Checking in from Roswell, NM …
For 65 years, Roswell has been the center of a UFO controversy. On July 5, 1947, a ranch hand named Mac Brazel was checking for damage to fences and line shacks following a particularly severe thunderstorm the previous evening. He stumbled upon a field of metallic debris that he could not identify. He turned the material over to the Chaves County Sheriff who subsequently delivered it to the Roswell Army Air Field. On July 8, the Army Air Corp (a predecessor to the Air Force) issued a press release stating that a “flying disk” had been found, and the Roswell Daily Record headlined that a “flying saucer had been captured.” But on July 9, the Pentagon got involved and rescinded the earlier announcement, stating that the materials found were part of a radar deflector being tested as part of Project Mogul, a Cold War initiative. The issue simmered until the 1970’s when Major Jesse Marcel, who had been involved in retrieval of the materials in 1947, asserted that the Pentagon’s efforts were part of a cover-up. He stated that the Roswell debris was definitely not part of any radar or weather device. The material was covered in hieroglyphics and was extremely light like balsa wood but was very hard yet flexible and would not burn. At about the same time, an internal memo from the FBI surfaced that supposedly stated that three flying saucers had been found near Roswell in the late 1940s along with nine life forms, three foot high green creatures, that had been whisked off to the super secret Area 51 near Las Vegas, Nevada for study.
The conspiracy theorists had a field day and a controversy that lives on to this day. At least two movies, Roswell and Fire in the Sky, have been made about the 1947 events. Roswell has embraced the controversy as a tourist attraction with a UFO Museum and almost every business featuring little green men. For most it’s all in good fun, and Roswell and UFOs have become synonymous as part of the most publicized of all alleged UFO incidents.
Roswell’s history, of course, goes back to well before any alien invasion. In 1542, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado documents camping at what almost certainly is the Pecos River near Roswell as he searched for the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. Coronado never found the gold, but he did lose enough horses on his journey through the area that the local Indian tribes would no longer be pedestrian for the next three hundred years.
The Roswell area is also the home of John Simpson Chisum who is recognized as the West’s most prominent cattleman. He is the first to bring a herd of cattle to New Mexico Territory on the Goodnight-Loving Trail where he established his headquarters by the Pecos River on the Bosque Grande between Roswell and Fort Sumner. From 1867 to 1880, Chisum’s ranch survived Indian raids, rustlers, droughts and devastating floods, and he was able to send over 200,000 beeves to Eastern markets. Chisum was involved in the famed Lincoln County War between rival cattle barons as a friend of John Tunstall, the first casualty in this bloody conflict. At first a friend of Billy Bonney (aka Billy the Kid), Chisum is the one who sent Pat Garrett to hunt down the Kid and ambush him in Fort Sumner.
The area around Roswell is so remote that we have had to park at an RV campground for several nights while Brenda ferried me to and from my starting and ending points on my walk, trips of up to 40 miles each way. That will apparently be what we’ll have to do as we cross New Mexico. Along the edge of the road on my walks through the ranchland, we have found numerous patches of something that looks very similar to the paw paw patches that spotted the broom sage fields around my home as a kid. An inquiry to the Native Plant Society of New Mexico revealed that these local patches are either coyote gourds or buffalo gourds (the former has smooth fruit while the latter has ridges). Paw paws or local gourds are baseball sized green fruits, inedible, that are ideal for the equivalent to hot weather “snowball” fights. Brings back fond memories of battles with my cousin Drew when we were kids.
My path over the next few days is west of Roswell on Highway 70/380 toward the Capitan Mountains. Wish us luck in navigating the challenging terrain and finding places to park our RV.