Cowboys, Natives, and New Mexico REVIEWING Tales of the Tularosa

Tales of the Tularosa

Author: Mrs. Tom Charles
Genre: Southwest History
Year: 1954


This book is a very small paperback that has a few legends and relates some of the history of the Tularosa Basin in New Mexico. It talks about Eugene Manlove Rhodes, battles between the U.S. and Geronimo, Dog Canyon, the Apache Kid, Mescalero natives, Juan Mena, Father Albert and St. Joseph's Mission, Cabeza de Vaca, and White Sands. 


I checked this book out during the same library trip that I checked out Ruidoso Countryside. This book is very similar to that one in that it covers some of the same time periods and topics that the other book did. It is different in its' selected area of coverage. This book covers the Tularosa Basin region, which predominantly includes Otero County. Ruidoso is just north and outside of Otero County. Included areas in this region include Alamogordo, Cloudcroft, some of White Sands National Monument, the Mescalero Apache reservation, and Lincoln National Forest.

What I find most interesting about these books I have checked out is the deeper level of history and mythology provided, in such short texts. This book is 70 pages long, with 11 chapters. Each chapter covers a different part of history and legend for the Tularosa Basin. The text moves along pretty quickly so you don't get bogged down in details on any one topic for too long. It is a very accessible text if you're interested in southwest/western history or New Mexico. This book has cowboys, indians, desolate areas, and government designated/military lands all rolled into one.

The book discusses Eugene Manlove Rhodes, a famous Western writer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It also talks about Geronimo, the famous Apache leader. One of the most interesting chapters to me was the one about Dog Canyon, which was known as an Apache stronghold. Many battles were fought there, in which the odds were not in their favor, but the terrain and their knowledge of it, gave them a heavy advantage and many victories. I'd never heard of Dog Canyon, but it sounds like the kind of place that you'd see featured in an old time western movie and hear legends about. There is also information presented on the Apache Kid, an outlaw of the area. In these areas, there are two important Kid outlaws: Billy the Kid and the Apache Kid. Both are very interesting, but this book spotlights the Apache Kid more, since Otero were his stomping grounds (whereas Billy's were areas in Lincoln County). Also found in this book is the history of how White Sands became the National Monument that it is today, the story of Juan Mena (infantry captain of the Mexican Army during revolt against Emperor Maximilian), the building of St. Joseph's Mission by a Franciscan Friar who served in both World Wars, and the history of Alamogordo.

This book has a handful of great photographs of people and the area, as well as a really nice map and frontispiece that were done by famous Mexican-American artist, Jose Cisneros. Cisneros is very well known in the El Paso area, as a branch of the public library there is named after him and his artwork can be found very easily. The text of the book is very straightforward and easy to follow, and at no point does it feel tedious or boring, from my perspective.

Overall, I think this is a pretty great read. I learned a lot that I didn't know before about the Tularosa Basin area and I learned it very quick since the book is decently short. It is a quick read and many of the chapters feel like they could be shortened through word of mouth and passed along as stories. I also feel like it would be a really good jumping off point to learn more about the area, by looking up mentioned names, examining works by the featured artists and writers (Cisneros & Manlove), and by reading more on the featured areas or aspects of the area (Dog Canyon & White Sands). Due to the enjoyment I found when reading this book, and how much it had to offer educationally about a region I love and know pretty well, I have to give this book a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯✯. This probably is not a very easy to find book, since it is kind of niche to the New Mexico/El Paso region. It seems to largely be within collections at university libraries or public libraries in Southwest areas (AZ, NM, TX). I definitely think it's worth looking at if you're in those areas, or trying to find a copy of if you're interested in the Southwest region, western/southwest history, or New Mexico in particular. This isn't the kind of book you will find casually sitting on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. 

This concludes another review here at The Real World According To Sam. I'll see you at the next review!