Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Best to keep natural landmark intact


March 24, 2021

I would like to express my appreciation to the Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board for its decision not to support the proposal to spell out TUCUMCARI in giant letters across the north face of Tucumcari Mountain.

For the sake of maintaining the God-given natural beauty of this monumental landmark, the decision was a wise one.

The 4,975-foot “Lonely Sentinel on the Plains” provided guidance for more than three centuries to Indian bands, explorers, traders, soldiers, 49ers headed to the California goldfields, and other travelers alike, remaining relatively unchanged by human hands.

In 1853, Heinrich B. Molhausen, a skilled Prussian artist and naturalist, recorded seeing from 20 miles away that “distant mountain rising like a faint blue cloud along the plain.” When he got closer, the mountain took on the image of a “gigantic cathedral” standing majestically above the surrounding level countryside.

With the founding of Tucumcari as a railroad town in 1901, the railroader, homesteader and town-dweller throngs who arrived seemingly could not rest until the distinguished mountain landmark served some practical, preferably profit-making use. The promotional schemes proposed over the years have included a tuberculosis sanatorium, an excavated interior tourist attraction like Carlsbad Caverns, a similar underground shopping center, the actual establishment of an Indian village with teepees and planted arrowheads, and other ventures.

The details of several such projects are given in my book, “Tucumcari Tonite! Railroads and Route 66 in a Waning Western Town,” to be published by the University of New Mexico Press in March 2022.

The Lodgers Tax Advisory Board’s decision was a welcomed indication of what may be the realization that Tucumcari Mountain should not be further defaced.

I grew up in Tucumcari, gazing daily at the steadfast mountain, which was as much an essential part of my life as the Mississippi River was to Huckleberry Finn.

-- David H. Stratton

Professor emeritus of history

Washington State University


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