As a matter of convenience, we had chosen to stay in Artesia, NM, because it was midway between the attractions in Roswell and Carlsbad, but, by chance, we discovered this town’s own uniqueness.
We came upon one of the sculptures shown below and took a photo as we drove past it, thinking that the major artwork would be the only one in the town of 12,000. When we came upon a second sculpture, we stopped to photograph it and while doing so met a resident of Artesia and learned about the other works around town. We photographed most of the others and then read up on the sculptures.
A novel characteristic of The Cattle Drive Series is that the three sculptures are spaced over several blocks in the city. The series is designed to represent and honor the development of the ranching industry in southeastern New Mexico in the late 1800s. The three sculptures feature three personalities common in the Pecos Valley during the Cattle Drive era and form an incipient downtown shoot-out in bronze.
Here a rustler has stolen cattle from a herd and is preparing for a gun battle as the Trail Boss nears.
In this scene, the Vaquero, or cowboy, has spotted a rustler trying to steal cattle from the drive and is signaling the Trail Boss that there may be trouble ahead.
The Trail Boss
The Trail Boss was often the owner of the small herd, but he may have pushed small herds owned by others for a fee. In this scene, the Trail Boss, with rifle raised, has been called into action by the Vacquerro.
Peyton Yates, a grandson of Martin Yates, founder of the Yates Petroleum Company, is the main mover behind Artesia Main Street, a commercial district revitalization program which is responsible for the statues and for much more that is pleasant about downtown Artesia.
First Lady of Artesia
This sculpture honors the spirit of a pioneer woman, Sallie Chisum. She settled in Artesia in 1890 and was one of the first traders in the real estate market in Artesia, established and operated Artesia’s first post office with her second husband, and, after a second divorce, ran a boarding house for railroad immigrants and travelers. She was a businesswoman, caregiver to the sick, and a companion to children. Her accomplishments as an entrepreneur, developer and woman led her to be known posthumously as First Lady of Artesia.
Mack Chase and Johnny Gray, I failed to note who was who, are captured leaning on the hood of a pick-up, typical of the way in which they made most of their deals. After meeting up in the Artesia-area oil patch, the two decided to go into business together in 1972. Their oil and gas operating company was a growing success for 20 years, reaching a production level of 2,700 barrels of oil per day. Chase’s scholarship program has put more than a hundred Artesia High School graduates through college.
The Derrick Floor
The Derrick Floor is a celebration of the oil patch in southeastern New Mexico and the men and women who built it. The idea and inspiration for this came from the leaders of Artesia MainStreet who wanted to create and dedicate a bronze to honor these men and women.
This monument of a 1950's drilling rig was unveiled in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Illinois #3, the first commercial oil well in southeastern New Mexico and the first oil well on state-owned lands in New Mexico.
The Derrick Floor is a bronze artistic representation of a four-man crew on a drilling rig. The drilling rig is a 100% life-size sculpture cut off at approximately 34 feet in height. The importance of the piece lies not in the equipment, but in the men who built the oil patch; therefore the four men in the crew are 125% life size.
On a plaque near the statue it reads that this is dedicated to the men and women who take the risks, and do the work to find, produce and refine New Mexico oil and gas."
I have not been able to identify the sculptor of this eagle, but it seemed appropriately placed by the flags.
And watching over the sculptures and the town was the flame of Yates Petroleum.