Fox Cave is made of sedimentary rock from the Permian geologic era dating to nearly 300 million years ago. During that time, the area surrounding the cave was under water. A close inspection of the cave walls today reveals fossil remnants dating from the period. Small polished stones with fossils are popular souvenirs for visitors to Fox Cave.
The cave was formed over thousands of years of erosion of the rock by the Ruidoso River -- first, slowly
eroding the sides of the mountain and then eventually flowing right through the middle of it creating a water-
fall approx-imately 100 feet tall. Eventually, the river shrank in size to only ten feet wide and located a mere
fifty feet from the cave’s edge. In the early 1900s, rocks filled in the 100 foot drop. It was not until the early 1940s that cement was poured to fill that area.
For hundreds of years, native tribes that populated the region sought shelter in the cave. Long before Anglo settlers came to New Mexico, the mountains, plains and deserts in this part of the Southwest belonged to
the Mescalero Apache people. Thick layers of soot on the cave’s ceiling are an indication of the many fires
that warmed the cave over the years. The oral history of these tribes reveal that the much-feared Apache
warrior chief, Geronimo, and his followers camped often at Fox Cave. Great shelter, an abundance of water
and plenty of game made it a perfect site.
Today the Mescalero Apache Nation’s homeland is a nearly 500,000-acre reservation situated near Ruidoso; many of Geronimo’s (1829-1909) descendants still reside on the reservation. The reservation was formally established in 1873 by the U.S. government.
Billy the Kid, another icon of the American West, along with his cohorts, was also reputed to have hidden
often from his many pursuers within the cool confines of Fox Cave in the late 1800s.
Fast-forward to 1951, when Bill Brim bought the cave and built the rock wall enclosing the open space in
the cave. He opened a gift shop and operated it until George Fuchs arrived. In 1954, George leased the
cave that had always been called Ice Cave. Because George’s last name “Fuchs” was pronounced “Fox,”
the cave was renamed “Fox Cave.” Artist Peter Hurd, a member of the famous American art family headed
by patriarch N.C. Wyeth, lived just down the road in the Hondo Valley. In a moment of inspiration, Hurd
took out a pencil and
did a quick sketch of a fox and thus the original logo was born.
The following is a transcript of a conversation with George Fuchs recorded by his niece in 2007, when
George was 95 years old:
“Best move we ever made was when we leased that Fox Cave. Went in debt quite a bit to do it. One thing
I did in the beginning, I bought expensive counters. I bought limed oak counters, real nice ones. I told
Mildred, ‘Expensive merchandise in cheap counters cheapens it. Average merchandise in expensive
counters increases its value.’ It sure worked out that way.
I was up in Santa Fe one time, stopped in to see one of my distributors who sold knives. He wanted to sell
out. I bought $900 and some dollars worth of knives at 25 cents each. Thought I had enoughknives for the
rest of my life. We resold them for $1.50 to $45.00 each; before the month was out I had to order more!
I had a fellow working with me that really knew how to merchandise stuff. We bought a bunch of 15 cent f
ans, three styles. Sold them for $1.25, $1.50, and $1.95 each.
I’ve been all over - up in Canada, Calgary - pretty far West, north up the coast - east coast, New York City.
Mildred and I took Kate up there, stayed a week, did quite a bit of buying, went directly into the big stores.
That’s when we had Fox Cave. Went in one store, bought all kinds of knives. In the U.S. we were their
number one customer. We had an 8 ft. long counter, 3 shelves on it, with 147 different styles of knives.
People don’t know it, but mass display sells.
I had some pictures of desert scenes. Big fat boy was looking at them, ‘How much for that picture?’ I didn’t
pay much attention to him and just said, ‘It’s pretty expensive,’ and went about my business. He asked me
again. I told him the same thing. Third time, I figured he was about ready, ‘$35.’ To prove he had the money,
he bought three of them. People are like that.
(Eventually), they changed the highway. I was real fortunate. Governor Ed Mechem came down, ‘Let you in
on a little secret. They’re going to put the highway on the other side of the river, change the course of the
river. Maybe you can sell out.’ I sure did appreciate it, because it happened just like he said.
Man that owned the place, Bill Brim, and his brother, figured he could lease it out to somebody. His brother bought me out. When he took it over business went down, from $3,000 a day to $600. They put up signs, ‘If
you break me you’ve bought me.’ Somebody break something, I would say, ‘Aw, forget it. Anybody can have
an accident.’ You build a business with attitude. Those people will come back and buy something.
I sold more knives than anybody in the country. Had such a stock, any one sold, we’d just reach down, get another one and replace it. I think we sold more knives than anything else, but we also sold an awful lot
of salt and pepper shakers.We made quite a bit of money in that store. Fellow we sold it to went broke.
One time at the cave there were quite a few customers and a big old skunk walked in the door. I told every-
body to be real quiet. After awhile it walked back out the door. If it had sprayed us in there, it really would
have messed us up.
I think the most interesting part of my life was when we had Fox Cave. I really enjoyed it. Just seeing what
you could do with customers. One day, business was a little slow, so two girls went out to the road, pulled
up their britches - like they needed sex. They were just playing, but I got after them!"
After Georgia Ruth's (George’s sister) life tragically ended in an automobile accident near Ruidoso Downs in August of 1956, George and Mildred sold Fox Cave. In the spring 1961 they moved to Durango, Colorado,
where George worked for the Forestry Service.
In December 2010, the Duke Family purchased Fox Cave and the 50 acres that surround it in a foreclosure auction. The previous owner was Barbara Cody, a descendant of Buffalo Bill Cody. After moving to New Mexico from Cody, Wyoming, Barbara bought Fox Cave hoping to open a restaurant and gift shop. Unfortunately, she developed cancer and passed away.
To date, it has cost nearly the same amount of money to clean up the long abandoned cave as it did to buy
it. Over the years, several homeless families with small children and plenty of cats occupied the cave and
the eight casitas that make up the compound.
After years of neglect and deterioration, only one of the casitas had a roof that remained, all the rest had
caved in long ago; there was no electricity or running water. In truth, Fox Cave had been used as a dumpsite
for several years - the real city dump is just down the road but you have to pay whereas the dump at Fox
Cave was free!In addition to 60 dumpster loads of trash, the Duke family’s construction/demolition crew removed 75 tires, seven cars and trucks along with three boats – imagine! Seven of the casitas were
brimming with trash piled up over four feet tall!
After extensive rehabilitation and renovation, Fox Cave is now open to the public seven days a week,
boasting a king’s ransom of gems, jewels, rocks, and crystals. The Gem Mine is also open everyday where
a ten dollar bucket of gem-rich earth is guaranteed to yield beautiful rocks and minerals. Visitors to the
cave have only to place a scoop of rough material onto their panning screens then rinse their findings with
clean water. Once wet, the gemstones reveal their colors and crystal shapes which are easily identifiable
on the Gemstone Chart available on site.
Among the many different gemstones folks have discovered are: aquamarines, moonstones, Ruidoso
garnets, citrines, amethyst, rubies, sapphires and many more! Sharing the experience of mining at the
flume mine is a lot of fun for you and your family . . . compare your finds and help each other identify
what you've found – perhaps you’ll even strike it rich!
Adding to the endless mystery and allure of Fox Cave, only the large main room is open to the public.
On either side of the main room, closed doors lead farther back into the cave’s dark unknown spaces.
Low ceilings make if difficult to navigate and very easy to bump your head. Quickly, the back of the cave
narrows down to only a few inches making it impossible to continue exploring. A cool breeze can often
be felt from that narrow passageway leading one to believe it continues farther still with the promise of
another opening existing somewhere deep within its recesses. Stay tuned as the mysteries of Fox Cave continue to be revealed!
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