Local voices speak up for Otero Mesa

By Styve Homnick, For the Alamogordo Daily News
June 12, 2012

In 1906, George and Alice Bent wound up in a town that would later bear their last name. They bought the copper mine and employed about 34 men and one woman. They opened a post office and grocery store, and it’s been Bent ever since.

The opinions you are about to read come from conversations we had with some of the friendly folks who make Bent the charming place that it is.

Richard “Chito” Barron is a retired railroad engineer. He started with Southern Pacific and worked in the machine shop overhauling engines. He went on to the Santa Fe Railroad and started out as a brakeman, moved up to foreman and, in 1973, became an engineer.

His grandfather gave him the nickname “Chito.” It’s short for muchachito, which means “little boy.” A macho man, his passion was building drag race cars.

“If you ever get a chance, there used to be a beautiful mountain at Mesquite between Las Cruces and Anthony, just off the interstate. Check it out and see what you think of the destruction,” he said. “They wiped out that whole mountain. That mountain has been there forever and now they just wiped it out. All they are doing is getting stones for rock walls and gravel for landscaping.

“Now they are beginning to devastate the Waco and Franklin Mountains outside El Paso. It took thousands of years for nature to shape a special place like Otero Mesa. Leave it the way it is. Preserve it. Another national monument will enrich our county.”

Kelly Beyers has lived in the area all her life — 52 years. Her grandfather was a steeple chase jockey from England.

The Vanderbilts and other wealthy families would hire him to travel all over America to pick out the finest horses for them. He came across Ruidoso and told his family that he had found heaven. They moved there. Kelly’s father, Larry Beyers, became a celebrated jockey and beloved figure at Ruidoso Downs.

Kelly became a race track photographer, served on the State Racing Commission and trained race horses. She currently lives on her family’s ranch in Bent.

Her favorite quotation: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

“I love my land. It is beautiful. When I see a place that is pristine, I want to protect it,” she said. “If I was a county commissioner, I’d go see Otero Mesa and take it from there. If I saw a place like Otero Mesa, precious and wild as it is, I would keep it that way. There are barely any special places like this left in these parts.”

Patti Covington was given a scholarship to study political journalism at the University of California in Sacramento, but jobs in that category had become “slim pickings,” so she decided to nurture health rather than expose corruption. She became a registered nurse and served patients for 22 years.

Patti and her husband, Barrett, a bold soul, moved to Columbus and farmed cotton, milo and chili for 10 years.

“Farming was a good life, but you don’t make any money,” she said. “Otero Mesa it is a precious gem. It makes no sense to spoil it. The oil and mining companies have discovered huge supplies in Colorado and right here in New Mexico. Otero Mesa needs to be preserved so that our grandchildren and the generations to come will witness and enjoy the wild beauty of the legendary West.

“It’s our natural heritage. Keep it that way. Yes, I am for national monument status.”

This story was submitted by the Otero Mesa Preservation Alliance. For more information or to volunteer, e-mail oteromesa@aol.com.

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Contact Us

Coalition for Otero Mesa
Phone: (505) 843-8696 | Fax: (505) 843-8697
Email: oteromesa@yahoo.com
Contact us for more information about the Coalition for Otero Mesa, oil & gas development, or the ongoing effort to protect the last wild lands and open spaces in New Mexico.