Founded in 1881, Deming was named after Mary Deming Crocker, wife of railroad baron Charles Crocker. His Southern Pacific Railroad met the Santa Fe Railroad there, completing the nation’s second transcontinental rail line.
Deming’s history stretches much farther back than the railroad. For hundreds of years, it was home to the Mimbres people, who lived and farmed here and made distinctive black-and-white pottery adorned with birds and animals. When Europeans arrived, Deming became a notorious Wild West town, to which outlaws, captured elsewhere, were exiled. It was also a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line, delivering mail and passengers from St. Louis to San Francisco.
Today, Deming may well be one of New Mexico’s best-kept secrets. It offers glimpses into the state’s history and cultures, natural history, music, dining, and more — making it undoubtedly a place for exciting happenings.
Take note of Deming’s history
Like any adventurer, you should first check out the place. Take a walk around town. Of Deming’s 37 buildings with historical significance, 16 are on the State Register of Cultural Properties and four are on the National Register of Historic Places. Google “Deming walking tour” to find a map and brief histories of the buildings.
When you’ve absorbed enough architecture and history, stop for an ice cream at the Copper Kettle at 200 S. Gold St. The shop is in a Queen Anne commercial-style building constructed in 1886.
Museum captures the essence of Deming
A block east is the Deming-Luna-Mimbres Museum, housed in the 1916 red brick National Guard Armory. Walk through its spacious rooms with its timeless collections and you’ll learn what the people of Deming value about their past. Ruth Brown, one of the museum’s first directors, once said, “Every item has been donated. We tend to recognize the large gifts, and the museum could not be what it is without them. But thousands of small gifts are treasures, too, often giving us a glimpse of our history that’s important. And what a treasure our old washing machine turned out to be.”
Among the treasures is a world-class doll collection, filled with dolls carved by pioneers for their little girls. There are German-made dolls, dolls with porcelain heads and hands, and storybook dolls. Among the most prized and poignant dolls is one found and carried home by a U.S. soldier who pulled it from the rubble of Hiroshima.
You’ll also find Mimbres pottery and artifacts, a Western ranch diorama with an authentic chuck wagon, the Main Street diorama, fire trucks and military vehicles and gear, quilts and lace, a collection of minerals and gems, hundreds of whiskey decanters portraying real and fictional characters, and education memorabilia contributed by Deming schools. These are among the items comprising the collections, informing visitors from one room to the next. And that old washing machine? Be sure to ask the docent to tell you the story about it.
Outdoors calls to the rugged — and not so rugged — individual
If you’re someone who prefers the outdoors, you’ll find plenty to hold your interest. Rockhound State Park in the Little Florida Mountains, 12 miles southeast of Deming, has 29 tent sites and 23 electric sites for camping, hiking trails, and something not found elsewhere in New Mexico.
According to the park manager, “This is the only place in New Mexico and one of only two places in the U.S. where you can take something from a state park.” You can dig for minerals or — taking the easier way — pick up what’s on the surface. You might find glassy black perlite, red, white, or pink jasper, banded agates, or geodes, known as thunder eggs. Crack one open to see what treasure you find. Hammer, chisel, and spade are necessities. No commercial collecting is permitted.
Find the Spring Canyon trail into the Florida Mountains in the Spring Canyon unit of Rockhound State Park. The park map shows it’s 1.6 miles out and back. It’s more appropriate to call it up and down since it rises 530 feet in elevation, but it’s a moderately difficult hike. And the view from the top is worth the effort. If you’re lucky, you might glimpse Persian ibex goats that have lived there since 1970. This is the only place in the U.S. you can see an ibex living freely in the wild.
If you like to fish, you might not expect to reel in a largemouth bass in downtown Deming. But drop your line in Trees Lake and you just may catch a few. That’s because this five-acre lake takes part in the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s stocking program, which also includes bluegill, perch, catfish, and fathead minnow. Trees Lake, part of Voiers “Pit” Park, a former gravel pit, now offers trails for leisurely strolls and perfect picnic spots.
Mother Nature at her artistic best
Travel north of Deming 30 miles to City of Rocks State Park with its unique volcanic rock formations. The Kneeling Nun volcano to the north near Santa Rita erupted 35 million years ago and poured a thick, dense layer of hot gas and ash over the land. Heat welded it into rock. Over time, wind and weather eroded the layers and sculpted them into the forms you see now at City of Rocks. Walking among the pinnacles, delicately balanced rocks, and other formations is like being in a fantasyland. Don’t miss the new City of Rocks mural created by two dozen students, all between the ages of 8 and 14. Painting the mural engaged the young people in an outdoor recreational activity as well as educating them about climate and the environment.
City of Rocks is home to oaks shaped by the wind, wildflowers, cacti, animals, and lots of birds. You can reserve one of the 41 campsites and enjoy hiking, mountain biking, birding, or just watching the sunset in an amazing setting.
Hunt for treasures at the RockHound RoundUp
In March, the Deming Gem and Mineral Society holds its annual show, the RockHound RoundUp. Rock collectors and geologists come from across the country to examine volcanic rocks, gems, and minerals. You’ll find rocks of all kinds, jewelry, and lapidary equipment for your collection or your hobby. Pick out a geode and discover the thrill of cutting it open to find the glittering crystals inside.
For kids, there are fossil digs each day of the four-day show as well as educational exhibits and a spinning wheel with prizes. Adults can participate in gold prospecting demonstrations, a metal detecting competition, guided field trips, and auctions.
In 2022 the show will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 10 – 13 and there is no admission fee. For more information, go to thedgmsclub.com.
World-class wines are no surprise here
Deming is home to two world-class wineries: D. H. Lescombes and Luna Rossa, one on the east side of town and the other on the west side.
Born to French parents in Algeria, Hervé Lescombes learned the art and science of wine. When personal circumstances dictated a change, the Lescombes moved to Deming (because its climate is so similar to Algeria) and established St. Claire Winery, now D. H. Lescombes. He bottled his first vintage in 1984, and the winery’s reputation has grown since.
At the opposite end of Deming is Luna Rossa Winery. Paolo and Sylvia D’Andrea founded their “Red Moon” (that’s what Luna Rossa means) winery in 2001. Paolo was raised in northern Italy, the son of four generations of winemakers. His desire was to give the area something different, educate the community, and teach people the great sophistication of wine. He and his wife have succeeded beyond their imaginations.
Both wineries have tasting rooms and offer samples of their award-winning wines for the discriminating oenophile. Well, maybe not just that kind of connoisseur, but anyone who appreciates a good wine. In fall, each winery hosts a festival that blends wine, food, and music — something everyone can enjoy. D. H. Lescombes’s tasting room also hosts live music on Friday evenings, starting about April. Check their websites for updated information this spring.
Have all your adventures left you hungry? Not a problem. Deming offers a variety of cuisines to tempt your palate. Here are just a few!
Neighbors covered the iconic Adobe Deli in last year’s September-October issue, pointing out perhaps the most popular steakhouse in town. But steaks and stories of feisty spirits — not the kind you drink — aren’t the city’s only offering. Here are a few more you may wish to try.
You’ll find Marie’s Italian Grill (107 S. Silver Ave.) in the former Deming National Bank, built in 1893. Check out the burglar alarm outside. The bank used to be Marie’s parents’ place, Palma’s. At Marie’s, you’ll find just what you’d expect: lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo, and veal parmigiana, along with other Sicilian favorites. (It’s always good to keep Sicilian recipes alive in the family!)
You’ll have to figure how to get past the pies at Elisa’s House of Pies and More at 208-½ S. Silver Ave. Elisa’s menu includes traditional American dishes like skillet fried chicken, catfish, BBQ pork, ribs, and a specialty — fried cabbage. And of course, pie for dessert, if you can wait that long.
Just off the interstate on the north side of town is a restaurant that resembles a truck stop. Don’t be fooled. This is the Punjabi Indian Restaurant at 1310 W. Spruce St. Its buffet is a delight to the palate with curry, butter chicken, lamb, Basmati rice, paneer (Indian fried cheese), and veggies prepared with traditional spices: coriander, cumin, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, and cayenne.
And because this is New Mexico, you have your choice of Mexican restaurants.
Irma’s at 123 S. Silver Ave. will fulfill your desire for Mexican food — tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and other standard Mexican cuisine. The ambiance may be unpretentious, but the food certainly isn’t.
There’s also the Cactus Café at 218 W. Cedar St. In addition to a full assortment of Mexican dishes, this restaurant is noted for its barbecue and steaks.
Relive the revolution
Thirty miles south in the town of Columbus is Pancho Villa State Park with 65 camp sites, picnicking, and hiking trails. In season, Coots Hill — where the American flag is flown — features a bounteous display of prickly pear blossoms and other cactus flowers. The park once was Camp Columbus, attacked in 1916 by the Mexican revolutionary for whom it is named. It became the base for America’s response: sending 10,000 soldiers after 500 Villistas for 11 months. That became a testing ground and training exercise just prior to World War I. In 1917, it was renamed Camp Furlong. The park’s exhibit hall tells the story, as does the Columbus Museum, housed in the historic railroad station across the street.
See if you can find the clock that took a lickin’ and, oops, stopped tickin’. It became a casualty of the raid.
Each March (COVID permitting), hundreds of people arrive on horseback from Mexico and surrounding ranches for the Cabalgata Binacional Villista Festival to commemorate now-peaceful relations between Americans and Mexicans. There’s a Villa reenactor and others portraying soldiers. There’s also lots of food, music, and dancing. The event is scheduled for March 12, 2022.
Run for the Romaine!
Deming may be most famous for its 40-plus-year-old Great American Duck Races, a four-day extravaganza. Scheduled in 2022 for August 25 – 28, COVID permitting, it kicks off with a hot-air balloon ascension. Following is a royalty pageant — not so much to crown a king or queen duck (although one is crowned), but, according to the Chief Quacker who coordinates the event, to show off the skills of talented people who design creative costumes and perform skits according to each year’s theme. Throughout the festival there are horseshoes competitions, slo-pitch softball games, food, and music.
But the races are for real. People bring their “thoroughbred” Anas platyrhynchos — or just plain ducks — for competition on both wet and dry tracks. There are cash prizes for the winners . . . and tasty Romaine lettuce for the ducks.
Check first for COVID restrictions
While our country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, some restrictions may apply. Before you head to Deming, make sure what you want to see is open and ready to receive you. You’ll find brochures and answers to your tourist questions at the Deming-Luna County Chamber of Commerce on Pine Street, just west of the Walmart. Look for the old steam locomotive and red caboose.
You can spend a day in Deming, but to really see and appreciate the city takes a lot longer. It’s like a Whitman’s Sampler. You can’t taste just one chocolate without craving the others. Deming’s been here for 140 years. She’ll wait to show you her charm, her culture, her roots. Then you’ll know about one of New Mexico’s best-kept secrets.
Written by Bud Russo • Courtesy photos
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com