Anywhere I go in New Mexico, I can feel history. Standing outside in the stunning New Mexican nature, listening to the wind rustle leaves feels as though this has been happening here for a very, very long time.
Out in the High Plains it is more so. With visibility as far as the eye can see, the High Plains region contains its own majestic beauty, stark in its openness.
Beyond nature, there are towns with more recent history that feel historical in a different kind of way, where you can see relics of a growing American nation.
Tucumcari, New Mexico is one such place. A town of approximately 5,000 people, Tucumcari started off being called Ragtown in 1901, when the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railway built a construction camp where Tucumcari is today. (It was also called SIx Shooter Siding, due to all the gunfights.)
A few decades later, Tucumcari gained fame as the largest city between Amarillo and Albuquerque on Route 66, and has been a stopping point for tourists on the Mother Road ever since. Tucumcari gets visitors from around the world eager to travel Route 66, and they all come through Tucumcari.
I mention the history of Tucumcari because, when you stop in town now, it is everywhere- and if you turn on the radio while you’re there, you’ll hear the voices of Russell B and Karen A on KTNM AM and KQAY FM, respectively, both part of KQAY Radio.
Thanksgiving Day 1948: A football broadcast becomes legend
In more recent history, KTNM became the news. On Thanksgiving Day, 1948. The Tucumcari Rattlers were being hosted by the Fort Sumner Foxes in the last game of the season.
Fort Sumner wouldn’t let KTNM broadcast the game from their field in the Press Box, so owner Grady Franklin Maples and Richard Dale Woods got permission to broadcast from the pig farm next to the field.
They climbed a tree, hacked into the power line and broadcast that game in the tree above a pigpen and became local legends in the process.
The Rattlers beat the Foxes, 35-8 and KTNM broadcast the whole thing from the tree- the game, the game delay from sheep getting on the field, and the victory.
To this day there is a mural on the radio station’s wall outside commemorating the event.
Things tend to be less dramatic these days, as the voices of Russell and Karen talk to the folks living in Tucumcari, and as Russell says, “it is a community radio station.”
They take pride in delivering relevant information to the residents of Tucumcari, as well as a broadcast in Spanish by DJ Lalo.
Karen told me she really enjoys engaging with the community, and as she says in the video, “she loves to talk.”
Both Russell and Karen discussed their love of Tucumcari and their pride in the station playing a part in the town’s life.
One of the big events in Tucumcari is the Rattler Reunion, an event that has been held since 1971.
The reunion sees Tucumcari graduates of all years return for a big, multi generational party, and KTNM/KQAY plays a part.
There is a lot of pride in Tucumcari, and as I met different business owners to hear about their businesses, almost every single one had their local hometown radio station on.
When you pass through Tucumcari, be sure to tune in to KQAY (92.7 on the FM dial), and KTNM (1400 on the AM dial).