Enchanting Stories of New Mexico - Episode 31 - From Ragtown to Six-Shooter Siding

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Episode 31 - From Ragtown to Six-Shooter Siding

Michael Swickard here. Welcome to Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Our award-winning Hatch Green and Red Chile is brought to you from locally owned farms in Hatch, NM, The Chile Capital of the World.

New Mexico, like most states, has some town names that are unusual at best. I was asked about the town on I-40 almost at the border with Texas. That is Tucumcari which is the county seat of Quay county. Two interesting names: Tucumcari and Quay County.

Let me first tackle a New Mexico county named Quay. It was named for Pennsylvania U. S. Senator Matthew Quay who in 1902 worked to get statehood for New Mexico along with Arizona and Oklahoma. His support did not work but during the Territorial Legislative Session January 28, 2003, Senator Quay was honored. Then Territorial New Mexico Governor Miguel Antonio Otero the second, the 16th governor of New Mexico Territory really wanted statehood for New Mexico, so he pushed the county name.

One thing about the Quay name. U. S. Senator Matthew Quay received the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. As a Colonel in the 134th Pennsylvania Infantry he personally led an attack.

So, Tucumcari is a name that millions of travelers on Interstate 40 notice either just before going into Texas and just after leaving Texas on I-40. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad constructed a camp in Quay County as they developed the intercontinental railway system that went east coast to west coast. For reasons that were not documented, the area was called Ragtown. A little later the construction camp got the name six-shooter siding due to some gunfights. Evidently the construction crews were just a bit feisty.

As more and more buildings were constructed to handle the railroad development it was most often called Tucumcari which came from nearby Tucumcari Mountain. The mountain’s name might have been from a Comanche word and some historians note that it might have been tied to an Apache story.

Let me continue with the story of Tucumcari. There was twenty years earlier a small settlement as early as the 1880s called Liberty about three miles north of present-day Tucumcari. There were cattle and sheep operations in the area but the real increase in people and businesses coincided with the coming of the railroads.

One thing is for sure. Just like the unique New Mexico name of Truth or Consequences which best I can tell is only on a New Mexico map, I believe that Tucumcari is also a unique name to New Mexico. Any others? Yes. There is the name of Carrizozo which is sixty miles north of Alamogordo and I don’t know of any other Carrizozo towns. One of these podcasts I will give a rundown of unusual New Mexico names of towns. Stay tuned.

Oh yes, I had one more Tucumcari story to tell. At one time in 1982 I was doing some research about school pictures. The Colorado company was trying to get better sales out of the school pictures which sold about half to the kids that appeared before the long roll camera. We were researching verbal commands for effects. We had a normal long roll film camera and on top of it was a video camera to record if we just missed a shot or it never was there.

You see, we would take about two pictures every minute. We had to get through the entire school, let’s say the elementary school with 500 kids. That is 250 minutes of shooting along with setting up and changing classes. We had to hustle along. A student would walk to the picture stool, sit down and we would frame the picture and then give a command for effect. We found the best statement to students were sociological statements like, hi, or how are you. They were easy to answer, and the expression was pleasant which we hypothesized would get more buys since forty years ago the school pictures were a good place for parents to get Christmas pictures to send to relatives of the student. If you said, say fuzzy pickle or some phrase like that the expression was not as pleasant. The sales would suffer.

In Tucumcari one day a tough looking hombre in a fourth grade sat down at the photo stool and announced, “I’ve got a Constitution right not to smile.” I looked up and said, “You got it bud, do whatever you want.” He relaxed and had a pleasant expression. Later when I was loading my equipment into my car’s trunk, he came up and thanked me for not making him look silly. Yep, that's what I thought of school photographers when I was his age. They were just trying to make me look silly… like telling me to show more teeth. Anyway, when I am in Tucumcari, I think of that fourth grader who now must be about fifty years old. Hope he is doing well and he still has his constitutional right to smile or not.

P. S. We did increase the buy rate nicely, so it was a good research study, and I enjoyed a couple of years of driving all over New Mexico taking school pictures.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N.M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

The name Garrett in New Mexico has two people with very different stories, but they are related. Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett was an Old West Sheriff who at different times was Sheriff of Lincoln County New Mexico and Sheriff of Doña Ana County many years later. He is most remembered as the lawman who captured Billy the Kid and then later when Billy escaped jail by killing two guards, Pat Garrett and two deputies hunted Billy down and in the resultant gunfight ended Billy’s life.

But there is another Garrett in the history of New Mexico, Elizabeth Garrett, Pat Garrett’s daughter who was blind. We have a statement by a county judge in Uvalde, Texas, and family friend, John Nance Garner the third, best known as Cactus Jack. He was at one time Speaker of the House and later Vice President of the United States with Franklin Roosevelt.

He said that Pat Garrett gave young Elizabeth everything to make her happy and made quite a musician out of her. That was very much true.

I was thinking about Elizabeth Garrett, the blind daughter of Sheriff Pat Garrett because around this time in 1947 she took a bad fall and died.

Now if you grew up in New Mexico you may have learned the state song of New Mexico, O Fair New Mexico. It was written by Elizabeth Garrett and in 1915, just three years after New Mexico statehood she was at the San Diego World’s Fair and preformed a number of songs in the New Mexico pavilion. Visitors were taken by her wonderful voice and the words of the song about New Mexico. She was known as the Songbird of the Southwest.

She gave concerts around the United States at times over the years and would talk about how wonderful it is to live in New Mexico. So it happened during a legislative session in 1917 that she gave a performance of O Fair New Mexico to a combined legislative chamber of the New Mexico House and Senate members.

After the song a motion was made in both bodies of lawmakers to make O Fair New Mexico the Official Song of New Mexico. It was adopted by acclamation with no dissenting votes.

One last thing. Elizabeth Garrett developed a friendship with blind author and activist Helen Keller and they both talked together and separately about the needs of blind citizens in education and in the workforce. So sadly, at age 62, it was at this time in 1947 that while living in Roswell, New Mexico Elizabeth Garrett took a bad fall on a city street and died.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

Someone else who died at age 62 after a long career of public service was Joseph Montoya, often known as Little Joe Montoya, who was twice the Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico. He was elected at age 21 to the New Mexico legislature and much later, was in the U. S. House of Representatives and was a U. S. Senator for twelve years.

September 24th is his birthday, he was born in 1915 in New Mexico. One point of history. Joe Montoya was one of seven senators on the bipartisan Senate Watergate Committee.

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One thing that happens when people live in Las Cruces or happen to be in our little slice of paradise. They can come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is lots of good things. The Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop next Tuesday, 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces. There is a big sign over the entrance saying The Fresh Chile Company.

This is Michael Swickard with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico brought to you by The Fresh Chile Company. Thank you for your time today. We will have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on these Podcasts, If you have something or someone you want me to talk about, write to: michael@freshchileco.com

Have a great rest of your day. Oh yes and eat plenty of that good Hatch Valley Chile. Like I always say, “Some Chile is good, more is better as long as it is Hatch Valley Chile.” Bye for now.

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