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Monday, February 23, 2009

Walking Tour of Artesia, New Mexico

One of the things Randy & I love to do is take a walking tour of the area we're visiting. Armed with a brochure to guide us, we meander along the route, stopping where we wish and skipping those places that don't interest us. We found that Artesia had a walking tour so we decided to do that today. The weather was forecasted to be gorgeous so to be out in it would be a treat.

We started out with a good breakfast at The Chaos Cafe. Great name, huh? We didn't know anything about it, but at 10am there were still plenty of cars in the parking lot, so we figured it must be decent. It was very good and VERY reasonably priced. Nothing like a yummy breakfast to start the day!

Artesia is a small town with lots of character. It dates back to the 1880s when pioneers settled here because of the wonderful artesian water system. After a couple of other names, the town became Artesia in 1903 and officially incorporated in 1905. When oil was found in the water wells in the 1920s, Artesia also became part of the gas and oil industry, which continues today.

We also found out that New Mexico is one of the leading states in dairy farming. Who knew? You just don't think New Mexico when you think milk and cheese. :) But, New Mexico is the 10th largest state in milk production and 8th largest in cheese production. Artesia has one large dairy farm, with many more found in the surrounding towns.

Throughout Artesia are bronze sculptures that were commissioned to depict the town's history. There are two, with a third one to be installed this summer, that tell the history of the Cattle Drives that helped to settle this area. They are "Trail Boss," "The Vacquero," and "The Rustler." The Rustler is the last to be completed and has yet to be installed. We did get to see the model of it, however, and it's pretty cool.

Around the Trail Boss are placques telling the story of the Cattle Drive and Charles Goodnight's part in them. Charles Goodnight is a direct ancestor of our nephews, Kenneth & Matthew, and I thought it was pretty cool to read about him. The chuckwagon got its name from Charles as he invented it while serving as a cook on a cattle drive. Get it? Charles - chuck. Well, I thought it was cool. Also, if you've heard of the Goodnight Trail leading from Texas to the west, that's who it gets its name from.

Trail Boss

The Vacquero

The Rustler model
Another very impressive sculpture is called "The Derrick Floor" and was erected in honor of all those do the very dangerous work on the oil derricks. It is a huge piece of work; the figures being 125% of life size! You almost feel like the workers are going to jump off the derrick and speak to you.

There were other sculptures as well which were interesting. The Visitors' Center is located where the original train depot was. The original structure was burned in a fire in the 1940s and this building was restored in 2000 for use as the Visitors' Center.

We had a great day exploring Artesia. There is much to see and do in this small town. If you find yourself in the southeastern portion of New Mexico, stop in!

This is what we got see this evening - not too shabby!

Tomorrow we're going to Carlsbad Caverns. More fun to come!

Until the next time . . .

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