Eugene Manlove Rhodes, arguably the architect of Southwestern fiction, is laid to rest in his favorite spot in the San Andres Mountain’s canyon named for him. Rhodes, a writer by nature, lived and worked on ranches throughout the Jornada del Muerto and the Tularosa Basin. The San Andres range is the spine of the region and understandably his favorite place. The beautiful and unique panoramas inspired the location for the majority of Rhodes’ work. Along with the colorful characters, usually based on real people, the vivid lyrical descriptions of the landscape are the hallmark of Rhodes’ work.
Rhodes Canyon now lies in the heart of the White Sands Missile Range. While the US Army’s acquisition of the rich ranch land of Southern New Mexico is somewhat controversial, the Rhodes grave site is located in one of the best protected stretches of land in the continental US. The Army protects its assets and experiments with voracity; the Rhodes grave site is no exception. Security measures taken to protect WSMR extend to protecting the hallowed ground of Rhodes’ final resting place. Oryx, elk, and golden eagles are the area’s only frequent trespassers.
According to NM Statue 21-8-27, New Mexico State University is the custodian of the grave of Eugene Manlove Rhodes, “and shall be and hereby is given all lawful authority to enter upon the lot and assume responsibility therefor.” NMSU-Alamogordo fills the role of custodian by extension. NMSU-A has historically facilitated an annual trek to Rhodes’ grave, in cooperation with the White Sands Missile Range.
The pilgrimage, usually made in October, is escorted by WSMR personnel and requires valid photo identification for participants along with proper registration and proof of insurance for vehicles. The trek is long, but well worth the effort; the scenery is stunning. The guided tour is designed to give participants plenty of time to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the grave site area. Participants are encouraged to bring a folding chair, sack lunch, and camera. (Photography at the grave site is welcome, but not allowed anywhere along the journey through the missile range.) The tour will pause at the grave site for about an hour, giving trekkers plenty of time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. The tour leader will read from Rhodes’ work and lead a discussion thereof. Rhodes’ grave marker is nestled in a grove of juniper that offers shade and protection. The whole experience invites reflection and reverence for Rhodes, his work, and the inspirational landscape.
The tour is recommended to anyone with an interest in southern New Mexico history, literature, and geology. Contact NMSU-A Continuing Education, for information about forthcoming tours.