1919 dirt road journey covered 639.3 miles

By Don McAlavy: Curry historian

You’ll never believe this: a route book from Fort Worth, Texas, to Las Vegas, N.M., by way of Clovis, 639.3 miles of dirt roads in 1919. The route book was published by the Board of City Development of Plainview, Texas, and they called this aforementioned road the F.F.F. Highway. They never said what “F.F.F.” stood for.

This 4.5- by 7.5-inch book contained 50 pages, and told exactly how many miles to go before turning. An example: Texico to Clovis 10 miles. You have to mind your speedometer as it will tell you exactly how many miles you have covered. Like it’s exactly 83.0 miles from Plainview to Farwell-Texico. Remember all of these are dirt roads. At 84.0 you leave Texico and turn right. At 84.1 turn left, at 85.8 turn left, cross RR (Railroad), turn right, at 86.8 cross roads, continue straight ahead, at 91.8 turn right, at 92.2 cross all RR tracks, go straight ahead, three blocks to mileage 92.5 turn left, west, to 93.0 and you’re in Clovis. Clovis National Bank on left, turn right on Main Street, First National Bank on left, Antlers Hotel, one-half block to left.

And that was just 10 miles. You now get the picture. I think they made an error, as it was only 9 miles from Texico to Clovis by their reckoning. You’ll have to remember that dirt road from Texico to Clovis was on the south side of the railroad tracks and finally when you get to what is now Brady Avenue you were 3/10th of a mile south of the railroad, go three more blocks north and turn west on Grand Avenue and go up to Main. The book had advertisements throughout, and Clovis managed to buy a half-page ad. It advertised the Antlers Hotel. Well, not really. Antlers paid for it and got their name mentioned in capital letters if they bought an ad and if their name was mentioned in the routing procedure. Clovis did buy a whole page, calling it “Clovis in a Nutshell.” Later the Clovis papers had articles named the same. I’ll mention several items: Clovis is the largest railroad center in the state, having a monthly payroll of about $100,000. There were four designated State Highways leading out of Clovis: the Abo Highway, Clovis to Santa Rosa, Clovis to Tucumcari, and Clovis to Portales and the South. (They never mentioned all these highways were dirt roads.)

One item I really liked in the ad Nutshell: We have two bands that are favorably known throughout the Southwest: one a men’s band and the other a girls’ band. Here are three more: We have two of the most up-to-date theaters in the country. The rainfall is abundant, averaging 22 inches annually, the greater part falling in July and August when it is needed most. And the last one: Land around the city of Clovis can be purchase at from $20 to $40 per acre.

I wouldn’t lead you into taking the route from Clovis to Fort Sumner, as mentioned in the route book. At mileage 144.6 in big capital letters: LOOK OUT for sharp turn around point. Continue with RR. And right after that it said, Cross dump through lake, straight ahead. In the book route between Clovis and Fort Sumner, it warns: ATTENTION TOURISTS! In locating tents, be careful not to locate too close to the edge of stream, so as to preserve purity of water.

From Fort Sumner to Santa Rosa were 13 cattle guards to negotiate. The last book route was from Santa Rosa to East Las Vegas, a distance of 62.5 miles. And the book reminded you of auto garages you might come to in these towns. A lot of the ads were purchased by garage owners, and one had a photo of the oldest garage in Santa Rosa.

And then when you get to East Las Vegas, the book shows you how to turn around and get back to Fort Worth, Texas. The last item in the book was a statement from the Plainview people who created this book. It said: “Hale County,” where Plainview is if you didn’t know, “has the best natural roads of any section in Texas, but the citizens of the county are planning and will not be satisfied until our State Highways are hard surfaced.” Thank you, Plainview!

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: