Saturday, February 14, 2009

Life in Datil

I arrived here in this magnificent sanctuary of a town in November of 2008. It took me several weeks to get used to the remoteness, the altitude, the quiet and the huge, expansive views. See, I'm a city girl from way back. Little by little though, I've been shedding my city skin and making friends with the mountiains. Now I feel as though I've been here forever.

Thirty-six miles west of Magdalena, at the western edge of the San Agustin Plains, the Datil Mountains rise and pinon and juniper trees emerge from the bush and grass. At the intersection of U.S. 60 and S.R. 12 at an elevation of 7500 feet sits the town of Datil. To the Spanish settlers the seedpods of the prevelant yucca resembled dates, and "datil" is the Spanish word for date. Levi and Fred Baldwin established the first Datil store and post office in 1884 to serve the cattle ranching families.

The hub of Datil is the Eagle Guest Ranch (pictured above) which dates from the 1920s when Agnes Morley Cleaveland's sister, Loraine, and her husband, Tom Reynolds, opened the small store. With a cafe, motel, general store, gas station, and RV park, the Eagle Guest Ranch today serves as a general meeting place for the 150 townsfolk and the surrounding community of ranchers.

One of the early settlers, Agnes Morley Cleaveland, described ranching in Datil in the 1880s in her well-known book, No Life for a Lady (see link in the left column to order her book). A monument to her parents can be seen on U.S. 60 five miles west of Datil.

Pickups have replaced the horses, but ranching remains the main occupation in the area. And with more elk than people, the emphasis is on outdoor recreation in northern Catron County. Hunting for elk, deer, bear and wild turkey is extremly popular during fall and winter.

The temperature averages range from 32 degrees to 70 degrees with 350 sunny days a year. But once the sun sets behind the mountain trees, the winter temperatures drop quickly. The coldest night I've experienced so far is 3 degrees! Brrr. Monsoon showers hit hard in July but do not last long.

The Datil Well Campground, south of town, commemorates the site of a cattle watering well on the historic stock driveway from Springerville to the railhead in Magdalena, our neighboring eastern town.

So far, life here has been more of an adventure than I had imagined it would be. The magnificent beauty that surrounds me is a constant source of inspiration.


  1. Thank you! Your country is very beautiful! I would someday like to visit.

  2. I love your site. I have a few acres near Sugarloaf, but I am stuck in AZ. I wish I could visit Datil more often, its a beautiful place.

  3. I lived in Datil from 1961 to 1963. My folk's owned the Navajo Lodge. My first job was as a lookout for the two state police officers who had the courtesy to park in front of my observation point giving me time to run back to one of our $2 a night rooms where my dad was generally running a craps game. I have lots of good memories but sure wonder what happened to some of the folks I have had no contact with for 50 years. Anyone reading this there during and beyond my period in town?

  4. I have a request of anyone in Datil - I'm the incredibly serious and important (and modest!) MrTimesizing(dot)com and I'm reading with tremendous pleasure and inspiration that Datil classic, No Like for a Lady, but I find no close-up photo on the Web of author Agnes Morley Cleaveland in her youth. There MUST be one at a museum somewhere in New Mexico! How about getting it available on the Web so we can see at first hand what self-restraint all them chivalrous cowboys she mentions in chapter 16 must have exercised in her presence.

  5. Hello Datilite! Datilian! Datilene! Fun to find this blog. I'm in one of the "subdivisions," up against a mountain.