The Burros of Carrizozo

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Where I stayed
Carlsbad RV Park

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Thursday, March 10, 2011

The sign in the road read, Lincoln County, Next 95 Miles.  And though the desert on either side of the sign looked exactly the same, there was an invisible ribbon stretched across the road, and on it was written in big letters:  THE TRIP REALLY STARTS HERE!  Driving through it we left the known for the unknown.  We were going where no Slonim had gone before, to Carlsbad, and beyond!!!
     The desert eventually gave way to foothills, the yucca to pinion pines.  The foothills climbed into the mountains and then dropped down into a long, green valley and the sleepy little town of Carrizozo.  I parked in front of a historic old brick building and while I walked across the road to the post office to mail a letter, Ilana happened across an old timer on a street corner, who, admiring Chance, engaged in a long conversation about how he now wanted a dog but wasn't sure if the time was right.  Years ago, he said, he had built a number of brick walls around his backyard to keep out the neighbors dogs.  Now, feeling a bit lonely, he had considered getting his own dog.  After all, he already had a bricked in yard for a dog, he explained.  He had thought about it and thought about it, nearly every day for the last year.  He thought he might go to an animal shelter and rescue a seemed like the right thing to do.  But he didn't know.  He had to think about it some more. 
     Ilana asked him where the best place in town for lunch was.  "Well, he said, tucking his cane under his arm and scratching his grizzled chin, "there's this little place down the street, kind of a sign of new life in town, where the people with the computers hang out."  He said they served a pretty good lunch but closed at 2 p.m., which it now was.  "Then there's the Four Winds, not as good but the food is edible."
     We sidled up to the bar at the Four Winds Cafe and ordered the fish and chips, which was deep fried almost beyond recognition, while the french fries, which looked over-cooked, actually tasted undercooked.  I kept eating them because I couldn't believe something that looked so good could taste that bad.  This has only happened once before in my life, when my brother Larry and I, on a camping trip through the Western United States taken in our twenties, cooked up some pancakes one morning that tasted like rubber.  I just kept eating them because I couldn't believe a pancake that looked so good and smelled so good could taste like rubber.
     The young man behind the counter was a transplant from San Bernadino who used to commute many miles to work there.  "Now my commute is the walk across the street to the restaurant," he said.  His family had bought the place and he had moved there to help out.  "What is there to do here?" Ilana asked.  "Not much," he said, "but it keeps me out of trouble." 
      After our meal of "edible" food, we drove down the main street and parked the Gypsy Wagon.  I grabbed the camera and took pictures of the pride of the town of Carrizozo, the brightly painted ceramic burros that grace the doorways and stand atop the roofs of the old shops.  They are the work of the local artists and a complete delight to behold.  Strangely, they fit perfectly in with the quirky character of this sleepy little town.
     Another half hour down the road we came to Lincoln State Park, which is actually the entire town of Lincoln, New Mexico.  It is the site of the famous Lincoln County Wars of the early nineteenth century.  It started as a fight between two store keepers, one who was a long-time Lincoln resident and the other an English gentleman who came into town and set up a competing store.  The local guy previously had the only general store in town, running a little fife-tom with special deals being given to the local government, the town sheriff, who got compensation to back him in legal disputes, and even the U.S. government, to whom he sold rustled cattle at a bargain price.  The local guy put together a posse of Mexican banditos and ruthless gunslingers to go after the English guy, who they shot in cold blood while he was working on his ranch.  Thus began the Lincoln County Wars.  The English guy's workers set out to avenge his killing by forming a posse of their own called "The Regulators," which included bandits of their own, including Billy The Kid.  It was a war in which the wrong side was the right side and the right side, backed up by the local shierff, was the wrong side.  The Regulators did extract some revenge but were stimied by a law system that wouldn't recognize their warrants for the arrest of the killers.  Of course every hotel Billy The Kid stayed in and every jail he broke out of is so labeled and the town is now a historic landmark where some of the baddest boys in the West fought over a store. 
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Karin on

Thanks for another great blog. I feel like I am on the trip with you. love, K.

Ellie on

What local color you provide for us armchair adventurers! Thanks, Marty, for your words and pictures.

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