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Last updated on Saturday, February 22, 2003

Author Hal Banks - searcher, teacher, heretic
When you’re a heretic you set about teaching others to be heretics also. That’s the story behind the two books written by Hal Banks.  His first, Introduction to Psychic Studies (now out of print), was not at all what the rank and file would expect a Presbyterian (USA) Minister to write.  But his classes that used his book as a text were well-attended by church people and non-church people as well. It has also been used as a text at colleges in Canada, South Carolina and California.

Bob Sundown — freedom in a sheep wagon
Oldtimer Bob Sundown is a dropout in the true sense of the word. For 40 years he has voyaged about 20 miles a day along the West's gritty highway shoulders in a donkey-drawn sheep wagon he and some kids built from discarded materials. "Thousands of friends," a few live-in chickens and his knowledge of edible plants form his sometimes tenuous security net. Although he intentionally draws no pension nor social security, he claims he's the richest man on Earth because he knows how to "use his mind."

Catherine McCarty — the mother of Billy the Kid and a jolly Irish lady
In 1873, Silver City resident Louis Abraham, a boyhood friend of Henry McCarty as he was known then, described her as a "jolly Irish lady, full of fun and mischief." But for being the mother of Billy the Kid, history would probably never know the name of Catherine McCarty. One hundred and twenty-five years later, history still knows precious little about her.

Columbus, New Mexico — Pancho Villa and the Railroad Depot Museum
What vision comes to mind when you hear the name Pancho Villa? Bandit, hero, valiant leader, ruthless tyrant? All of those names have been associated with him. He was not an easy man to define; it would depend on when you met him during his career. Here in Columbus, New Mexico, the same holds true. Some of our citizens have been told by their older relatives that he was a defender of the people. Others say he killed many of his countrymen in their villages.

Columbus, New Mexico's soiled doves
From the Ringo Kid's girlfriend Claire in Stagecoach, through Miss Kitty in television's Gunsmoke, to the waif-like Diane Lane in Lonesome Dove the prostitute has been among the more enduring images of the literary and cinematic West. She was called "soiled dove", "shady lady", "fallen woman,” "lost sister", "saloon belle", and a host of other appellations. She was quite simply the ubiquitous whore, and her portrait has been painted on many different canvases and in a generous and imaginative assortment of colors.

Doc Campbell — a Gila Wilderness pioneer
In 1930, a 17 year-old boy arrived in Southern New Mexico's Gila Wilderness, seeking adventure - and relief from sinus problems. Dawson ("Doc") Campbell would soon become one of the most influential men in Southern New Mexico. He would become a trapper, ranch hand, custodian of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Forest Service smoke-chaser and ranger, landholder, hunting and fishing outfitter, and general store owner. He would live the rest of his life in the Gila Hot Springs valley, about 40 miles north of Silver City, New Mexico, and pass away on May 11, 1998, at the age of 85.

Elfego Baca — taming Socorro
His legendary fame was similar to that of Billy the Kid, except he was on the side of the law as sheriff, marshal, district attorney, school superintendent, and mayor. At age nineteen, he established his reputation as a quick draw with a deadly aim when he held 80 Texas cowboys at bay for thirty-six hours, killing four and wounding eight.

German POW
Coincidences many times show us how connected our world really is. For example, "Ask Us" is a feature of Southern New Mexico Online to answer questions people have about New Mexico. Recently, an artist from Corrales, NM, sent an email of his experience in an art gallery in Kassel, Germany where he had an exhibit. During the opening, he relates, an elderly, shy man asked if he knew about Roswell, New Mexico. At first the artist thought he was referring to the UFO Incident but he hadn't even heard about it. Instead he was referring to being a WWII prisoner of war near Roswell. He explained he had never seen the town because he worked in the cotton fields south of town but it identified where he was held. When he left the gallery, he whispered, "Roswell," said the artist.

Geronimo's surrender — Skeleton Canyon, 1886
On May 17, 1885, Mangus (son of Mangus Colorado), Chihuahua, Nachite, old Nana, the shaman Geronimo, and their followers fled the San Carlos reservation in Arizona in an attempt to regain the freedom they had known before the reservation system was instituted by the United States government. The restrictions of reservation life were difficult for these semi-nomads, and they longed for the openness of the land the Spaniards had called Apacheria. Although the Chiracahuas could not have foreseen it, this was to be their last attempt to recapture the old ways that many of their cousins had already forsaken.

Harry Benjamin — Silver City's artist laureate
Visitors to the Silver City area will soon find its art scene is alive and thriving. In this part of New Mexico, many artists have been born, raised and nurtured in their art. Others, who have migrated from other parts of the nation and abroad, have helped bring diversity and enrichment to our local culture.

José Chavez y Chavez — Hombre Muy Malo
In the days of the Old West, New Mexico was home, at one time or another, to many of the more colorful desperadoes. The Clantons, William Bonney, Jesse Evans, William "Curley Bill" Brocius, Clay Allison, Doroteo "El Tigre" Sains, Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum, John "King of the Rustlers" Kinney, Jim Miller, and Johnny Ringo are a relatively small sample. Because of its remoteness and proximity to the Mexican border, Southern New Mexico attracted a large number of outlaws:  violent men who lived from the labor of others, who were quick to kill, and for whom the conventions of settled society meant little. A man who fit the mold of New Mexican outlaw, and has been largely ignored by historians and folklorists, was José Chavez y Chavez.

Kas-Tziden's fury — (Nana's raid)
The Tcihene, or "red paint people", were the eastern band of the Chiracahua Apaches. Their home was in the Black Range, the Mogollon, and the San Mateo Mountains of New Mexico. The settlers in the area, small farmers and villagers at first, called them Warm Spring or Mimbres Apaches and did not want them for neighbors. Soon miners were exploring the ore-rich mountains of the region and with strikes came the boomtowns with hotels, saloons, churches, homes and schools. Caught between 1) a growing number of settlers, 2) the vacillating policies of the Indian agencies, and 3) the Army's mission to establish and maintain peace in the area, the Tcihene found their old ways of life challenged at every turn.

Martin Price — modern day Mountain Man
The Gila National Forest of Southwest New Mexico encompasses more than three million acres in a contiguous block of largely untrammeled terrain, an area larger than some Eastern states. Near the center of this last great wilderness in the Southwest, in a cave a few miles downstream from where Sapillo Creek meets the main branch of the Gila River in northern Grant County, Martin Price made his new home in June of 1983. He brought with him a subsistence lifestyle and the myth of the mountain man.

Mildred Cusey — madam entrepreneur

The history of humanity is a long and complex one. When stripped of all the manifold facts and figures, it really comes down to two key fundamentals: food and sex. Food sustains the living, while sex insures the continuity of that living.

Mildred Cusey spent most of her life engaged in the professional aspects of both basics. She was early caterer for the former and later entrepreneur of the latter.

Nature writing

People often ask me why I am a nature writer. After much thought, I know what to say: The stories of our wild relatives - the plants, the animals, the desert itself - are the most important stories that I know.

Like any landscape, the Chihuahuan Desert abounds with lives, with wild neighbors that we often don't notice or don't know. Take the spadefoot toad, a tiny amphibian that appears as if by magic after summer thunderstorms, filling the night with its mating calls, and then vanishing just as quickly when the ephemeral rainwater is gone. Or the shabby-looking creosote bush that by coating itself with a sophisticated protective armor comprised of dozens of smelly and bad-tasting compounds, also produces the desert's signature fragrance.

Photographer Bruce Gaucher — speaking to the soul
Sometimes extraordinary effects or circumstances spring from ordinary events. Such has been the case with Roswell photographer Bruce Gaucher, who gave his wife a camera he wanted for Christmas about five years ago. He had no idea that act would lead to his becoming a landscape/nature photographer who would inspire awe with his pictures.

Robert H. Goddard, space pioneer
Space of all kinds surround Roswell. Wide open spaces, Robert H. Goddard's space experiments, and the crash of a UFO. Has the beginning of space exploration here been overshadowed with all the hype of the UFO crash in 1947? Probably. At the Houston Space Center and Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center, Robert Hutchings Goddard is known as the Father of Space Exploration.

Southwest Mining — a history

Possibly the best known name in Southwest mining is Phelps-Dodge. You might well ask yourself, "Where did they find this corporate name?"

Well, Easterners Anson Greene Phelps and William E. Dodge started a trading company back in 1834. At the time neither of the partners knew squat about digging minerals from the earth, but they were astute businessmen.

By 1881 when the founders met William Church, fresh from Arizona Territory, they'd expanded their knowledge base. Without ever setting foot in the Southwest, the partners knew that mining your own copper and making it into telegraph wire was a lot cheaper than buying imported copper and making it into telegraph wire. They bought Church's mining claim. Cheap.

The Apache Kid
High in the San Mateo Mountains of the Cibola National Forest in New Mexico is Apache Kid Peak, and one mile northwest as the crow flies, at Cyclone Saddle, is the Apache Kid gravesite. The hiker who comes across the marked site in such a remote area may wonder who the Kid was, and perhaps will ask himself why, so far from the usual tourist attractions, such an elaborate memorial has been assembled. In the story of the Apache Kid, much of it fact and part of it legend, rests one of the Southwest's many intriguing sagas.

The Story of Frances Baca — Threads that weave us together

A sequence of events can occur in the most unexpected ways. An article titled “Folklore of Lincoln County Post Offices” brought an e-mail from two sisters in Indiana who were working on their family geneology. The thread that wove New Mexico and Indiana together was that their great grandmother had been one of the postmasters of Lincoln County in the early 1900s.

Although family oral history isn’t always totally reliable, Judith P. Hamilton and Kathy Anderson Goins thought their great grandmother had been postmaster (no gender quarrel in those days) in the late 1800s. However, Jim White of Farmington, NM, considered the state historian of post offices, found that Frances Baca Walters, born in 1855, became postmaster on November 16, 1901.

Trail ride fulfills dream and renews family's faith in humanity
It was Cruz Baca's dream. Having grown up in the Riley area, then living around the high country, he wanted to ride the Rio Salado from its beginning all the way to Riley. Coming into Magdalena, New Mexico on horseback in time for the Old Timers' Reunion was an added incentive.

Victorio and the Reservation System — a prescription for disaster
In the years immediately before the outbreak of the Civil War, the Board of Indian Commissioners in Washington, D.C. had discussed a policy of removal and concentration for the Southern Apaches of New Mexico and Arizona Territories. Simply put, the policy called for the removal of the Mimbres, Central Chiracahuas, Coyoteros, Gila, and Mogollon bands from those areas where they would have potentially disruptive contact with white settlers and placement on reservations where they could become self-supporting through farming and animal husbandry.

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