Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Good turnout at Rattler Reunion

More than 330 came from near and far to attend the event.

 

August 8, 2018

Steve Hansen

Mesalands Community College's President John Groesbeck was the guest speaker during the Golden Rattlers Luncheon Saturday at the Pow Wow.

A little thunder and lightning did nothing to diminish Friday's gathering of Tucumcari High School graduates at the Tucumcari Convention Center to kick off the Rattler Reunion.

Graduates came in from all over the U.S.

The classes of 1988 and 1968 seemed to dominate the gathering as grads and family members socialized and enjoyed a hearty meal of beef, gravy, potatoes and salad catered by the Tucumcari Elks Club.

Meanwhile, Tucumcari Middle School students patrolled the room with water and tea pitchers.

The Class of 1988 was in charge of this Rattler Reunion, and Todd Duplantis, who chaired the organizing committee, wasn't just happy with the turnout, he said, "I'm excited."

More than 330 graduates made the trip, either across town or across the country to visit old friends and see how Tucumcari has changed over the years.

DuPlantis credits the good turnout to starting recruitments in January, rather than waiting until mid-year.

The grads caught each other up on what they'd been doing since graduation.

Nick LeCompte, class of 1968, and his wife, Laura, who graduated from San Jon High, have stayed in Quay County.

He said he has only left the county "on short trips."

In 1968, he said, "Tucumcari was a fantastic place to grow up. People used to help each other out more."

He attended this year's reunion because, "It is the 50th. I've seen people I haven't seen for a long time."

He also remembers that his graduating class had about 150 members and noted that the Class of 2018 had only 54 members.

Les Redden, also of the Class of 1968, traveled from San Diego, Calif., to rejoin his Tucumcari High classmates, because it was the 50th for his class.

He spent six years with the U.S. Air Force after graduation and then sold farm equipment before changing careers to education. He retired after 30 years of teaching emotionally disturbed and autistic children.

When he graduated, he said, Tucumcari was "booming. It was a fun town to grow up in. I made many lifelong friends."

Donna Leonard, class of 1966, came with her son Dana, class of 1988. Donna Leonard had some status as a teenager, because her father owned the Westerner Drive In, which once occupied what is now the west end of the ALCO parking lot and her mother worked in the office of Tucumcari Public Schools for 30 years. That was the favored teen hangout for her peers.

Leonard stuck around. She worked at the Tucumcari Public School District office for 30 years.

Her son Dana, however, said he left Tucumcari in 1988, right after he graduated from Tucumcari High. He studied communications at a school in Oregon, he said, before moving to San Francisco, where he has enjoyed a successful career as a computer graphics specialist.

His only complaint is that San Francisco is "very expensive."

Allen Kowal, class of 1982, and Tommy Snap, class of 1989, sat together.

Kowal, who now lives in Albuquerque, said he is disabled. He served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1986, he said, and then spent many years as a waiter, then a manager, in the restaurant business. Snap lives in Tucumcari after spending many years as a corrections officer at prisons in Texas.

Mary McFarland Wilson came from San Angelo, Texas, to join family members, including her brother Kelly McFarland, a Tucumcari certified public accountant (CPA). Kelly McFarland is a 1965 graduate of Tucumcari High School.

Mary McFarland has spent her career as a nurse, and she particularly remembers the two years she spent as a nurse on a medical helicopter.

Her most memorable case, she said, involved a man whose truck collided with a gate, sending a pipe all the way through his abdomen. The pipe had to be cut away from both sides of the man's body to get him into a helicopter and then more had to be cut away at the hospital, where surgeons had to take care not to damage the body as they extracted the pipe, she said.

"It missed anything vital," McFarland said, "so he recovered."

Kelly McFarland, meanwhile, earned his accounting credentials at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, then joined the Army during the Vietnam era.

Even though he was stationed in Germany, he said, his unit was always combat-ready.

He was stationed at the West German end of the Fulda Pass, which was always considered the most likely route that Soviet troops might take in an attack on North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

While he was there, he said, there were times when a Soviet attack seemed imminent.

"We were always ready," he said, and his unit drilled regularly.

"We could be fully mobilized in 45 minutes," he said.

Following his military service, McFarland worked at Peat-Marwick, which later became KPMG, one of the best-known names in corporate accounting, before venturing into private accounting, where, he said, "you could be the boss."

He started operating a practice in Alamogordo, returning to Tucumcari a few years later to start his current R. Kelly McFarland, CPA business in Tucumcari.

At the McFarlands' table Friday was Adrian Madero, a brother-in-law, another CPA and a Tucumcari High graduate of 1970.

Madero currently lives and works in Castle Rock, Colorado, but has worked in many places around the world, including Yap Island near Indonesia.

"It's the kind of place where men wear loincloths and women do not wear tops," he said, stressing that he and his wife stuck to western apparel.

In a special room dedicated to the class of 1968, Ignacio Sena pointed to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam, where he served with the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. Sena traveled from Aurora, Colorado, to attend the reunion.

Some more recent graduates attended, as well.

David and Danielle Atwood, class of 2008, traveled from Farmington for the reunion.

They shared a table with Michael and Caitlyn Romero, also class of '08, who drove from Rio Rancho.

 

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