Hot Road Trip, part one

Sierra Blanca from near Ft
This is the first painting I did completely with my new pallet knives. It’s Sierra Blanca from near Lincoln, NM on the road to Ruidoso.

After a few days with my dad and family, the Boy and I left Clovis at about 7:30 on a Friday morning. We were on our way to see one of my most favorite people on the Earth: my aunt in Albuquerque. We were going to take a very long rout, though. There were things to see! So we headed even deeper into the southwest along Highway 70 through Portales to Roswell.

My aunt used to live in Roswell. Back then, it was a nice western town. Now, thanks to the UFO buffs,  it’s an alien infested western town; a mecca for UFOlogists and SciFi nerds.

El Capitan Mountain as seen from Roswell, NM
An abandoned schoolhouse near Roswell. Great brickwork!

From Roswell, we caught Highway 380 through the Hondo River Valley to Lincoln. The valley could almost be described as “lush”, at least by New Mexico standards. The green of the trees growing along the river were in stark contrast to the dry, sienna hills in the background.


An abandoned structure in the Hondo River Valley.

Our first stop was the historic town of Lincoln. The county of Lincoln, and its county seat, was the focal point of the Lincoln County War in the late 1870’s. An Englishman named John Tunstall set up a cattle ranch and mercantile in Lincoln, much to the displeasure of the Murphy-Dolan cattle business already there. The rivalry got ugly. In February of 1878, John Tunstall was assassinated. The posse that gunned him down reportedly included Lincoln County Sherrif  William Brady.

Tunstall had among his cattle regulators a young William H. Bonney, soon to be known as Billy the Kid. All hell broke lose and the Tunstall’s Regulators began shooting Murphy-Dolan men, including Sherrif Brady on April 1, 1878. Brady died on Lincoln’s dirt street with about twelve bullet holes in him.

After that event, several bounty hunters, new sherrifs, and finally the army from Fort Stanton got involved. The Lincoln County War ended as bloodily as it had begun. On July 24th, 1878, the army fired on the home of Alex McSween, Tunstall’s business partner, and set it on fire with Billy and other Regulators in it. McSween was killed, and the Regulators escaped, and later split up.

This is the Torreon, the oldest structure in Lincoln. It was built in the 1850’s by Hispanic settlers to protect themselves from marauding natives. The Regulators may have hidden in it to ambush Sherrif Brady.

After a year and a half of cattle rustling, gun fights, captures and escapes, Billy the Kid was arrested, tried and found guilty of the murder of Sherrif Brady. He was sentenced to hang,  and imprisoned in the Lincoln County jail and courthouse. He escaped in April of 1881, killing two deputies. From here he fled to Fort Sumner, where Pat Garret caught up with him and killed him.

Pat Garret and Billy the Kid
Lincoln County courthouse and jail, where Billy the Kid was jailed awaiting his execution in 1881. He escaped, killing deputies Jim Bell and Bob Ollinger.

bob o

The town of Lincoln is like one huge museum. There’s a main museum at the east end of town. The entry fee to this museum gets you into the other historic buildings in town. Everything is within easy walking distance. After a couple of hours of looking, reading, and experiencing some western history, we got ice cream and left.

It was about noon, and it was getting hot. We drove through Fort Stanton, into Ruidoso, and on to White Sands National Monument.

The hills between Lincoln and Fort Stanton.
That brilliant white strip is our first glimpse of White Sands, about 25 miles away.

Southern New Mexico has been even hotter and dryer than the rest of the hot and dry state. The ground was baked and cracked. Hardly anything was growing. There were dried up water holes all over.

We got to White Sands and spent an hour or so walking among the dunes. I’d loved to have spent longer, but it was hot! My dad told me it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit at Clovis, so it was probably around 110 to 115 at White Sands!

And to top it off, I discovered that the Boy didn’t finish his ice cream from Lincoln. He threw half of it in my car’s garbage bag, where it spilled and leaked onto the car’s floor and the books the boy had been keeping with him. So I was hot AND irritated with him. I made him clean it up the best we could get it. In the heat, the ice cream had, of course, liquefied. Then it baked into a sticky, thick goo.

And why did he throw it away? Because he didn’t like it. I liked it! I would have eaten it!

“Pretend you’re cold” I told him. “It’ll be funny, because it looks like snow!” His acting was good; it was at least 110 degrees F!
Yucca on the Edge of White Sands, 8″X10″ oil on canvas. It was a bit of a challenge to make this look like the hot desert it was instead of snow. I think I nailed it!

There was more to see, and more miles of road ahead of us, so we didn’t cry too long over spilled ice cream!


  1. Your son’s acting is good. Now have him do a picture in the snow where he’s in the same outfit, but acting like he’s warm (I’m totally kidding – no need to freeze anyone!) 🙂

    1. Ha! well, he’s a tough Yooper, it might just work! I plan to visit Door County soon, maybe NEXT summer (this summer is pretty tied up!). I saw it from the air once. Looks like a nice place!

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