Betty Williamson grew up just outside the town of Pep, in southeastern New Mexico. Photograph by Andrew Kornylak.
BETTY WILLIAMSON’S GRANDPARENTS HOMESTEADED a piece of land 10 miles outside the town of Pep, in southeastern New Mexico. She grew up on that land and lives there today with her husband, who is retired. The niece of famed science fiction writer Jack Williamson, she has kept his family tradition alive, working as a freelance journalist for The Eastern New Mexico News.
When I was growing up, the joke was always that Pep was population two. Then a man from Albuquerque bought the whole place back in the 1970s. He ran the store in town, was the postmaster, the mayor. Now the town doesn’t have anybody who lives within the city limits. But it still has a functioning post office.
I was away for a few years. I went to ENMU, in Portales. I worked for the Roswell Daily Record for my first job, then in Washington, D.C., for three years. I returned in 1987 thinking I was just coming for a short stay. I wanted to learn how to artificially inseminate cattle. I took a class. I bred a bunch of cattle and I wanted to stay and watch my first calves be born. One thing led to another. The seasons changed, and here I am.
I love the high plains. Not everyone does. We are on a cattle ranch, but we have completely sold out with the ongoing drought. But I do have really deep roots to the land and the area. I find it a really beautiful and special place. You have to look a little harder for the beautiful.
On the land here we have the lesser prairie chicken and the dunes sagebrush lizard, and they are both species of concern. We have researchers coming to check on them. And that is tied to the drought as well. The numbers are tough. The ranchers are having a tough time. They need the rain like all of us do.
It’s not that we have a really special place, but it’s special to us, and we love to share it with people.