Author explores Gila area
New Mexico author Phillip Brittenham wrote a book about the published accounts of the Gila region in the southwest corner of New Mexico.
“Meet Me in Nutt: A Literary Traversal of the Gila Region of New Mexico” will be published in March. Brittenham said his book is a collection of reviews and illustrates to readers what they can find in the New Mexico area.
Brittenham is 62 years old and has held various jobs as an editor and a writer for publishers such as Tech Reps Inc. and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. The author, whose father was in the military, came to New Mexico when he was 12 and lived a couple of years in North Carolina.
Brittenham’s book includes the homestead communities and the open range in the Magdalena and Quemado area. The book also covers the ranching communities of the San Francisco River Valley, he said. The mining communities surrounding the Gila are described through the memoirs of the people who worked the mines and their families.
His book also covers Silver City and the historical surrounding area, the Chloride area and the east side of the Black Range.
One of his reviews is of the historical book, “Black Range Tales” by James McKenna. The book explains McKenna’s life as a pioneer in every major mining camp in the area, Brittenham said.
For the Magdalena area, he did a review of “Querencia,” by Stephen Bodio.
“Bodio represents a new kind of pioneer in this region,” Brittenham said. “As a falconer, he came looking to make a life, not for mining or ranching interests. Older writers, like Langford Johnston, were part of the ranching community, and many other writers represent the homestead community between Magdalena and Quemado.”
While writing his book reviews, Brittenham came across various themes involving the homestead communities.
“The relationships between men and women changed because of the hardships of homestead life, and this is a theme of many of the books written by women who lived on the homestead.” Brittenham said.
Brittenham’s includes a review of “Magdalena N.M. Celebrating 100 Years of Frontier Living,” by Jacky Barrington. This book tells of people remembering what life was like while living in Magdalena.
“Old Magdalena Cow Town,” by Langford Johnston describes how Johnston worked on ranches around Magdalena, along with stories and memories of what went on.
For his work, Brittenham got book recommendations from everyone. One of the challenges he faced while writing was identifying the different books to review because most of them are out of print. He enjoyed how the old books bring history to life, and his book recreates what people in the past experienced.
“I wanted people to go to these books to experience what they (the authors) experience,” Brittenham said. “A number of books about the region do not identify these early sources or suggest how valuable some of them may be.”
Brittenham’s book highlights the original sources to give a flavor of the original writing. He got his inspiration for writing his book while exploring the Mogollon area, and one book led to another, he said.
His favorite book was “Black Range Tales,” because there is a sense of adventure, loving life and experiencing the mining camps, and all the romance of the Old West, he said.