Monday, August 21, 2017

New Mexico delegates make plea to keep monuments intact

Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation on Monday issued a last-ditch plea to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to keep intact two national monuments on a list of sites being reviewed by the Trump administration. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham sent a letter to Zinke, saying thousands of New Mexicans support the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces and the Rio Grande del Norte monument outside of Taos. They pointed to the monuments as drivers for local economies on each end of the state. “The voices of New Mexicans could not be clearer — our national monuments are vitally important to our history and are part of the living culture of local tribes and pueblos,” the letter states. “Our local communities worked for decades to ensure that permanent protections for our national monuments would be in place for the use and enjoyment of future generations.” But not all New Mexicans have embraced the designations made under the Obama administration. Opponents, like some Hispanic ranchers with ties to the land that go back generations, say the designations are another attempt by the federal government to attack grazing rights and water access while discounting their historical connections. The ranchers also have voiced opposition to any new wilderness designations as minority farm and ranching groups continue to push the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address decades of discrimination and civil rights violations, particularly against Hispanic ranchers and land grant heirs in New Mexico. Zinke visited the state last month and held a series of private stakeholder meetings. It’s not clear when he will issue recommendations on the two New Mexico monuments. The deadline is Thursday. Supporters of the monuments say the designations have helped to protect some of the state’s most iconic landscapes and that tourism and economic development related to the sites are on the rise...more

Secretary Perdue Announces Tony Tooke as New Forest Service Chief

(Washington, D.C., August 21, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced Tony Tooke will serve as the new Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Tooke has worked for the Forest Service since age 18 and currently is the Regional Forester for the Southern Region. Following the announcement, Secretary Perdue issued this statement:

“The Forest Service will be in good hands with the U.S. Forest Service’s own Tony Tooke whose knowledge of forestry is unmatched. Tony will oversee efforts to get our forests working again, to make them more productive, and to create more jobs. His focus will be on ensuring we are good neighbors and are managing our forests effectively, efficiently, and responsibly, as well as working with states and local governments to ensure the utmost collaboration. No doubt, the stewardship of our forests is an awesome and sacred responsibility, and no one knows that better than Tony who has dedicated his career to this noble cause,” said Secretary Perdue.

Tony Tooke Biography:
Tony Tooke is the Regional Forester for the Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service. Tooke has worked for the Forest Service since age 18, including many assignments in Region 8 and the Washington Office (WO).

He is responsible for 3,100 employees, an annual budget exceeding $400 million, 14 national forests, and two managed areas, which encompass more than 13.3 million acres in 13 states and Puerto Rico.

His previous position in Washington, DC was Associate Deputy Chief for the National Forest System; with oversight of Lands and Realty, Minerals and Geology, Ecosystem Management Coordination, Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers, the National Partnership Office, and Business Administration and Support Services. 

As Associate Deputy Chief, Tooke was the Forest Service Executive Lead for Environmental Justice; Farm Bill implementation; and implementation of the Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Improvement Strategy. Another priority included implementation of a new planning rule for the National Forest System. 

Also in the WO, Tooke served as Director for Ecosystem Management Coordination, Deputy Director for Economic Recovery, and Assistant Director for Forest Management.

Prior to 2006, Tooke served as Deputy Forest Supervisor for the National Forests in Florida as well as District Ranger assignments at the Talladega NF in Alabama, the Oconee NF in Georgia, and the DeSoto NF in Mississippi. His other field assignments were Timber Management Assistant, Other Resource Assistant, Silviculturist, and Forester on six Ranger Districts in Mississippi and Kentucky.     

Tooke grew up on a small 200-acre farm in Detroit, AL. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Forestry from Mississippi State University. He was in the Forest Service’s inaugural class of the Senior Leadership Program, and he has completed the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1903

Its Swingin’ Monday and we have Tommy Duncan with You Put Me On My Feet (When You Took Her Off My Hands). The tune was recorded in Hollywood on May 9, 1949.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The journey of roping

 by Julie Carter

This might come as a surprise to most ropers today, but the tool of their trade, the lariat, or rope, was not a cowboy invention. Back in the days of the Roman Empire, circa 300-400 A.D., the Huns -- you remember them -- rode short little ponies and could and would stay in the saddle for days, those are the ones. 

History describes them as excellent warriors who could accurately shoot an arrow or use their lariat to rope an enemy while their ponies carried them along at a dead run. The Goths lived in dread of these short horsemen who annihilated them in every engagement.

Rope is recorded to be as old as mankind itself. All primitive peoples managed to discover some sort of material out of which they could produce twine and rope. The Chippewa Indians used a method by which they manufactured rope from the inner bark of basswood. 

No one seems to be able to answer with any authority just which people in the history of the human race were the first to make a lariat out of a rope, and exactly what materials were used in its construction. The development of the lariat follows closely with the history of the horse. The handling of animals generally necessitated the use of a rope of some type. 

With evidence that the horse and the lariat evolved together, it is also a good bet that the materials used were either horsehair or rawhide, both of which are obtainable from the animals themselves. It is thought that the most primitive riata was horsehair.

Ropes made of hair, hemp, rawhide, maguey (agave fiber), cotton and today’s ever popular nylon are all products of centuries of evolution.

What hasn’t changed is man’s fascination with a catch rope. I can’t speak for those Hun’s but today’s “twine twirlers” are every bit as dedicated to their craft, some arguing their life depends on it. And, if they have a rope in their hand, they have to rope something.

Who is that dashing header?
While there are no longer any Goth roping going on, it’s not uncommon for the rope owner to try to rope just about anything that moves. It doesn’t have to be a cow or horse. I’ve known dedicated ropers (aka fools) to rope mountain lions, coyotes, deer, antelope (now that took a fast horse) and yes, even a bear. 

Pretty much across the board, each of those events culminated in the cowboy wondering just what had he been thinking? The catchin’ was good. The “what do I do with it now” that followed was the meat of the story.

Movement is not a requirement for throwing a loop. Buckets, bushes, chairs and the sleeping dog, which quickly becomes part of the moving category, are fair game. In my part of the country, it is the weapon of choice for killing a snake if you aren’t armed with a gun.

The skill involved in the use of what began as a tool became marketable as a competitive “sport.”  Like shooting and riding, roping quickly became a contest to prove who was king. Much like an illegal substance, it has become an addiction for many.

Today roping is a multi-million dollar industry that attracts men, women and children from all walks of life. It no longer is just a “cowboy” sport, but calls to those that want a little piece of cowboy living.

By picking up a rope, the journey begins.

Julie can be reached for comment at

The Old Rock - Of Traynors and rural Scots

A Minority of One
The Old Rock
Of Traynors and rural Scots
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            The revolution that our nation is embarked upon is getting violent isn’t it?
            This day started with the disclosure by a local Dona Ana politician that he disliked the current Chancellor at New Mexico State University not by the color of his skin but by his party affiliation. With that prelude, he went on to admit the official had done a remarkable job in the face of budget chaos.
Well, which is it? Shall we elevate with condescension his party status or extend the credit for a job well done as the standard for judgment? The Chancellor would be skewered if he made that comment about the politician, but the politico’s brand of politics, the politics of identity, is simply not held to the same standards of justice and fair play as the conservative opposition.
            Our Constitution and the Bible are both color blind. Neither knows or tolerates classes among citizens. All citizens are equal before the law. Political parties have always operated in varying degrees of contradiction to that. Both are guilty.
            The politics of identity, though, seems to be void from life lines to either standard. Division through identity pride is becoming the doctrine that has every intention of deepening and widening the separation of communities.
            The liberal mob is storming the walls and the only minority that should matter, the minority of one, is either standing in a growing hail storm, or he is … gone.
            A Minority of One
            The fear that the small states had in precarious coequal authority of states’ rights has been brought home in spades to us. We understand how the skepticism among the less populated colonies was a major cause for concern. We have faced the assaults that are manipulated by greater numbers especially when those numbers have no true, vested interest in the real outcome.
            It isn’t just among states, though. It is the chasm between urban centers and rural counterparts. It is seen in the bussed in progressive voices over the smaller numbers of locals at rallies. It is the bully against the weaker member. It is the mob against the individual. It is the collective rejection of the saving principles of upholding individual rights.
            We aren’t alone.
            Scotland has become so urbanized and secularized that rural voices are simply cast aside. Unlike their British neighbors that sill have substantial rural voices, the Scottish countryside can’t defend itself. The numbers and the influence are simply no longer in place. The best example is the proliferation of hugely inefficient wind power generation and infrastructure that has been built as if there were no dissenting objectors. Too many rural communities are being inundated with renewable power infrastructure to the point there isn’t transmission facilities to carry it to users when generation peaks. Rural voices have been trounced and dismissed. It is a central reminder that all citizens are not coequals before the law.
            If we think we are different, we must think again.
            The Old Rock
            A reminder of the similar disappearance in rural New Mexico was brought to light this week when we learned of the death of Floyd Traynor. Floyd was found dead alongside his dog in the home where he lived. His passing is certainly a current human tragedy. It will be mourned by remaining family and friends, but a greater point looms. That is the parallel attrition of our rural community and what the old timers referred to as “The Old Rock”. It is the reference to the first generation of settlers who arrived to face the consequences of having nothing more than their wits and their resolve to prevail. The Traynor family must be included in that close knit group of families and individuals that made what became Grant County so unique in character and history.
            My memory of the Traynors was not centered on Floyd, but his grandfather, Curley.  It is a mix of snapshots as well as words that were said about the family. The most distinct physical memory was of Curley standing with his foot propped against the wall of the Cliff Mercantile with his black felt hat tilted back revealing a forehead protected from the sun. He was tough as nails without an ounce of fat. That was a standard feature displayed among all the old cowmen whose hands and face were the only parts of their being exposed to the sun. It was their mark of identity.
            Curley’s reputation was one of high honor.
            The family operation was in the far northwest corner of the county, west of Mule Creek, and spanning the Arizona line. It was an extension of that great Mule Creek grama grass country but in a transition of increasingly deep canyons and rough mountains. It was a “horseback country” and Curley and his son, Mike, fit it as if it was actually easy. In recent years, I heard stories about people recalling visits to the ranch and describing activities they observed.
            “They’d be up and horseback by 3:00 and ride three hours before they started work!” was one account.
            That wasn’t unique! Many did those things. A good part of many days was spent in the dark because transportation was the horses they rode, and Curley was known for his skill at making good horses. Many accounts of him were about how good he was with young horses. It was one of his badges of honor.
            I didn’t know Mike. He was invisible from my perspective out there making that ranch work. What I was told was that he was a contemporary of my Uncle Howard. That suggestion to me was that they were friends. They were children of the Depression and that alone sealed their relationship with the hard times their parents faced during the earlier arrivals.
            Floyd’s death will be a punctuation mark. His poetry and his memory are important. He represents the disappearance of another little piece of that Old Rock. He was the offspring of generations of men and women who were truly minorities of one. They fit the mold of unclassified people because they tended to their own business, they didn’t pontificate in judgment, and they worked every day just to survive.
            May we honor those memories and may God bless them.
            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Floyd believed that laws should be deemed unconstitutional only by unanimous decisions by the Supreme Court. That may have been his greatest contribution.” 

Floyd was in and out of my life for over 50 years. We were friends in College, had some bangup good times and I always enjoyed dancing to his music. We went our separate ways, lived our own lives and would run into each other on occasion. About 10 years ago I found myself in a southern NM rehab hospital undergoing physical therapy, and was told one afternoon I had a visitor. I'll be damned if it wasn't Floyd. He was back in the country and decided to check up on me. Our friendship was rekindled. He also became the main instigator of getting me to organize the NMSU Cowboy Reunion that was attended by many. Floyd departed from here two more times. And finally, he departed for the third time and said he was moving back home. He came by the house to tell me goodbye and it wound up being goodbye for keeps. I sure hope his last days were happy ones.

Lee Pitts: Six Degrees of Friendship

There are six degrees of friendship…

(#6) Facebook Friends- In most cases you couldn't even pick out this "friend" in a police lineup because you've never actually met. For all you know this friend could be a serial killer or a child molester. When your "friend" is arrested for a heinous crime and the nightly news interviews you, you'll feel like a fool saying, "He seemed like such a nice guy."
To test this friendship perform what I call the "mooch test." Starting at a request of a thousand bucks work down until you arrive at the amount your Facebook friend is willing to loan you. If it's under fifty-seven cents it's time to make new friends.
(#5) Holiday Inn Friends- This is a kindergarten classmate you can't remember who is coming to your town for a vacation and discovers that the cheapest motel room is over a hundred bucks per night. That's when he/she remembers you live in the area so he/she calls and invites himself/herself to stay with you. And he/she brings along their four spoiled kids, a Rottweiler, and spouse with a terrible cold. These "friends" clog up your toilets, eat all your food, fill your septic tank, empty your water tank, and soil your linens before you remember that you never went to kindergarten. A sub-species of the Holiday Inn Friend is the Winnebago Friend who wants to plug into your electricity and sewer for a month.
 #4) Friends You Can't Stand- This is a friend you once met in a bar, rehab, foxhole, jail cell, or gym who went on to fame and fortune as a Congressperson, semi-pro third baseman or mass murderer. It's an acquaintance you claim as a friend figuring it will increase your own stature, even though you hate the person's guts. It gives you the right to say, "Sure, I knew O.J. He even gave me a knife once." Or, "The Governor and I broke out of juvenile hall together."
(#3) Fair Weather Friend- This is a symbiotic relationship in that your friend, the parasite, ives off you, the host. Despite the fact you're always there when they need you, this person didn't visit you in the hospital when you got your new knee and never brought a casserole when your momma died. If you run into each other at Starbucks he/she may or may not even speak to you, depending upon who they're with.
This pest borrows your stuff but never returns it and if you want it back you have to buy it at the pest's next yard sale. The only thing you have in common is you dislike the same people. With this kind of friend you'll never need an enemy.

The mighty prickly pear

by Marc Simmons

The only thing a cowboy minds more than getting bucked off his horse is landing in a prickly pear when he does. The chances of that happening in New Mexico are pretty good because the state has more than 30 different species of pear cactus. A serious run-in with the long barbed thorns can be painful business.

While some people do their best to steer clear of the plant, others will tell you that, handled carefully, it can be darned useful. Many old-timers claim that the roasted cactus pads held against the jaw will reduce the swelling caused by mumps. Years ago, travelers used to crush the cactus and drop a piece in dirty water taken from a stock tank or arroyo. This caused the mud to settle quickly to the bottom of the cup.

A thick growth of prickly pear can be a nuisance on a cattle ranch, since it tends to crowd out grass. But during an extended drought, ranchers’ burn off the spines with a flame thrower, and the cows will eat the pads sort of emergency rations.

In Mexico, the prickly pear is called a nopal, which comes from the Aztec word, nocheznopalli. It figures prominently, of course, in the national emblem, an eagle with a snake in its beak alighting on a pear cactus.

The reddish purple fruit is widely sold in Mexican markets. The juicy pears, called tunas, have a sweet, somewhat astringent taste resembling that of the pomegranate. Perhaps because the fruit contains more seeds than pulp, it has never been particularly popular in the United States.

Back in 1908, a series of experiments were conducted at Las Cruces in an effort to discover if prickly pear fruit had any commercial use. The project was carried out by professors in the chemistry department at New Mexico State University, then known as New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.

The scientists developed several experimental cactus farms on the bare and otherwise worthless tablelands above the Rio Grande Valley. They set out plants in rows twelve feet apart and found that they thrived in the sterile soil without cultivation or irrigation. The yield was an astounding 14 tons of tunas, or pears, per acre.

Having demonstrated that the cactus could be easily grown on marginal land, the scholars next tried to find a practical use for the tunas. First they pressed the juice and extracted, through an elaborate chemical process, a stain which turned out to be an excellent and harmless food coloring. The extraction operation, however, was expensive and, in fact, proved an insurmountable drawback. Next, the professors looked at the possibility of converting the juice, containing about 7 percent sugar, into alcohol.

There was no technical problem here and the economic prospects appeared good. Alcohol was then bringing 30¢ a gallon which meant that about $45 could be cleared on an acre of prickly pear. In 1908, $45 was a reasonable sum.

But one large problem still remained. The pears had to be harvested by hand, a costly and time consuming job. Even the scientists couldn’t hurdle that one. Said a local newspaper, “It is hoped that some genius will soon come forward with a machine which will lessen the labor of gathering tunas.” Evidently New Mexico was short on geniuses, for there, so far as we can tell, the prickly pear experiment ended.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1902

Our gospel tune today is Cliff Carlisle’s 1939 recording of Prepare Me O Lord.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Zinke under fire from public lands advocates

As the Trump administration's review of national monument designations reaches a close, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is facing more heat than ever from conservationists and outdoor groups. Opponents of the review say it could close off America's natural treasures to the public, and have poured more than $2 million into ads targeting Zinke, urging him not to rescind large national monuments established under the last three presidents. But industry officials and conservatives want Zinke to loosen the federal government's grip on huge swaths of acreage around the country, and propose reforms to the monuments law. “We're all-hands-on-deck on monuments right now,” said Aaron Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Western Priorities. “Clearly across the conservation world, recognizing this is completely unprecedented, I think that’s part of the reason why you’ve seen the scale of the response you’re seeing, he said. Weiss’s group is one of several to launch advertising campaigns slamming the review and urging Zinke to maintain the monuments. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the League of Conservation Voters and the Western Values Project are also on the air, nationally and in the West, advertising against the review process. The campaign is designed to pressure Zinke in areas where both monuments are popular, and Zinke, a former Montana Congressman, has his roots.“This review puts at risk our most precious and valued outdoor areas,” said Jayson O’Neill, the deputy director of the Western Values Project...more

Man Using Drone to Smuggle Meth Across U.S.-Mexico Border Arrested: CBP

After a drone carrying bags of methamphetamine landed in San Diego, a man was arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs nearby. The drugs were worth about $46,000 and weighed over 13 pounds, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). On Aug. 8, the agent spotted the remote-controlled drone flying over the U.S.-Mexico border around 11:25 p.m. Other agents in the area were immediately placed on the lookout for the drone, said CBP officials. An agent driving an all-terrain vehicle found the suspect at about 11:40 p.m. near the border at Servano Avenue and Valentino Street. When the agent went up to the man, he caught him carrying a large open bag filled with plastic-wrapped packages of methamphetamine. The CBP agent arrested the man and searched the surrounding area, about two miles west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. As he investigated the scene, he discovered a drone hidden in the bushes. The drone was about 2 feet tall...more

E.P.A. Promised ‘a New Day’ for the Agriculture Industry, Documents Reveal

In the weeks before the Environmental Protection Agency decided to reject its own scientists’ advice to ban a potentially harmful pesticide, Scott Pruitt, the agency’s head, promised farming industry executives who wanted to keep using the pesticide that it is “a new day, and a new future,” and that he was listening to their pleas. Details on this meeting and dozens of other meetings in the weeks leading up to the late March decision by Mr. Pruitt are contained in more than 700 pages of internal agency documents obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information request. Though hundreds of pages describing the deliberations were redacted from the documents, the internal memos show how the E.P.A.’s new staff, appointed by President Trump, pushed the agency’s career staff to draft a ruling that would deny the decade-old petition by environmentalists to ban the pesticide, chlorpyrifosAt a March 1 meeting at E.P.A. headquarters with members of the American Farm Bureau Federation from Washington State, industry representatives pressed the E.P.A. not to reduce the number of pesticides available. They said there were not enough alternative pesticides to chlorpyrifos. They also said there was a need for “a reasonable approach to regulate this pesticide,” which is widely used in Washington State, and that they wanted “the farming community to be more involved in the process.” According to the documents, Mr. Pruitt “stressed that this is a new day, a new future, for a common-sense approach to environmental protection.” He said the new administration “is looking forward to working closely with the agricultural community.”...more

Bound for Burning Man, but First the Costume

Recently, the mannequins in the window of the Manhattan vintage shop Reminiscence traded their summer outfits for Sgt.-Pepper-style military coats with tassels and epaulettes, harem pants, platform boots, headdresses, goggles, and, perhaps most mystifyingly, bulky faux fur coats. The reason was simple: Burning Man. Burning Man, an annual gathering that draws about 65,000 participants to the Nevada desert for more than a week, may be 2,750 miles away, but this time of year it is very present in New York at apartment sales, weekend bazaars, trunk shows, dance parties and at the city’s costume, vintage and army surplus stores and even its sex shops, where shoppers assemble the elaborate outfits that are all but required on the Playa, as the gathering site is called. “People used to come buy hippie stuff, and we didn’t know why,” said Joan Bedor, 61, who has worked for decades at Reminiscence, now near Union Square. “People kept coming and we began to focus on it. Now we know what to buy.” She pointed out mirror-lens goggles, embroidered Indian skirts, metallic-hued booty shorts, parasols hanging from the ceiling, and a rack of fake fur coats — a Burning Man wardrobe staple for the cold desert nights. “This is all Burn stuff,” she said. Purchased from wholesalers during the year, it was put out in July. By this week, the mannequins had already cycled through several costumes. New York’s Burners, like their Silicon Valley counterparts, are mainly white-collar professionals in their real lives. Tickets for the event, which begins on Aug. 27, range from $425 to $1,200, and that doesn’t include the cost of airfare, food and costumes...more