A caravan of cars follows history professor Pete Eidenbach through a steep and winding dirt road into Rhodes Canyon. Today’s topic is Eugene Manlove Rhodes and takes place in a tranquil mountain setting near the final resting place of the man known as the “Cowboy Chronicler” of his times.
Once settled in a small clearing near a rustic tombstone carved from local stone, the group of nine formed a semi-circle around Eidenbach who sat in a folding chair and proceeded to read aloud to them from the works of Rhodes as they ate their picnic lunches with a commanding backdrop of the San Andres Mountains.
As Eidenbach’s calm voice read excerpts and explained the local connection to nearby towns such as Tularosa and Alamogordo, only an occasional butterfly or cricket disturbed the stillness.
After more than an hour later, Eidenbach laid down the several pages of selected works from Rhodes’ short stories and novels and concluded with another reminder to the group about the quiet, peace and beauty that prompted Rhodes, who’s line of work also included breaking horses for nearby ranchers, to request his burial in a canyon later to bear his name and fall under the protection of White Sands Missile Range.
“I thought it was an honorable experience to be here and come into an area where the beauty is so astounding,” said Jane Ketter afterward as the group prepared to convoy back to Tularosa.
Eidenbach has made the journey for about 20 years now after picking the effort to share the works of Rhodes from his predecessor who made the inaugural trek in the late 1960s. For Eidenbach and his fellow nature and literary lovers, it clearly seemed the journey would continue.
Hear Eidenbach reading excerpts from Rhodes' works at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fruGZc_JL34