Tuesday, November 01, 2011

WSMR land, ranchers subject of talk

Joe Ben Sanders' discussion of the 1941-42 takeover of private land by the federal government for White Sands Missile Range drew an interested audience Saturday. Close to half the people in attendance at the Alamogordo Public Library said their families were affected by the government action. "There were over 200 ranches that were destroyed, there was no accountability," Sanders said. "The people hired lawyers and the government stalled them with legal action until most of them died." Sanders is an archaeological consultant and author of more than 60 books on the Tularosa Basin area, including Three Rivers Petroglyphs. He's also an experienced cartographer, with dozens of maps to his credit. "What the government did is a cancer on our history." "I did archeology on White Sands Missile Range with Pete Eidenbach," Sanders said. "I worked out there for 17 years. I could see the pain in the people's eyes. The abandoned homes, there were still books in them." The takeover started in 1941. G.L. Tucker's land was affected, as was that of his aunt, Lola Tucker. G.L., age 70, lives in Tularosa; Lola, 86, lives in Alamogordo. "I came because I was interested in the way they changed the titles of land for the missile range," G.L. said. "My folks had a little ranch on the south side of Salinas. We had to leave there, and my family had to lease a ranch at Three Rivers." Lola's memory is painful: "We had just gotten to where we didn't owe anybody anything, and my dad said, 'We're going to have to move.' I said, 'But they just can't take our land,' and he said, 'They did.' He had to move his cattle off the ranch...more

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