Armistice Day in Farmington NM

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Pilawt, Nov 10, 2018.

  1. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the cessation of fighting in World War I. I came here to Farmington, New Mexico, to mark the occasion. There were huge celebrations all over the world a hundred years ago, but the one here in Farmington is remembered in a special way.

    A friend of mine, Randy Sparks, was the founder, writer and lead vocalist of the Grammy-winning 1960s folk group The New Christy Minstrels. Later he was folk icon Burl Ives’ writer and opening act for 30 years. Today at age 85 he still writes songs every day, and heads the reconstituted New Christy Minstrels (www.thenewchristyminstrels.com).

    Years ago, after Randy did a show in northern California, an elderly fellow in attendance came up and thanked him for the music, which took him back to his younger days in rural New Mexico. Randy remarked that it must have been the frontier back then.

    “Yes it was,” the old fellow said. “I remember Armistice Day in Farmington. I’m a patriotic American, but I'm embarrassed to say that for a while I was wishin’ that we had not won the war!”

    Randy asked him to explain. “Me and the boys was bringin’ cattle down from the reservation,“ he began. Randy listened to the story, then went back to his room and scribbled it down. It was a songwriter’s dream, a song that almost wrote itself. The lyrics are much what the old man had said.

    Me and the boys was bringin’ cattle down from the reservation
    Hundred and fifty head out on the trail
    Denver then was a cattle town that was their destination
    We had a date to load them at the rail
    We pushed ‘em through the bright of day and bedded down at nighttime
    Slickered up to drive ‘em through the rain
    We caught and counted every stray and just about the right time
    They was in the pens to meet the train

    Every day I live I love my country more
    I would never leave this land that I adore
    But in Farmington New Mexico on Armistice Day
    I was wishin’ that we had not won the war

    Me and the boys was havin’ beers but actin’ rather sober
    Drinkin’ just to wash the dust away
    We heard the guns we heard the cheers we knew the war was over
    The whole damn town went crazy on that day
    Our cattle broke the barricades and joined that celebration
    It looked just like the wild and wooly west
    It took four days to catch the ones that stayed around the station
    I don’t believe I'll ever see the rest


    Every day I live I love my country more
    I would never leave this land that I adore
    But in Farmington New Mexico on Armistice Day
    I was wishin’ that we had not won the war;
    But in Farmington New Mexico on Armistice Day
    I was wishin’ that we had not won the war.

    (c) Cherrybell Music Publishing

    Armistice Day in Farmington” became Burl Ives’ favorite song in his later life. Every time Randy walked into the room Burl would bark, “Sing it!” There was no doubt what he meant.

    Burl recorded the song in 1993 on one of his final albums —


    Randy couldn’t make it to Farmington today for the 100th anniversary, so I’ve been deputized. Much is different now. The last train chugged out of Farmington in 1968. The stock pens, the depot and the tracks are all gone. But the ghosts are still here. And it’s still cold in November.

    A little Farmington railroad trivia -

    The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway built the 47-mile branch line from Durango, Colorado, to Farmington, New Mexico, in 1905. Whereas many other rail lines in Colorado were originally built narrow-gauge and later converted to standard-gauge, the Farmington branch was originally built standard-gauge and later converted (in the early 1920s) to narrow-gauge.

    Thus in 1918 the cattle would have been loaded onto standard-gauge cars in Farmington, for just the 47 miles to Durango. There they would have to be transferred to narrow-gauge equipment for the trip eastward over Cumbres Pass to Alamosa, and on to Pueblo and Denver.
     
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  2. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nice story.
     
  3. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Cool..... glad the trip went well for you.
     
  4. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    Very cool story.

    And nice earworm, too. :)
     
  5. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    The set-up could not have been more perfect. Again this year I had signed up to participate in the annual Navajo Christmas Airlift, in which pilots from around Arizona load their airplanes with clothes and gifts and fly them to Gallup NM for distribution through a local charity. This year the Airlift just happened to be scheduled for the day before Veterans … er, Armistice Day. And Farmington is only another 40 minutes away, even in a pokey old Cessna 172. And the weather was excellent, with some friendly tailwinds thrown in as a bonus. No way was I going to pass this up.

    I launched from GYR at daybreak — my initial climb from runway 3 forced the sun to peek over South Mountain, before it was ready.

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    I stopped at Falcon Field, where a load of donations for the Airlift was waiting for me to pick up. I filled up at the self-serve pump, crammed the trash bags full of clothes into the back of the 172, and took off from runway 4R, already aimed right at GUP.

    I rarely fly the 172 fully loaded, but on this trip I could really feel the “aft CG” handling mode (within the envelope, but well towards the back of it). Still, it scampered right on up to 11,500’, where friendly winds delivered groundspeeds in the mid 140 knot range. It was severe clear and smooth, so I was a happy camper.

    Every call on the ZAB frequency was somebody requesting flight following to Gallup. Finally the controller asked, “What’s going on at Gallup today?” They weren’t used to so much traffic inbound to sleepy ol’ GUP. A C-206 on a photo survey mission near Gallup was warned by ATC of the swarm of airplanes inbound from the south and west.

    Over 40 airplanes, from a C-140 to a Beech Duke and a C-425, were parked on the usually-empty Gallup ramp. There was a brief gathering on the ramp of pilots and representatives of the Navajo charity. There were well-deserved expressions of appreciation for Gallup FBO Orville Wiseman, who coordinated ramp activity, provided coffee, donuts and a nice fuel discount for participants.

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    Though most of the other pilots then adjourned to a nearby diner for brunch, I stayed at Gallup only long enough to unload the airplane, shake a few hands, take a few photos, and blast off for Farmington. The smooth CAVU and tailwinds held all the way to FMN.

    I landed at — ahem — “Four Corners Regional Airport” in Farmington a little after noon.

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    From the moment of arrival I found everyone in town to be exceptionally friendly and welcoming. The lady at the Atlantic Aviation desk arranged for a hotel room at a discounted rate, and let me have their crew car for the night (an elderly Ford Taurus with indifferent suspension, but it ran). She said Farmington has a population of about 45,000 now. Many folks who grow up there, she said, don’t see any need to leave, in contrast to many small towns. I can see why; it’s a beautiful place.

    I drove the creaky old Ford to the recommended hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott. It was just a stone’s throw from the park that now occupies the D&RGW right-of-way, and a couple of blocks from where the depot used to be.

    From the hotel I drove out to the Farmington Museum on Main Street on the eastern outskirts of the town. I didn’t expect much, but was quite surprised. It’s an impressive, large new building, the back of which features a beautifully landscaped patio overlooking the Animas River.

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    Inside, the museum was bustling with people on hand for a Veterans Day event. Kids were working on craft projects at tables in the huge lobby, and a table stocked with free finger foods and lemonade was nearby. There was a display of WW1-era posters along one corridor. I perused one of the permanent exhibits, a replica of an early-20th-Century trading post, then hit the museum store.

    One of the museum staff mentioned to me that the Curator would be giving a talk on the life of John Wayne at 3 pm. I thought that would be an interesting was to spend some time, so about fifteen minutes before 3 pm I took a seat in the adjacent auditorium. As the time grew closer people started coming in and taking their seats … and then more people, and more people … Chairs were brought in from other rooms, and soon those were filled. By the time the program started, the room was SRO. I was thoroughly impressed by the enthusiastic participation of the local citizenry in the offerings of their local museum. Good for them!

    It was 23 degrees when I returned to the airport at 8 am Sunday morning to fly home. I planned the route so as to see some areas I'd never visited before, such as Ship Rock just west of Farmington, and Canyon de Chelley National Monument in northeast Arizona. Very scenic from the air.

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    Of course, the helpful tailwinds of Saturday were on the nose for the return trip Sunday. At 10,500’ I was averaging about about 104 knots heading home, and at one point down to 94 knots. Can’t complain too much, though. When I was passing over Winslow a King Air pilot was whining to ZAB about the 87 knot headwind at FL240. The controller offered him FL200, where the wind was only about 65 on the nose.

    Flyin’ over the corner in Winslow, Arizona:

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    Airspace around GYR is usually quiet on the weekends, especially holidays, when Luke AFB tower and its Class D are normally closed. Not this weekend. NASCAR’s CanAm 500 was in town at the raceway just east of GYR. The “stadium TFR” was in effect east of the airport, and Luke was open for the helos and A-10s doing fly-bys at the race. So I had to do the wide circle around the west edge of the Luke Class D, squeezing in tight along the east slope of the White Tank Mountains, and under the 3,000’ AGL floor of the PHX Class B.

    The NASCAR Air Force was all present and accounted for on the GYR ramp. Boy, the two-first-name crowd sure knows how to travel.

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  6. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You didn't know it but you flew right over my house coming into Gallup. And yes, GUP was a busy place for one day. It has pretty much been abandoned since the local FBO was taken over. The C-425 sitting with the 4 C-414s have been abandoned, once hard working air ambulance planes, now sit quiet, abandoned by the company that came in and ruined the business I was once part of.

    The mountains behind Shiprock is where I go to camp, usually more to the left side in the picture. It doesn't look like much in the picture, but I got lost once and spent the night waiting for daylight. I have seen one bear and came across a lion killed mule deer. No hunting since it is on the reservation and it is a quiet place to get away from the big city of Gallup...:lol::lol: Canyon de Chelley is very beautiful, especially from the air. There really is a statue of a man standin' on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.....and there used to be a girl in a flat bed Ford as well.

    Thanks for the pictures.!!
     
  7. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Might be a different C-425. The one I was referring to is from Chandler, and was on the roster of aircraft participating in the Airlift.

    That sure is pretty country up there.
     
  8. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Ok, cool. Glad to see a flying 425. It makes me sick to see that one rotting away, along with the four C-414s. I used to fly all those planes.