March 2017

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



Camp Furlong Day and Cabalgata Binacional — The 101st anniversary of Pancho Villa’s raid in 1916 will be celebrated 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at Pancho Villa State Park, off State Roads 11 and 9, Columbus, N.M, with historic presentations by special guest speakers at the park’s Rec Hall. Admission is free to community center complex; state park fee is $5 a carload. Information: Pancho Villa State Park (575) 531-2711 or
  The 14th annual Camp Furlong Day is a binational friendship event, commemorating the March 9, 1916 early morning attack on the village of Columbus and the adjacent military camp by Mexican General Francisco “Pancho” Villa and his men. Within days of the raid, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing began the Punitive Expedition into Mexico.
  The 18th Annual Cabalgata Binacional will be hosted in the Village of Columbus plaza. Cavalcade riders are expected to arrive in Columbus at about 11 a.m. followed by festival and entertainment in the village plaza throughout the day. Information: (575) 343-0147.
  Other highlights include binational efforts to promote goodwill and build alliances at 11:35 a.m. and a Pershing and Villa look-a-like Contest in the Tumbleweed Theatre.

Oregon California Trail Association symposium — Southern Trails Chapter and the Oregon California Trail Association (OCTA) host a symposium Wednesday through Saturday, March 15-18, at Country Inn and Suites, 99 Sunland Park, with presentations on the trails passing through El Paso del Norte.
  Field trips to Hueco Tanks, Concordia Cemetery, Magoffin Home, the Chamizal, Mission Trail to San Elizario and Mesilla will show what it may have been like to be on a stagecoach or caravan of wagons traveling on the Butterfield - Overland Stage or military roads. Information, registration: (575) 956-3294 or
  Presentations include the Military Trail from San Antonio to Fort Davis,
Camels in the Southwest; Romance on the Camino Real and Santa Fe Trail, Boundary Negotiations; the Role of Fort Davis in the Victorio Campaign; and Rails From El Paso to Douglas, Ariz.
  Evening entertainment includes a Chautauqua performance about Mamie Aguirre of Mesilla on Thursday.
  On Friday, El Paso Westerner’s Corral Number 26 and Southern Trails Chapter sponsor a presentation by author Glen Ely on “The Butterfield Stage: Fort Davis to El Paso.”

‘Preserving Identities’ exhibit and talk — Dr. Darius Arya will talk on “Bringing Rome’s Museums to the World - New Media Streaming and Conversation,” at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 23, in the UTEP Library’s Blumberg Auditorium. Arya is an archaeologist and educator based in Rome. The exhibit on how to digitally record and preserve cultural heritage sites runs March 23-June 16 during regular hours. Admission is free. Information: 747-5835
  The exhibit tells the story of the long history of decay and restoration of the monuments and sites in Rome by focusing on the attempts to conserve the public life of the Colosseum, the restoration of religious shrines in the mausoleum of Santa Costanza, the preservation of public obelisks, and the record of Roman city life on the streets of Ostia Antica. This interactive installation via smart device includes text, pictures, videos and links to online resources using QR codes.

Trinity Site Tour — White Sands Missile Range. The semiannual tour to the site of the first atom bomb explosion is Saturday, April 1. The tour includes the McDonald House, part of the National Historic Landmark, where the plutonium core of the bomb was assembled, and visitors can take a quarter-mile walk to ground zero where a small obelisk marks the exact spot where the bomb was exploded. Historical photos mounted on the fence surrounding the area.
  Admission is free; no reservations required. Information: (575) 678-1134 or
  Two options are available for visitors: caravan from Alamogordo through the south end of the range (Tularosa Gate), or enter off U.S. 380 on the north end of the range (Stallion Gate entrance).
  The Stallion Gate entrance off U.S. 380 is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors are allowed to enter and exit unescorted. Site closes promptly at 3:30 p.m.
  Visitors are encouraged to have a full tank of gasoline and a spare tire for the trip, which is 85 miles one way. There are no service stations on the route. Department of Defense police will direct traffic. Limited food, drink and souvenirs sold on site. Everyone 18 and older must show a photo ID; all vehicles subject to search and should be carrying proof of insurance and current registration papers. No weapons of any kind allowed.
  The New Mexico Museum of Space History will host a motorcoach tour to the site, with on-coach talks by curator Sue Taylor and a guided tour of the museum and after returning, followed by reserve exclusive showing of Trinity: The Atomic Bomb Movie in the Tombaugh Theater. Cost: $70 ($60 museum members). Reservations: (575) 437-2840 ext. 41132 or online

Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society and Haunted History — The nonprofit organization offers a variety of “ghost tours.” Age 13 and older welcome, unless otherwise listed. All children must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older. Private ghost tours of Downtown El Paso available with advance reservation. Information, reservations: 274-9531 or
• San Elizario Ghost Tour is 10 p.m. to midnight, Friday, March 3. at the Golden Eagle Gallery, 1501 Main in San Elizario. Tickets: $15.
• Concordia Cemetery Ghost Tours is 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the cemetery, 3700 E. Yandell. Meet at 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $15.
• Downtown Ghost Tour is 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday, March 18, beginning at the Paranormal Research Center, 108 E. San Antonio, in the Wigwam Museum. Tickets: $15.
• A Haunted Pub Crawl is 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday, March 25, starting at the Gardner Hotel, 311 E. Franklin. History, Legends, and Lore of Downtown El Paso continue with a new paranormal adventure. Stops include 8 1/2, ToolBox, Craft and Social, The Speakeasy and other locations in Pride Square. Age 21 and older only; $20.

Southwest Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society — The society meets 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at Timothy’s Lutheran Church, 11050 Montwood. This month’s program is “Hobos and Trains.” Information: 540-9660.

El Paso Corral of the Westerners — The monthly dinner program is 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 17, at Country Inn and Suites, 900 Sunland Park Dr. Program is “Stage Line: Fort Davis to Fort Bliss, partnering with the Southern Trials Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association at the El Paso Symposium” with Dr. Glen Sample Ely. Cost: $20. Visitors welcome, but RSVP needed by March 13: 759-9538.

Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meets at 2 p.m. the Monday, March 13, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. The program is “Collections of the Fred Harvey Legacy.” Visitors welcome. Harvey Girls are available to present program Admission is free. Information: 591-2326.
  Harvey Girls are available to present programs to other organizations; call for details.

El Paso Archaeological Society — The society’s monthly meeting is 2 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at El Paso Museum of Archaeology, 4301 Transmountain. Patrick “Pat” H. Beckett speaks on the “Proto-Historic Indian Populations in Southern New Mexico and West Texas.” Beckett will describe how the various Indian groups arrived in the El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico region. The program will illustrate how they came together before and after the arrival of the Spanish entradas. Admission is free; the public is invited. Information: 449-9075 or
  Beckett is an archaeologist, ethnohistorian, director of COAS Publishing & Research since 1973 and founder of COAS books in 1984. He has written over 90 archaeological and historical articles, reports and books.

Fort Bliss Historical Association — The group meets at 1 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Fort Bliss museum complex, 1735 Marshall. Information: 269-4831.
  Dues are $25 a year ($10 students and junior enlisted soldiers).

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. The visitor center has an exhibit on the history of the Chamizal dispute, including a video presentation. Park grounds and picnic area open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for both foot traffic and vehicles; visitor’s center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273 or on Facebook at ChamizalNationalMemorial.
  A “Where’s the Rio Now?” Guided ½-mile walk of the park with Ranger Rod Sauter is 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4, meeting at the Chamizal National Memorial Information Desk in the Cultural Center. Admission is free.
  “Tales, Tails and Tots” stories visits with park mascot Chami are 11 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 3-6 the fourth Saturday of each month.

El Paso History Radio Show — The show runs 10:05 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KTSM AM 690 (and streamed at 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 Information: 833-8700.

El Paso Mission Trail Visitor Center — El Paso Mission Trail Association’s center supporting the three historic churches in the Mission Valley — Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and San Elizario Chapel — is at 6095 Alameda (at Zaragoza). Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free. Information 790-0661, 851-9997 or

Los Portales Museum and Visitor Center — 1521 San Elizario Road. The museum is operated by the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, and is housed in an 1850s Territorial-style building across from the San Elizario church. It offers gifts, family trees, historical artifacts as well as information on the “First Thanksgiving” and the Salt War of 1877. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: 851-1682.

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.

Old Fort Bliss — Building 5054, corner of Pershing and Pleasanton Roads, Fort Bliss. The Old West days of the “Soldiers of the Pass” are relived through replicas of the original adobe fort buildings and military artifacts of the Magoffinsville Post, 1854 to 1868. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; by appointment only Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 568-4518 or 588-8482 or on Facebook at Old Fort Bliss.

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
  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.

Scottish Rite Temple tour — The Downtown El Paso historic landmark, 301 W. Missouri, is open to the public for a free walking tour at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Learn about El Paso’s Masonic history, the design and architecture of the theater. Information: 533-4409.

Fort Bayard tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society hosts walking tours of the historic fort 9:30 a.m. Saturdays, March 11 and 25, at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark, six miles east of Silver City, N.M. Meet at the 1910 Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26); opens at 9:15 a.m. Tour takes about 90 minutes; wear walking shoes, sun screen and a hat; water recommended. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours (including groups visiting during Spring Break): (575) 388-4477, (575) 574-8779, or (575) 388-4862.

Fort Selden State Monument — The monument, 1280 Fort Selden Road in Radium Springs, 13 miles north of Las Cruces, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesday). Admission is $3; (ages 16 and under free). Sunday admission for New Mexico residents is $1. Information: (575) 526-8911 or
  Fort Selden was a 19th-century adobe fort established to protect early settlers from Indian raids. The monument seeks to preserve the remaining ruins and has a visitor’s center with exhibits of military life at the post. From Las Cruces, take I-25 north to Exit 19.

Fort Stanton — The fort was established and built in 1855 by troopers of the 1st Dragoon Regiment to serve as a base of operations against the Mescalero Apache Indians. The fort’s museum building, recently restored through a Save America’s Treasures grant, was originally a soldier’s barracks converted to serve as an Administration Building for the Public Health Service during the fort’s hospital era. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Living history tours offered the third Saturday of each month. Admission is free. Information: (575) 354-0341, or on Facebook.

History Notes Lecture Series — The monthly program is 1 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main, north end of the Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or

Shakespeare Ghost Town — The small pioneer settlement and mining town on the trail to California is just south of Lordsburg, N.M. A 1½-hour tour at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend of the month (May 2016, dates are May 7-8); call to confirm. Cost is $4 ($3 ages 6-12). Information: (575) 542-9034 or
  To get there: From Lordsburg, take the Main Street exit (Exit 22) from Interstate 10 and turn south. Follow signs to Shakespeare.


Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

Never trust a
horse completely


It wasn’t the horse’s fault; I wanted to blame it on that crusty old bastard that stopped to show me pictures of some horses he wanted to sell.
Every time I’d had anything to do with that old guy something has happened. Not necessarily bad, just something and never a good feeling left behind.
I met him at Sunland Park Race Track while I was running horses there. He was always riding around in his golf cart trying to sell something. That was not so bad, but he was pushy.
This time it happened at my place on McNutt Road. I was exercising my horse, R.J. I have a half-mile track that runs alongside Koogle Road. R.J. was a big horse standing over 16 hands — that’s 62 inches tall — and weighed around 1,300 pounds. He was well bred, red in color. R.J. and I had been together since he was 18 months old. We had our growing-up times together; he bucked with me every time I got on him for two years while we were trying to become a team and then one day the bucking stopped — I thought.
That day the old man spotted me and R.J as he came up Koogle Road, so he stopped on the roadside just above us. I’d pulled up because R.J. had to relieve himself. The old codger rolls down the window and hollers that he had three horses he wanted me to buy. I replied quickly, “Go away I don’t want to buy any horses, I’m trying to get rid of a bunch myself.”
But he wouldn’t stop talking, insisting on showing me some pictures, and all the time I’m telling him I don’t want to buy his horses. He starts to get out of his car, having a hard time. So I told him to wait a minute until my horse was through peeing and I would ride up there; no need for him to come down that sandy bank. I was trying to be accommodating to the old fool.
R.J. was feeling good, having finished a good pee and maybe because he’d had a couple of weeks off. About halfway up that 8-foot bank he started crow hopping (a short bucking motion). By the time he was at the top, he was bucking harder than he had ever bucked before. He “broke in half” about five times, like he was trying out for the rodeo. I held on for three or four of those jumps, but, somewhere in there I came loose, catapulting high into the air over his right shoulder doing a complete flip in the air, landing flat on my back on that hard caliche road.
I just lay there, as R.J. ran back to the pens. That in itself was unusual; usually that horse would have just stopped and stood there looking at me, as if asking “why are you down there?”
I caught my breath, while the old man walked over to me saying, “You almost rode him.” I’m thinking “I can’t breathe or move, leave me alone.” He helped me up and offered to drive me back to my horse. I didn’t want any help, I just wanted to get away from him and his picture of horses I didn’t want to buy in the first place. I told him no, I’d walk back.
He parted and I walked back, cussing R.J., trying to figure out what had happened and why. I got madder the closer I got to the pens determined to make R.J. pay.
I gathered him up, noticing he had cut his lip pretty bad by stepping on the reins and breaking them. The cut wasn’t much cause for worry; I was more concerned with showing him that he could not get away with that kind of behavior.
I led him to the round pen, thinking I would run him until he dropped. Then the pain from the fall caught up with me and overruled any further thought of punishing him. I stopped and headed for the car, which of course was by the front gate.
My entire upper body seemed to be frozen and breathing was very difficult. My son and his family live next to my horses, but nobody was around. I thought maybe I could drive home by myself and call back for them to put my horse away. I started the car and was turning around when I saw my daughter-in-law driving up to their house. I pulled in behind her, told her what happened and that I needed to be driven home.
Once home, I got on the floor in the TV room and could not get up for three days. I had to roll over, getting on hands and knees to go to the toilet. Then slowly I was able to get around again and in a few weeks I was back on a horse.
I learned that you can’t trust an animal 100 percent of the time and you never ride a horse that has been resting without first lunging him (working him out using a rope). I had gotten to trust R.J. and he hurt me bad. He never did that again, but I still recommend running your horse around the pen after any lay-off.
Another lesson learned the hard way.

 John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner and amateur
local historian. You can reach him

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'
Becoming Bicultural
Liner Notes
Stage Talk
Gallery Talk
Better Parenting


Copyright 2017 by Cristo Rey Communications.