Day 4

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Today we woke up in Clayton, New Mexico. After a substantial breakfast at the Kokopelli (scrambled eggs and green chili for Chele; homemade biscuits and gravy for BA) and some writing and planning, we set out to explore town and stop at the Crossroads Cafe for road coffee. Clayton is known for its fossilized  dinosaur footprints and there are some crazy concrete dinosaurs down the road from the Kokopelli. It was tempting to check it out, but we were already running a late and decided to stay on task (history from the last 200 years, not 200,000,000).

Downtown Clayton is mostly shuttered. There is a beautifully restored limestone hotel, The Eklund,  from the late 1800′s but the sign on the door said “Temporarily Closed.”

We hope they will re-open. Who will feed the pets?

The Crossraods Cafe was closing as we walked in (11am!), but they gave us a tip to stop in Gladstone, NM at the mercantile for a decent brew. They also said that we might want to fill up our tank because there might not be fuel at the gas pump in Gladstone.

Since we were in fossiltown, we figured filling up at the Sinclair would be the right thing to do. But alas,

the well was dry.

On the way out of town, we spied a small antique/junkshop and had to stop. BA bought a hologram belt buckle with an eagle suspended in front of fancy scroll work. Chele took this picture and is still thinking about it. Broomcorn.

Hmmm…broomcorn.

Gladstone is about fifty miles from Clayton. We listened to The Grapes of Wrath (did we mention it’s the nineteen hour un-abridged version?) and were mesmerized by the the sky.

Distracted by beauty, we blew right past the mercantile. We did a u-turn and headed back. The store has one old-time, analog gas pump (they did have gas but it was spendy – $3.50/gal). Had we not found gas in Clayton, we would have bought it here just to see the numbers turn. The store is a mix of local canned goods, groceries, antiques, animal hides, books, and odds and ends. The mercantile also has a deli and they serve homemade brisket, sandwiches and chili. A red formica table anchors the room and when we walked in all four seats were occupied by ranchers- hats and all.  They were shelling peanuts (gratis and in a small pail on the table) and either they didn’t have much to say or they knew we were eavesdropping. We cannot report on what ranchers talk about at lunch. There is NOTHING better than finding a place that serves great food AND has rooms full of kooky embroidered tea towels, green Fire King glass  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_King and all sorts of things one doesn’t need (of course we both bought stuff).

Thelma Price and her daughter Shelley Wilson run the mercantile. It was established in 1938, and after retiring from ranching, Thelma bought it ten years ago. The Price’s have lived in northeast New Mexico for 45 years and Thelma, her husband and mother make up the entire population of Gladstone.

{Gladstone, NM, pop.3}

We were talking about cameras and Chele showed them the video feature of her point and shoot Canon. We had taken a short clip of a sweet old guy tearing up a side street in downtown Clayton on his Lil’ Rascal. He had a red felt hat and it was striking against such a blue sky. He was also the only soul out and about in Clayton. When I showed the video to Thelma and Shelley, Thelma said, “Oh, that’s Essy.”

This country is endless and intimate at the same time. Gives us the shivers.

Shelley told us that Thelma was the mayor of Gladstone. We didn’t question it.

Of course, we gave them a camera.

We got back on the road and New Mexico just kept getting more New Mexico-ish.

Mesas!

and the Rockies!

The route we are following is one fork of the Santa Fe Trail that split at Garden City in southwestern Kansas. The Mountain Route would have taken us up through the foothills in southeastern Colorado. Travelers would use the mountain trail because it was safer in terms of attack, and also because there was ample water for livestock. The Cimarron cutoff took a few days off the journey but could be deadly. I think we chose the Cimarron because of the aesthetic quality of the word. SSSSSimmmeronnn. Say it.

The two trails meet up near Watrous, NM at Fort Union. We are trying to figure out how the Fort got its name and will report back. Watrous is just north of Las Vegas, NM which is where we will be spending a few days with William Gonzales and Ginny Johnson. BA met them through our friend (and Ginny’s daughter) Niki. Niki is a 2nd year sculpture grad at UW-Madison- check out her work here. William and Ginny are retired but working tirelessly on land that has been in William’s family since New Mexico was Mexico– 7 generations.

Ginny met us near the highway and led us up to their in-town home at the bottom of Porkchop Hill. If we had a helicopter, the mesa would look like, well, a porkchop. Cool.

Adventures from the ranch to follow. For now, we leave you with a typical New Mexico evening:

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