April 2020

History Lessons

Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

See also: At the Museum

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Trinity Site Tour
— White Sands Missile Range. The semiannual tour to the site of the first atom bomb explosion scheduled for April 4 has been canceled. Fall Tour scheduled for Oct. 3.  Information: (575) 678-1134 or wsmr.army.mil.

Chamizal National Memorial — 800 S. San Marcial. The National Park Service operates the memorial on land once claimed by Mexico as part of a decades-long dispute over the international boundary. Cultural Center including Visitor Center Information Desk, Park Store, Museum, and Theater closed until further notice. Memorial grounds and comfort station remain open to the public from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273 or on Facebook at ChamizalNationalMemorial.

El Paso History Radio Show — The show runs 10:05 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KTSM AM 690 (and streamed at KTSMRadio.com). Documentary filmmaker Jackson Polk hosts the show with reenactor and historian Melissa Sargent. Details of each upcoming show, plus podcasts of previous programs, are at EPHistory.com.

Mission Trail — Three historic churches lie within eight miles of each other in El Paso County’s Mission Valley.
• Mission Ysleta — Spanish and Tigua Indian refugees from northern New Mexico founded the community in the 1680s. The first mission was built in 1692 and rebuilt completely in both the 18th and 19th centuries. The current structure was built in 1851. It’s near Zaragoza and Alameda on the Tigua Reservation. Information: 851-9997 (El Paso Mission Trail Association).
• Mission Socorro — The first adobe structure in Socorro was built in 1692, and like nearby Mission Ysleta, was destroyed by floods in later centuries. The current structure dates back to 1843, with additions completed in 1873. It’s off Socorro Road two miles southeast of Ysleta.
• San Elizario Chapel — Established in 1789 as a Spanish presidio, or fort, to protect the Camino Real, San Elizario was the first county seat of El Paso. The church was built in 1877, replacing a church built about 25 years earlier. Technically, San Elizario Chapel is a presidio church, not a mission. It’s on the San Elizario plaza, off Socorro Road, 5.5 miles southeast of Socorro Mission. Nearby is the famous jail that Billy the Kid reportedly broke into to rescue a friend. Group tours are available. For San Elizario tour information, call 851-1682.

San Elizario Veterans Museum and Memorial Walk — The museum, operated and managed by the non-profit San Elizario Veterans Committee of the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, is at 1501-B Main Street in San Elizario. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: Ann Lara, 345-3741 or Ray Borrego, 383-8529.

San Elizario walking tours — The San Elizario Historic District hosts free, guided walking tours of its nationally recognized historic district at noon and 3 p.m. the fourth Sunday of the month starting at Main Street Mercantile, 1501 Main Street. Learn about the 17 historic sites of San Elizario, about the arrival of Don Juan de Onate to the area in 1598 and the First Thanksgiving Celebration, the Presidio de San Elizario and the San Elcear Chapel on the Mission Trail. Information: 851-0093 or SanElizarioHistoricDistrict.org.
  To get there: Take Loop 375 to Socorro Road then go east seven miles to San Elizario. District is on the right. Look for the brown signs.

Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

Family trips turn into an adventure


Being partly, and of course perkily, a man of the saddle, some might think I would be untutored by books but I’d hope not counted as ignorant. Sodden some others might think, dull and expressionless — oh, I say not. I have experienced much.
  This past winter, we traveled to return my great-grandchildren to their mother in Peacock, Texas, population 16. I experienced a multitude of characters and living conditions on this round trip of 85 miles.
  I know you’re probably getting tired of Middagh’s family stories, but they just keep coming. Like this three-day trip to Peacock. Maybe not a trip through hell but purgatory for sure. I don’t like to go the same way twice so I’m always looking for different routes. This time we should’ve taken the quickest route. With two youngsters aboard, confined in their car seats, having to make emergency potty stops alongside the road, plus unscheduled eating stops, turned the six-hour drive into a long eight hours.
  We reached Peacock after dark. Their home is a former restaurant and church, and their nearest neighbor is three blocks away. Rustic comes nowhere near describing it.
  We wound up only dropping off the carload of Christmas toys. We decided it would be easier if we took the boy down the road 23 more miles to “the” motel in Aspermont, population 539. Grand­daughter Kourtine had to wake up early to get to work, which included her graduation ceremony. She and 15 others were getting their badges, after completing four weeks of intensive training to become correctional officers for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
  This took place in Abilene, another 60 miles south. But it was worth it. My granddaughter was chosen to deliver the class presentation speech, and she did a supreme job. Two or three times now I have witnessed her deliver a great talk, seeing firsthand how all the time she spent in school in 4-H and FFA paid off. She is now a correctional officer assigned to a maximum-security prison I do think and hope she has found her calling, being 29 years old with two young ones.
  After the ceremony I was lucky enough to be able to talk with the prison chaplain, Mr. Baldwin, a very nice and smart man who is dedicated to the men and women who work a dangerous job. He delivered an opening and closing prayer that summed it all up for the new officers telling them what they had to look forward to, both rewarding and cautionary.
  Then we went to lunch, and afterward Kourtine took off to celebrate with her classmates. I found a museum in Abilene, Frontier Texas, that was wonderfully set up from the first step through the front door to the exit. A path that took you through the building following the development of Texas from the beginning of time. Nine movie screens along the way depicted different people that lived during the times, telling their story. Very life-like and moving. I must go back alone; it may not had been the wisest thing to take two young ones, too.
  We got back to the motel that night, only to suffer through a meltdown with the two grandsons — too big of a day, I guess.
  We got up the next morning to a slithering of snow, making me think that maybe I was playing out my current writing class assignment: “A story about what takes place in a winter cabin.”
  Breakfast came around, so we went to the only café in town. Luckily it was on the motel property. As we walked, everyone turned to see who had entered. I felt immediately like we’d walked in on a scene of the movie “Deliverance.” Of about eight tables there, three of them were full of men wearing camouflage pants and jackets.
  That surprised me since I didn’t think hunting season was still going on. I asked my granddaughter; who looked down shielding her mouth with her hand, telling me in a low voice they were pig hunters. Then I remembered we were in Shackelford County, which is overrun with feral hogs. I’d heard that people are shooting or trapping these hogs, and selling them for 70 cents a pound on the hoof. Almost made me want to move there.
  After breakfast we said our good-byes. Checked out of the $45-per-night room. Cecilia and I got in her car, put the home address on the GPS, pressed “quickest route” and started back. The GPS took us a different way, heading out on Farm-to-Market Road 610, which passed through magnificent ranch country. Then to I-20 and I-10, getting home before 5 p.m.

John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at jmiddagh@yahoo.com.

El Paso Scene MONTHLY
This month's listings, stories and columns

Feature story
Here's the Ticket
Program Notes
On Stage
Southwest Art Scene
At the Museum
History Lessons
Film Scene
Keep on Bookin'
Liner Notes
Stage Talk
Gallery Talk


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