The Excitement of a Small Town’s Revival

Ideas and Issues New Mexico Radio Voice of the People

            Cimarron        The first time I was in Cimarron, New Mexico, was about sixty years ago.  I was a 13-year-old Boy Scout, pushing 14, which was the age limit then for attending Philmont, the national scout camp.  I have no idea what the experience would be like now, but then you hiked with a heavy pack up and down the mountain trails, crossed creeks carefully, although one of our bunch slipped in, tried our hand at fishing, went to the shooting range and were given a membership in the NRA, camped under roped together Army-surplus poncho tents, and cooked over open fires.  Philmont, the more than 100,000-acre gift of Phillips66 oil man, Waite Phillips, along the Cimarron River, was only a bit over 20 years old then.  Now it’s collateral against the sexual abuse scandal and settlement that the Boy Scouts of America has made with untold numbers of victims.

Most recently, my son, Chaco, and I drove through Cimarron, in the summer of 2020 during the pandemic.  It seemed like a ghost town.  We couldn’t find a place to sleep or eat, and ended up down the road at Springer.  Now, it seemed like a different place.  There was a coffee shop and small motel now open, bought several months ago by a family moving up from Houston.  There was a gift shop owned by a woman most recently from the Bay Area.  She told me part of the revival was the reopening of Philmont last summer with more than 25000 coming through.  She was cleaned out.  She said there were times there was a line ten and fifteen deep outside her little store.  The summer before she said it was so quiet that deer were sleeping in the streets.

Telling people about KCMN-FM and our construction permit for a noncommercial radio station in this area, I was sent over to the see the mayor.  Matthew Gonzales was just elected a couple of months ago.  He’s a young man hardly forty who has worked as a lobbyist in several states around this area of the West.  He’s a man with a plan.  He told me Cimarron used to have three sawmills employing hundreds.  He’s trying to see if one can be reopened.  He couldn’t have been more helpful when I told him I was in town looking for affordable tower space for a radio station. Looking at their water tower as a prospect, we shared stories about the horrors of negotiations with Sprint/T-Mobile, which had leased space there amid controversy with a lack of transparency.  He introduced me to another councilman in the next building who was the retired school superintendent and a volunteer at the library.  Councilman Gallegos knew everyone as former students.  He suggested I look into Green Mountain where the school had some kind of antenna and as did the Boy Scouts, he thought.  Before I left, Mayor Gonzales made sure to give me the phone numbers of the manager of the whole Philmont Ranch.  It seemed like a surge of serendipity.  The new mayor and the city fathers wanted to bring new life and programs to the community, and they saw our efforts to put KCMN on-the-air as part of their grand plan.

I had been directed to the Cree-Mee, a kind of local Dairy Queen for dinner, and afterward I drove around this working families’ town.  Seeing a sign that Philmont’s headquarters was only four miles away, I drove out there.  On the way, I could see in one field after another there were groups of deer.  In a pasture hardly one-hundred yards from the BSA facilities, there were close to one-hundred grazing with another thirty or so across the highway.  Growing up in the West and truth to tell, even as an adult, I’ve prided myself on my ability at dawn and dusk to spot deer anywhere in the West.  I once had a 20-year streak of seeing at least one every time without fail.  Now, suddenly, I was seeing them everywhere around Cimarron, counting likely 200 before I got back to town.

What a good omen for a great town and our future radio station?  Cimarron is a place we can be proud to make a contribution and provide another “voice of the people” station.