On a recent trip to the Arizona border, I stopped by the tiny town of Rodeo, New Mexico. Founded at the turn of the 20th century, the town is as open and as dusty as its name implies.
The kind of town where you see real tumbleweeds lazily making their way across the unpaved main street. The right side of the road is mostly empty. The left side has the necessary essentials for civilization, a corner store/restaurant, and a bar.
The bar, of course, is the most happening place in town. Passerbys slow down to see a desert place that feels frozen in time. Growing up in Douglas, Arizona, I used to pass through Rodeo as a kid during road trips.
For many years, an empty car cop greeted travelers at one of the two town entrances. A dummy sat inside the retired Crown Victoria. Slumped to one side, he looked out the dirt-speckled windshield and with one look; fast-moving cars would come to nearly a stop.
You see, this is the kind of place where moving slow is still in style. Sitting on the front porch and waving at curious motorists is still a thing to do. Getting together at the tavern to talk about the day’s happenings, even if there weren’t any, is a Rodeo staple.
The people are as nice and friendly as you imagine. When everyone you know matters, you can only be nice and friendly. Tiny, dusty towns of yesteryear survive through kindness and friendliness.
For the about 100 residents that spread across a community merely a block deep and eight miles in area, Rodeo is something special. The town is parallel to a majestic mountain range. With a look to your left and a look to your right, your imagination is filled with the magic of starry nights.
The remains of a railroad can be seen across the straight line defining Rodeo. It was once a shipping point for livestock business. The town’s name was derived not from cowboys and bull riders, but from the Spanish connotation of the word meaning roundup, or enclosure.
I always stop in Rodeo when I am making my way through the picturesque towns of southern Arizona. It’s a place to take a deep breath. A place to use a restroom with a very narrow wooden door that still has a moon carved in near the top.
Rodeo is both soft and rough around the edges. I knew that once when I had stopped by the store/restaurant for a cold drink and was greeted by a not-so-friendly snake just off the main road. Rather than be alarmed, it somehow made perfect sense.
I love tiny towns that have made it through time despite the harsh realities of the world around them. A depression, two world wars, even online shopping, haven’t collapsed places like Rodeo, New Mexico.
We look down at places that seem just to be hanging on. They aren’t big enough and lack the “basic” necessities. No shopping malls or big box stores. These communities aren’t for everyone.
Sometimes being a small town, with just a few people, and one store is O.K. A tiny town, where there’s only one way in and one way out can be head scratching. And yet, Rodeo is my kind of town. Not for what it is lacking, but for everything it has.
In fact, it has so much more than you think. Stop by sometime.