In all my travels around New Mexico, I've rarely met a town I didn't like. But in Stanley, I might have met one that didn't like me. Unfortunately, it's difficult to tell for sure.


  • COUNTY: Santa Fe
  • LOCATION:  10 miles north of Moriarty on NM 41
  • POST OFFICE:  1907-present
  • NAME ORIGIN:  Named for a railroad engineer

     Stanley began as a railroad siding, then promoted itself to tent city and later to small town. It was a center for agriculture in the area and continued to be a siding for the railroad. Agriculture declined in the area in the thirties, and the railroad left in the forties. But Stanley stuck around. Today there's a store with gas pump, a post office, farms, and other small buildings.

     Somewhere along the line, Stanley must have decided it was best not to let people in on its true feelings. Stanley's demeanor is difficult to assess. The store looks inviting -- there's a gas pump and an OPEN sign in the window -- but all the parking spaces are filled. A collection of old advertising signs, an old truck and a gas pump form an impromptu museum outside the store, but is the message "look how far we've come" or "look how much we've lost"? The sign beside the store (shown below) can be read as an invitation to stay indefinitely or as a request to leave immediately, depending, I guess, on where you put the emphasis.

     As I snapped my pictures, I wondered how to react to Stanley's mixed message. I wanted to know where I stood. Was Stanley my friend or not? Finishing my photos, I drove past town again, then turned around and came back. I wanted a sign. But nobody waved, nobody honked, no dogs came to greet me, no dogs came to eat me. All I saw were some birds sitting on a fence. Thanks, but I already knew that.

     Finally giving up, I drove away, and that's when one other option came to mind. Maybe Stanley was like the two-headed god Janus, looking forward and backward at the same time. Stanley's message may be intentionally dualistic. Stanley may both yearn for its past and at the same time feel glad to be free of it; may both enjoy having visitors and yet still hope they don't stay too long; may both wish it was larger while still planning to stay small. Maybe Stanley wasn't so much indifferent as it was inconsistent.

     Regardless, Stanley is staying put, a colorful attraction in the middle of NM 41. Lots of people drive past every day. And Stanley, as they say, hopes they continue to do so.


(click on the thumbnail image to see a larger picture)

Stanley's message for the

A few of the old ads on

The Stanley post office..