May 3, 2002
Dear Subscriber:

I got a call from a neighbor at around 3 Tuesday afternoon.

"Did you hear about the fire out on 130?" she asked.

"No, but I'll look into it."

I called the Sheriff's office. Yes, there was a wildfire. No,
it was not under control. It was too early to tell if it posed
any danger to populated areas.

We had some experience covering forest fires. We covered the 
Scott Able fire two years ago. I drove to the scene.

I arrived at the perimeter of what would be called the "Rio
Penasco Fire" shortly after 9pm (Tue). The sight of the night 
sky glowing an angry red was humbling to a West Texas boy who
had never seen a fire bigger than a burning cotton trailer.

It reminded me of the feeling of awe I had the first time I saw
the Pacific Ocean. It was an overwhelming sense that there were
elements of nature much bigger than man could control.

I pulled over next to a sheriff's deputy's pickup and started
my pitch.

"I'm with Cloudcroft.com. I need to get some pictures, but there
are too many lights here. Can you take me closer to the fire?"
I fully expected him to tell me to turn around and get out of
everyone's way, but he said "follow me."

We zoomed into no-man's land. The emergency lights of the
roadblock were sinking over the horizon in my rear view mirror.
In front of me was a speeding sheriff's deputy. In front of him
was the most horrific conflagration I had ever seen in real

The deputy swerved off the pavement and onto a gravel road.
I followed. We were getting closer to the flames...maybe just a
little closer than I wanted to. The smell and the smoke of the
burning forest was a little stifling. My escort finally ground
to a stop...just yards from a hot spot. It was like peering
over the edge of an active volcano.



Today (Wednesday). I've seen the wind blow around here before,
but nothing like it was blowing today. The Rio Penasco Fire
had the signature of a potentially disastrous event.

After the sun came up, Peg and I headed back out to the fire
for new pictures.

The Baptist camp near the perimeter was the staging area.
Despite the blowing dirt and the smoke, fire fighters and
volunteers were working through it. In the daytime, the fire
didn't look as bad, but I was told the wind was actually
creating a large smoke screen hiding most of the flames. It
was still a dangerous blaze.





I was a bit surprised that there seemed to be little movement
of the fire in relation to the night before. I was told the
fire was swirling in a sort of hurricane vortex. Good news.

Little in the way of new acreage was being burned.
Later in the day the fire showed some movement. Two homes were
reportedly lost near Mayhill.

Most of our stories in the Cloudcroft Online Newsletter have an
ending. This one doesn't, yet.

With the lag time of two days from my writing this and when it
is posted, I can only hope my account of the remainder of this
fire are positive and, as they say, "a good read."

We will continue to update developments on the Rio Penasco Fire
on the home page of Cloudcroft.com (including pictures).

Go to http://www.cloudcroft.com/ for fire updates.

Because we have a full plate this week in covering The Rio
Penasco fire, we will dispense with most of the rest of the
newsletter content.

Don Vanlandingham

For a list of fire links, see the General Information page of


May 4-5 -- High Altitude Classic Bike Race.
For more information, call (505) 682-1229.

May 11 -- Old Timer's Reunion, Cloudcroft High School, 12pm.
For more information, call (505) 682-2932.

May 15-31 -- Cloudcroft Art Society annual Miniature Art Show.
At the art gallery in the Burro Street Exchange.

May 24-26 -- Cloudcroft Light Opera Company Melodrama.
Zenith Park Pavilion, 7:30 pm.
For information call (505) 682-3317

May 25-26 -- Mayfair. Juried Arts and Crafts Show.
Zenith Park, 10am to 5pm. Horseshoe Tournament, Food, Drinks.
For information call (505) 682-2733.

May 25 -- Street Dance, 7-11pm. Music by Country Line.

May 25-27 -- Wimsatt Rodeo. Gordon Wimsatt Memorial Arena,
7 miles east of Cloudcroft on Hwy 82. 1:30pm daily.

June 1 -- National Trails Day. 10K walk.
For information call (505) 682-3040.

June 9 -- Father's Day brunch. Call 682-2566 for details.

June 14-16 -- Western Roundup. Parade, pie auction, BBQ.
Street dance Saturday 7-11pm.

June 15-16 -- Cherry Festival. High Rolls. Arts, food.

June 28-30 -- Bluegrass Festival. Music all day.
Open Air Pavilion, Camp Chimney Springs.

July -- Chili cook-off. Call (505)-437-6259 for specific
dates and location.

July 12-13 -- Melodrama. Covered Pavilion.

July 13-14 -- July Jamboree.

July 13 -- Flower Show at the Community Center, l-5pm.

July 14 -- Street Dance. Burro Avenue.

July 27 -- Train Load of Talent. Covered Pavilion.

Cloudcroft Art Society meets the first Sunday of each month,
2-4pm, in the Old Red Brick School House. Call (505) 682-2494
for more information.

Mountain Garden Club meets every third Monday of each month.
Call (505) 682-2910 for more information.

Senior Van from Timberon to Alamogordo leaves the Timberon
Lodge promptly at 8:30am every Tuesday morning.

Free Vitals Clinic. Second Saturday of each month, 11am to 1pm.
James Canyon Fire Department, 2346 Highway 82.

For information on highway closings for missile testing between
Alamogordo and Las Cruces/El Paso, call (800) 432-4269.

If you have news of public events in the Cloudcroft area, email

For an online calendar of area events, click the Events Calendar
link in the left column of our home page:


Dear Newsletter:

Don, I just must tell you your newsletter made my day! I get a
mail box full of funnies each day, but your newsletter would
put all of those to shame.

On the serious side, I do enjoy your letters.


Dear Newsletter:

First laugh I've had all day - thank you so much for your witty
description of life and lack of in Alamogordo - I was on
Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, for five years, but there we had
an excuse for being out of stuff - I mean the mainland was miles
away - we'd cut out pictures of toys from the catalogs and paste
them in the kid's Christmas cards when the shipments didn't come

But, you hit it one the head with this one - and others that I
have enjoyed...have a link on my web site to your newsletter...
keep up the good work - wish we could really make a difference -
like the newspaper! Don't even get me started with that.

Keep writing,
Jo Carnes

Dear Newsletter:

I just finished reading about your "perplexing shopping
adventure" in Alamogordo! I was smiling the entire time because
it brought back such wonderful memories!

I lived in Alamogordo for seven years and I have had the
"pleasure" of trying to find many usual items, only to be very
frustrated by the end of the hunt. However, I now reside in
Phoenix where you can find absolutely anything and everything,
that is, if you can survive the trip to the store, mall etc.!

I would gladly trade the frustration levels of the small town
for the ones we experience on a daily basis here. When you
mentioned Wal-Mart it brought a warm feeling to my troubled
heart, remembering when I could shop at the Alamogordo Wal-Mart
and run into at least five friends and even a few family members
every time I went.

Here in Phoenix, when I get the courage to venture to Wal-Mart,
I never see anyone I know, I hardly ever see a smiling face,
and I certainly know what "grumpy preoccupied sales clerks"
are all about! So, thanks for the memories, you've given me a
long overdue reminder of why I need to be back in the "Land of

Nancy Glemser
Arizonan by birth, New Mexican at heart

Dear Newsletter:

Regarding your "shopping in Alamo" experience, I must say, Don,
that you sound like a Texan (I am living in Texas when I am not
living in Cloudcroft).

The first couple of times I shopped in Alamo (or most anywhere
else in NM for that matter) I had pretty much the same
experience. Of course, this is exasperating for Texans. Hundred-
mile-an-hour Texans are not used to the "what-you-see-is-what-
you-get", "what's-the-rush?", "take-your-ulcers-back-to-Texas"
hospitality style of NM mercantiles.

But the most amazing flip side of this is that I always find in
these same mercantiles (not in Wal-Mart) some totally
fascinating, completely unneeded item that I cannot do without
and end up purchasing!

Ron Williams
Austin, TX

Dear Newsletter:

Hi, enjoyed your newsletter # 107, I can relate to that
newsletter. It seem to happen to me all the time. I liked it
so well that I'm sending it to a friend of mine in Grandbury,

Keep up the good work.

Margaret Ellis

Dear Newsletter:

I just returned from a delightful visit in Cloudcroft.

I must say I found the time refreshing particularly as I had an
occasion to visit the grocery (sorry, forgot the name) next to
the Texas Pit restaurant. The ladies that greeted me were
gracious, warm-hearted and spoke so kindly of their little
village of Cloudcroft.

I bought some of their bread, very bad for my diet but, ohhh...
so good tasting) My vehicle's battery went bad while in 
Cloudcroft and so I had an occasion to visit the auto supply
store and was greeted again by real kindness and help.

My family and I truly enjoy the little village, but we find
ourselves in a difficult position, if we tell to many about
the virtues of Cloudcroft, than some of what is so unique and
pleasant will be lost and it is the small village atmosphere
that really makes it special to us.

Oh well, just thought I would pass on a good report, there just
doesn't seem to be enough of those around these days.

Kind regards,
Ed Sinke
El Paso

Dear Newsletter:

In last week's letter, Shirley Alford of Las Cruces writes about
the invasion of Texans to New Mexico, the traffic jams they
cause and of bumper stickers created to wart them off.

Shirley, Shirley, Shirley.... Can you blame them? Have you ever
driven through Texas?

Now I like Texans, I have a brother-in-law who is Texan. If you
had driven through Texas, you’d know that they are some of the
friendliest people in the world. You can’t pass another vehicle
without the driver or one or maybe all of the occupants waving
to you. But Texas is one, if not the blandest, drive you'll ever
make. I apologize to every Texan reading this and those who
can't read**.

** Sorry, I couldn't pass it up. You know you would have done
the same thing if you’d been writing about Zonies. Sorry about
the following too!

My brother-in-law is from a town (if that) named Happy Texas.
Now Happy is located in the Panhandle of Texas and has the
now-entering and the now-leaving signs mounted on the same
post. I believe the Panhandle is where construction companies
test their levels (plum sticks). They just place it on the
ground (anywhere) and then adjust the bubble to center. If 
Christopher Columbus had seen the Panhandle of Texas he would
have been scared to leave town much less attempt to sail around
the world.

When my oldest sister Judy and Texas Bob married (they never
said I couldn't mention their names) it took place on Bob’s
family ranch. I was only 14 at the time, but I had seen the
ocean. I’ve stood on the beach and looked out over the vast
nothingness, but at least the ocean had waves. If it weren't 
for fence posts, I would have been scared to death that we were
about to fall of the edge of the world.

But the people of Texas! Friendly, helpful, good humored. You
know they're good humored, because I would never have written
this if I didn't believe in their sense of humor. While
traveling to Happy Texas, no sooner did we cross over into
Texas, then did people start waving to us as we past by. Of 
course maybe they were hoping that we would take them with us
when we left. Who knows!

I would like to compare notes with Shirley about traffic jams,
but I find it hard to talk about the traffic here in the Phoenix
Metro area without having blood squirt out of both my eyes. I
try to listen to really mellow music when driving in traffic
here. You know the kind of music that would be dangerous to
listen to while traveling as it might put you to sleep. The
idea is to try and keep you blood pressure low enough so that
your ears don't bleed. But in our evening, homebound traffic,
even "Enya" is a bit radical.

The best bumper sticker I've ever seen, and I do believe
applies to the freeway pilots of the Phoenix Metro area:
"CAUTION, Driver Just Doesn't Care Anymore!"

Bill White
Phoenix, Arizona

PS. Wanda, Wanda, Wanda, Wanda… There, you see sissy. I told
you I wouldn't mention your name ONE time this week.

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Copyright © 2002 Cloudcroft Online
The Travel and Visitor's Guide to Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
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