Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pie Town, New Mexico

How on earth have I never heard of Pie Town, New Mexico before??

(It's 160 SW of Albuquerque. That's why.)

Still, now that it's on the radar, I don't think I'll be able to return to New Mexico without a detour. 

The Feature piece in Travel New Mexico from last August is here

The Smithsonian Magazine featured a piece by Paul Hendrickson on the town that you need to go read in full, but is so delightful, I have to include an excerpt here: 

Having known about PieTown for many years, I was itching to go. You’ll find it on most maps, in west-central New Mexico, in CatronCounty. The way you get there is via U.S. 60. There’s almost no other way, unless you own a helicopter. Back when Russell Lee of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) went to Pie Town, U.S. 60—nowhere near as celebrated a highway as its more northerly New Mexico neighbor, Route 66, on which you got your kicks—called itself the “ocean to ocean” highway. Big stretches weren’t even paved. Late last summer, when I made the trek, the road was paved just fine, but it was still an extremely lonesome two lane ribbon of asphalt. We’ve long licked the idea of distance and remoteness in America, and yet there remain places and roads like PieTown and U.S. 60. They sit yet back beyond the moon, or at least they feel that way, and this, too, explains part of their beckoning.

When I saw my first road sign for PieTown outside a New Mexico town called Socorro (by New Mexico standards, Socorro would count as a city), I found myself getting cranky and strangely elevated. This was because I knew I still had more than an hour to go. It was the psychic power of pie, apparently. Again, I hadn’t planned things quite right—I’d left civilization, which is to say Albuquerque—without properly filling my stomach for the three-hour haul. I was muttering things like, They better damn well have some pie left when I get there. The billboard at Socorro, in bold letters, proclaimed: HOME COOKING ON THE GREAT DIVIDE. PIE TOWNUSA. I drove on with some real resolve.

Continental Divide: this is another aspect of PieTown’s strange gravitational pull, or so I have become convinced. People want to go see it, taste it, at least in part, because it sits right on the Continental Divide, at just under 8,000 feet. PieTown, on the Great Divide—it sounds like a Woody Guthrie lyric. Something there is in our atavistic frontier self that hankers to stand on a spot in America, an invisible demarcation line, where the waters start to run in different directions toward different oceans. Never mind that you’re never going to see much flowing water in PieTown. Water, or, more accurately, its lack, has much to do with PieTown’s history.

The place was built up, principally, by Dust Bowlers of the mid- and late 1930s. They were refugees from their busted dreams in Oklahoma and West Texas. A little cooperative, Thoreauvian dream of self-reliance flowered 70 and 80 years ago, on this red earth, amid these ponderosa pines and junipers and piñon and rattlesnakes. The town had been around as a settlement since at least the early 1920s, started, or so the legend goes, by a man named Norman who’d filed a mining claim and opened a general store and enjoyed baking pies, rolling his own dough, making them from scratch. He’d serve them to family and travelers. Mr. Norman’s pies were such a hit that everybody began calling the crossroads PieTown. Around 1927, the locals petitioned for a post office. The authorities were said to have wanted a more conventional name. The Pie Towners said it would be PieTown or no town.

The Good Pie Cafe's Pie Chart, with photos

And make clear note of the hours to try a piece of that New Mexico Apple: you'd better head out of Albuquerque in the morning and go straight over, and only Monday through Wednesday. Got that?

It might just be easier to plan a road trip and camp for the weekend of the festival, (second Saturday of September) when everyone is sure to have their pies for sale.

Another Pie place of note in the "town" and one that is open Thursday through Sunday 11-4 is the Pie-O-Neer, featured in the New Mexico Travel link above. The Pie-O-Neer Website

Pie-O-Neer Facebook Page


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