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Tucumcari, New Mexico
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(This article is about the city. Tucumcari is also the name of a song sung by Jimmie Rodgers, and a 1960s hydrofoil, the USS Tucumcari (PGH-2), built by Boeing.)

Tucumcari is a city in Quay County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 5,989 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Quay CountyGR6. Tucumcari was founded in 1901. Quay County was founded two years later. [1]

Contents [hide]
1 Geography
2 Demographics
3 Legend Surrounding The Area
4 Television, Movies, & Songs
5 Tucumcari Tonite/Route 66
6 Schools
7 Trivia
8 External links


Location of Tucumcari, New MexicoTucumcari is located at 35°10′10″N, 103°43′32″W (35.169453, -103.725488)GR1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.6 km² (7.6 mi²). 19.5 km² (7.5 mi²) of it is land and 0.13% is water.

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 5,989 people, 2,489 households, and 1,607 families residing in the city. The population density was 306.7/km² (793.8/mi²). There were 3,065 housing units at an average density of 156.9/km² (406.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 75.87% White, 1.29% African American, 1.39% Native American, 1.20% Asian, 0.22% Pacific Islander, 17.10% from other races, and 2.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 51.41% of the population.

There were 2,489 households out of which 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.4% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 31.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 24.8% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 90.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $22,560, and the median income for a family was $27,468. Males had a median income of $25,342 versus $18,568 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,786. About 19.1% of families and 24.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.5% of those under age 18 and 16.7% of those age 65 or over.

Legend Surrounding The Area
Legend has it that Apache Chief, Wautonomah was nearing the end of his time on earth and was troubled by the question of who would succeed him as ruler of the tribe. In a classic portrait of love and competition, his two finest braves, Tonopah and Tocom, were not only rivals and sworn enemies of one another, but were both vying for the hand of Kari, Chief Wantonomah's daughter. Kari knew her heart belonged to Tocom. Chief Wautonomah beckened Tonopah and Tocom to his side and announced, "Soon I must die and one of you must succeed me as chief. Tonight you must take your long knives and meet in combat to settle the matter between you. He who survives shall be the Chief and have for his squaw, Kari, my daughter."

As ordered, the two braves met, with knives outstretched, in mortal combat. Unknown to either brave was the fact that Kari was hiding nearby. When Tonopah's knife found the heart of Tocom, the young squaw rushed from her hiding place and used a knife to take Tonopah's life, as well as her own.

When Chief Wautonomah was shown this tragic scene, heartbreak enveloped him and he buried his daughter's knife deep into his own heart, crying out in agony, "Tocom-Kari"!

A slight variation of the Chief's dying words live on today as "Tucumcari," and the mountain which bares this name stands as a stark reminder of unfulfilled love.

Some credit this folktake to Geronimo. More skeptical and less romantic historians believe the word "Tucumcari" is a derivation from the Comanche word "tukanukaru," which means to lie in wait for something. There's historical veracity to this explanation, since the mountain was known to be a Comanche lookout many years ago.

Television, Movies, & Songs
Many of the scenes in the television show Rawhide starring Clint Eastwood were shot in the Tucumcari area.[2]

Tucumcari is where the main action of Sergio Leone's 1965 film For a Few Dollars More, starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Gian Maria Volonte, takes place.

A scene in the 1971 movie Two-Lane Blacktop, starring James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, and Warren Oates, was filmed at a gasoline service station in Tucumcari. Tucumcari Mountain is clearly visible at the beginning of this scene.

The city is mentioned in the 1988 film Rainman by the character played by Tom Cruise. However, the location in the scene is clearly not Tucumcari.

One of the killers in Truman Capote's book In Cold Blood asks about the travelling distance to Tucumcari. This scene appears in movie versions of the novel.

Tucumcari is mentioned in several songs, including:

"Coyote" sung by Better Than Ezra
"Halfway to Tucumcari" sung by The Enkindels
"Last Hobo" sung by John Denver
"(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66" sung by Perry Como
"Santa Fe Jane" sung by Craig-O Ringland
"Tucumcari" sung by Cex
"Tucumcari" sung by Freedy Johnston
"Tucumcari" sung by Jimmy Rodgers
"Tucumcari (Carried Larry Away)" sung by John Ford
"Tucumcari Here I Come" sung by Dale Watson
"Tucumcari Woman" sung by Dan Roberts
"Willin'" sung by Linda Ronstadt

Tucumcari Tonite/Route 66
For many years, Tucumcari has been a popular stop for cross-country travelers on U.S. Route 66/Interstate 40. It is the largest city on the highway between Amarillo, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Billboards reading "TUCUMCARI TONITE!" placed along I-40 for many miles to the east and west of the town invite motorists to stay the night in one of Tucumcari's "2000" (later changed to "1200") motel rooms.

U.S. Route 66 runs through the heart of Tucumcari. Numerous businesses, including gasoline service stations, restaurants and motels, were constructed to accommodate tourists as they traveled through on the Mother Road. A large number of the vintage motels and restaurants built in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s are still in business. The best known of these is the 12-unit Blue Swallow Motel which was built in 1939. Others are Palomino, Americana, Paradise, Buckaroo, Pow Wow Inn, and Redwood Lodge. Many of these establishments still feature neon signage, which lights up this small stretch of Route 66 each night like a little Las Vegas. On the west end of town in front of the Tucumcari Convention Center is an aluminum sculpture with working "tail lights" that pays homage to Route 66.

Tucumcari Head Start (non-public preschool)

Tucumcari Elementary School (public Pre-K through fifth grade)

Tucumcari Middle School (public sixth grade through eight grade)

Tucumcari High School (public ninth grade through twelth grade)

Mesalands Community College (community two-year institution of higher learning)

Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum and his associates robbed a post office and store in Liberty, NM, a community that dissolved after the railroad bypassed it. Many of Liberty's residents moved to the nearby railroad siding that would eventually become Tucumcari.

The buildings at Metropolitan Park (locally known as "Five Mile Park" because it is located about five miles outside of town) were designed by Trent Thomas, adapted from his design of La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. The park once featured New Mexico's largest outdoor swimming pool. Owing to deterioration, Metropolitan Park was named to the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance's list of Most Endangered for 2003.[3] The cost for complete renovation is estimated at ten million dollars.

Each year since 1992, the town has held the Tucumcari Air Show. The show held on October 4, 2006, was cancelled after one hour when a single-engine plane crashed, resulting in the pilot's death.[4]

Rex Maddaford, who competed for the New Zealand team in the 1968 Olympics, has been a long-time Tucumcari Public Schools faculty member. He is currently the assistant principal at Tucumcari High School.[5]

External links
City of Tucumcari
Tucumcari Chamber of Commerce
Eastern Plains Head Start
Mesalands Community College


Maps and aerial photos Coordinates: 35.169453° -103.725488°
Street map from Google Maps, or Yahoo! Maps, or Windows Live Local
Satellite image from Google Maps, Windows Live Local, WikiMapia
Topographic map from TopoZone
Aerial image or topographic map from TerraServer-USA


State of New Mexico
Regions Central New Mexico | Eastern New Mexico | Llano Estacado | Northern New Mexico | Sangre de Cristo Mountains | Southwestern New Mexico
Cities Albuquerque | Las Cruces | Rio Rancho | Roswell | Santa Fe
Towns Alamogordo | Artesia | Belen | Carlsbad | Clovis | Deming | Española | Farmington | Gallup | Grants | Hobbs | Las Vegas | Lovington | Los Alamos |
Los Lunas | Portales | Raton | Ruidoso | Silver City | Socorro | Taos | Truth or Consequences | Tucumcari
Villages Corrales
Counties Bernalillo | Catron | Chaves | Cibola | Colfax | Curry | De Baca | Doña Ana | Eddy | Grant | Guadalupe | Harding | Hidalgo | Lea | Lincoln | Los Alamos | Luna | McKinley |
Mora | Otero | Quay | Rio Arriba | Roosevelt | San Juan | San Miguel | Sandoval | Santa Fe | Sierra | Socorro | Taos | Torrance | Union | Valencia
Colleges Central New Mexico Community College | College of Santa Fe | College of the Southwest | Eastern New Mexico University | New Mexico Highlands University |
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology | New Mexico Military Institute | New Mexico State University | St. John's College, Santa Fe |
University of New Mexico | Western New Mexico University