A Town Called Weed

Iconic Communities, On the Road
on April 7, 2002

Just 20 people live in “downtown” Weed, N. M.—along with some horses, cows, and the few dogs that sleep undisturbed in the middle of Main Street. But most of the 90 post office boxholders stop in at least once a day at the wooden building that’s home to the post office and the Weed Café.

“It’s the best place around to check your mail and socialize over a cup of coffee and a slice of fresh-baked pie,” says Pansy Northrip, a lifelong Weed resident.

Retired Postmaster Shirley Stone’s grandparents settled in the area in the 1880s. “Most of the people here have been here for generations,” says Stone, who retired Oct. 1 after 33 years, turning over the post office to her daughter-in-law, Debbie. “It hasn’t really changed much.”

Weed is in the Sacramento Mountains in southeastern New Mexico. The altitude of nearly 7,000 feet means a pleasant climate that draws people from the surrounding desert to enjoy the pine and juniper forests in the summer. In fact, the town’s original name was “Garden Spot.”

But William Weed built the ranching community’s first store in 1885, and when he applied to have a post office in the store, it was granted to the name on the application—Weed.

Weed residents like the name. And the post office and café are still the social center of town. Debbie Stone had planned to run the café and the post office, but the mother of a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old changed her mind when she got a big surprise in the form of a baby girl, Jennifer Joy, born to her Dec. 20.

“She’s been a blessing,’’ Debbie says. Longtime employees are running the café, while she cares for Jennifer and runs the post office. “I’ve got big shoes to fill,’’ she adds. “Shirley gave 33 years of great service. But I’ve got such good customers, I love ’em all.”

Shirley wasn’t the only postal old-timer. Larry Wilde’s family has carried the mail for three generations.

“First it was my grandpa, then my mom and dad, and now me,” Wilde says. He points to some wooden boxes for sorting mail. “My dad built those,” says Wilde, who makes a 100-mile circuit to a handful of little mountain towns around Weed.

Northrip says just about everything happens at the café and post office. “If you’re looking for someone, all you have to do is ask in there. They’ll know where they are and what they’re doing,” she says.

Several years ago, Shirley doubled the size of the café to make room for a stage. The locals “and a heck of a lot of visitors” congregate there on weekends for home-style cooking and old-time music.

The food is hearty and the jokes are corny. On stage, the repertoire runs to country, gospel, and what Shirley calls “old-timey music.” Shirley and her sons, Steve and Gary, as well as Debbie, play and sing. They encourage everyone else to join in.

“If you forgot your guitar, I’ve got some extra ones up here,” she says.

The kitchen crew comes out in their aprons, joining in with spoons, kazoos, and other makeshift instruments, to play along to Ragtime Annie.

Shirley also organized the annual Weed Bluegrass Festival. “It was really the whole community’s idea,” she says.

The whole town pitches in to clean up the old, stucco-sided school gym—built in 1939—and have a hot dog roast for the festival. During the event, musicians perform on the stage, while impromptu groups play in the café and in the parking lot.

“Anybody who’s ever lived here or spent time here has a special feeling for Weed,” Shirley says.

Weed has a special feeling for Shirley, too. On the wall of the café hangs a frying pan with the inscription: “Your Gracious Hospitality has Touched our Hearts in a Very Special Way—the Weed Community.”