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Episode 5 - Building New Mexico
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. Hit subscribe to automatically get these Podcasts. Monday and Friday regular and Wednesdays, people.
A little western culture here in Southern New Mexico. It confuses some people, and I am here to set the record straight. Have you ever been driving, and someone waves friendly to you, not that they are trying to talk to you, rather just to say “Howdy” and they keep on going? Well, that is part of the Code of the West that is still in force in our little slice of paradise. The saying more than a hundred years ago was: Never pass anyone on the trail without saying “Howdy.”
People often note that residents of this area are remarkably friendly, especially compared to some states which I will not name. The truth of the matter is that we are polite, or at least most of us, and follow the rule of being polite whether we know someone or not. If you see me driving somewhere in my Ford F-150 Truck and you wave, I will always wave back. I might wave first. You never can tell. Since I eat Chile, a couple times a day, I am perpetually happy.
Partly personal is that I was born at Holloman Air Force Base and spent many summers in the Carrizozo area at my grandfather’s ranch though he had mostly retired. In 1978, as an adult, I bought the Weekly newspaper, The Lincoln County News which I ran for three years.
One year as we were getting near the anniversary of New Mexico becoming a state I got the idea that I could interview someone who lived in the area when New Mexico became a state. If you look at a fountain at New Mexico State University by the Southeast corner of Hadley Hall there are the names of the graduating class of 1908 including William Gallacher. He had a ranch about twenty miles from Carrizozo in 1980, so I got myself an invite to go interview him.
He knew my grandparents and of course knew me as I was the publisher and editor of the local newspaper. Bill Gallacher was four years out of the college in 1912, statehood day, so I wondered what he did that Saturday when New Mexico became the 47th state in the union. Did he go into town to celebrate? Have himself a shot of redeye, fire his pistol into the air? You see New Mexico spent sixty hard years trying to become a state with one misunderstanding or another killing our statehood. Other states became territories and then states while New Mexico never seemed to get any closer to statehood and then it happened for New Mexico in 1912.
He greeted me warmly and we talked pleasantly for a few minutes until I asked about what he did on statehood day. He paused and became solemn. He said, “Well young fellow, on that Saturday that we became a state I got up an hour or so before dawn, had myself some breakfast and coffee and then went out for the day to do all the chores such as feeding animals, tending those that were sick, chasing after predators, fixing fence... I worked until the sun went down and then went in, had a little supper and went to bed because I was tired.
I interrupted, but William C. McDonald, the owner of the Bar W which is next to your ranch was just then elected First Governor of New Mexico. Wasn’t that a good reason to celebrate?
Bill Gallacher smiled and said that he was a fine cattleman but that at the time all he, Bill Gallacher, could do was work seven days a week on his own ranch to keep it going. That is what it took the first twenty or so years. Afterward, he could get involved such as be on the local school board, but not at that time.
It really changed my column that week to a testament of working early and working late was how New Mexico was built. Not the politicians nor the celebrations, it was hard work. The truth of the matter is that the history of New Mexico is not outlaws and politicians, it was people going to work early and working late each day. I highly recommend that you go to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces to see the real story of New Mexico. One more thing, Bill Gallacher was interesting because he was on his ranch near Carrizozo in 1910 when Halley’s Comet came by Earth and then in 1986 he was able to point up at it and say, What do you know, Halley’s Comet, there it is again.
The lasting product of Bill Gallacher is his kids, grandkids, great grandkids and on. There were some great lyrics in an Alan Jackson song, Small Town Southern Man that went: He said his greatest contribution, Is the ones you leave behind. I used that line in a eulogy a few years ago for a very fine American hero, a World War Two and Korean warrior which I will write about in these podcasts. It certainly fits Bill Gallacher.
I was talking a couple days ago on Wednesday about Dr. Fabian Garcia and the effect there was for him as a researcher of plants such as Chile, Onions, Pecans, Alfalfa, and Cotton and how that dovetailed with the blessing of Elephant Butte Dam and Reservoir so that there was plentiful agricultural water for the vast growing fields, and importantly, the railroad so that produce picked in the Mesilla and Hatch Valleys could be quickly shipped to market.
Now one direction for the new railroad was from the Denver area and at the New Mexico area of Raton meant that a tunnel was required for the railroad to continue. Not an easy task ever to dig a tunnel through a mountain but here’s the interesting part. Because they were on a tight schedule to complete the tracks so, get this, they dug from both sides to meet in the middle of the mountain. That emphasizes the importance of civil engineering, doesn’t it. And when they met in the middle both tunnels were within less than a tenth of an inch directly connected.
In Stephen Ambrose’s, Nothing like it in the world: The men who built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863 to 1869, you see the coast to coast railroad was through the enormous mountains in California. There they started digging from the East side, the West side and right in the middle, above the middle they sank a hole in the mountain and then dig each direction so that there were four digs going at once. Why? Because they were only getting a foot or two done on each face so they had to have four digs going at once. Ten years later they knew what to do.
Reminds me of the time that Carrizozo was wired for electricity from the generating plants in White Oaks, thirteen miles north of Carrizozo. They were going to turn on a light in the barber shop exactly at noon. Several cowboy stood around in disbelief, “Shoot, they say that electricity is going to run 13 miles to here. I don’t think so, even if it is downhill.” What a surprise.
Now good news for us all Elephant Butte Dam and Reservoir is at 28 percent full. Well, actually 28.1 percent full. Every little bit helps. Why this is newsworthy is that one year ago it was at 10 percent, so the winter snows have had a great effect. I was told last year that the water in Elephant Butte was so shallow only half of the rocks were covered when you were boating. Now there is enough water for boating, fishing, and agriculture. A blessing indeed.
Remember, if you have some fresh caught fish, a few spices and lots of good Green Chile it will make for a great dinner. But there is more. Here is an opportunity for culinary fame. Take a picture of your freshly caught and then cooked fish dish with Fresh Chile Company seasoning, be it dry rub or salsa and submit it to us and you can join our thousands of cooks in our Chile cooking section. Upload your pictures on Facebook and tag The Fresh Chile Company or ask to join our private group called Fresh Chile Cooking and upload there.
On the Fresh Chile Company website there is a large section of recipes using The Fresh Chile Company products. Even I have one about making beef jerky with some fine Green Chile as flavoring. You can get some good ideas and again, if you want you can submit your own favorite ways of cooking with Chile.
One thing that happens when people live in Las Cruces is that they can come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop. It is located at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. No need for shipping when you live close by.
If you are living far enough away to ship: If you buy 12 jars, we offer Free Shipping if you live in the lower 48 states (excluding Alaska & Hawaii). Stock up and make sure you always have plenty of that which makes everyone smile: Hatch Valley Red and Green Chile. And a case of that delicious Chile would make a great present for someone who moved away and still has a taste for Hatch Valley Green and Red Chile. Also, if you buy three jars, we will donate one jar of our award-winning Mama’s Salsa to a local food bank in New Mexico called, Casa de Peregrinos. They provide school lunches and much more to those in need in our community.
This is Michael Swickard with The Fresh Chile Company Podcast brought to you by The Fresh Chile Company. Thank you for your time today. We will always have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on this Podcast, If you have something you want me to talk about in a future podcast write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.” Bye for now.