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A Quick Aside - Budaghers, Mormons, and ¡Traditions!

When I left off last time, we were on our most recent New Mexico trip, and we were about to get into Santa Fe. (Finally!) I also said that we were hungry and were headed off for a bit of Italian in that very Spanish city.

But...I’m going to (maddeningly) take a quick detour before we get there. I wanted to mention something you might see should you ever take the same drive up from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. It’s ...well...interesting.

As I say, if you’re motoring along I-25, you may look up and see a couple of very strange things. First, at a point almost exactly equidistant between the two cities, you’ll see what seems to be a village or shopping mall just off the road. It is in the middle of absolutely nowhere and makes exactly no sense. It is ¡Traditions! and I’ll get to what that is in a minute.

Okay, at about the same place, you may see off the side of the road, a kind of brick structure, kind of a tall, very thin, pyramid thing (its Wikipedia entry calls it an “obelisk) topped with what looks like a metal wheel. This is the Mormon Battalion Monument (I’m not making that up.)

About the photos: Two today. First, I realized I didn’t have any photos of the Mormon Battalion Monument, but I did find a photo of it on the Monument’s Wikipedia site. The photo is by Pictom. It is offered on a Creative Commons license as follows: Pictom, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons. It can be seen here:,_NM.JPG

And both of these things are set at what was once the Budaghers trading post.

Let’s walk through ‘em one by one.

We’ll start with Budaghers. Long ago, and far away, in the Happy Days of the 1950s and early 1960s, when Elvis’ Pelvis was still considered a threat to American values, and there were really and truly people out there who worried about Mary Tyler Moore’s capri pants on the Dick Van Dyke show (no. Really. They did), there was a “trading post” here. Joseph and Sally Budagher, who (according to Wikipedia) knew and were friends with local Native Americans in the area, set up a shop at which motorists traveling from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, or vice versa, could stop, buy lunch or supper, use a bathroom, get gasoline, and pick up some souvenirs. (1)

There was also a bar...which must have contributed to a certain, shall we say? Thrill to driving on the road at night.

This was before the highway was there, by the way. Before I-25, the road between the two cities was a simple two lane thoroughfare. I’ve seen pictures of the route as it was in those days. Looks like something out of a John Ford Western. At any moment you expect the calvary to appear over the hill and launch a charge at the Indians. Except both sides would be driving Model Ts. Well, with exception of Sitting Bull, who gets a Stanley Steamer in recognition of his historical importance.

Anyway, that was Budaghers. I don’t know when it closed. But it remains, at least, in the memories of Old Timers.

Now, about the Mormon Battalion Monument...for that, you have to go back even further. In 1846-1848, the United States found itself at war with Mexico. Just before that, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a.k.a., Mormons, was in a spot of difficulty. The church’s prophet, Joseph Smith, had been killed by a mob in the town of Carthage, Illinois. Brigham Young then led a number of Mormons to Iowa with the plan of eventually moving further West to what is now Utah. Young and his followers were hoping to get support from the Federal government, or at least to get the government’s benign neglect. Mormon volunteers fighting for the U.S. Army seemed a great way to get a bit of good PR. (2)

One thing let to another, and...after a bit of horse trading...the Mormon Battalion was born. It then marched, on foot, all the way (eventually) to California--a distance of over 2000 miles. The Battalion didn’t do much fighting with Mexico, but their “long march” was the stuff of legend.

Decades later, Mormons and others decided to mark the trail of the Battalion with a monument. One of these was at roughly the mid-point between Santa Fe and Albuquerque--i.e., Budaghers--near which, apparently, the Battalion had walked.

Which takes us to ... ¡Traditions!

It can be pretty surreal. You’re driving along, minding your own business, and then...pow!...out in the middle of mostly nothing, there are the (rather impressive) remains of a once mighty shopping mall. What the heck... you it doing there?

Well, apparently, in the closing decades of the last century, some entrepreneurs figured Budaghers would be the perfect spot for a Factory Outlet mall. It would appeal to bargain hungry shoppers from both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and anyone else who just happened to be on the road. It made perfect sense and pretty soon the Mall, christened ¡Traditions!, was in operation. (3)

I’ve talked to people who shopped there. They say it was a pretty cool place, really. Lots of competitively priced goods and a couple of good places to eat. But...but...somehow, for some reason, it didn’t work out. People didn’t come. And now it is abandoned and empty, a postindustrial ghost town...

For me, ¡Traditions! is actually kind of a symbol. Or two symbols. Sometimes I think of it as a monument to just how much free enterprise is a game of chance. Some thoughtful people made a reasoned guess. But, they didn’t get a winning deal. That’s just how the system works. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

Other times, though, I worry that it is, instead, an indication of the current direction of the economy -- away from consumers, away from individuals, away from a prosperous middle class...

...towards, instead, an age of vast monopolies, a few enormously wealthy men and women, and all the rest of us...barely able to afford necessities, much less consumer goods in funky shopping malls in the desert.

Anyway, let’s hope the first one is right and the second is a nasty, dystopian fantasy.

And, next time, we’ll finally get to lunch.

More to come.

Second, and (as per norm) having little do with the story at hand, here’s a snap of Martha at lunch the other day when we found a super new little restaurant, The Toasty Badger, in Austin.


1. Though Budaghers was never a town, it does have its own Wikipedia entry, here:,_New_Mexico

2. For the Battalion monument, go here:,_New_Mexico). For the Mormon Battalion itself, see:

3. ¡Traditions! does not seem to have its own Wikpedia page. However, there are some photographs of the area on EarRegardless’s blog here:

Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker


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