Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh
See also: At the Museum
Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns
Trinity Site Tour — The fall tour to the site of the first atom bomb explosion is Saturday, Oct. 6, at White Sands Missile Range. At the site, visitors can take a quarter-mile walk to ground zero. They can also ride a missile range shuttle bus two miles from ground zero to the Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House, where the scientists assembled the plutonium core of the bomb. Admission is free. Information: White Sands Public Affairs (575) 678-1134 or wsmr.army.mil.
Enter off U.S. 380 on the north end of the range (Stallion Gate) from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Site closes promptly at 3:30 p.m. Must show a photo ID at the gate.
Jornada Mogollon Conference — The 20th biennial Mogollon Conference is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11-13, at NMSU’s University Museum and Corbett Center Auditorium on the NMSU Campus, More than 40 leading archaeologists will share insights on Mogollon Archaeology. Registration: $55. Information: (575) 522-1691 or lonjul.net/mog2018/.
Border Archives Bazaar — Border Regional Archives Group hosts a free event for the community to interact with historical collections from the border region 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at Tomas Rivera Conference Center in UTEP’s Student Union East, 351 W. University. Featured speakers include New Mexico State Historian Rick Hendricks. Admission is free. Information: Abbie, 747-6839 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Dennis, (575) 646-4756 or email@example.com, or on Facebook at BRarchives.
The event brings together resources from more than a dozen libraries, archives, and museums of the El Paso, Juárez and Southern New Mexico area. Archivists, librarians and museum curators will discuss and answer questions about archives, regional history, and preserving documents. Scan stations available for family photographs, documents, and audiovisual materials. Also featured is a mini-DIGIE wall and short talks in English and Spanish about regional history, genealogy, preserving family archives, and researching historic buildings and neighborhoods.
Fort Bayard Tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society host walking tours of the historic fort beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark. Fort Bayard is six miles east of Silver City, N.M. off U.S. 180. Tour begins at the 1910 Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26). Museum is open 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Tour takes about 90 minutes. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 956-3294, (575) 574-8779, or (575) 388-4862.
The Fort Bayard Historic Society will honor the Village of Santa Clara’s 150th birthday Saturday, Oct. 13.
Fort Bayard served as an army post from 1866 to 1899 and army tuberculosis hospital from 1899 to 1920.
Related nearby events:
The free film series, “Comrades in Arms, Companions in Death; the Final Years of WWI” is 7 p.m. Thursdays through Nov. 8, at the Santa Clara National Guard Armory, Hwy 180 East. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free; donations welcome.
Fort Selden Voices from the Past — The special moonlight tours of Fort Selden State Monument, 13 miles north of Las Cruces, in Radium Springs, are 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System. The tour includes part of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail; and historical figures from the past who camped at Paraje de Robledo. Tours leave every 15 minutes. Dress warmly. Admission is $5; (kids 16 free). Tickets sold at door; check or cash only. Information: (575) 202-1638 or nmmonuments.org.
Fort Selden was a 19th century adobe fort established to protect early settlers. The state monument is regularly open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Information: (575) 526-8911 or nmmonuments.org.
Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meet at 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. Program is “Harvey Company News Stands Along the Santa Fe Line.” Visitors welcome. Admission is free. Information: 591-2326.
Southwest Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society — The society meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, at El Sarape Restaurant, 5103 Montana. Program is “Rail Lines Between Port Isabel and Port Brownsville Texas” presented by Ric Brightman. All train enthusiasts welcome. Information: 591-2326.
El Paso Genealogical Society — The society meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, 7000 Edgemere (off Airway). Program is “Filling in the Timelines of Your Ancestors’ Lives.” Visitors welcome. Information: 479-1291.
History Notes Lecture Series — The monthly program is 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, with “The Messiah from New Mexico: Francis Schlatter” by Jeff Schwehn at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main, north end of the Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or las-cruces.org/museums.
Daughters of the Republic of Texas — The Rio Grande Chapter meets at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at Avila’s Mexican Restaurant, 6232 N. Mesa. Program is “Texas Rangers” by MarySue Overstreet. Anyone interested in Texas history encouraged to attend. RSVP: 760-5775.
Chamizal Asks: ‘What Do You Think’ — Chamizal invites community members and visitors to share an experience at 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month (Oct. 17), at Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S. San Marcial. These might include a theater performance or any number of events related to the Chamizal story, borderland history and culture, or the National Park Service and its values. A dialogue will follow with audience input. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273.
El Paso Corral of the Westerners — The monthly dinner program is 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at Holiday Inn El Paso-West 900 Sunland Park Drive at I-10. Cost: $20. Visitors welcome, but RSVP needed by Oct. 15: 759-9538.
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 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.
Teen desert outing leads to kissing, baby bobcats
The sun was just topping out over the East Franklin Mountains as I knocked on Betty’s bedroom window. I had just finished my paper route and we had plans to go rifle shooting in the desert. She was already waiting and quickly came around to her front door, and we took off in my sleek, faded green ‘52 Chevy fastback.
My parents had given me the car on my 16th birthday and I quickly went to work tearing out the back seat, putting down a sheet of plywood to make an even floor, making one large compartment to the trunk lid. A mattress came next along with camp boxes, ice chest, water jug, toolbox and shovel.
This morning I had a full tank of gasoline and we were off, roaring west to Country Club Road and up McNutt to the desert. Our excitement was only surpassed by the fresh smell of the morning dew and creosote bushes coming through the car windows. We stopped to shoot jackrabbits as we headed toward Noria, an abandoned railroad section station about 15 miles out. We had no particular route in mind and no time limit imposed on us, so we were taking our time.
At Noria we parked at the main house and got out to explore. Betty then announced that she wanted a shooting lesson, so we set up some cans. She shouldered my father’s 22-calibar Winchester rifle, with me putting my arms around her to position the rifle just right. She gave me a quick kiss on the check before turning her head back, sighting down the barrel. I stepped back and she fired, hitting the two tin cans that held up the Lone Starr Beer bottle that was supposed to be the target. She jumped with excitement, but I think she was funning me. She knew how to shoot; this was not the first time we’d been out.
That kiss turned out to be just the prelude to what was to follow. She lowered the rifle and as I reached out to get it, she stepped into my arms. She raised her head standing on tip toes and kissed me for real this time. And, to my surprise she stuck her tongue in my mouth. I was shocked but, not for long. That’s when I learned what French kissing was all about.
We kissed some more before continuing up the tracks toward the old office building. Betty was pleased with herself being the teacher, and I was not unpleased being the student. On our way we spied a bobcat running across in front of us. I lifted Dad’s rifle and fired but missed. The cat was gone.
We walked on, rounding the building where there was a tall mesquite bush. Up at the top we saw another bobcat, not moving this time, and with no hesitation I fired. To our surprise the bobcat exploded into four parts. Dumbfounded, we realized that there were four babies. Somehow, we managed to corral them taking them home, with only one being wounded.
Betty’s parents were not in the least interested in her keeping one. They were city folks, very nice people, but the quiet type. I took our new pets to my house. My parents were used to all my “finds” and we put them in the dog kennel.
Weeks passed, and the word had gotten out that I had baby bobcats. Our neighbors, the Kunkles, stopped by to ask if I’d trade one for a hound dog puppy. I thought that was okay, so we traded. I still had three to feed. I had gotten in the habit of going out to the desert regularly, shooting rabbits for them.
They were growing and not seeming to tame down much. I named the remaining three Damnit (he was the gentlest because of the doctoring I did on him), Bobbinkins, and Bobbett. To get them out of the kennel we used heavy gloves. They were rambunctious.
On one outing Damnit got away. I went, up and down the street calling for him, “Here Damnit, here Damnit” It was not until later that I was brought to realize what that might have sounded like to the neighbors. But by that time the neighborhood was pretty much immune to anything they witnessed coming their way by me. I never found Damnit.
The summer was passing, and I still had two semi-wild bobcats on my hands. Discussing it with my parents, we thought of the zoo. My dad made the phone call. They were happy to take them. I was happy to see Bobbinkins and Bobbett had a good home.
That was the end to another typical summer. School starting meant a whole new set of adventures coming into view.
It’s been decades, but Betty and I still see each other once in a while at Wal-Mart. We are both very fortunate, having married well. She to a great guy who has always driven Corvettes, and I to the girl I first met in third grade who has allowed me to have horses. God is good.
John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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