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New Mexico ghost town saloon uses civility to draw crowd

July 7, 2019

WHITE OAKS, N.M. (AP) — A saloon in a New Mexico ghost town attracts regulars with diverse backgrounds and opinions with a promise to “have dialogue.”

The No Scum Allowed Saloon in the White Oaks, New Mexico, pulls in people from around the state and sometimes tourists from overseas because of its reputation and catchy name, the Albuquerque Journal recently reported .

Saloon owner Karen Haughness, one of the nine people who live in White Oaks, said the saloon’s regulars often exceed the town’s population. She says the saloon cultivates civil discourse among visitors.

“We are different. We come from different places. We are different politically. We have extreme liberals and extreme conservatives,” said Haughness, who also works as a school psychologist and sells antiques on the side. “But we can state opinions without getting into arguments. We have dialogue.”

Rick Virden, 66, a former Lincoln County sheriff who has a ranch between White Oaks and Carrizozo, said there are quite a few people who come to the saloon on a regular basis.

“And some of them are from quite a ways away,” he said.

The town was founded after gold was discovered in the region in 1879. Outlaw Billy the Kid is said to have visited White Oaks often looking for a good time.

People moved out as gold mining evaporated, with the last mine closing in 1930. Today, the No Scum Allowed Saloon’s regulars make up to about three times the town’s single-digit population.

Jackie Keller, 56, a former State Highway Department employee, lives just east of White Oaks. She is known for her green chile salsa and bakes cakes for saloon birthday parties.

“You can’t beat the people here,” she said. “We help each other out. It’s desolate here.”

White Oaks is 160 miles (257 kilometers) southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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