Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The joys of birthing babies in the mud

by Julie Carter

Not enough credit is given to the little woman who pulls her half of the load during calving season. It doesn’t always get done quite as punchy as by the head cowboy, but by golly, it gets done. Recently a tale related to me brought that point home.

The weather had been blessing the ranch with lots of moisture in combinations of rain and then piles of snow followed by enough warmth in the day to make mud the challenge. The cowgirl was making her check through the expecting heifers and saw one in the snowy bottom of the pasture with the tell-tale tail wringing going on. Knowing she was in labor, she eased the first-time momma-to-be up to the prepared straw beds under the protection of the trees. The heifer was kicking at her belly and quite agitated, so she knew labor was in full swing.

Standing back where she could watch, she waited. The heifer bedded down and labor progressed. Soon one hoof was out but after much more work on the heifer’s part, nothing more happened. Too far to walk her to the pens, the cowgirl knew she was going to have to help, making do with what she had.

She pulled off her shirt, used the sleeve to cinch down on the exposed foot of the calf. Soon with two feet out and working them back and forth, she “walked” the calf out of the womb. All this while she was laying, sitting and slipping around in the mud that was beneath the straw.

With a live baby calf in her lap, her heart was happy. Standing up she realized the shirt was not wearable, and while it was a nice day, standing in 45 degree temps in her bra wasn’t quite the sunbathing experience she had in mind. Just another matter-a-fact day for the season.

In much a similar situation, I once found myself in corrals that were knee-deep in mud covered by a deceivingly benign-looking white blanket of snow. The underlying mush would suck off your boots and hindered any kind of movement other than a determined trudge.

I was on heifer-calving duty while the head cowboy was somewhere else. The weather dictated frequent checks to make sure some new, wet, steaming baby calf wasn’t born in a mud hole and chilled down before he ever got a chance at life.

Heifers by their very youth and nature are stupid, skittish and determined to be contrary. I cut laboring heifers out of the “OB” corral and penned them in warm stalls as they neared the birthing moment. I was in packer boots, every warm piece of clothing I owned, and looked like the Michelin man in a dance competition. Moving fast to cut off a heifer as she tried to cut back was not a pretty sight.

In all this, there was one heifer on the very far end of the corrals, a long alleyway from the barn, that decided to lay down and have her calf in the mud and snow in spite of my efforts. By the time I got to her, she was well into the business of pushing him out into a puddle of ice-cold mush.

She got up the minute she saw me and came at me with definite intent to harm. I deftly jumped (OK, that may be an exaggeration) behind the gate I had just come through. I let her run through the gate opening, preferable to running over the top of me. I quickly shut the gate behind her for safekeeping while I rescued the slimy newborn that was blinking and sputtering trying to get his first breaths.

The calf weighed more than he should have for a first-calf and was long, wet and slippery. I lifted him up by his front end, hugging his back to me, my grip tight around his body just behind his front legs. His back legs still touched the ground and I knew all I could do was walk backwards and drag him up the alley to the barn.

In no particular order, I tugged and trudged and grunted and pulled. About 10 feet from the barn door, I went down. My foot had pulled out of my boot and my sock was fast soaking up freezing wet corral muck. I was sitting on my frozen backside with a slimy calf in my lap, trying to figure out how to get out from underneath him, get my boot and start over.

As perfect as timing could be, it was then the head cowboy came around the corner of the barn.
He first grinned and then with decidedly poor judgment, he laughed. He rescued the calf off my lap while asking, “Was this all you got done today?” It was probably a week after the snow was gone before things thawed out at the ranch house.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Frederick Douglass

Create Your Own Path
Frederick Douglass
Vastly Higher Ground
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            As the pen of red Angus calves flowed down the alley toward us, I couldn’t suppress the pride in what I was witnessing. Those calves represented much more than just the sum total of their numbers. They started as a concept and a goal many, many years ago.
            In truth, their existence was the culmination of what started as early boyhood dreams and wound their way toward reality through a hurricane of barriers and impossible obstacles that offered little to no chance of success. I not only liked what I saw I was struck by the notion that two or three inspirational role models of my past would have approved as well. They would have heralded a personal, “laudable pursuit” of six decades.
            I got to spend another hour with those bright red calves before the sorted heifers were loaded and on their way to Texas as herd replacements and the steers were headed to Iowa to be grown on summer grass before going into a farmer/feeder operation for finishing. The bigger heifer calves were left in the feedlot to grow before they come home to become our own 2017 replacement heifers.
They will serve as the next step toward something very important … our future.
Frederick Douglass
I’m not alone in believing our American experiment is not just remarkable it is “pure, natural, and noble”.
That quoted subphrase came from a man who grew to love America for its principles and its promise. His birth provided every reason to take an opposite stand and fight to overturn and denigrate his homeland, but he didn’t allow spite to rule his life. Rather, by reflection and conscientious study, Frederick Douglass, set a different course.
           We know Douglass was a slave by birth, but he escaped those bonds to become a great American thinker and true emancipator. In the crosswinds of our youth and educational processes, few of us grasped the importance of this man, but reassessment has a way of altering initial impressions and lessons dimmed by time and teachers as uninformed as we were. Douglass is a model that deserves to be heralded.
What makes his life more remarkable is the fact he was influenced by mentors who rejected the Constitution as a proslavery “covenant with death”. They called for free states to secede from the Union and go their own way. At that time in his life, he was constantly under that tutelage. In the end, Douglass rejected those radical, progressive teachings and became a messenger of a different promise for America.
               Douglas trumpeted America in a Fourth of July speech he gave in 1852. In it, he praised the Constitution as a “glorious liberty document”. In his mind, the Founders were great men who put their lives on a course toward oblivion if their bet and their resolve failed. Theirs was a “glorious example” of what separates the American model from all the rest.
            From that realization, Douglas found his own distinctive promise in his America, but, from there, the lesson deepens.
            Certainly slavery was a contradiction of any premise of constitutional equality, but its resolution was sealed through the blood of 750,000 Americans in the Civil War. Beyond that blight on our history, Douglass came to assign the prevailing interpretation of inequity toward his surroundings as the natural failure of men and their imposed translation obf the document and not the Constitution itself. Racial uplift, reconciliation, and integration were matters that transcended slavery but the fixes certainly didn’t get resolved with the collective graves of est those Americans. The true doctrine was to be found in the simple premise that barriers were treated by casting out all racial identities rather than elevating them into federal policy importance.
            Douglass agreed wholeheartedly with the Lincoln suggestion that the best way to elevate the condition of men was to set in motion universal freedoms to “clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all”.
            “The true doctrine,” Douglass wrote, “is one nation, one country, one citizenship, and one law for ALL the people.”
            Just before he died, he warned what he had to say would “be more useful than palatable” but it needed saying.
 “We hear, since emancipation, much said in commendation of race pride, race love, race effort, race superiority, race men, and the like,” he counseled. “(but, we) make a great mistake in saying so much of race and color.”
“I would place myself, and I would place you … upon grounds vastly higher and broader than any founded upon race or color … not (various races as we are addressed), but as men,” were his words. “God and nature speak to our manhood, and to our manhood alone.”
Consider the immensity of those words and align them in juxtaposition to how our federal government and our society have treated race and classification of citizenry. Since the Civil War, and, continued relentlessly today, the opposite has taken place. Since the ‘60s, it has become an entire industry, but all the racial uplift and equality has actually created differential states of citizenry and emancipation. It has not solved problems. It has promoted sectionalism and fundamental divide.
We are where Douglass warned us not to go.
Vastly Higher Ground
 Where does the “vastly higher grounds” of Douglass’ vision exist today?
The truth of the matter is much easier arrayed where such conditions don’t exist. The hellholes of urban centers where radical, racially divisive leadership prevails and triumphs like Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis and Los Angeles are diametrically opposed examples of the Douglass model. It is there the race industries have set up shop and spread their tentacles of oppression and hate, but those centers aren’t the only battlegrounds.
From Victor Davis Hanson’s Private Papers, we can begin to realize entire states and, indeed, entire regions are on the cusp of the same dire dilemma. California is on center stage. Hanson notes that in “eery irony” California is in a headlong descent toward the catastrophe of the Old South in the days leading up to the Civil War. All of a sudden that liberal leadership is promoting the ideas of “states rights” it has so blatantly disregarded and promoted on a general basis. What it projects as “cool” is actually the epitome of a permanent society of haves and have nots. “King Cotton” of the old South is alive and well in Silicon Valley where trillion dollar companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and others are a world unto their own. Huge estates surrounded by impoverished shacks of servants are duplicated by mostly poor communities like Pixley or Redwood City living in squalor next to places like Atherton and Woodside. The state has become a reactionary two tiered state of masters and serfs no different from the antebellum South.
The emergence of full view self-righteous preening, though, has existed across the West in full view for nearly two centuries. Indian Reservations are institutional locker plants of suppression whereby proper rights to human beings much less American citizens don’t even exist. They are differential states akin to zoos where emancipation never came and racial degradation and disintegration are permanent. Those people may as well wear T shirts proclaiming “We are Stupid and We Can’t be Trusted with Private Property Rights!” The fact is they are not trusted by federal policy and they are heaped into a permanent state of despair and underachievement.
The story doesn’t end there.
The illumination of a permanent class of exclusions who are being effectively condemned to a covenant with death is growing. They are a collection of men who are not judged on their respective merits, but with regards to their antecedents in direct contradiction to the Constitution.
It is little wonder that there is a growing rejection of the suggestion of “one nation, one country, one citizenship, and one law for one people”. These Americans have either been uninvited to the party or they are being excluded in starts and stops by artificial regulatory weights added to their shoulders. In all cases, the two tiered system has continued its diabolical advance. Its governing doctrine of permanence does not align itself with the vision of Douglass. It is not a Lincolnesque “laudable pursuit for all”. Rather, it is defined inequality that pits one element of America against another. The management philosophy is now arrayed by classification.  Navajo, Miner, Apache, Lumberman, Cheyenne, Rancher, Black, White, Comanche, Farmer, Mexican American, illegal Alien, Urban, Rural, and the continuing myriad of racial and societal demarcations that divide us rather than what God and nature speak to … our manhood alone.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “I will guarantee you that if Indian Reservations were offered to homesteading by their resident internees their support for national monuments and other environmental “Wunderlands” would be dramatically altered. There would be subsequent starts and stops, but eventually American flags would be flying where they never have.”

Baxter Black: Things Aren’t What They Seem

– If you see an Indian dressed like a cowboy, he’s probably a cowboy.

– If you see a cowboy dressed like an Indian, he’s probably a country music singer.

– If you see an Indian dressed like an Indian, he’s probably an entertainer.

– If you see a country music singer dressed like an Indian, he’s probably an actor.

– If you see an actor dressed like a country music singer, he’s probably lip synching
– If you see a cowboy with a briefcase, he’s probably a salesman.

– If you see a salesman dressed like a cowboy, he’s probably a realtor.

– If you see a golfer dressed like a farmer, he’s probably a salesman.

– If you see a farmer dressed like a salesman, he’s probably a golfer.

– If you see a farmer dressed like a cowboy, he’s probably on vacation.

– If you see a roper dressed like a cowboy, he’s probably a header.

– If you see a roper dressed like a prisoner, he’s probably a heeler.

– If you see a heeler dressed like a header, he’s probably out on parole.

Lee Pitts - Identity Crisis

There are many pros and cons of being me. The pros are I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful life, while my biggest cons are a sickly body and a terrible name.

A person’s name is like a Knight’s crest, a blue blood’s coat of arms and the convention badge you wear that says, “Hello, my name is.” While you may be proud of your name and write it with a big fat Sharpie marker, I write mine small and in fine point. You see, Lee is not my real name. It’s bad enough but my real name is Leland. There, I’ve said it. Now the whole world knows my darkest secret. (I never could keep a secret.) The only people who’ve ever called me Leland were a couple aunts and my mom when she was really mad at me and called me all three of my bad names, as in, “Leland Warren Pitts, did you spill chocolate milk all over that cloth rocking chair I just finished upholstering?”

That’s another story, but you see my problem. All three of my names are awful- first, middle and last. Does it get any worse than Pitts? As in, when someone in conversation refers to something bad they say, “It’s the pits. Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, that’s your name isn’t it?” And then they chuckle. Always with the chuckle. Ha, ha, ha. If I had a dollar for every time someone has said that to me I could afford to go into witness protection and adopt an entirely new identity AND A NEW NAME. I’d pick something simple like Tom Smith. Or Joe Williams. I see myself as a Tom or a Joe.

I apologize to reputable firms like Leland Red Angus who have great cattle and I’m sure they are proud of their name brand. In my defense, I think Leland sounds better as a last name than it does a first. I also apologize to Pitts Trailers of Pittsview, Alabama. Someone sent me one of their ads and I wonder if Pittsview is in reference to the shapely lass in the ad who is standing with her derrierre to the camera along with their motto, “You’re ahead with a Pitts behind.” 

I wouldn’t know about that.


New Mexico has a blacksmithing legacy

by Marc Simmons

In 1980, the noted Santa Fe blacksmith Frank Turley and I published our book Southwestern Colonial Ironwork. It represented the culmination of ten years of research and writing.

The work proved to be one of the most difficult projects I’d ever tackled, but also the most challenging and pleasurable. For background on Hispanic blacksmithing in New Mexico, I traveled to Spain to observe and interview modern craftsmen who still followed many of the old traditions. Along the way, I had some unforgettable experiences.
One branch or specialty of ironworking is farriery that is, horseshoeing. Since I’d done a lot of that myself in the 1970s, I made a point of talking with horseshoers while in Spain.

Once at a cavalry remount station in the village of Benavente, I was lucky enough to catch a master shoer and his assistant at work.

The latter, called a mozo, picked up the horse’s foot and held it, so that the master could remove the old shoe, trim the hoof, and nail on a new shoe. That’s the way it had been done in colonial New Mexico.

In Spanish, I explained to the two men and a crowd of on-lookers that in the United States horseshoers worked under the animal alone. The master declared indignantly that the job couldn’t be performed without a mozo.

To prove him wrong, I asked to borrow his tools and for permission to take off the rear shoes on his next horse. In short order, I lifted a hind foot, braced it against my upper leg, cut the old nail clinches, and jerked off the shoe with pullers. The appreciative audience gave me a round of applause; partly because I was the only foreigner in a business suit they had ever seen work on a horse. The master farrier, however, was anything but happy with my performance, so I made a quick exit. During research in New Mexico’s Spanish Archives preserved in Santa Fe, I first came across the history of the Sena Family who had been blacksmiths in the capital and elsewhere for more than 200 years.

Founder of this smithing dynasty was Bernardino de Sena who at age nine in 1693 first came to New Mexico from Mexico City. That was during the reconquest by Gen. Diego de Vargas.

Bernardino’s parents settled on a ranch near Pojoaque. At 18 the young man went to Santa Fe and was soon blacksmithing, probably having learned the trade through an apprenticeship.

He prospered, invested in real estate, and became one of the city’s most prominent citizens. Upon his death in 1765, he was buried in a place of honor inside San Miguel Chapel, now sometimes referred to as the oldest church in the U.S.A. Generations of Bernardino’s descendants continued working at smithcraft. One of note was Ramon Sena whose Santa Fe forge turned out all sorts of ranch hardware in the 1830s. Several Navajos who wanted to learn ironworking so that they could make their own horse bits hired him to come to their camp below Mt. Taylor.

Sena went, with another smith named Jose Castillo, and taught the Indians what they needed to know. Then their hosts escorted them back to Santa Fe for protection, since word had reached camp that other Navajos were out raiding.

After Sena and Castillo’s instruction, the art of blacksmithing spread rapidly among the Navajo tribe. Using the same techniques of metal working, the Indians soon graduated to making silver jewelry. Today Navajo jewelry is one of the most famous and sought after of native crafts.

The last of the long line of Sena blacksmiths was Abran Sena who was forging and shoeing horses in Santa Fe as late as the 1920s. When he closed his shop across from Guadalupe Church in the latter part of the decade, a tradition that had begun more than 200 years before with Bernardino de Sena came to an end.


 Marc Simmons is a retired historian and award winning author of 35 books 

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1785

Our gospel tune today is the 1947 recording of Deed We Do by the Prairie Ramblers. The tune is on their CD The Oregon Trail

Saturday, February 18, 2017

‘California is a nation, not a state’: A fringe movement wants a break from the U.S.

Bolstered by the election of President Trump, the group, Yes California, is collecting the 585,407 signatures necessary to place a secessionist question on the 2018 ballot. Its goal is to have California become its own country, separate and apart from the United States. The group is advertising at protests and hosting meetups throughout California. Its leaders say the organization has ballooned to 53 chapters, each of which has meetings like the one here to plot out strategy and recruit volunteers. “Basically, what we’re witnessing is the birth of a nation,” said Tim Vollmer, 57, an academic consultant from San Francisco. “We can lead what’s left of the free world.” Their recruiting pitch goes something like this: California — the most populous state, with nearly 40 million residents — subsidizes other states at a loss, is burdened by a national trade system, doesn’t get a fair say in presidential elections, is diverse and disagrees with much of the rest of the country on immigration, is far ahead of other states on environmental policy and, for the most part, is diametrically opposed to Trump’s positions. Therefore, the argument goes, conditions are perfect for the Golden State to secede. The group’s biggest effort is focused on collecting signatures for the initiative. It will ask voters if they want to repeal a section of the state constitution declaring that California is an “inseparable part of the United States of America” and hold a referendum on independence on March 5, 2019. The group started collecting signatures in late January and has six months to complete the task...more

Chaffetz Calls for Wider Probe of BLM Agent Key in Standoff

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah has called for a wider probe of a federal Bureau of Land Management agent who played a key role in the standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy before coming under investigation for his activities at Burning Man. The chair of the House Oversight Committee said in a letter that the allegations against Salt Lake City supervisor Daniel Love could undermine trust in the agency and should be probed by Department of Interior inspectors. The department's Office of Inspector General did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter released on Friday. Chaffetz pointed to reports that Love asked employees to "scrub" emails before responding to a congressional records request and delete documents from a shared server. He was also accused of coaching an employee on what to say before during an interview with government investigators, according to the letter dated Feb. 14. Love, who oversaw the Bundy cattle roundup in 2014, is expected to be an important witness for the prosecution during a trial unfolding in Las Vegas for six men accused of illegally wielding weapons during the standoff. Defense attorneys pushing for the case to be dismissed say they should have previously been informed about the allegations against Love. He was also the target of a federal lawsuit from the family of a southern Utah doctor, James Redd, who killed himself after he was arrested in a 2009 artifact looting investigation that marked an early skirmish in the struggle for control of public lands. The family said the Bureau of Land Management agents led by Love used excessive force when they arrested Redd at gunpoint. That case was dismissed by an appeals court Monday after judges found the presence of agents in SWAT-like gear wasn't unreasonable given the large volume of evidence and longstanding local opposition to federal control of public lands...more

Judge dismisses 1 of 3 charges against Bundy attorney and orders bench trial

A federal judge Thursday dropped one of three criminal charges against Marcus Mumford, Ammon Bundy's lawyer, and ruled he'll issue a verdict on the other two charges, not a jury. U.S District Judge John C. Coughenour dismissed a charge that accused Mumford of creating a disturbance by impeding the official duties of government officers because it encompassed the same conduct alleged in the second count, failing to comply with official signs that prohibit the disruption of federal officers' official work. Coughenour declined to grant Mumford a jury trial, as requested, or his motion to dismiss all the charges. Mumford's lawyer Michael Levine has argued that the deputy U.S. marshals engaged in "outrageous'' government misconduct and lacked authority to wrestle Mumford to the ground and stun him with a Taser gun while he was arguing on behalf of Bundy in a federal courtroom last fall. The scuffle occurred after Bundy was acquitted of all charges on Oct. 27, 2016, at the end of a five-week trial stemming from the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. "Here, the transcript and video footage do not support such a finding,'' the judge wrote. "The U.S. marshals' conduct does not rise to a level that 'shocks the conscience.' '' Coughenour said in his ruling: "It appears from the transcript and the courtroom video that defendant interfered with the marshals taking his client into custody.'' The judge wasn't swayed by Levine's arguments that the marshals didn't have authority to act against Mumford while he was advocating for his client in court or that the charges against him are vague. Coughenour held that Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security to establish regulations with criminal penalties relating to the protection of federal property similar to powers it has granted to the National Park Service, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. "Defendant was not charged with violating the regulations for making arguments in the courtroom,'' the judge wrote. "At the heart of the allegations is that defendant interfered with the U.S. marshals taking custody of his client. A person of ordinary intelligence would understand that interfering with a U.S. marshal removing a defendant who was in their custody following the completion of court constitutes a disruption of the performance of a marshal's duties.''...more

Coughenour's rulings are here and here

DOJ subpoenas former OPB reporter in Malheur Refuge trial

Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena Thursday for former Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter John Sepulvado to testify in the second trial of the occupiers who took control of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. Sepulvado must appear and testify in Oregon U.S. District Court Tuesday, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by Current. Sepulvado now hosts The California Report for KQED in San Francisco. OPB GM Steve Bass declined to comment on how Sepulvado and the station will respond to the subpoena, citing the ongoing legal issue. Sepulvado did not respond to a request for comment. The organization’s general policy “is that reporters’ notes are private documents; they’re not subject to subpoena,” said Morgan Holm, OPB’s senior VP and chief content officer, in an OPB news story about the subpoena. “We would try to prevent those from getting out because they’re work product.” The story added that Sepulvado may have been singled out because federal prosecutors have previously said in court that they believe an interview Sepulvado conducted with occupier Ryan Bundy provides evidence that’s relevant to the case...more

Bureau of Land Management agent testifies Bundy ranch standoff sniper aimed at him

A federal agent testified that he saw a "sniper" on a freeway overpass pointing a military-style weapon at him while a crowd of protesters in a dry river bed called for the government to release Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's cattle in April 2014. Trial resumed Wednesday in Las Vegas with Bureau of Land Management Special Agent Michael Johnson telling a federal court jury he "absolutely" felt his life was in danger. Johnson testified he took cover for more than an hour behind a portable generator trailer, and never raised his AR-15 rifle at the overpass or at men, women and children in the wash below...more