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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Saturday, March 17, 2012

We Aren't in New Mexico Anymore!

It is sad to leave New Mexico--I truly love the Southwest --but home is calling and though we have been getting 35.6 mi/gal with studded snow tires ! , money is a consideration, too. So, as has oft been said, all good things must come to an end. It is not ending quickly by any means, just ending the Westward motion.

Today's album actually starts with sunset outside our room last night--this tree was filled with birds of different types--a dove, chickadees and others I didn't know --all choosing a different tier to occupy for the night. Under this same tree this morning were two garbage cans that we heard early this morning being moved and overturned by some creature. It was around 430 am and we were both too lazy to get up to investigate. Of course, at 630 when we got up we were sorry--a bear, a raccoon or just a stray dog? Oh, well, sometimes sleep trumps curiosity.

While Bill got gas I noticed this elegant looking car sitting amongst the junk in a guy's back yard. Looks as though he is refurbishing it--I like the color though I suppose it is hardly historically authentic.

Soon we were off and running, continuing North on I 25 to Springer where we would turn Eastward to Oklahoma. Good bye mountains, more or less, though they lay to our west and mesas and plateaux though there would be a few more but here, where there is more moisture, their lovely hues are cloaked by vegetation. Even this early the sun was up and blindingly bright. The day turned out to be the hottest we've experienced on the trip so far--almost 90 degrees. This part of New Mexico is definitely range land and as we neared Oklahoma, oil country once more. We even passed some large dairy operations with huge mounds of silage and high piles of baled hay.

Springer is a cute Western town with old buildings and alot of empty storefronts. I guess old is relative but they are over a hundred years old though the State is only 101. As we turned toward Clayton which lies 8 miles from the Oklahoma border I noticed we appeared to be racing a jet East--he, of course, smoked us!  But boy the skies are full of jets going in every direction. One fellow or gal made a snake like path in the sky. Later we came across two huge sweeping curves in the road that made a gigantic "s" ( don't ask why--there is nothing to curve around--probably landowners' boundary lines). I told Bill I thought the pilot was mimicking the design in the air--with all that space, why not. It must be hypnotic flying over this never ending flat land--I know I've gotten bored as a passenger.

In a bit we came across a herd of antelope, which aren't really antelope just as our buffalo are not really buffalo. They are so interesting--as soon as the car stopped they all stopped and turned toward us with ears pricked. Then one of the males gathered them together and sent them off across the grassland,taking up the rear. They stopped and looked again and again he sent them loping off. Happened about three times and finally they were far across the field from us. We could hear nothing but he must have been making sounds to direct them and as a group they obeyed.

Passed through Clayton with its interesting and well kept hotel--The Eklund

The history and lore of the Eklund Hotel, Dining Room and Saloon play a significant part in the heritage of Clayton, NM. James Lee Burke wrote about the Eklund in his book Bitterroot, "…(we) drove back to Texas through the northern tip of New Mexico and stopped for the night at Clayton, a short distance from the Texas state line. We walked…to a nineteenth-century hotel named the Eklund and had dinner in a dining room paneled with hand-carved mahogany. The hotel was three stores, built of quarried stone, anchored in the hardpan like a fortress against the wind, …On the wall of the small lobby was a framed photograph of the outlaw Black Jack Ketchum being fitted with a noose on a freshly carpentered scaffold. Another photograph showed him after the trapdoor had collapsed under his feet. Most of the patrons entering or leaving the dining room were local people and took no notice of the photographic display…(we) walked outside under a turquoise sky…I looked back over my shoulder at the stone rigidity of the hotel and its scrolled-iron colonnade…and I wondered if cattle and railroad barons had hosted champagne dinners in the hotel dining room, or if cowboys off the Goodnight-Love Trail had knocked back busthead whiskey in the saloon and shot holes in the ceiling with their six shooters…But I think it was all of the above, truly the West."
The Eklund Hotel

The first two floors of the west side of what is now the Eklund Hotel was build in 1892; for two years the ground floor was used as a store and the upstairs rooms were rented out. In 1894, Carl Eklund, a Swedish immigrant, came to Clayton, NM and bought the building. He opened the Saloon using the historic bar and back-bar which is still in use today. It is said that he won the bar in a poker game with ten dollars he had borrowed.
The saloon business flourished and in 1898, Mr. Eklund built the first two floors of the east side of his then prospering venture, including a kitchen and dining room. In 1905 a third story and the second-floor balcony were added. Considered the finest hotel in the area, the Eklund's rates were quite expensive, running about two dollars a night! Always progressive, Carl Eklund saw to it that his hotel was the first place in Clayton to get electricity, public telephones and a switchboard.

In 1908, the Clayton Union County Courthouse was partially destroyed by a tornado. Several County offices were moved into a portion of the Eklund's rooms and business proceeded as usual. A makeshift jail was constructed on the north side of the first floor. In more recent years, that room has been used as a private dining room.

In 1937, Mr. Eklund turned the management of the Eklund Hotel over to his daughter and son-in-law under whose management it remained for thirty-five years. The Eklund was sold in 1972 to an investor who restored the historic Dining Room and Saloon, but Hotel operations were suspended. The Eklund was sold again in 1987 and 1990. In 1992, a group of private investors, mostly local residents, purchased the Eklund and struggled to keep the Dining Room and Saloon operating. By the late 1990's, the success of those struggles enabled the owners to start planning very carefully and thoroughly the restoration of the historic Hotel space and operations. The financing was closed and construction began on June 10, 2003 and completed in March, 2004. The original forty-two rooms and community bathrooms have been made into twenty-six rooms each with a private bath. The Dining Room and Saloon have also undergone renovations.

( James Lee Burke is one of my favorite authors--he lives in New Iberia, La in winter and Missoula, Mt in summer. I haven't read his Western stories yet-I'm trying to catch up his David Robicheaux mysteries set in  La but he keeps releasing new ones! )

And then the inevitable--Hasta la Vista--Hello, Oklahoma--Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains and does it ever! We had saved our salads last night for today's lunch and stopped at a roadside picnic area to eat them. It was interesting--Bill lost some lettuce--but it was a warm wind!  LOL

Not too much farther we came across yet another herd of antelope on Bill's side of the road. He pulled over into a bit of a dip for us to observe and film them. They behaved much the same way--stopped and looked at us, then ran rapidly to a male and gathered around him. He sent them running and remained behind to protect the rear.  To my amazement he'd sent them across the road right in front of us and then followed behind. Once on my side they stopped and gawked again. He stood looking at them and they took off then he turned and stood firmly staring at us. We were close enough that he could if so inclined charge us and I didn't want him or the car hurt. We decided it was time to let them go off unmolested. But oh, I was excited for the next 20 miles. They are so beautiful and so interesting.

When I examined the pictures I realized that the first herd was mixed--male and female with a dominant male but the second herd was all females and one male. So I checked to see what goes on in Spring in antelope land. Seems that they hang out in mixed herds during the winter. Come Spring the mature males either take off by themselves or gather a harem, which our guy did. Depends on weather conditions--mostly precipitation--lots of water they go it alone, drought conditions such as exist now, they chose the harem path. Apparently, this behavior can be altered at any time. In the meantime, the gals form their own herds as do immature males.   Looks like our first herd hadn't broken up yet and our second was a harem with a male protector. Mating will take place in Sept and babies will be born in May or so. So I guess some of those gals were with child!

On we continued through the Kiowa and the Rita Blanco National Grasslands and farmland with fields of incredible varied hues--yellows, greens, browns, oranges, just gorgeous. Soon we arrived in Boise City--- a prosperous place if the grain elevators, stockyard pens, trucks etc are any indication. We stopped in front of what I thought was the school but it appears is the Courthouse--take a good look at this shot. There will be a far more ominous shot later in the series taken in 1935. Those who know American history will probably know what's coming. The others are in for a surprise.

The temperature reached 84 at this point, around 130 or so but it was 88 by the time we reached Guymon, our stop for the night.

Having noticed a little red dot on the map we decided to take a trip into Texas--at the dirty, dusty town of Texhoma--and make a U turn back toward Guymon on 54, since the museum is southwest of Guymon. It is the No Man's Land Museum and I just love the fact that no State or Indian Nation claimed this little bit of the Panhandle of Ok and so it was dubbed No Man's Land! Original, right?

No man or woman for that matter had visited the Museum for several days and so, though she let me roam unfettered and said I could take pictures, the chance for conversation was too great and the docent latched on to me. I put the camera away and chatted while Bill looked over the exhibits. In fairness, the best part was about the Dust Bowl and the Ducketts. What is with these early 19th century farm people? In Chilicothe, Mo in 2004 I came across a little museum run by a maiden old lady, older sister of a pair of bachelor twin brothers who spent all their spare time carving buildings out of petrified wood. I bought Bill an outhouse for an outrageous amount of money and met both the woman and one of her brothers. They were all in their 80's, unmarried with no children. Then last Fall, Betsy, Barb and I came across a tiny clock museum down a farm road in Iowa. It is filled with the most incredible carved clocks--musical--of all sizes. One unmarried farm man spent his life carving them--or maybe he was married but no kids. And now here is a woman who carves jewelry and statues out of alabaster and her two brothers who do small carvings as well. Unmarried all!  I guess people were at a distance and very busy with farm work to socialize and one had to do something during those long dark lonely winter nights.

At any rate, after complimenting the docent on the incredible fossil exhibit and telling her if I taught there I'd use the exhibit for my lessons on fossils, she said she was from Ganardo, Az which we'd been through twice just two days ago. Talked about Az and NM and her work at the museum. Don't know how she wound up there but was glad to have enlivened her day.

Arrived at Guymon and headed over to Eddies for the best filet mignon and rib steak we've had in Oklahoma. Our waitress was Callie Chumly. She is from Middletown Ca.   I asked what brought her to this small town. She is a barrel racer and went to Jr College in Ca where she became friends with another girl, also a rodeo rider. Callie dropped out of school and worked in a winery for awhile. The other girl in the meantime got a scholarship in the rodeo program at the Panhandle College in Goodwell--where the No Man's Land Museum is located. Callie called to see how she was doing and the girl invited her to come visit. As they say in the old country, that's all she wrote. Callie competes and says she hopes I'll hear her name when I watch the rodeo. She also said if we pass through again and she isn't working to tell Eddie and she'll come down to see us.

As we left Eddie himself, who had been having dinner with a boatload of friends came over to say goodnight. Nice guy--loved listening to them all with the Texoma accents and told them so--lots of guffaws about who has the accent. Just great folks. Said he's had the restaurant for 31 years so he'll be around awhile and make sure to stop back if ever this way again. Sure will, Eddie and Callie. For now, time to say good night. I think we'll be heading into Kansas tomorrow.

Interestingly we've seen lots of Oklahoma and Texas and since the weather is milder this year we are going to venture a bit farther north and break new ground. Can't wait.

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