Lessons learned on the Llano Estacado

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By Sherry Robinson

If you live in the mountains or a river valley, you’re probably a scenery snob. Admit it. You speed across the High Plains until you reach a place with more varied topography.

Next time, slow down and take a better look. Once you marvel at the vast, level distances, you’re inclined to look up, and the great bowl of sky out here never disappoints, with its cloudscapes and palette of pastels. Ranchers here say they like to see the weather coming.

The Llano Estacado, or Staked Plains, is a land mass that, in historical, geographical and economic terms, should rank as high as mountains or the Rio Grande.

“Grasslands are very special places on the planet,” said John Miller Morris, author of El Llano Estacado, during the Historical Society of New Mexico’s recent annual meeting in Hobbs. “Eastern New Mexico has a lot of what geographers really like — space.”

Geography and geology allowed three Roberts — Goddard, Oppenheimer and Anderson — to do their work. And that’s just a start. You want history? Lea County and southeastern New Mexico have as rich a heritage as anywhere in the state: Coronado, Apache and Comanche buffalo hunters, John Chisum, Buffalo Soldiers, cattle drives, homesteaders, cowboys, and pioneer oilmen.

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