Freedom Beat Across America: In Search of America's Heartbeat

Aug 3rd — Day Three

How about my rights?

Okay, TODAY is the 3rd. Got sleepy yesterday, sorry. This is our third day on the road. We set out heading north of Las Cruces toward Albuquerque and discovered the Fort Selden State Monument . We got some wonderful film footage of Nathan Stone, the Park official who gave us a wonderful talk on the history of the Fort.
The Fort was abandoned at first by the Union troops during the Civil War as the Confederates came up from the south. After the War, the Army took over again while New Mexico was still a territory. In June of 1866 a company of about 100 “colored infantry” joined the white cavalry company, making the Fort two-hundred strong, plus a few wives and some children.

A tribute

The men of color were known to the Native Americans as “Buffalo Soldiers” because they fought with strength and tenacity. Most of the men were single – in fact, for some reason, the enlisted men were encouraged to remain single. The nearest town was a long horseback ride away, so they depended on the few wives to dream up things to do like special dinners and celebrations. Still, the boredom must have been crippling and the heat debilitating. We stood in the center of the site and looked at a wonderful statue called “the Sentinel” and listened to the hot breeze. Our Sentinel had a plunging view of empty desert clear out to the faraway mountains in every direction, and he had a wonderfully thoughtful look on his face. I wanted to ask him, “What are you thinking about? Home? A woman? Or just what’s for dinner?

The Sentinel

The Fort was built by the soldiers themselves. The main purpose after the War was to keep the peace between the Mescalero Apache, the Anglos, the Spanish and the Mexican settlers. When the Army finally deserted the lonely site in 1891 (even back then, the Military was always looking for ways to cut expenses at the cost of the locals), they took everything with them that was made of wood – doors, window frames, anything that they could then re-use in the Fort at Las Cruces. The only thing left was the adobe walls which over the last century or more have worn away under the wind and rain. There’s still enough left to see how large a site it was, where the school was and where the horses were kept.
We finally had to drag ourselves away and head north. It was a long uneventful trip to Albuquerque, with Skylar getting a kick out of the “miles and miles of miles and miles!” The most interesting part of the ride was when somebody decided to eat chicharones in a closed van. For those who don’t know, those are deep-fat fried pork rinds. Lemme tell ya, breaker, breaker, them hogs was gettin’ IN-tense in there! And the best part? I get to sleep with her tonight.


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