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A Dead Rodeo Clown in Silver City, NM?


"Can you spot the dead rodeo clown?", we were asked. A question that just pegged my "B.S. meter". I had to dig further but more on that in a minute..


Our travels du jour are taking us further west in the direction of Arizona. It will be our final stop in the Land Of Enchantment: Silver City.



And here is the friendly, high-desert town of Silver City N.M., population 10,000. At 6,000 feet, the weather here is invariably gentle, making it a year-round attraction for outdoors lovers:


By Matthew.kowal - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106154319

It was a two and a half hour drive to our next campground. We were staying at the Silver City RV Park. This is the 74th RV park at which we've stayed since beginning our amazing journey two years ago.


photo courtesy of Google streetview.

This park was small with narrow roads and gravel pads. Fortunately, nobody was parked in the spot behind us so we were able to pull through that site to get our 35' fifth-wheel into our spot, it would have been very difficult otherwise. We also found their 30 amp service was very weak. This park was in a serious need of a facelift, but it is in the heart of the city so on the "+ side" it's conveniently located.


THE TOWN THAT STARTED AS A.. COPPER MINE!:


We really enjoyed this town. It seems very livable and is chock full of history.



AND WHAT AN INTERESTING HISTORY IT HAS!


The Apaches first migrated into this region after being pushed off their northern hunting grounds by the Comanches in the 1500's. They discovered copper and used it to trade with the Mexicans and other native tribes. When the Spanish arrived in the late 1600's, they quickly capitalized on the fertile area and expanded mining operations. It was in 1870, when silver was discovered, that the town really began to flourish and hence the name change. Many bloody conflicts occurred between the local Apache tribes and the settlers as they poured into this area.


And along with the growth came trouble. This is an excerpt from Wikipedia:


"The town's violent crime rate was substantial during the 1870s. However, Grant County Sheriff Harvey Whitehill was elected in 1874, and gained a sizable reputation for his abilities at controlling trouble. In 1875, Whitehill became the first lawman to arrest Billy the Kid, known at the time under the alias of Henry Antrim. Whitehill arrested him twice, both times for theft in Silver City. Sheriff Whitehill testified to the Justice of the Peace that he believed Henry Antrim did not do the actual stealing the second time arrested, but assisted in the hiding of the property stolen by Sombrero Jack. Whitehill would later claim that the young man was a likeable kid, whose stealing was a result more of necessity than criminality. His mother is buried in the town cemetery. In 1878, the town hired its first town marshal, "Dangerous Dan" Tucker, who had been working as a deputy for Whitehill since 1875. Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch were also reported to frequent the Silver City saloons in the late 1800s."


Billy The Kid, Butch Cassidy, "Dangerous Dan" Tucker, Sombrero Jack.. You just can't make this stuff up!


This town has many coffee shops, art galleries, antique and gift stores, interesting eateries and lots of friendly folks. It deserves two thumbs up.



ANOTHER FRIEND(S) ALONG THE WAY:

While we were sitting in our RV, we saw somebody looking our rig over. While this may sound kind of "glock-worthy", in our travel experiences it is not that unusual. RVers are a curious bunch and it turns out that this person was a fellow Grand Design owner trying to figure out which model we had. There's a natural comradery when you meet travelers who own a similarly manufactured RV, so it didn't take us long to strike up a friendship.



This is Tom and Sally with their two lovely daughters. We shared a few enjoyable evenings getting to know them. Their two children were very charming and recently, Sally spent a great deal of time in the Ukraine administering aid to those effected by the violence. If you're ever in Lakewood, New York, stop in and visit their gift shop 6 Baers. They are located at 50 Chautauqua Ave Lakewood, NY. Good people.



A CHANCE PICK-UP IN A BAR (SORT OF):


One day we decided to visit some native-American cliff dwellings built by an ancient agrarian culture know as the Mongollons. These structures, built in the 1200's, were fascinating to see and stroll through. To be able to walk where native Americans tread over 800 years ago, and to see ceilings blackened by the smoke from fires over which families roasted their game, to touch the walls made with their own hands using mud retrieved from the river below, and to see the embedded stones gathered from the surrounding landscape, sends one's imagination swirling back in time. How did they survive in such a harsh environment? What did they see? What did they do for fun? Did they love their children the same way we do today? Why did they leave? Where did they go?



Sadly, with no remaining descendants, these are questions without answers.


Afterwards, as we were driving home we decided to stop in at the "ghost town" of Pinos Altos.


Surrounded by rundown buildings, and questionable personal dwellings, was one of the few remaining businesses in this census-designated area. The historic Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House.




This simple map-dot began in 1860 when three frustrated 49ers stopped to take a drink in a nearby creek and discovered gold. Word spread like wildfire and soon there were over 700 men prospecting in the area. Interesting side note: the future-infamous Roy Bean opened a general store here (he later moved to West Texas to gain fame as Judge Roy Bean "The Law West of the Pecos"). Like many of these "boom towns" their fortunes rose and fell with the swing of the pick. When the mines closed up, so did the town.


The saloon was a really cool place. Very rustic and very western.



After bellying up to the bar and ordering a sandwich, Lorraine happened to overhear the couple next to us talking about their RV.



In her typical non-intrusive way, Lorraine leaned over and asked if they were RVers. And thus began the conversation, and thus began our friendship with Larry and Jeannette.



They reside in Helena, Montana and were out touring the southern U.S. We quickly struck up a friendship and since our original meeting in 2019, have had the opportunity to cross-trails with them seven-plus times. Larry, an antique car enthusiast, was the former fire chief of Helena. He is a "give you the shirt off his back" type of person with a gregarious laugh. Jeannette, well.. she is one of the most remarkable people I have had the pleasure to meet. Not only is she as sweet as a cube of sugar, she has a brain like an encyclopedia, loves to cook (correspondingly we love to eat!), all wrapped in a delightful sense of humor. They are a fun couple to be around and we feel privileged to call them friends.



Looking forward to many more enjoyable visits with them!


MOTHER OF BILLY THE KID:


This town was the birth place of William Henry McCarty, infamously known as Billy the Kid. While they don't know the exact location of the homestead, you can go see where his mother, Catherine Antrim, is buried at Silver City's Memory Lane Cemetery. There is not much known about his mother but if you're interested, I found a website that gives you a brief overview of her life at Historynet.com.


We noticed a discrepancy between the name on the tombstone and the sign. The correct spelling of her name is Cathy with a "C" not a "K"!

ANOTHER GHOST TOWN: CHLORIDE, NM:



We came across this unique little mining town while at our last campground. It's the town of Chloride. During its boom years in the 1880's, it had a population of 3,000, nine saloons, a general store, a dry goods store, a millinery shop, a restaurant, a butcher shop, a candy store, a pharmacy, a Chinese laundry, a photography studio, a school, and two hotels. 


Today, it has a few remaining original structures and about 20 never-say-die residents. It's a fascinating slice of New Mexico history. The truly interesting thing about this town is its Pioneer Store. What makes this store truly unique is that back in 1923 as the silver mines closed, and its citizens drifted away like tumbleweeds on a hot summer's day, the family that owned this store, boarded up the fully-stocked store with hopes of reopening it when the town had a resurgence. Sadly, this never happened and the family never returned.


The building sat undisturbed for the next 56 years. In 1979, the property was purchased by a new owner who had no idea of its history.



When he took a crowbar to the plywood and peaked inside, to his amazement, he saw (underneath a thick crust of dust, bat guano and rat poop) shelf after shelf stocked with canned goods, tools, clothing and various sundry items, everything people needed to survive at the turn of the century. It took them months to scrape away the hardened crust, but afterwards they were left with a fascinating time-capsule of the town's past.


If you feel like hiking while here, there is a trail that leads you around the back side of the town to its cemetery, where you might discover a few interesting things!




HILL CATTLE VS. CITY CATTLE:


If you want to hear another quirky story, the museum curator told us that the surrounding hillside had been purchased by some rich northeasterner. He (or she) wanted to raise cattle so they had 50 or 60 heads shipped out here to graze. But they made one fatal mistake, they purchased the wrong type of cattle! They brought out flat-land "city" cattle which are unaccustomed to grazing on such rough terrain. They should have purchased "hill-cattle" (her terms). Little by little, their herd thinned as they tumbled into crevices and off the cliff-side. They quickly gave up the dream of becoming cattle barons and the land has remained fallow. A sad tale but ironically funny.



FINALLY, THE DEAD CLOWN!:


Okay, so here's the story you have waited so patiently to read. First, we LOVE hearing local folklore. Colorful But this one turned out to be fake news at its finest. And it all started with a picture we were shown. It was taken in 1937 at the 4th annual Silver City rodeo.


"Fourth annual rodeo Silver City New Mex. July 4 1937. Auspices Chamber of Commerce attendance over 5,000. Johnnie Mullens arena director."

You notice the awkwardly positioned man in the middle (circled in blue)? The only individual in the crowd sitting atop a mule? Well, the bartender pointed to this man and told us he was a beloved rodeo clown who died the morning this picture was to be taken. As a tribute to him, the other riders included him in the photo. So even though rigor-mortis had already set in, someone sat behind him and held him in place. That's why the hand above his right shoulder looks so out of place. My interest was piqued.


I snapped a photograph of the picture and took it home for a more thorough examination.



As I zoomed in, the truth began to emerge.



A rodeo clown he may have been, but there is no one sitting behind him and I must therefore conclude that he was alive at the time this photo was taken. Case closed. The truth may be out there, but just not at the Buckhorn Saloon!


[We where also told that there is/was a hand-dug tunnel running from the tavern's basement to the fort across the street. This allowed patrons a safe avenue of retreat should the tavern come under attack by native-Americans. Sadly, they would not allow me access to the basement to verify their claim.]


This concludes our visit to New Mexico. In my next blog post I want to share with you the worst campground we have ever encountered.


See you on down the road!


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OK, the dead rodeo clown pic is just weird, and creepy! Can’t wait to hear about the worst campground, which I thought was in Florida, so this should be interesting. Thanks for the fun read, as always!

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