By Grant McGee: Local columnist
The Lady of the House and I decided to go to Truth or Consequences for her birthday last weekend. Because she is a Pisces, the astrological fish sign, she must dip herself in natural water every year so she won’t lose her mermaid skills. Actually, I just made that up. We decided to “take the waters,” as they used to say in the 19th century, at the town’s hot springs.
When I first came to New Mexico and saw the name “Truth or Consequences” on the map I thought to myself, “Now that’s a western town!” I had an image of the town during the time of the Wild West, where gunplay on Main Street was the rule of the day.
I thought the town got its name from words exchanged between some gunslinger with a name like “Black Bart” who had been called out by someone with a name like “El Diablo.” I could see it: High noon, dust and tumbleweeds blowing by the storefronts, people scurrying to get out of the way of the bullets. And just before either man whipped their pistols from their holsters, El Diablo, with eyes squinting against the sun, snarled at Black Bart, “It’s time for truth or consequences.”
What a disappointment it was to learn Hot Springs had traded its name for that of a popular 1950s game show. But by all accounts, the townsfolk of the day were happy they did. It got them free nationwide publicity and an annual visit from game show host Ralph Edwards until he passed away last year.
One thing most folks in the state know is the name has been unofficially shortened to “T-or-C.” And “T-or-C” is apparently how T-or-C’s new arrivals like to hear their town’s name pronounced. Most of the rest of us and T-or-C’s old timers know it’s pronounced “T-er-C.”
The T-or-C we visited was not the same town I passed through on a driving walkabout in the fall of 2000. If you’re missing the counterculturalist art scene of Santa Fe and Taos of years gone by, it’s in Truth or Consequences. From what I could gather from the locals, a man with a nice chunk of change came to town around 2003 and started some art galleries. Soon, other like-minded individuals followed. The city exploded with more art galleries, holistic healers and little shops selling all kinds of stuff including but not limited to incense, sarongs, little round hats, Hindu elephant gods, embroidered purses and so on.
We stopped in a coffee shop/bookstore. While looking through the volumes that were advertised as being sold at “ridiculously low prices” — maybe to someone from Santa Fe — I overheard our very existence being pondered.
“As far as I know,” said one grizzled man to another, “you may be a figment of my imagination.”
“And you of mine,” said the other.
I couldn’t see this conversation happening at the donut shop on North Prince.
Nor would we see a woman giving tarot readings like the one in the T-or-C bookstore.
T-or-C was fun, though. The shops were interesting. The city built a skateboard park for the kids. The food was good and the water that gushed up from beneath the town was a soothing 110 degrees, loaded with calcium and magnesium.
We’ll go back to T-or-C someday.
Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org