On Jicarilla Boulevard in Dulce, New Mexico • June 3, 2009
(including the eye of Jupiter and the surface of Mercury)
Photos by Beau Bosko
By Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
Posted on September 3, 2012, from rural Washington County, Arkansas
We didn't come to Dulce seeking clues to cosmic top secrets, weren't looking for glimpses of alien UFOs or their fugitive pilots. True enough, we were warned back in Santa Fe to be on the lookout. "There's a top secret military base up there, dug deep under a mesa," the old man told us. "It's operated by the New World Order. I've known about it for some time." Long ago the old man was a baby in a Japanese-American relocation camp. Now he's embittered and boozy under his worn old Stetson. His parents, he said, were sent to the camp by the United States government early in the war. He has some photos to show, mom and dad standing outside a barracks, older brother and sister sitting at the feet of a smartly dressed teacher in a camp schoolroom. "That's another story, another time," he said. "You're going to Dulce."
Cowboy Ted's voice was a pale whisper on the twilight breeze of a cool spring night. "Keep your eyes peeled," he said. "Alien prisoners from crashed UFOs are held there." We were sitting in steel rocking chairs on the patio of an old motel. Gravel crunched softly under our shoes. Ted sipped his beer, said, "Some of the aliens have been known to escape."
Fine with me. I've nothing against aliens, secrets, or boozy old guys with stories to tell. But we were more interested in a comfortable place to sleep on the journey from Chaco Canyon to southern Colorado. In the sparsely populated mountainous desert land of northern New Mexico, Dulce fit the bill.
The one and only hotel in the capital of the Jicarilla Apache Nation is a Best Western with a casino. All that remains of Apache Haven is the sign on U.S. Route 64. Tonight in the study of my country cottage, I wonder: How many summers have passed since the Apache Haven Motor Hotel welcomed its last weary traveler with a bed, a burger, and a beer? Someone knows, I'm sure, but the web isn't telling and the local historian lives eight hundred fifty miles away from here in tribal lands to the west.
The east face of the Apache Haven sign • June 3, 2009
Dulce's houses, shops, offices, and school are spread out along the southerly base of Archuleta Mesa, six or seven miles from the Colorado state line. Archuleta is an impressive rock, rising to a peak of about 9,000 feet and providing spectacular views of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation to the south. Our late afternoon drive from Chaco Canyon to Dulce sliced through the reservation lands, revealing a remote and sparsely populated mountainous scene of sage brush, mule deer, pine trees, and sandy desert. We traveled about 120 miles and passed four vehicles, each going the other way.
Historians tell us the traditional homelands of the Apaches in northeastern New Mexico were penetrated by the Santa Fe Trail, and that the Apaches took exception to the intrusion, mounting raids on wagon trains and travelers. The United States fought back in the 1850s, sending its horse soldiers to wage war against the tribe. After the tide of battle turned against them, the Apache warriors and their families were forced by the victors to become reservation Indians. But it took a while to settle affairs. Retreating from the battlefields, the Jicarilla band faded into the desert backcountry while tribal leaders sought some kind of accommodation with the government in Washington. Three decades passed before President Grover Cleveland's executive order of February 1887 authorized the Jicarilla Apache Reservation.
The tribe almost perished under the crushing burden of disease and scarcity. Typically, today's remnant is few. Less than three thousand souls claimed membership in the nation in 2000, according to the Census. Most live in Dulce, whose official population of 2,623 is 90 per cent Native American.
The Best Western Jicarilla Inn and Casino wears an unpretentious face: quiet, functional, courteous, plebian. The gambling hall is small, not much more than a slot-machine emporium. I'm not enamored of gambling, so a walk-through and four quarters in a slot were sufficient to test those waters. The little restaurant offered basic roadhouse fare. The room at the inn was comfortable and inexpensive.
The west face of the Apache Haven sign • June 3, 2009
"Good memories," the mistress of Crow's Cottage said tonight when we recalled our visit to Dulce. "We ate the best fry bread there I've ever had in my life. Remember, we bought it at the little stand by the gas station the next morning." A father, mother, and son ran the little outdoor fry bread diner. They cooked the bread to order and served it on wax paper. Awesomely delicious.
And what about the alien biogenetics laboratory hidden deep under the mesa, the spaceships soaring over the desert floor? They are nonstarters in the Apache capital. Tourist hooks designed to capitalize on the mystery are nowhere to be seen. Underground Dulce is an outsider's fantasy, not suitable for the sober light of day in a capital city dedicated to survival.
The secret base at Dulce is "... one of the most celebrated and eccentric tales ever heard within saucerdom," a writer opined in Popular Paranoia: A Steamshovel Press Anthology [Adventures Unlimited Press 2002 Kenn Thomas ed.]. "Despite years of searches, nobody has ever found anything truly odd is this area." Evidence? Not necessary. In the Age of the Codified Lie, where obvious fantasy becomes assumed fact through the act of repeated utterance by ambitious champions of the fantasy, and where a subculture of credulous devotees can be quickly recruited and fed, again and again, on a buffet of books, videos and weekend seminars, the "Rio Arriba Scientific and Technological Underground Auxiliary" at Dulce, New Mexico — yes, the devotees have given the base an "official name" — becomes another star on the walkway of pseudohistory and received pop sham.
Close-up of the west face • June 3, 2009
The Apache Haven sign displayed here in various guises would fit nicely into several related "active groups" of photographs on flickr from Yahoo!, the world's foremost photo sharing web. They would, our photos, fit ... but we aren't up for the upload. Not that we're jealous of ownership. Every image here in the cottage is yours for the taking, no credit required. Stick your name on 'em if you want. We could care less.
flickr claims 5 billion photos from 70 million photographers, whose works are funneled into 1.5 million active groups. No wonder I feel lost out here in the eternally expanding cyber universe. Do you? Could there be as many photos as stars in the firmament? How do the yahoos count them all? How many of the 5 billion pictures can two eyes see in a lifetime of limits and blinders? Shall any one of us discover before we do die the only one that matters, the single defining image — discover it as eureka! during a maddening search to solve the equation, which factors 5 billion photographs into a formula ... long division ... one life over finality? Forgive me if ye can. In the enormousness, I am overcome with manic questioning.
I found one lonely photo of the Apache Haven sign on flickr. (dark and gloomy) "The photo," flickr states, "belongs to firstyearta's photostream." Firstyearta's image of the last vestige of Apache Haven on U.S. Route 64 also appears in the flickr community groups Remarkable Shop Signs, Arrow Signs, Faded Signage, Motel & Hotel Signs, Native American Themed Signs, "...and 11 more groups." The linked text sent me an invitation. I plunged, I clicked — and the host appeared as a horde, a stream of pixels without end.
Apache Haven was posted on Monday, September 3, 2012