I rode through the remains of what’s left of the Longhorn Ranch, and somehow I connected to this place. There’s not much left; A really bitchen old school sign, a burned down complex whats left of a motel and some trucks. I think the far end of the ranch is a strip club. You could tell this place had a heyday at some point: There’s some ghosts here, and I wanted to know it’s story…
7 miles east of Moriarty, the Longhorn is a bit out of place: it appears to be a motel, and out in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. Other than that, there’s not much left. What happened?
But there’s a story here: the more I dug into it, the more it made sense and was a story I could relate to.
William Ehret was a patrolman in Lincoln County New Mexico in the late 1930s, and soon became a state Police Captain. Known by Bill to his friends; he was looking for something different. Being a policeman is exciting, but it also means time away from your family, long days on the road a ruthless boredom at times. Bill had a whole state to cover, but mainly patrolled a town a whole county of several cities, all with a whopping population of the time of about 14,000 people in a county of almost 5,000 square miles.
But there appeared to be opportunity ahead, and Mr. Ehret saw that. Bill saw that people were starting to travel west toward California, and Californians had the chance to Travel east. Route 66 had just changed it’s alignment from heading north into Santa Fe only 2 years ago, to cutting right across the center of the state More and more people were driving Route 66. Bill saw an opportunity, and a chance to try something new, which appealed to him. Just 80 miles north of Lincoln County, there was opportunity.
Bill Acquired a good sized piece of land, and at the age of 38 he started building this Longhorn Ranch with his 20 year old son. It was the golden age of travel, and America was just starting to stretch it’s legs. Captain Ehret was going to be part of that. He went to work and started building the Longhorn Ranch.
It started out as a 10 stool cafe, with a single counter and a curio shop. It expanded to include a gas station to invite even more travelers from the mother road.
He started collecting taxidermy and western regalia (some historic) from all over the west and the enterprise soon included a garage, Museum and a 15 room Hotel. It eventually included a cowboy town, Indian dancers and Stagecoach rides. It became a main attraction on route 66, with the motto “where the west still lives.”
Bill saw his son who helped him build the place get married here in 1955, 15 years after they’d built it together. He was 53 years old, and like all pioneers he was looking to the next adventure. He’d conquered this portion of route 66, and had his eye toward other dreams. He sold the land within that year and went on to the next challenge.
But the Longhorn Lived on, under new management, with the same flair it had before. It had grown in reputation, and was one of the Largest and most vibrant tourist attractions along Route 66.
Bill Died in 1972 at the age of 70. He was an active Methodist, had several grandchildren and was an active and beloved member of his community. His son died in 2015.
The longhorn continued to thrive until the 70s, when interest in cowboy towns waned, cars could make it to Albuquerque without stopping, and Captain Bills little spot on route 66 got Bypassed by the interstate. There’s not much here now, just a few hundred yards off the highway. Most of it is burned down, but the memory remains of a man who helped build on the Legend of all the things we love about route 66. It’s people like Bill who made route 66 what it was (and is), living the American Dream and putting their shingle out to make something happen.
Stop by when you’re in the area. It’s still a bitchen little stop along route 66.