Metal cow in Magdalena

MAGDALENA

     It was only the other day that I noticed I have a bump on my chin. I look at the same face every day, yet somehow that bump eluded me for years. Then I looked around the office where I work and noticed pictures I'd passed by every day and never seen. And there are five -- count 'em, five! -- trees along the sidewalk where I live. Have they always been there?

QUICK STATS

  • COUNTY:  Socorro
  • LOCATION:  27 miles west of Socorro
  • POST OFFICE:  1884-present
  • NAME ORIGIN:  Named for the Magdalena Mountains nearby, themselves named for a formation on the side resembling Mary Magdalene

     There's a big difference between looking and seeing, between encountering and discovering. My high school in T. or C. played sports against Magdalena all the time. I knew where Magdalena was. I knew it was named for the likeness of Mary Magdalene on the mountain south of town. I knew it was part of the Beefsteak Trail cattle route. But I didn't know Magdalena -- I knew about Magdalena.

     Then, last December, I got caught in a snowstorm on I-25 and pulled over in Socorro. I was trapped in the Super-8 overnight with nothing to do but -- euchhh -- read. And I had just one book: "Magdalena, New Mexico: Celebrating 100 Years of Frontier Living," by the Magdalena Old Timers' Association. I had procured the book only days before while passing through Magdalena.  So I settled down and started.

     The Old Timers turned out to be great company. I read about Marshal Daniel Archuleta and Mayor Clayton Hust. I learned about fighting coyotes and about traveling across the county by wagon and about how difficult it is to raise sheep. That part made me a little hungry, so after reading about the snow-bound train that ran backwards from Magdalena to Socorro, I went next door to the K-Bobs to eat, taking my book with me. I continued reading at the table in the quiet restaurant, the snow still falling outside. Not counting the stuffed moosehead on the wall -- decorated with Santa hat and Rudolph nose -- there were only four souls in the restaurant. But reading the stories of those whose lives shaped Magdalena, I was hardly lonely.

     I finished the book as I finished my meal. Both had filled and nourished me. I considered leaving the book on the table as part of the tip, but couldn't bring myself to part company yet with the people I had just met.

     I'm grateful for the snow that stranded me in Socorro.  It forced Magdalena out of my periphery and set it down in front of me, in the words of the people who knew it best. Now when I think of things unnoticed, I'll think about Magdalena. I'll think about the Paris Tavern and the Magdalena Hotel and the bump on my chin and probably even the moosehead with the Santa hat. But mostly I'll think about Mary Magdalene, up there watching it all. Lucky her.