Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

'T' owner says he's open to work by professional


January 8, 2020

Courtesy photo

The "T" of Tucumcari Mountain is shown in a 1935 image in Mary Lynn Moncus' book "Quay County, New Mexico, 1903-2003."

The man who nearly three years ago bought a section of Tucumcari Mountain said he's resistant to efforts to revitalize the fading big "T" on the mesa's north face but remains open to a one-day effort to do so by a professional contractor.

Ronald Mueller, who said he purchased the road-access portion of the mesa in February 2017, gave his side of the story during a recent phone interview on why he tightened access to Tucumcari Mountain.

"We did it because of damage to personal property and littering," he summarized.

Mueller said he's removed about 50 pickup loads of trash since buying his part of the mountain.

He said residents also used areas of the the mesa as a dumpsite. Trash has included injection needles, countless broken bottles, tires, a garden hose, sprinkler can and even a sofa.

Mueller said residents apparently angered by Tucumcari Mountain's restricted access took removed several "No Trespassing" and "Private Property" signs at the edge of the property and burned them.

Others, he said, threw parties in front of the property's locked gate and threw down empty bottles and beer cans in front of it.

Others, he said, have dumped trash in the middle of the road leading to the gate.

One or two, infuriated at being denied access to the mesa, have threatened him while he's on the property, Mueller said.

Mueller said he knew the mesa had open access for years. For the safety of grazing cattle from a rancher leasing his land, liability concerns and his disgust with some residents' disregard of private property, Mueller said "it got to the point where we decided that was it" and tightened access.

Until Mueller's purchase, Tucumcari High School students had whitewashed the mesa's big "T" each year since at least the mid-1930s.

Mueller said he found evidence of disregard from student painters.

"There was so much graffiti even from the last class up there," he said. "They were painting the class of whatever year they had, names of kids, on the beautiful stone. I decided it was time to stop that."

Al Patel, owner of the Desert Inn motel and vice president of the Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board, since summer has been raising funds to find a longer-term, low-maintenance solution to keep the mesa's big "T" bright. Patel said last week he'd gathered about $6,500 in pledges, but the effort has stalled amid Mueller's resistance to the project. Patel received permission from the other landowner for the project.

Mueller said, however, he was open to a professional company repainting the big "T" for one day only.

"If they want to pay the company to come up and whitewash the 'T,' go up there for one day, come back down and sign a waiver of liability, I do not have a problem with that," he said.

Patel said he doubted one day to revitalize the large letter would be enough for a contractor to examine the site, conceive a plan, bring materials and do the job.

"I'd love for it to be a one-day thing, but it's not going to happen," Patel said. "I don't see it being possible."

Mueller was adamant in opposing Patel's earlier ambitious plans to make a "Hollywood"-style letter of the big "T." Patel, however, has backed off from that because of its estimated expense of at least $50,000 and questions of whether it would stand up to the region's notoriously strong winds.

Mueller said he received a letter in October from the city of Tucumcari stating its support for Patel's proposal and conveying hope "something could be worked out."

Mueller said the letter was not addressed to him by name, but "to whom it may concern." That initially irked him and began a response letter but lost interest in it. He said he's had no contact with the city since.

Mueller, a Wisconsin native who previously moved to the Truth or Consequences area because its hot springs soothed his arthritis, said he purchased his section of the mesa because "I just love the mountain."

"It's just a beautiful peaceful place," he said. "We're out here about every other day, working and watching the cattle. (The mountain) talks to you. That's why we felt so bad to see so much defacing of the mountain."


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