July 31, 2016

Yes, New Mexico actually IS in the United States! Patricia Wood

Since I was born in Texas and lived my early years there, I already knew our nearest neighbor to the west was the state of New Mexico. I hadn’t been there, however, until I passed through in 1950 with my family on our way to live in California. Little did I know that a mere six months later, my father’s job would send us to live in The Land of Enchantment. 

Traversing the southern part of New Mexico in the dead of winter was quite a different story than arriving at the end of June 1951, in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave. Albuquerque, which was located (and still is, for that matter) in the northern half of the state, was to be our new home. Having become acclimated to the mild weather in the San Diego area of California, arriving to 105 degree heat in Albuquerque that day was a sizzling experience. Not only was it hot, but our new hometown was experiencing the infamous “drought of the 1950s.” No rain, for months at a time, only to be drenched the next year by the monsoons of middle summer. 

But not until I traveled to Indianapolis about five years later did I have occasion to experience the first of my adventures as a “foreigner” to my fellow Americans. That’s when I discovered the tendencies of some citizens in the rest of the country to see the words “New Mexico” on our name tags, and automatically assume we neither spoke English, nor were United States citizens. I could only wonder if these folks had slept through geography classes in elementary school!

Perhaps in today’s world—especially since the advent of television’s “Breaking Bad” series—New Mexico, and Albuquerque in particular, are more on the map for the rest of the country.  But if that’s all you know about us, you’re missing out on some amazing country and it’s fantastic people.

Most of us learned in grade school that the first settlement in the New World—also known as America—was Jamestown, Virginia in 1620. That was, however, the first English settlement. The Spaniards approached the United States from the south, through Mexico in the 1500s. By 1610, Santa Fe was a Spanish settlement in what is now New Mexico. The first royal governor of Nuevo Mexico, Pedro de Peralta, received instructions dated March 30, 1609, to establish a new town to serve as the capital of New Mexico. As early as 1605, some settlement had already taken place in that general area.

I get the impression that in those days, the settlers from England and Germany coming to the eastern coast of America didn’t pay much attention to what the Spanish were up to in the Southwest. It was a big country after all, and there was no telephone, no telegraph, and no internet to keep them informed. That’s probably why news of New Mexico becoming the 47th state in 1912 failed to impress most people, a fact that’s true even to this day.

It’s also probably one reason J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “Father of the Atomic Bomb,” selected Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1942 as the site for the weapons laboratory to develop the Manhatten Project. It was located in a remote mountain setting, easily protected from prying eyes. When the bombs were ready for testing, White Sands, New Mexico provided Trinity Site—tucked away from most of the population—to detonate those devices.

After the automobile became popular, early travelers along the roads crisscrossing America became aware of the awe inspiring Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico. But the notion still stuck that New Mexico was part of another country. When the U.S. Highway system commissioned U.S. Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1926, New Mexico became even more known to travelers.  While its earlier alignment took the highway through a more northerly “ramble” which included Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM (yes, we have a Las Vegas in New Mexico—much older than the one in Nevada), it entered and left Albuquerque along a north/south route. Later, in 1937, it was realigned and became more of a straight line through Albuquerque’s main street, going east and west. Constructon of Interstate 40 began in 1957, and eventually Route 66 was decomissioned. It remains as a ghost highway today, still accessible in many spots. 

New Mexico has spectacular scenery, and numerous mountains dotting the landscape. You can ski in the morning in the mountains, and have a picnic in a park in the city in the afternoon. There are artist colonies in Santa Fe, Taos, and other areas of the state. Georgia O’Keefe chose the small town of Abique to practice her art. Other artists such as Peter Hurd, and Wilson Hurley found their own inspiration here. New Mexico is or was home to a number of well-known writers, including the late Tony Hillerman. Today George R.R. Martin is a fixture in Santa Fe, and Anne Hillerman, Tony’s daughter, keeps the writing tradition of her father going by picking up the torch and continuing her own interpretation of the Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee novels set on the Navajo Reservation. We are also proud to be the home of other famous authors Max Evans and N. Scott Momaday. Even writers Willa Cather and D.H. Lawrence spent time in New Mexico  in the 1920s.

New Mexico has her very own Centennial Author in the person of Don Bullis. Bullis was designated for that job in 2011, and wrote an amazing book, New Mexico Biographies, just in time for our 100th Birthday party in 2012. To learn more about the history of New Mexico, that’s the reference tool you need.
If your interests are extra terrestrial, take a tour of Roswell, New Mexico, another town which brought New Mexico to the attention of the outside world in 1947. They even have their own UFO Museum for your enjoyment. 

We also have our share of outlaws, the most famous being Billy the Kid. His final resting place can be found in De Baca County, not very far from where he met his end in Fort Sumner at the hand of Sheriff Pat Garrett.
If you love visiting museums, New Mexico has a plethora of those. From the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamagordo, NM to the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque. From Spaceport America outside Truth or Consequences, NM (now there’s a story!) to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum of Art in Santa Fe. There’s even the New Mexico History Museum located on the historic Santa Fe Plaza.

So here’s your invitation to come see New Mexico. And, if you are an American citizen, you won’t even need a passport.
I’m offering readers who comment on this post a choice between a copy of The Easter Egg Murder or one of Murder on Sagebrush. Please indicate your preference in your comment and leave contact info. Winners will be chosen by a random number generator. I look forward to your comments.

Patricia Smith Wood, aka, “Pat” says she seriously focused on writing mysteries shortly before the beginning of her second childhood—that period in a person’s life after retirement and before senility sets in for good. Her childhood as an “FBI Brat” gave her unusual insight into the lives of crime fighters, detectives, and spies. She spent a period of her early working life employed at the FBI, often taking dictation from her own father in the course of a day’s work.

From her teenage years she was hooked on mysteries in all forms: books, movies, television shows, and newspaper accounts. This led to her first mystery, The Easter Egg Murder, published in February 2013 by Aakenbaaken & Kent. It was a finalist in the 2013 NM/AZ Book Awards in the categories of Best Mystery and Best First Book.

Her second mystery in the series, Murder on Sagebrush Lane, a mixture of murder, mistaken identity, theft of government secrets, and blackmail, has been entered in the 2016 NM/AZ Book Awards. Murder on Frequency, the third in the series, is currently evolving.

Visit me to learn more: www.patriciasmithwood.com


  1. New Mexico is indeed a beautiful place. I've driven though a few times, even spent the equivalent of a month in various motels and B&Bs in Taos, Silver City, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. So, when I wanted a small city that could be anywhere in which to set "Tales From the Dew Drop Inne," I set that pun-named bar in Albuquerque—at that time having visited the city twice, one night each. Deliberately, I chose a town of which I knew so little because I knew that the characters would be universal. However, as I got to know that cast of drunks, I became more interested in their town. Now that the book has been published, I have returned to The Duke City for vacations and found it charming. Of course, the folks at the Dew Drop Inne, didn't get to see much of this lovely place; for them it was difficult to see beyond the bottom of the bottle. At any rate, they did live in one of America's most scenic states.

  2. I've passed through New Mexico on my way to AZ once but didn't really have time to visit. Your post makes me want to.


    Good luck and God's blessings.

    PS: Please do not add me to the drawing for a book, my TBR pile is extensive already - THANKS!

  3. What a wonderful history of your state. I have been in New Mexico briefly. My fondest memory was in Taos. While I didn't get to visit many galleries, it was like a bit of heaven tucked in the high country. I remember having dinner at the Pink Flamingo and my first experience with delicious chili rellenos and a strolling musician who seemed to favor crooning to us at our table. Wish I could have spent more time in New Mexico because I felt an unspoken invitation calling. I have a friend in Santa Fe who used to live here in Hawaii. Yes, she sells art, of course. I am also told I paint similar to Georgia O'Keeffe and have read much about her. I'd love to tour the area where she lived. Well, I'd love to see more of the state as well and may be doing just that, planning where to go for my vacation next year. If chosen, my choice for a book would be Murder on Sagebrush Lane. However, I have not read your books and would welcome either at your discretion. Superior information your provided!

  4. New Mexico is fascinating, scenic, unique and special. Your wonderful post which was extremely interesting gave me so much information which left me wanting even more. What a historical wonder which interests me greatly. I am entranced with Las Vegas, N.M. which is filled with history, wonder and larger than life characters and sights. Thanks for your feature and your books would be captivating and memorable. I know that Murder on Sagebrush Lane would be unforgettable. Wishing you happiness.

  5. AnonymousJuly 31, 2016

    Patricia, you've created a wonderful, accurate history of our beloved state. With 364 days of sunshine, I suspect the wealth of artists in this state found/find inspiration from our unusual lights and shadows. New Mexico definitely draws (no pun intended)artists from all over the world.

    Another attraction dear to my heart is the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, showcasing fossil life and dinosaurs from our deserts and mesas.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with everyone. Oh, I have both your books, so some other lucky person may be the winner.

  6. They don't call it The Land of Enchantment without good reason. Nice portrayal of the state. On my list of places where I'd live if I didn't live where I am. Either of your books would be fine, if chosen.

  7. AnonymousJuly 31, 2016

    Pat, thanks for letting us know more about NM history and travel spots. Very insightful and a lot of information!. The closet I've ever been is from 25,000 feet on four different occasions. One of these days I hope to get in my car and head that way!

  8. You picked a very nice person to highlight. Well done.

  9. You reminded me how I really want to see more of New Mexico
    Especially Santa Fe. I love art and my husband loves space. Museums for both of us! Plus that beautiful balloon festival would make for a terrific vacation!
    I'd love to win any of your books for my m-i-l. She devours mysteries!

  10. New Mexico captured my heart and soul. No wonder it is called The Land of Enchantment. The neverending skies, the limitless horizon, the gorgeous sunsets, the talented artists and writers, the historical significance of Los aAlamos and most of all the real beauty of The Sandias. I would never leave because I am spellbound with your incredible post. The book The Easter Egg Murder sounds memorable. Thanks for brightening my day. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  11. Margaret GogaJuly 31, 2016

    I loved both of Pat Smith Wood's books and am looking forward to her third. Keep writing Pat.

  12. I love the Southwest United States. Love New Mexico. A cousin lives in Santa Fe, and my husband and I visited Santa Fe a few years ago. In 1958, my family took a road trip cross country. I remember riding through Gallup, NM, fascinated by the Indians. We slept in the car in the desert in NM one night. In those days, there were few hotels or motels. I've loved the Southwest ever since that trip. I'm not shocked that in the 50's some people in this country thought NM wasn't in the US. Until recently, whenever we traveled and said we were from Delaware, we'd get blank looks, or the question,"Is that in Ohio?" We really need to do a better job of teaching geography in this country. Thanks for the opportunity to win one of your books. I'd like Murder On Sagebrush. I'm a big Tony Hillerman fan.

  13. I leare
    d a lot. Have been to New Mexico but tne history andevents you mention were sure an i nteresting addition to what I saw there. RADINE

  14. Thank you, Pat, for highlighting our beautiful state of New Mexico. Better yet, your books are not only fascinating, but also offer additional insights into the Land of Enchantment! Best wishes for continuing success.

  15. Pat, Your work is a true extension of the fascination this state offers- be it to visitors, or seasoned residents. Creativity comes from all sources- memories, expectations, and imagination. Keep up the good work! Let your imagination run wild, and free!

  16. Pat is a great story teller, She does New Mexico proud!

  17. Love New Mexico. It was a toss up between NM and AZ, I live in Scottsdale so that tells you my choice. Too much cold and snow in northern NM, although this baking hot summer it might be nice. I do have a Rte 66 tee shirt purchased in Gallop. Loved Santa Fe, Acoma, the Pueblo Reservation, and Chaco Canyon. NM is a plethora of great sights and scenery. Terrific Indian jewelry, too. A must for every one to visit.
    Thanks for your vision of a lovely state and lots of success with your books.
    Should I be lucky enough to win, book choice is yours. franoren2@yahoo.com.

  18. Pat's first book -- the Easter Egg Murder -- is one of the best first books I have read -- then it morphed into being one of the best period. I do a lot of reading -- average two books a week -- and really have enjoyed both of her books that I have read so far. She books capture me within the first few pages. I look forward to the next one.

  19. Diane BaileyJuly 31, 2016

    I thoroughly enjoyed Pat's first book but have not gotten the second! Keep em' coming Pat!

  20. Very informative article even after living here many years. Enjoyed the read and looking forward to the next book to add to the two we already have.

  21. Pat: What a nice acknowledgement for you!
    For those of you who haven't read Pat's books, they are not only wonderful mysteries, but they highlight so many wonderful areas in Albuquerque and all of New Mexico..
    Since I already have both, I will happily wait to see someone else win a copy.
    And we are all eagerly awaiting the publishing of the third mystery in the series.

  22. Pat, this is a lovely article. I especially loved your comment about folks sleeping through geography at elementary school! I know the feeling. So interesting about your experience with the FBI and gives the perfect background for your mysteries. New Mexico is a very 'special' state with a unique culture which you have cleverly and rather beautifully brought to light in your books. Best wishes and looking forward to the third.


  23. Hi, Pat! You missed one of the finest attributes of NM: It's where Author Patricia Smith Wood lives. You've made your state so enticing, I now hope to visit there some day. I hope I don't have to wait that long to have breakfast with you again. All best regards, my friend.

  24. I have not read any of Pat's books yet........ I just read James Michener's ALASKA published in the mid 80's so Pat give me a little time to dog ear one of your books. Pat and I live in the same city and we sometimes cross paths with common interests. Her positive attitude and full life can only translate into great storytelling. Viva Pat Wood and Viva New Mexico!
    David Alvarado
    Albuquerque, New Mexico USA

  25. Lovely description of a wonderful state, Pat! Your ability to spin a tale is nicely showcased here. Continued good fortune in your writing.

  26. Thanks to ALL of you for taking the time to comment. I truly appreciate your kind words and encouragement. I'd love to have all of you from outside the state come visit us, either for the first time, or for a return visit. To those of you who live here, thanks for supporting the local girl. And thanks to Annette for giving me a platform to brag about my adopted state. I really enjoyed this opportunity, and I hope you call upon me again! Now I'm closing the comment portion, and I will shortly return to tell you who won the book!

  27. And the winner was jrlindermuth. Congratulations, and I've emailed you to arrange delivery of your prize. Thanks for all the comments.

  28. Sorry I'm so late to the party but read your post with great interest. I've been to New Mexico twice. The first time was for Taos Toolbox, a writing retreat for speculative fiction writers. I had time to explore, and just this year went back with my family to see more of Santa Fe and Albuquerque as well as to go back up to Taos. I will be going back. The scenery, the people and the views are wonderful.

  29. I'm a history buff and I love the way you shared the history of New Mexico. I've visited Lis Alamos , Albuquerque, Santa Fe and several Pueblos. Love the high dry heat. Your contest may already be over but I'll look for your books. My kind of story.


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