we've decided it's a good family plan to visit the old haunts of all major sociopaths in US history.
(Don't mention "sociopath" to the locals though...they've got a good thing going here)
For an early thirtieth birthday present, the QB surprised me and the boys a few weeks ago with news that we’d be spending the weekend in Ruidoso, New Mexico (pronounced, ree-yoh doso), a small skiing town in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca Mountains (think Park City, UT but fewer platinum blonds and more rusty pick-ups).
Why Ruidoso? At just over four and a half hours from Lubbock, it’s the closest forested mountain country around (that’s right—even four hours away and your still in Llano Estacado scrub brush and dry grass for as far as the eye can see), and includes two large lakes, miles and miles of hiking trails, and several historical and cultural sites of interest, including the forest where the real Smokey Bear was rescued from the licking flames of a raging forest fire, a horse track that hosts the All-American Futurity (which boasts the largest quarter horse purse in the country—topping out at $2 million dollars), and about 30 minutes up the road, the sleepy town of Lincoln, New Mexico, which clings to either side of highway 380 and was once home to William H. Bonney, AKA Billy the Kid.
(a little like Charlie Chaplin meats Charles Manson, don't you think?)
After Mr. Baseball and I got in a half-day of school, We all piled into the van and headed west through Levelland, and on into cattle and pump-jack country that sprawled out in all directions, power lines tracing off like the steady graphic beat of a cardiometer.
In fact, the Llano Estacado is surprisingly rhythmic---the bobbing heads of the pumpjacks that the QB says look like bizarre metallic creatures sucking out the oil in long slow drags; the corduroy lines of cotton that flash brown and white and brown and white as you drive past them on the freeway; the ticka-ticka-ticka of the tires on the asphalt; the lazy-lipped country music drawling on nearly every station.
This has got to be one of the little bruiser's first swing shots.
And his first hiking pack shot.
In some places the road was so long, so straight, and so empty that I was tempted to lock the steering wheel with my knee and pull out a book, or take a nap. But as we got closer to New Mexico, the contour of the land began to ripple and the road became more curvaceous. But still, the south plains resisted, and they didn’t really give way to genuine hill country until we’d made it well past Roswell. We pulled into Ruidoso at about 6pm, just in time to make some dinner and jump in the hot tub with the boys.
(statues outside the big horse museum)
Saturday we visited Lincoln, toured the museum and the spattering of historical buildings along the highway that played a significant role in the Lincoln County War of 1878 (the merchant's "war" that made Billy the Kid infamous). We saw the rival stores owned by the rival merchants that were the source of contention during the "war" and we bought souvenirs at the current stores and joked with the proprietors about starting their own merchant war (one woman laughed, kind of nervously, and brushed at the air with her hand--"Oh no," she said. "We all get along..." and the she added, "we all try to do our own little thing.")
We hiked in bear country (evidenced by all the bear scat on the ground), went to church (and made instant friends with the small congregation--all of whom invited us to move to Riudoso after I graduate), we played Frisbee golf on a course built just this side of a large dam, and we ate the full spectrum of food. During the day we ate like paupers--simple sandwiches, granola bars, refills on our water bottles--but at night we cooked the way we really like to...with all the ingredients and no time-constraints. We ate grilled chicken sandwiches with watermelon, chicken Korma and Cucumber salad, monkey bread french toast, cherry chocolate cake, and gourmet hot cocoa.
We took a Sunday drive after Church and found Bonito Lake...judging by the signs posted, the Lake's upkeep is handled by the local chapter of OCD anonymous. Watch out...you might get nature on you!
This lovely bear was a complete and total surprise. We stopped in at the Riudoso "Billy the Kid" visitors center to check things out, and when the boys and I went into the bathroom, whamo, there he was. Apparently the bear has been standing there for years.
All in all, a fine way to turn thirty, even if my actual birthday is still a few weeks away. And, I'm working on an essay about Billy the Kid to boot.
Thanks QB. You're the best.