The Hondo Valley Picacho, Tinnie, Arabela, Hondo, and San Patricio
Last updated on Sunday, December 29, 2002
These five villages or settlements aren't even mentioned in a New Mexico cities list or in the Secretary of State's Blue Book that gives vital information about the state. Obviously, their populations are minuscule but they are all located in one of the loveliest valleys of Southeastern New Mexico, the Hondo.
The Hondo Valley takes on vivid color in autumn. Photo by Phyllis Eileen Banks
Driving through them on U. S. 70/380 in the spring, the fruit trees, primarily apple and pear, are bursting with blossoms. After the growing season, you will see roadside stands where you can buy vine-ripened fruit. In the fall, the leaves in many shades of yellow delight the eye. It is a scenic drive at any time of the year.
Going west from Roswell, the road begins to climb and curve through open range land dotted with a few ranches. A place with no marker or post office named Sunset is the first town listed on the map. It was the spot where the Chisolm Trail crossed U. S. 380. It is indicated by just a dot.
Next is the village of Picacho, settled in 1867-68 by people from the Rio Grande Valley. They established a settlement on the banks of the Rio Hondo at the foot of Picacho Peak. It was a stage road at one time. Sheep and goats were the settlers' herds of choice, but before long the cattlemen discovered the fertile Hondo Valley. The Circle Diamond Cattle Company was established but later taken over by the Diamond A Cattle Company. Later it became a part of the Bloom Land and Cattle Company that grew to more than 800,000 acres. It was broken into small tracts in the 1940s and many people from Roswell became weekend ranchers.
Tinnie's birth was in 1870 and was named Analla for an early settler. Some of the early settlers lived in caves, so the town was also called Las Cuevas. A store and post office was purchased by the Raymond family and again had a name change: "Tinnie" for their daughter.
Robert O. Anderson of Roswell bought the Tinnie Mercantile Company in 1959. He added a porch, a tower and a pavilion to the old building. He opened it as the Silver Dollar Bar and Steak House, a popular eating establishment that is still serving great meals in a lovely atmosphere, although Anderson no longer owns it.
New Mexico road 368 winds north from Tinnie and the pavement ends 17 miles at Arabela. If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle you can go the additional six miles on a hazardous dirt road to the no-longer-existing town of Pine Lodge. Established in 1870 by three Hispanic families from Walensburg, Colorado, Arabela was first known as Las Tablas, meaning boards or planks. Later the name was changed to Arabela, after a settler's daughter. The panorama of the east end of Capitan Mountain suggests a painted backdrop for a movie. It is a picturesque drive on a road less traveled.
Returning to U. S. Highway 70/380, Hondo is another village that was named something else originally. Because it was at the junction of the Bonito and Ruidoso Rivers, it was first named La Junta. U. S. 70 follows the noisy Rio Ruidoso and U. S. 380 follows the pretty Rio Bonito.
Packing sheds, refrigeration service and a trucking company were enterprises begun, associated with fruit and vegetable growing. What was once the White Mountain Apple Company now houses the studio and workshop of renowned fiberglass sculptor/artist Luis Jimenez. Hondo has another claim to fame with its Hondo Dancers, high school students who learn and perform the colorful Hispanic dances.
Capitan Mountains, Sunset Peak (View from Arabela). Photo by Deborah Vanderleelie
Next on the highway is San Patricio, originally named Ruidoso because of the river. It was changed to San Patricio because the patron saint of the church's Irish priest was St. Patrick. At one time it had the most voters in Lincoln County but the population declined during World War II. Well-known people have called it home. Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd lived on the Sentinel Ranch many, many years ago and now their son Michael and daughter Carol, with her artist husband Peter Rogers, continue to live there. Artist John Meigs lives at Fort Meigs, as he named it, and conducts tours of his home and the art and artifacts housed at the "Fort."
The Hurd-Rinconada Gallery is visible from the highway but requires a turnoff to the old road. Nearby is a polo field where Peter Hurd and pals often played polo. It is still used occasionally for polo games.
The last town before reaching Ruidoso is Glencoe, homesteaded by Jasper N. Coe in 1800. Due to flooding and changes in routing Highway 70, Glencoe's center has been moved several times. Now a new venture consisting of a large complex for horse sales plus a new post office is on the highway.
If you have seen any other part of the state, when you come to the Hondo Valley you will not believe you are in New Mexico. The unusually shaped hills so often painted by Peter Hurd are indigenous to this valley. The scenery is a world apart.