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.