The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Local towns filled with treasures

 


I wish I had crossed paths in person with Father Stanley Crocchiola, the history-loving priest I wrote about two weeks ago.

While he was the first to admit that he lacked both the time and resources to deliver polished prose — he was, after all, a full-time Catholic priest — the dozens of booklets he left behind capturing history of local communities are filled with gems that sparkle with optimism.

It’s clear that Crocchiola had a deep love for rural areas, and he saw us through the rosiest of rose-colored glasses.

For example, “No one will deny that Arch is in a picturesque setting,” he wrote in 1967. “Approach it from any angle and you will imagine it to be a Christmas card scene. It looks as if it was carried completely in one piece from New England or West Virginia. The country slopes, consequently the churches and houses on the hillside stand out to welcome the artist or tourist.”

And not just Arch. Add Texico to Crocchiola’s list of underappreciated communities.

“Western writers still milking Dodge City and Tombstone should pause a moment and cast a glance in the direction of Texico, New Mexico,” he wrote. “They will find enough excitement and material to last them many months to come. Texico has potential to delight the most avid of Western fans. If TV will let up on Billy the Kid, the Daltons, the James Boys and dig into the early days at Texico, it will come up on a treasure second to none.”

Crocchiola, who wrote 177 books under the pen name F. Stanley, was called by historian Jack D. Rittenhouse, “the Johnny Appleseed of history,” a man who wandered the Southwest “planting seedlings” in the form of booklets.

“Later historians will convert these seedlings into trees, by pruning, fertilizing and grafting,” Rittenhouse said. “The work will require more research, more verification, correction and amplification. But F. Stanley planted the first seed.”

Crocchiola’s 1960s booklets are chock full of promise for the future. When he visited Melrose in 1965, he noted that it was “now a city of over 1,500 people, quite a change from the few hundred of 1940. It continues to grow as more and more crops are planted.

“Melrose has a future despite drought, depression, disaster,” Crocchiola predicted. “Melrose has found itself, and its future as the broom corn capital of New Mexico is assured.”

As he traveled back toward Clovis, passing through the community of Grier, Crocchiola pondered “whether Clovis will ever grow large enough to incorporate it (Grier) within its city limits,” and wrote: “The day may not be too far distant when Grier will be a commuter’s paradise.”

When he wrote about the small Roosevelt County community of Inez, Crocchiola conceded that “living in the wide open country can have its drawbacks.”

“But,” he added, “it does have peace and quiet. If you don’t mind a sand storm once in a while, high winds, and a dry season now and then, this is a mighty fine place to live.”

A recurring theme in the F. Stanley booklets is his championing of the small communities, and his concern that people in large cities simply don’t know what they are missing.

He was convinced we small-town dwellers had all we needed right here, and if not, well … nobody said it better than Father Stanley:

“Culture is like butter,” he wrote, in my favorite passage. “It will spread. Even to Arch.”

Betty Williamson may start an F. Stanley fan club. Reach her at pepnm@hotmail.com

 

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