Moquino is almost, but not quite, a ghost town.
My first visit to Moquino was in 2008 and from that trip there is only one surviving image which I published in a previous post about a nearby small town called Cubero. A few years later I shot an album cover for a local musician at the churches in Moquino so that was probably 2010 and I hadn't been back since, until a couple weeks ago.
It took Johnpaul and I two trips to find the churches in Moquino, mostly because I couldn't remember the name of the town and I thought they were in Cubero (they're not).
Moquino, New Mexico is almost, but not quite, a ghost town. According to census data from 2010, Moquino has 37 residents and all of them live within easy viewing distance of the churches. They are very protective of these churches so don't go there looking for trouble or you'll find it.
Santa Rosalia Church
The church out front is Santa Rosalia Catholic Church. Despite it's popularity with photographers like myself, actual information about this church is rather hard to come by. What I know for sure is: the doors are locked, the windows are curtained (no way to see inside) and occasionally a mass is held there. Sufficed to say, this church is old, like, really old.
Penitinte Morada in Moquino, New Mexico
Can I just say that I feel extraordinarily lucky to have shown up on a day when there was not only snow on the ground but also water in the reservoir? This is not the way the scene normally looks and I am so fortunate to have captured this rare moment in time.
Clearing up a misconception
I had always thought that the two churches in Moquino were like old and older versions of the same church, this is not the case.
As I said at the beginning of this post, everyone in Moquino lives within viewing distance of the churches. Should you choose to visit this place, be advised that many pairs of eyes are immediately aware of your arrival and shortly thereafter begins the drawing of straws to see whose turn it will be to go out and see what you're doing.
As a photographer, you are not technically doing anything wrong to walk around and photograph the churches. There are no fences or No Trespassing signs and, so long as you're not vandalizing anything, it's all good. That being said, the townspeople are protective of their historic churches and you are an outsider.
When the scout shows up, and they will, greet them with a smile, be courteous and respectful. The residents of Moquino are friendly and have a wealth of information about the local history. It's well worth your time to have a conversation with them and allow them to share with you what they know.
As expected, about ten minutes after our arrival, an old Honda Civic turned down Cemetery Road and drove out to where we were by the 2nd church. The man's name was Bill and our conservation with him was enlightening to say the least.
Bill explained to us that the two churches are not in any way affiliated with each other. The church out front is an actual Catholic Church but the church in back is a Penitente Morada. So far as I can tell, Penitente Moradas do not have names other than the name of the location.
Bill talked to us about the troubled relationship between the Penitente and the Catholic Church and told us that he was one of just a few practicing Penitente left in the area.
What happened next was completely unexpected. Bill took us on a tour of the inside of the Morada! Unfortunately, the one condition of the tour was that no photos were to be taken and I certainly wasn't going to argue with him.
The Penitente Morada in Moquino, New Mexico was originally constructed in the 1700's. It has undergone some renovation since then but is essentially still the original building. Inside the sanctuary of this historic adobe is a beautiful mud floor with no pews or chairs. Saints from Spain watch from the alter and other dark effigies, some concealed by veils, look down from the walls. To enter this building is to walk back in time 300 years.
Just like the snow on the ground and the water in the pond, this chance encounter with Bill was an unexpected gift from our trip to Moquino!
All photos shot with a Canon EOS 50D and Lensbaby 2.0, sometimes with an additional accessory wide angle attachment, edited in Adobe Photoshop using actions from The Luxe Lens.
Grants, the "City Of Spirit"
Travelers on Route 66 looking for a place to get lunch between Albuquerque and Gallup would likely find themselves in Grants, New Mexico. Grants is the county seat of Cibola County and has a population of about 9000 people.
To drive through Grants is to see a city in decline. Many Route 66 era businesses now sit abandoned. With the decline of mining and railroad industries, the most successful businesses in Grants now seem to be the WalMart Supercenter, McDonald's, and the gas stations and hotels near the freeway.
What's In A Name?
The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad extended it's tracks into northwestern New Mexico in the early 1880's. The contractors who were tasked with building the line were three brothers from Canada by the names of Lewis, Angus and John Grant.
They set up their base at Los Alamitos which became known as Grants Camp. A depot and coaling station was built there as it was halfway between Gallup and Albuquerque. The train stop became known as Grants Station. In 1882, a post office was opened and was named Grant (singular, no "s"). The name was changed to the current day "Grants" in 1935.
Uranium Capital of the World
The Grants Mining District was the predominant uranium producing region in the United States from the 1950's to the end of the 20th century. While this practice may have been financially successful, it was environmentally damaging. The residual affects of uranium mining can still be observed in over 320 square miles of the San Mateo Creek Water Shed. In 2010 the EPA, in collaboration with the State of New Mexico established a five year plan to assess health risks caused by soil and water contamination as well as physical risks from abandoned mines with unsealed shafts.
Iconic relics of Route 66
The part of Route 66 that ran through Grants is known as Santa Fe Ave. Most of the best things to see and photograph are on this road so, if you don't have time to do a lot of exploring, a drive through town on Santa Fe Ave will deliver the highlights.
The Roarin' 20's Sign
The Roarin' 20's sign on Santa Fe Ave is possibly one of the most famous, and certainly one of the most loved, landmarks on Route 66 in New Mexico.
The first time I photographed this sign was over ten years ago and, not knowing it was there, I was ecstatic to have found such an amazing sign by accident. At the time, there was also a swanky abandoned building on the lot. Unfortunately, those photos were on a hard drive that went missing so a couple weeks ago Johnpaul and I made a return trip to Grants to visit my beloved sign.
After ten years, The Roarin' 20's sign certainly looks worse for the wear and the building no longer stands. I know the people of Grants love this sign and there is hope that the city will find funding to restore it.
What is not readily obvious is that the sign did not always reside in Grants. Originally, The Roarin' 20's was a topless club on Route 66 in Albuquerque. This was in the 1960's. At some point the club in Albuquerque closed and a fellow by the name of Eddie McBride bought the sign and moved it to his father's liquor store in Grants.
Yes, "theatre", not "theater". The West Theatre was originally going to be named the El Sol Theatre and construction was begun by owner, C.E. Means in the mid 1950's. For reasons unknown, but probably because he ran out of money, Means was not able to finish the build so the project was taken over by a new owner, J.C. West. West completed the theatre and named it after himself. The West Theatre opened on Route 66 in Grants in April of 1959 as a single screen but was later converted to a twin.
Information about the Hollywood Diner in Grants is scarce to say the least. The best historical record of this place is probably the layers of paint on the building. Since it's diner days, which have apparently been over for quite some time, the building has also been a thrift shop, a gun shop, and possibly a thrifty gun shop.
Today the Hollywood Diner serves as headquarters for the local raccoon population and a noteworthy photo-stop for travelers on the ol' Route 66.
A Valentine Diner
Rumor has it that the Hollywood Diner began it's life as a "Double Deluxe" Valentine Diner.
After the Great Depression, a man in Wichita, Kansas by the name of Arthur Valentine developed a unique business plan. He constructed small prefabricated diners in a warehouse and sold them via mail order. Imagine that, you could buy a restaurant from a catalog and have it delivered anywhere you want!
The idea was to have a small diner that would seat 8-10 guests and could be operated by only one or two people. If the food and the service were good, a motivated entrepreneur could easily build a successful business from a Valentine Diner.
The Lux Theatre predates the West Theatre by about 20 years. Like the West Theatre, the Lux was originally owned by C.E. Means. The Lux opened for business in September of 1937. It had a single screen and seating for 518 movie goers. In 1950, developer C.E. West purchased The Lux and the half-built El Sol Theatre from Means. In 1959, West completed construction on the El Sol and changed the name to the West Theatre. Currently, The West is the only surviving theatre in Grants.
In February of 1970 the Lux Theatre was closed as the result of a fire in the furnace room.
Charlie's Radiator Service
On October 4, 2017 Charlie's Radiator Service, officially known as Charlie's Automotive Service (despite the name clearly painted on the building) was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
The name Charlie's Automotive Service refers to the complex of five buildings that sit on this property on West Santa Fe Ave (formally Route 66) in Grants, NM. That little brown building on the right side of the photo below was a restaurant called the Star Cafe. Both businesses were owned by Charlie Diaz. Charlie partnered with his grandfather, Joseph Capelli, in the construction of the five buildings. Capelli was an Italian-born stonemason and he brought an innovative idea to the table. All five buildings are built with pumice block. Pumice has sufficient compression strength to use as a building material plus it provides better insulation and weighs less than cement block.
Charlie's Automotive Service, together with the Star Cafe, would've provided a valuable service to both locals and travelers alike. Everyone needs somewhere to hang out while their car is getting worked on regardless if they lived in town or were road-trippin' on Route 66. This type is road side establishment thrived in the days before commercialized service stations hosting chain restaurants became the norm.
Charlie Diaz owned and operated the service station and the Star Cafe from 1947 until his death in 1995. The former Diaz residence is also located on the property. It is towards the back and behind the main buildings.
Click here to read the entire Application for Registration in the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties.
The Sands Motel
I do believe that is was obligatory for every desert town along Route 66 to have a motel called The Sands but this particular one in Grants, New Mexico is still open for business.
Established in 1950 and located at 112 McArthur Street, The Sands Motel is budget priced and pet friendly. A quick look online says that rooms are available for around $40 and include Wi-Fi, microwaves, mini-fridges, and even continental breakfast. Reviews are pretty good, people say the rooms are clean and the proprietors are friendly. It sounds like a perfect resting spot and I wish I had found a place like this while driving back and forth to Maryland with a car full of pets.
An interesting tidbit of info that I came across is that apparently Elvis Presley used to enjoy staying at the Sands Motel, presumably on his way to Las Vegas. He even had his own special room that he liked. To this day, Room 123 is known as the "Elvis Room" and is stilled with Elvis memorabilia including his marriage certificate.
All images shot with a Canon Powershot Elph 360 and edited in Adobe Photoshop using Actions from The Luxe Lens.
In 2005 I was commissioned to photograph a big game hunt in South Africa. These are my stories.
When visiting the Dark Continent, you can order up animals to kill from a menu, like a do it yourself restaurant. When you think of it that way, it’s difficult to imagine going to a steak house and paying $14,000 to go hunt your own steer, even if you do get to keep it’s head, but whatever.
He killed a zebra. That’s right, my employer paid $14,000 to kill a zebra. A zebra. While technically not a horse, it’s pretty much a horse. John Wayne and The Lone Ranger rode horses. The horse is how the west was won. You know, Hi-yo Silver!, and all that. Girls love horses. I’ve seen The Never Ending Story at least 100 times and still cry when Artax sinks into the Swamp Of Sadness. This zebra hunting business didn’t sit well with me. It seemed no different than hunting a dairy goat or a Saint Bernard. Horses, even if they are wild and striped, are a friend of man. Where’s the sport in that?
I wanted to tell him that zebra hunting was un-American but his mistress’s tongue was in his ear so he couldn’t hear me. After he shot the zebra, I heard him saying to the trackers, “Look how it’s fur glistens in the sun!” I looked down and saw I was standing in a little puddle of zebra blood.
The clean up crew did their work; they wiped up all the mess and positioned the body like it was just taking a little nap, sunbathing in the African bush. I shot the photos, the ones that are now in magazines and on websites. When we were finished, some Africans were employed to scoot the stripey carcass on to a flatbed trailer. The trailer was 10 feet long so I don’t know why the zebra’s head didn’t fit, but they left it hanging off the end. While the good ol' boys stood around congratulating themselves, I noticed that blood had begun to flow from the zebra’s nose and the soft skin around it’s mouth hung loosely, leaving the teeth naked and despondent. Drip drip drip drip drip. The boys were still acting tough, one of them broke out a cigar.
We never ate any zebra steaks but a month or so later, back at the office, we ate some ham sandwiches. We sat around the glass table: my employer; myself; a girl who dropped out of home school because her parents, stating that girls shouldn’t put wood in their mouths, would not permit her to play the saxophone; and his mistress, who had come all the way from the Dark Continent and still didn’t realize she was the other woman. We sat there chewing on our sandwiches and it was during this meal that the International Hunter said the funniest thing ever. He said “You know what’s wrong with America? They don’t teach family values in school anymore.” I swallowed my food and said “You’re god damned right!”
He gave me a dirty look and I slurped on my juice box. It’s true what they say: knowledge is power.
A fading spot on the map
According to the New Mexico Office of the State Historian, the town of Cubero was established by Mexican settlers in or about 1834. Remember that New Mexico did not become a state until 1912. Today, Cubero is a census designated place located on historic Route 66 about 27 miles east of Grants. It is also on the route of the Santa Fe Railroad's first transcontinental line through the southwestern United States. I only saw about three people while I was there but the official population as of July 1, 2019 was 287.
To be fair, Cubero is not the ghost town that my photos make it seem. It's just that I go looking for the old, abandoned and creepy stuff and tend to avoid things like the General Store with modern cars parked out front. Cubero is also right next door to Budville, which is famous for different reasons but is also more of a legit ghost town.
Funny thing, the whole reason I went to Budville and Cubero is because I was looking for a couple of old churches that I thought were in Cubero.
After realizing that the churches were not in Cubero after all, I did find some abandoned houses and a truck in a tree to make the trip worthwhile.
All photos of Cubero shot on January 11, 2020 with a Canon Powershot Elph 360 and edited with Adobe Photoshop using actions from The Luxe Lens.
Fate comes knocking on Route 66
It's funny how things turn out.
Budville, New Mexico was the site of a notorious double murder that remains unsolved to this day and the Budville Trading Co. was the scene of the crime.
The town of Budville is named after Howard Neal "Bud" Rice. In 1928 he and his wife, Flossie, opened the general store (Budville Trading Post). Together they also operated a gas station, garage, grocery store, post office and wrecker service. While this might seem like enough for a normal person, it wasn't enough for Bud so, in additional to all that, he also sold bus tickets, owned the local State Motor Vehicle Concession and got himself elected Justice Of The Peace. As such, Bud proclaimed himself the "Law West of the Rio Puerco" and did not hesitate to push his weight around whenever it suited him to do so.
Travelers who lacked the good sense not to speed in Budville were routinely charged outrageous fines as was anyone unfortunate enough to break down and require the services of the auto garage. In addition, Bud antagonized other towing services by passing a law giving his wrecker exclusive access to all wrecks west of the Rio Puerco.
Bud wheeled-&-dealed and leveraged his political power to further his business interests. In other words, he personified the term conflict of interest and was an all American go-getter. And then one day Bud either pushed his luck too far or was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. In any case, fate came knocking for him on the evening of November 18, 1967.
After 39 years in business, Bud, Flossie, a part-time employee named Blanche Brown and one other employee, who shall remain nameless, were getting ready to close up when an armed bandit came in and robbed the store. As you may have guessed, it didn't end well.
By the time was robbery was over, Bud and Blanche were shot dead and the robber disappeared into the night with $450. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Flossie was left unharmed as was the un-named employee who was conveniently hiding in the bathroom.
Needless to say, the local community was horrified and people soon began to refer to Budville as Bloodville.
Who Done It?
The short answer is that is was probably a shady character named Billy Ray White, but the truth is that no one except Billy Ray knows for sure if he did, or did not, rob the store that night.
The State Police had a hard time rounding up any suspects to pin the crime on. Initially they arrested a young sailor who had been seen hitch hiking in the area. Flossie identified him as the killer in a line up but the case against him fell apart because there was not one other shred of evidence linking him to the crime and, to the contrary, he had a solid alibi for his whereabouts on the night in question. With the lack of evidence, police had no choice but to release the young man and, with no other likely suspects, the crime went unsolved for years.
Eventually, police did get another break in the case when a trio of criminals looking for a plea deal offered to provide information about the Budville murders. The man they named as the killer was a baby faced drifter with a long criminal history by the name of Billy Ray White. They were able to provide enough information to convince the FBI and so Billy Ray was put on America's Most Wanted list and was soon located and arrested.
To no one's surprise, Flossie also identified Billy Ray as the killer and he was brought in to stand trial. While the case against Billy Ray seemed like a sure thing, it's important to remember that eggs are not chickens. The defense team did a bang up job of cleaning up their client and presented him in a suit, clean shaven like a show pony in a children's beauty contest. Additionally, his lawyers did a fine job of casting doubt on Flossie's credibility. Billy Ray was, after all, the second man she identified as definitely being the killer. She was wrong the first time so it seemed likely that she could could be mistaken this time as well. There was also the issue of Flossie getting remarried just a short time later to a convicted felon named Max Atkinson. It seemed a little odd that Bud and Blanche were gunned down while Flossie was left unharmed. Could it be that she played a part in orchestrating the crime?
Aside from attacking Flossie's credibility, the defense team presented other likely scenarios that apparently had not been investigated. For example, just a few days before his murder, Bud had testified in a Texas drug trial and, as the ole' saying goes, "snitches get stitches". There was also the issue of Bud abusing his political power to further his business interests. It seemed equally likely that a rival towing company may have put a price on his head.
With such a show in the courtroom, it's easy to see how jurors would come to doubt whether or not the doe-eyed defendant was the killer. When the theatrics were over, the jury deliberated for less than two hours and returned a verdict of "not guilty" and Billy Ray White was once again a free man.
Now here's the kicker, a few years later Billy Ray was convicted for an almost identical crime. He had robbed a small store in Louisiana and murdered the clerk. On June 8, 1974 he died of an apparent suicide in the Louisiana State Prison and rumor has it he had confessed to his cell mate that he had indeed committed the robbery and murders in Budville.
I read a personal account from a friend of the family who claimed that Flossie said she was forced to marry Max Atkinson and she "knew he was one of the killers". When I read that, I thought, "one of the killers?" So far as I can find, police were only ever looking for one guy.
This same person, who knew Bud and Flossie for many years said that she never saw Bud mistreat anyone and, to the contrary, that he went above and beyond to help members of the local community, including but not limited to, buying all the produce off an overturned big rig from California and delivering it to local schools in native american communities.
As always, there are many sides to any story. What is known is that Flossie's marriage to Max Atkinson was relatively short lived. Maybe it was karma for ol' Max but in 1973 he wound up on the short end of a fight and died just three feet from where Bud had been gunned down in 1967.
Flossie married for a third time and passed away from natural causes in 1994 at which time the Budville Trading Post finally closed after 66 years of business.
The Budville Trading Post was eventually sold and reopened as the Budville Trading Company but it too closed. And, not for nothin', there's a high probability that the building is haunted. Today the building remains abandoned and is a staple for any photographer interested in exploring historic Route 66.
The story of the Budville Trading Company may not be over yet. Just a couple months ago on November 19, 2019, local news affiliate KRQE ran a story detailing the current owner's intention to re-open the store. Lucy Peterson, a long time resident of the Budville area, is the current owner of the Budville Trading Company building and says she would love to restore it and reopen the store. That being said, Ms. Peterson also seems to have no solid plan in place to do this so the outcome remains to be seen. When I visited Budville on January 12, 2020, it still looked pretty abandoned.
Bud's Old Tow Truck
I don't know for sure but it seems likely that the truck pictured below may have been Bud's old tow truck.
All photos shot with a Canon Powershot Elph 360 and edited with Adobe Photoshop.
Thanks to the following blogs and news stores for providing information about the history of Budville.
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.