Fritzy is buried in the backyard at 313 Belva Way, the old adobe family home that Mom and Dad had built in 1950.
Our second Fritzy we called Segundo. He, like Fritzy uno, was also a great friend and did all and more with the family. One camping trip to Kilbourne Hole, we drove to the bottom and spent a cold night there. My dad had set up his cot early before it got dark, spreading out his bedroll and extra blankets with his red Mexican serape on top, pillow in place. Then he made his way back to the campfire to help finish solving the problems of the world with the rest of us. The bottle of mescal was still being passed around the adults, a chaser of beer close at hand. The conversations were never finished until the last person consumed the worm found at the bottom of the bottle. Although my dad had them all bested with many years of experience, he could get the worm with the first gulp if he wanted too.
Segundo had been at Dad’s side the entire evening, probably to keep warm from both Dad and the campfire. Dad gathered up Segundo and put in bed with him, and the pup made his way to the foot of the bedroll. Dad sat on the edge of his cot taking off his combat boots, stuffing them with newspaper left over from starting the fire to keep out any creepy crawling critters out on this very cold night, and set them under the cot. Dad climbed in, still dressed but for his coat. It was December.
The night rolled on, I slept on the ground across the fire from Dad, so during the night I would throw on a log or two to keep me warmer. Suddenly I heard this poooot, a loud passing of gas coming from Dad’s direction. Then I hear Segundo let out a yelp and, by the light of the moon, I saw him bolt from the bottom of dad’s bedroll like a groundhog tunneling just below the surface of a lawn. Segundo darted past my dad’s nightcap-covered head, gasping for fresh air as he emerged. He hit the ground shaking all over.
I woke up in the morning with Segundo sleeping with me. I don’t know if he ever ventured to the bottom of Dad’s bedroll again.
Oh, how I treasure those memories, being older now, in fact now a great-grandfather. I did introduce my children to camping out in the desert when they were young, but around that time I started trading horses and equipment for a living and things changed a bit. We would haul our horses to the campsite in a variety of trailers. We were able to sleep in those trailers, although the children often chose to sleep out under the stars.
We also traveled to many different places with newfound friends in the Sun Country Trail Riders. Not as much mescal with the new bunch, not much alcohol at all; it was a family-oriented group of nearly 100 members. Still the campfires burned, and maybe the meals were more wholesome. I didn’t see as much world problem-solving, only lots of horse talk that also has added to the memories.
Another change was the breed of family dogs. From the Fritzy types to Australian Queensland Red or Blue heelers. They were larger stock dogs, but equally good family friends.
John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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