Not so long ago, I had the interesting experience of posting a profile on Match.com. Before moving to Santa Fe, I used to live in an extremely small town (pop 1100) and the dating prospects were practically nonexistent. So, telling myself that it would probably be fodder for a novel more than anything else, I posted my photos and a profile on Match.com, stating that I was looking for a team roper who could quote Shakespeare while shaving.
I can’t say that I had exceptionally good luck – I had several first dates, none of which really made me want to go back for more, and met a few guys who were always quick to say in written communications that they were looking for smart and funny, when what I suspected they were really looking for was an enhanced Dallas Cowboy cheerleader with a trust fund. During the entire experience, one of the recurring conversations that I had with nearly all of my pseudo-prospective dates (via e-mail of course) was about where Gallegos NM was located. That’s because the folks at Match, in their infinite wisdom and cyber-mapping, didn’t show Logan as my home zip code. They listed me as a resident of Gallegos, New Mexico.
So, I’d get e-mails from guys who couldn’t find it on a map. Or who found the wrong one. I guess we have more than one Gallegos in New Mexico – evidently there is one north of Espanola near Ojo Caliente. And there is mine. Our’s. Actually, it belongs to Harding County, the least populated county in New Mexico, with over 2,000 square miles and less than 850 residents.
Gallegos is 30 miles north of Logan on highway 39, and was established in 1840 by Don Jesus Maria Gallegos, who created a ranching empire two miles east of the Ute Creek. There was a company store on the ranch (still standing), and my friend Eddie Gutierrez still has metal coins he unearthed while working at the ranch – the coins say “Gallegos Ranch” on one side with symbols of sheep or cattle on the reverse. We’re pretty certain the cattle coins had to be worth more at the ranch store than the sheep, but who knows? It was New Mexico before the turn of the 20th century.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception was originally built there in 1876, with a newer red sandstone structure replacing the old church in 1914. I hear that the original Gallegos family is buried under the floor, and a few of my friends are buried in the churchyard. It’s a treasure – one of those places Texas tourists pass on the way to the ski slopes, wonder about, and then forget until the next trip.
But when I tried to describe it to my alleged suitors on Match, all I could say was that it was a gorgeous ranch north of I-40 and east of I-25, a place any sane person would want to be from, a place where ghosts still wander the ranch headquarters (just ask the Obergs, who live there full time now), a place in a beautiful valley surrounded by red rock mesas and cattle ranches. It may have been one of the reasons I never met the perfect mate on Match – none of them seemed to appreciate how much I could admire a place that was really just a dip in the road to them.
I’m not sure what got me thinking about Gallegos today, other than these pictures I found from a road trip from Logan to Cimarron. I love that the New Mexico map is dotted with old settlements like this, places that you can’t even Google for much information. I promise to get out my files of Harding County history soon and give you an update. You need to know that the ranch is privately owned, and not open for more than an outside view of the church. You can go to mass there – my niece just attended Mass there on Cristmas Eve, and the priest from Tucumcari shows up for the occasional mass throughout the year.
Until next time, enjoy the photos and know that it’s there. And that it’s like a lot of the state of New Mexico – rural, a little obscure, riddled with quirky history, and incredibly scenic.