I’m reminded this week of an old joke: “Hey, old timer, you lived here all your life?”
Call me sentimental, but every year when Old Timers Reunion weekend comes around, I find myself all puffed up with pride over living in Magdalena. I suppose most folks who live here feel the same way; the been-heres as well as the come-heres. And as time goes by the newcomers will eventually be the old-timers and the cycle goes on and on.
Last week I was scrolling through Facebook, peeking into the lives of my friends as usual, and ran across another list. The internet loves lists, and this one was titled "Move To These Nine Towns In New Mexico If You Wanna' Get Away From It All."
They listed some pretty cool places like Glenwood, Cloudcroft, Pecos, and Cuba; even Radium Springs (but the implication of that name sounds a little unnerving). Along with those places is, you guessed it, Magdalena, coming in at number five.
Once a booming cowboy town with bustling streets, cattle drives and daily train schedules, Magdalena is a lot quieter these days. A lot. Except for, well, Old Timers weekend.
I could spend all day bragging on Magdalena and the people who live there. It's kind of like a miniature version of Socorro in a certain way, minus traffic lights.
It's still the kind of community kids can ride bicycles anywhere in town and play outside right through the gloaming until mom yells it’s time to come in. Magdalena is that kind of place where it's still pretty safe to do that. So yeah, I suppose Magdalena is the kind of place to “get away from it all.”
One thing that’s up for debate is how old is an old timer?
We’re coming up on the 74th anniversary of the big boom out on White Sands, and there are some oldtimers that were around for that. The Trinity test was July 16, 1945, and everyone in Socorro County was freaking out that morning.
Retired journalist Ben Moffett was just a young’un in San Antonio at the time, and he informed me that he may have been the only person to sleep through the blast.
“But I remember it vividly,” Ben said. “My parents, John B. and Regina Moffett, ran from the kitchen where I was asleep and woke me up to see if I was safe. I was a month short of six years old, but I remember the panic in their eyes, something I had never seen before. Later in the day, we went to Socorro to peddle vegetables house to house and it was all anyone could talk about.”
After that, the government bought up two carloads of Hereford cows from nearby ranches and shipped them to Knoxville, Tennessee, where they were kept for testing. The feds claimed they were all OK.
There was, of course, the story of the black cat out there at White’s Store. It was white on one side and black on the other and was sold to a tourist for five dollars. Least-wise that's the way I heard it.
Before I forget it, last Sunday marked another date in history. Sliced bread was offered to the public for the first time on July 7, 1928, and forever more it became the standard by which we measure the proverbial best thing.
My first question is, what was the best thing before sliced bread? I mean, would a caveman say the wheel was the best thing since fire? Would Henry Ford say the horseless carriage was the best thing since the carriage? Really, though, the best thing before sliced bread would be...bread. But that’s just me.
But I digress.
Last weekend I was re-watching my old VHS copy of the film Matt Middleton made in 1985 about Magdalena called “Way Out There.” It was first aired back then on KNME-TV and it actually won a New Mexico AP award for Best Documentary. Aside from some history of the area and reminiscing about cattle drives from now-departed cowboys, Matt throws in some shots of what the Old Timers parade looked like that year. Yes, there were the floats and old cars and horseback riders, but there were also a few head of steers in a mini-cattle drive right down First Street. Luckily there were no stampedes, but they stopped doing anyway.
If you haven’t seen the one hour film, bits and pieces of it are on YouTube, and it’s nice to know the Reunion keeps on keeping on. Time being what it is, we’ll never run out of old timers.
Me, I’d be happy just to be an “older” timer, like one old timer told me a few years back, “I may be older than you, but I’m also wiser than you.”