Today, I decided to give my blog readers a tour through my neck of the woods (quite literally, in fact) and acquaint them with the area that inspired fictional Bonney County and the Black Horse Campground mystery series.
The road just past the Bent, New Mexico post office... down the road from my home!
The Hondo Valley near San Patricio on a rainy day
First off, Bonney County, like both Otero and Lincoln counties, is in the south central region of New Mexico. Unlike many people's perception of New Mexico, there are trees, mountains, rivers, and much cooler temperatures than there are in the lower desert elevations. To the south is the desert basin which includes White Sands National Monument and Holloman Air Force Base and to the north are the Pecos river plains that include Roswell. The village of Ruidoso, where I worked for twelve years, is a green oasis in the middle of a lot of brown and gold desert and plains. For years, when I was growing up in El Paso, Texas, we made the trip every summer to visit family in Roswell and I was always fascinated by the area around Ruidoso. The Mescalero Apache reservation is right in the middle of a beautiful pine forest and in the summer, right around July fourth, you'll see teepees erected along the highway near their homes as they prepare for the annual coming of age ceremonial for their young daughters. Tradition and modernity live side by side on the rez and they are rightly proud of their culture and homelands.
Mural along US 70 through the village of Mescalero on the reservation
Ruidoso is a mecca for tourists, whether campers, skiers, mountain bikers, shoppers, casino and horse-racing enthusiasts. I'll give a more in-depth tour of the village itself, but for now, we'll stay on US 70 and continue up to the Hondo Valley and the area where Bonney County came to life.
Once you leave the village of Ruidoso, you come to Ruidoso Downs which is the home of horse racing's All-American Futurity. But beyond horse-racing, the American West is closely identified with horses and tribute to these magnificent creatures is exhibited at the Hubbard Museum of the American West and the amazing sculpture “Free Spirits at Noisy Water” by local artist Dave McGary (1958-2013) who perfectly captured the likenesses of seven different horse breeds. The sculptures and the surrounding “display” park are a wonderful (and free!) roadside stop to stretch your legs and relax.
Driving on further, there are several small villages along the highway, very much like the village of Bonney. Roadside fruit stands, little churches and cemeteries, and beautiful views of farms and ranches along the river make this a beautiful drive. It's easy to see why this was where Billy Chee Black Horse decided to build his Black Horse Campground and why guests are happy to stay there... murder mysteries notwithstanding!
Glencoe Fruit Stand, Glencoe, New Mexico
Old parish church, San Patricio, New Mexico
Inside the San Patricio (San Ignacio?) parish church
San Patricio Retreat Center, San Patricio, New Mexico
Harvest bounty, Glencoe Fruit Stand, Glencoe, New Mexico
This is just a quick tour of the area where my series came to life. I hope you enjoyed the trip and can picture Bonney County and the Black Horse Campground a little bit better in your mind!
The bridge over the Hondo River and the Hondo River