Fossilized, or is it … Ossified
Getting to the Core of Things
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
Excerpt from the Obituary of Henry Grant Kinzer, June 2021
There is reason to believe those words are all true.
The expanded message of the obituary went on to describe his life from the time he was a kid in Oklahoma to the final curtain of shutting the gate on the last cow in the last gather of his life just 39 days before he died.
A whole lot went on in the 83 years between those punctuation marks.
We knew of Grant long before we actually knew him. Wiping his invention of WIPE on horses in the horse fly haven of the Gila in summertime was our first encounter. There were cans of the stuff at the barn at White Creek, at the corrals at Gila Center, at the barns at the Double S and the 916s and everywhere horses and mules were exposed to that seasonal torment.
The litany of his professional and academic tenure success can be defined both as epic and epochal. His long career at NMSU was both exemplary and productive. He didn’t just teach subject matter. He demonstrated what becoming an authentic leader meant in flesh and bone. What he did outside of any public eye bears witness to that.
A couple of stories come to mind.
The first is a sale of a particular bronze. He had been dabbling in the craft and had decided to see what folks would think about his work. He had gone to a show where he set up to display a sampling of his creations. None of it caught much attention with most of the crowd paying tribute to the more grandiose and trendy stuff in the hall.
At the end, he had put his stuff in his cardboard box and left with the belief his idea of art apparently didn’t fit the bigger arena. Walking down the sidewalk by himself, a big fellow called out to him. In the minutes that ensued, he sold one of the pieces, a quail, to the man who told him he had seen it in the hall. John Wayne knew art in many forms, and he thought that piece was outstanding.
The second story is a bit more punchy.
Years ago, I went up to Grant’s Carrizozo ranch on one of his works. I think he was 65 at the time. We had mounted and started our little juelte from the corrals on the west side of the ranch. He was riding one of those cross bred Arabs (that he seemed to collect with some degree of misplaced pride) from the east side of the state. About halfway across the flat, that little horse broke in two and bucked, and bucked, and bucked, and bucked. Trying to get to him to try to knock that horse off balance and get him held up was not quite accomplished when he was finally thrown. He landed hard on his head and left shoulder.
Getting off and kneeling beside him just knowing he had to be hurt, he didn’t say a thing for a long time. When he finally did, he spoke in a very soft voice.
Would you mind catching my horse for me?
Several years later, I had been in a horse accident, and Grant came to see me in the hospital. His first words were equally soft.
Cowboy, are you gonna’ be okay?
All I could think of was that day at Carrizozo.
Would you mind catching my horse for me?
Fossilized, or is it … Ossified?
Grant’s memory offers lessons in so many ways, and, in trust and respect to him, it will be used as an example.
There is dignity in a man who conducts himself in an honorable and fearless manner regardless of the time and circumstances. That is especially so when we witness what went on in the world this past week. The display by the fellow who ostensibly runs our country was dreadful.
In the rankness and the crudeness of what we observe in his actions, the events of certain World War II depictions have merit. The first deals with the evolution of leadership.
David Stirling should be remembered for many things and not the least of which was his genius in creating the British Special Air Service, SAS, that changed the direction of warfare as it was then known. He stressed the need to seek not just physical robustness in like minded brothers, but to stress psychological strength, self-discipline, imagination, intelligence, and unwavering commitment to the group’s mission all with an individual’s perspective of honor and fearlessness that too few demonstrate.
Brashness was to be reserved not for what one’s mouth uttered, but what one’s actions demonstrated. His model of operandi emanated from his belief that leadership left unattended becomes archaic and corrupt.
He described the majority of established high command as being layer upon layer of fossilized sh*t!
In words fitting for last week’s display, Grant would have been agreeing with him other than the descriptive adjective he used. Should the word more appropriately be substituted with ossified?
Getting to the core of things
Fast forward in WWII about the same time period as between the two horse wrecks, and Holland was starving. The Nazi’s had largely destroyed Rotterdam and were strangling the lifelines of goods and food supplies from all directions.
There are estimates that the general population was starving to death with their rations of about 340 calories per day (that may become more pertinent in what we have witnessed this week).
The Dutch, though, didn’t need any American handouts in their predicament. They mapped a solution on their own. It came in the form of the tulips they had made both famous and abundant. For their coffee, they reduced coffee beans to 12% of the recipe and substituted ground tulip bulbs, barley, chicory, and green peas for the rest.
Further the tulip bulbs became the substitute for potatoes. They became the main ingredient in soups, and, when milled, became a nutritious alternative to flour. The nutty flavor of the bulbs only added to the adaptation.
There was a problem, though.
The germ core of the bulbs could cause severe intestinal issues. It was often manifested in blockage of the bowels. Swollen stomachs were not at all uncommon, but a simple solution was the answer and best explained in the words of an elderly Dutch survivor regarding the fix by his father.
He passed (the offending) wind that was the longest and loudest (he had) ever heard!
I know my dear friend, Grant, would have wholeheartedly agreed. Our country would do well to exhaust the same high level, corrupted emissions that now plague us!
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The first line of the obituary could have also included humble native son of the American West, and … friend.”