Thursday, February 5, 2009

Breaking from the Old West

The creativity in Mountainair, NM, is literally breaking through the plaster.

Main Street in "downtown" Mountainair (population 1054) presents two pictures of the town's spirit.

One picture is connected to the past. The town has been the setting for more than one Western movie, including the 2007 Val Kilmer film, A West Texas Children's Story. The Rosebud Saloon (without the Cigar Bar sign) appears to have come right out of the West.

Down the street from the Saloon is the dusty Greyhound station, which speaks to days gone by and tough times of the present for the little town.

The Tomahawk Garage has provided service for all modes of transportation over the years. Originally the location of the town's blacksmith shop, the Tomahawk did not seem to be meeting the needs of today's residents.

The second picture of the town is that of a creative spirit based in the past and ready to break into the future.

For us, this picture came through as we visited the Shaffer Hotel. Across from the Tomahawk, the Shaffer Hotel was the product of "Pop" Shaffer, a blacksmith, a merchant, horse trader, land speculator, philanthropist, patriot and more. The creative artist was a dreamer whose main efforts included materializing his dreams. In the early 1900s, Pop chose Mountainair as his artistic outlet. Mountainair, at the time, was a thriving community known as "The Pinto Bean Capital of the World" and was a beehive of activity and enterprise.

Pop was tired of wooden buildings that kept burning down, so he crafted a building out of cast-concrete that he reinforced with old iron fractions. This building was the Shaffer Hotel (1923).

The artist didn’t finish with the impressive Shaffer Hotel, however. He continued shaping and molding concrete until he circled the colorful western gazebo area (above) with an unusual motif concrete gate.

We experienced the present-day Mountainair when we were invited into the Hotel by one of the women hosting a luncheon in the conference room. As we photographed the lobby and the Chameleon Dining Room (closed the day we were there), the manager asked if we would like to see one of the rooms.

He led us past the conference room where the local ladies' badminton team was hosting a team from Bernalillo for a pot luck luncheon. He then showed us one of the 19 rooms, and with great pride, showed us the bathroom tile floor that one of the local artists had created.

In that short time in the Shaffer, we were introduced to the people and the life of this town. As we left the Hotel, we chatted briefly with three guys (one of whom was from Allentown, PA) about life in Mountainair.

This sculpture seemed to symbolize our impression of the town--the creative spirit of the people breaking through the old ways.

Our money is on the creativity of Mountainair.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

This one gave me a good laugh along the way. Both the closed and crumbling Greyhound station and Tomahawk service station (plus other locations along Broadway) were created for a movie location. Reality can be so slippery.