The Gift of the Chinese Wuhan Virus - Ah Shucks!

We are so tired of sitting around the house! It is the same thing today as yesterday and for that matter the previous 5 months previously. Too, the Governor of New Mexico has kept us locked down, as if we were committed to the State Penitentiary in Santa Fe.

When our daughter, Renee Hall from St Louis, was returning for a couple of weeks just to see us my ole mind started clicking to what we might do that would be different and yet interesting.

By Gosh if we don't have a hidden gem right here in Truth or Consequences The Sireea Grande Lodge, and is fabulous. Dottie and I made the drive there last year, all of 7 miles, and spent a wonderful evening at the Ted Turner's Sierra Grande Lodge. It was a beautiful journey back in history. This old but elegant hotel could just as well be in Scottsdale, Monterey or Sedona.   Quaint little rooms and curving stairs, but here we also enjoyed the addition of Hot Mineral Baths.

Truth or Consequences was known as Hot Springs until in the1950’s with Ralph Edwards appealed to the Ciy and together they renamed it honoring his TV program.

We included Robin and Kyle Harder, our oldest daughter and her husband, and made reservations for the Kids and Miss Dottie to spend Friday night at the Sierra Grande Lodge and enjoy the mineral baths and a massage or so.   Friday morning I substituted for Dottie, and we made a tour of the Turner's Armendais Ranch. The headquarters are located at Engle.   The Ranch Headquarter now occupy what used to be the general store, the schoolhouse and the Saloon of Engle.


With approximately two million acres of personal and ranch land, of which one million is in New Mexico, Ted Turner is the second largest individual landholder in North America.  Turner ranches operate as working businesses, relying on bison, hunting and fishing, and ecotourism as principal enterprises. In addition, Turner ranches support many progressive environmental projects including water resource and timber management, and the reintroduction of native species to the land.

Turner Enterprises also manages over 50,000 bison across the various Turner ranches.

Turner Ranches in New Mexico:

The Ladder Ranch of 156,439 acres established by A.W. and Anna Louise Salisbury in 1881.

The Armendaris Ranch of 362,8885 acres, a Spanish Land Grant to Pedro Armendariz dating to 1820.

The Vermejo Park Ranch 560,000 acres a Spanish Land Grant and part of the Maxwell Grant of 1,715,000 acres dating to 1844.

Ted Turner is not the biggest. As the founder of Cable News Network and now vice chairman of Time Warner, Ted Turner is famous, even legendary.  He owns 2 million acres of land in New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Georgia. Of his holdings the 1,079,374 acres in NM represent over half of Turner’s 2,000,000 ACRES. Turner Ranches have 50,000 head of buffalo – the largest private herd of bison in the world, and they are the supplier of 70% of the Buffalo meat in the US.

Engle in its self has an interesting history, named for railroad engineer R.L. Engle, was founded in 1879 as a station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Engle became a thriving cattle town and was a shipping point for ore and other materials from nearby towns including Chloride, Winston and Cuchillo.  Then 1916 when Elephant Butte Dam began construction, Engle was the major rail head for the supplies for the dam  located some 15 miles to the west, near Hot Springs. The dam required some 618,000 cubic yards of concrete in its construction, so from Engle many wagon loads of cement and other materials crossed those through the Fra Cristobal Mountains to the Rio Grande. When Elephant Butte Dam was completed in 1916, it was the largest irrigation dam ever built.

This was the Engle Saloon at the turn of the century in 1900.

The Kids discussing their homework assignments at the Old School House.

The Armendarias being a working ranch, the Cowboys still have to practice their skills. Robin needs a little more weight to make that ole barrel bronc to give Kyle a ride.

And if the Boys are not ridding the barrel Bull, they practice their roping skills. This ole bull is even motorized.

Here we are at Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch at Engle, NM. Enough of this messing around In Town lets get this Ranch Tour under way.

The gate lock system took some fine engineering. I just took the photo and didn't try to solve the riddle of locks and keys.

Kem, our guide is a retired stockbroker who lives south of T or C on Animas Creek, and his
Poiaris mule. He shared with us that he guides about a tour a week between the Armendaris and the Ladder Ranches.  How about our "Wheels'! Now if the skies look a little gray they are. For the last month our beautiful blue skies have given way to the smoke haze from Arizona and California forest fires.   Just pretend that you see New Mexico blue.

Ted Turner's New Mexico home at the Armendaris.  That's not Ted Turner, but just ole me!

Kem did relate to us that Ted does visit the ranch 3 or 4 times a year.

There are proximately 1,300 head of Bison on the Armendaris. The total Turner herd has about 50,000 head, and they supply70% of the Buffalo meat in the US market.   The grazing herd with the Fra Cristobal Mountains in the background. These mountains lay between Engle and the Rio Grande Valley.

The Bison or Buffalo herds in the US have been inbred and cross bred over the last 150 years. Remember the ‘Beefalo’, that were 3/8 Bison and 5/8 Bovine or any of several other cross breading programs. When Turner acquired the Vermejo Ranch in northern NM ,they discovered the Vermejo herd to be 99% pure. Over the last 20 years Turner Ranchers have aggressively bred the Vermejo buffalo into all of their herds. The Turner laughable goal is to have a pure bison herd.

Each Buffalo has been implanted with an electronic chip, so that the history of each animal is tracked from birth in blood lines, purity and location.

I thought this to be the best of our Buffalo shots. Cow #439 and her calf nursing. I think she is giving me the evil eye! And a fair warning “No closer bud”.

Shoot that bugger.

Here is a Yearling born last year and soon to be ready for the finishing pens and then on to market. However, he may luck out and be picked to be a breeding bull. The quest of every bison bull calf.


We saw many of these Water Traps on our tour. There are 350 of them scattered over the 360,000 acres. That is nearly 1 per 1,000 acres. They are really a simple device.  You'll notice the drain from the sloping roof, about the center of the photo, with the 500 gallon water tank below. These ingenious water collectors retain a water supply for birds and small animals.

Just giving you a shot for a comparative the of these water collectors and their storage tank.

This photo of a Swainson Hawk is by Renee. The Swainson Hawk is a ranging traveler migrating from Paraguay to Saskatchewan.  Among its favorite food choices is the migratory bat.  Migratory Bats from Mexico come to the Armendaris to have their pups in the lava caves and escarpment located about the middle of the ranch. They are here about 5 to 6 months and the Swanson hawk is just following his food chain. What a beautiful white chested bird!

Prairie Dog Town and there is a prairie dog in this photo, just left of center with it's head up.  I couldn’t see them with my naked eye or in the telephoto lens.  I just took several photographs, but the kids with their binoculars were following them as well as several burrowing owls. Turner imported this entire town of prairie dogs from one of his Nebraska Ranches. Prairie Dogs and their towns were a strong environmental part in the life on the Pains Bison. The area all around a Prairie Dog Town was bare and grassless, and was a safe haven for all the grassland wildlife when the grass fires came. The constant theme of all of Ted Turner Ranches are to be natural, and that includes everything from Buffalo to pack rats, bats, and prairie dogs.

The terrain is not all flat, as we are now in the foothills of the Fra Cristobal Mountains.

I wanted to call your attention to this grain feeder and the wire enclosure that keep the deer, onyx and big horn sheep out to allow the little fellows to feed Milo grain. There are approximately 1500 of these feeders on the Ranch.

I wanted to call your attention to this grain feeder and the wire enclosure that keep the deer, onyx and big horn sheep out to allow the little fellows to feed Milo grain. There are approximately 1500 of these feeders on the Ranch.

Our neighbor has this spectacular cholla cactus growing in his front yard. It bloomed this spring and it was spectacular. I’ve included the photo I took of the blossoms, and now just imagine a mountain hillside covered in this bloom.

In 1956 we had a deep freeze - 10 that lasted for 10 days or so.  That is 64 years ago, and this juniper, though not living, is still solid wood.  A sentinel reminding us that high desert life is tough, but this too shall pass. You can see a new juniper growing at the base of the old Sentinel.

Elephant Butte Lake from the Fra Cristobal, and if you squint your eyes, you'll see our casa. We're dead center just a half a mile beyond the water line.

Armendaris Ranch’s southern border is below the dam, about as far as you can see to the south in this photo.   It then runs north to the border of the Bosque del Apache Game Refuge about 50 miles. The highwater mark you can see on Elephant Butte Lake is the ranches western boundary. By the way folks, please enjoy our lake as it is the largest lake in New Mexico.

The Rio Grande Valley about Monticello Canyon with the mountains in the background is the Black Range, the gateway to the Gila National Forest.

Michele, the lady with a million dollar smile, is the Office manager at the Ranch and our friendly greeter.

Meet Mr. Wilson.  We did not see any Onyx on our tour. The Onyx hunting season was in process, and Kem kept us away from the vicinity of the main herd, and the hunters too. There are about 450 Onyx on the ranch.

First, we have Mrs. Javelina and then Mister Angry Javelina. We have never seen any javelinas around our home, but we do often see their tracks. They are known to be vicious when cornered and observing the teeth of Mr. Angry, I believe it. I have seen herds of them on The Bosque del Apache Refuge, and they were large animals. The mature ones were the size of a large hog.

When we finished our five hour tour of the Armendaris, we were only 15 miles from the Spaceport America. The kids had never seen our former Governor Bill Richardson’s boondoggle; so we drove down so they could at least take a look see some of it from the road.  Spaceport America is not open to the public except for guided tours.

Dottie and I attended an Open House at the Spaceport in 1996 and I'll include some of my photos from that time. This is the entry sculpture defining New Mexico's International Spaceport America.  Robin, Kyle and Renee.

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic’s Spaceship. They have announced that space launches will begin in the next few months from the Spaceport America.

I took this photo in 1996, when we toured the Spaceport. It captures the ultramodern and futuristic design.   The Spaceport has 12,000' concrete runway in operation, completed in 201o, but no air traffic.  For 10 years Spaceport America has been New Mexico’s most expensive showpiece, and one that visitors can’t visit. AH! But, we have the only Spaceport America.

The front of the Spaceport Hanger photo was also taken in 1996. This is the most modern facility to be found. It was easy to recognize the handprint of Sir Richard Branson in the flair of this design.

The kids and I toured the Armendaris Ranch, and then I was replaced by Miss Dottie.  She joined them to spent the evening at Turners Sierra Grande Lodge and enjoy the spa and  mineral baths. She is of the opinion that the Spa beats an old ranch anyday!

Ready and eager travelers ready for a beer and the baths.


Teresa and Susan are a couple of wild west bandits all masked up. Ah I'm just pulling your leg as Teresa is Manager of Sierra Grande Lodge. Too, she accepts Credit Cards!

The guests and their morning breakfast.   One hot mineral bath last evening and ready for another right after breakfast. Unfortunately, the restaurant at the Lodge was closed – Wuhan Virus.  Last year for Dottie’s birthday we enjoyed a fantastic buffalo steak and a glass of great wind. Whoopee

We in the outdoor mineral bath, and by golly gun drops if they didn't invite me too.

Kyle and Renee replenishing the Ice Water, and we needed it!

Then it was inside to the family tub to finish our bath. The rock spout over Robin's head is the mineral waterspout, and it was interesting to see the water flowing. They refill the entire tub after each use.

I loved this White Wing Dove just posing for me early that Saturday morning. I first hunted the White Winged Dove in the 50's, when we were stationed at Laredo in the Air Force. They are twice the size of the morning dove and are now most prevalent in southern New Mexico. Absolutely Beautiful!

Sunday following our Armendaris and Sierra Grande Lodge experiences, Renee, Dottie and I drove to Beaverhead Ranger Station in the Gila National Forest. It is about a 75 mile drive due west from the Valley. We were hoping we might hear the bugling of the Bull Elk, or at least see some. But we quickly discovered we were in the middle of the Bow and Arrow season, for both Elk and Deer. We must have passed 60 or 70 hunter pickups headed home, and we still passed some 50 or so active camp sites. Our Elk expedition soon became a leisurely Sunday afternoon in a great big park. But Wow what a pretty one.

We are at the Beaverhead ranger Station in the Gila just enjoying life. Sammy is watching you!

See we found that even with the Wuhan Virus life can be good. Remember to wisely use your QTR.ß

Come on Willie sing us another verse, and we’ll move on down the road. 

And the road this time is leading to Fairbanks, Alaska. So when you wake up on the morning of November 1st., and Day Light Saving creases, we'll all be in Fairbanks to view and photograph the Aurora or Northern Lights.