It’s my first night in Clovis, New Mexico, and there’s a storm brewing outside. How appropriate, since there’s one brewing in my head as well. My husband and my six-month old son and I have just arrived here, after driving from Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m tired, cranky, and already beginning to panic, even though we have been in this town less than three hours. But as the sun sets on this attractive, high-plains community of approximately 35,000, and the wind begins to blow, rustling the leaves on the old oak tree out front, I feel my spirits rise. In my mind there is no problem that a good storm, particularly a thunderstorm, can’t cure. And in Clovis, in the summer, thunderstorms can be a regular occurrence.
A storm my first night in Clovis. I decide to take this as a good sign.
The opportunity to move to Clovis came at just the right time. I had just had a baby, and my husband was under-employed. We weren’t sure Clovis was what we were looking for, but there was an empty house waiting for us, a big back yard for my son, and the comfort of family close by.
The air was growing heavy, and lightning was flashing. Thunder rumbled faintly to the east. I inhaled deeply, filling my parched desert lungs with much needed moisture. With that breath I could smell the thick, green, manicured lawns, the abundant trees, and the roses in full bloom. I could smell the sweet smell of the country, a wonderfully foreign mixture of hay, livestock, and freshly tilled earth. As I watched a particularly creative bolt of lightning dance across the night sky, I felt the last of my reservations vanish.
We stayed in Clovis six months. During that time I learned how easy - and how difficult - life can be in a small town, often for the same reasons. I admit that the straightforward friendliness was initially unsettling, but I became accustomed to it, and I gradually came to appreciate it.
Our first week in Clovis we all went to the Curry County Fair, held annually. It was a warm, August evening, with the acrid smell of livestock lingering in the air. A soft breeze blew, just enough to be comfortable. Young, fresh-faced girls stood in groups, giggling, as they assessed the lanky cowboys that strolled the grounds. Young families with sleeping infants sat on blankets on the lawn, listening to music, or munching snacks. Proud owners paraded their stubborn livestock around the arena for an appreciative crowd. When I think of perfect moments, that night at the fair in Clovis, is near the top of the list.
Evenings in Clovis were my favorite. I would sit on the front porch, staring at the expanse of stars upon stars. More stars than I ever imagined existed. I still miss those evenings.
While in Clovis we spent a lot of time with family. Family is very important in Clovis. Much of the town is second and third generation.
Although young people often move away, either for more opportunity or to experience life in a larger city, many eventually return. Some return after twenty years, others after just a few months. There seems to be a force, a loyalty of sorts that pulls them back. Perhaps that force is family, friends, and tradition.
Although Clovis is primarily a farming and ranching community, the presence of Cannon Air Force Base boosts the economy. Cannon is also a reminder of the strength of the population of Clovis. When the government talked of closing bases around the country, Clovis sent a delegation to Washington D.C. While many bases have closed around the country, Cannon remains open today.
Clovis does have one notable claim to fame. In the late 50’s a young singer from Lubbock, Texas named Buddy Holly recorded a song at the Norman Petty Studios, on Seventh St. in Clovis. The song was ‘Peggy Sue.’ Holly went on to record 18 more songs at the studio. In recent years, young country star Leann Rimes recorded her first album at the tender age of eleven at the Norman Petty studio. The studio continues to draw visitors from as far away as England who want to see the the spot where Buddy Holly recorded his hits. Every summer, Clovis holds a music festival that pays tribute to the music of yesterday and today.
Our stay in Clovis ended in January when my husband received the job offer in Albuquerque we had been waiting for. I was eager to embark on our new life there, but as I scrambled around the house to box up our belongings, I felt an unexpected tug of regret. Ironically, our departure had been delayed a day due to a snowstorm that pounded the area with twelve inches of snow. All roads into and out of Clovis were shut down. So I had another day to reflect on our six months of life there.
I had seen Clovis in the summer, with its hot, muggy days, late afternoon clouds, and refreshing evening thunderstorms. I had seen it in the fall, when pumpkins grew large and round in the pumpkin patch, when cotton covered the roads like a soft blanket of snow, and the corn stalks stood taller than I. And I had seen Clovis in winter, when a thick blanket of snow turned the town into a picture postcard, and neighbors chat while cheerfully shoveling snow. As I closed the last box, I wondered what spring would be like in this small, high plains town. I would miss spring in Clovis. As I would miss the wide open spaces, the wide-open faces, and the fresh, country air.
What makes people love this town so? I asked myself that question over and over again throughout the six months I spent there. As we headed to Albuquerque, I still had no answer. But as I took one final look at Clovis, I thought that maybe I was just a little closer to finding the answer.