Saturday, December 31, 2011

Homeland Security has created fake profiles to scan Facebook, Twitter accounts

The Department of Homeland Security makes fake Twitter and Facebook profiles for the specific purpose of scanning the networks for 'sensitive' words - and tracking people who use them. Simply using a word or phrase from the DHS's 'watch' list could mean that spies from the government read your posts, investigate your account, and attempt to identify you from it, acccording to an online privacy group. The words which attract attention range from ones seemingly related to diseases or bioweapons such as 'human to animal' and 'outbreak' to other, more obscure words such as 'drill' and 'strain'. The DHS also watches for words such as 'illegal immigrant'. The DHS outlined plans to scans blogs, Twitter and Facebook for words such as 'illegal immigrant', 'outbreak', 'drill', 'strain', 'virus', 'recovery', 'deaths', 'collapse', 'human to animal' and 'trojan', according to an 'impact asssessment' document filed by the agency. When its search tools net an account using the phrases, they record personal information...more

Well, since many of my posts on energy have the word "drill", and on animal diseases have "outbreak", and on border security have "illegal immigrant", they must be scanning the hell out of me.

So, "Hello" to the DHS Scanner(s).  Stick around and you might learn something.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wolf's entry into Calif. major environmental step

The mother of OR7
A lone gray wolf crossed the border into California and was on the move south of Klamath Falls on Thursday, becoming the first wild wolf in the state in almost a century. The 2 1/2-year-old male wolf, known as OR7, was tracked using a GPS collar as it crossed the Oregon border, to the delight of conservationists and the horror of the many ranchers in the forested northern regions of California. "Whether one is for it or against it, the entry of this lone wolf into California is an historic event and the result of much work by the wildlife agencies in the West," said Charlton H. Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Game. "If the gray wolf does establish a population in California, there will be much more work to do here." The presence of the mythic predator in California is a major event for environmentalists, who would like to see the state's native predators and wildlife returned. But it could also influence environmental and ranching policies and gun laws if the large, potentially dangerous canine carnivores become prevalent in populated regions. The young wolf, which left his pack in northeastern Oregon in September, was confirmed to be in Siskiyou County at about noon Wednesday. A signal from his radio collar at 6 a.m. Thursday showed that he was several miles south of the border...more

NSAA plans to sue U.S. Forest Service over new water-rights clause in permit

The 121-resort National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) is planning to sue the U.S. Forest Service over the new water-rights clause introduced in the ski-permit. The clause strips the ski resort operator of the water-rights on federal land and places them in the hands of the federal government. The ski industry is strongly objecting to the new clause as it will no longer have control over the water that originates from the federal land. The federal government will have full autonomy to put the water to whatever use they wish, a right that has led to a high degree of uncertainty for the ski industry as they rely heavily on water for snowmaking and base area developments. "We have no guarantee that they will continue to use the water for purposes of ski area business," said Michael Berry, president of the NSAA. "The government could decide to use the water and apply it to other uses or even sell it to urban water systems. Berry further stated that the water-rights served as an important part of the balance sheet of a ski resort after being acquired in the marketplace. The U.S. Forest Service, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the new clause has been added to the ski-permit with the purpose of ensuring that the resources from the federal land do not get severed...more

Interior Department Proposal Could Block Motorcycle, ATV Riding on Public Land

Access to certain public land in nine states could be lost to motorcyclists, bicyclists and others under a massive land-use designation proposal submitted to Congress on Nov. 10, the American Motorcyclist Association reports. The proposal, submitted by the U.S. Interior Department, has been identified as the “Preliminary Report on BLM Lands Deserving Protection as National Conservation Areas, Wilderness or Other Conservation Designation.” The report identifies 18 back-country areas in nine states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar highlighted as deserving protection by Congress as national conservation areas or wilderness areas. The states are California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, said association staff members are still analyzing the proposal, “but initial indications are that the report identifies more areas that should be designated as wilderness or national conservation areas than areas that promote responsible motorized recreation.” Allard continued, “The AMA and many other groups have battled wilderness proposals in the past that didn’t meet the strict criteria for earning a wilderness designation under federal law, and the U.S. Interior Department’s new plan may include a lot of acreage that simply isn’t appropriate for wilderness designation.”...more

OHV official's dismissal signals wrong turn

Off-road motoring is huge. The 2005 National Survey on Recreation and the Environment conducted by the U.S. Forest Service found that 23.8 percent of this country's population over the age of 16 participates in some form of off-highway vehicle recreation – a number that has steadily grown. It is such a popular activity statewide that in 1971 a bipartisan group of lawmakers created a special program within California State Parks to manage off-highway vehicle recreation. Today, that program is called the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. Yet Californians who engage in off-road activities are not being served by the Brown administration's decision to dismiss Daphne Greene as deputy director of the off-highway vehicle program at California State Parks...more

BLM grooms golf course for ski trail

The Bureau of Land Management announced last week that Fossil Island Golf Course is opened and groomed for cross-country skiing. “We will groom the path as needed,” BLM assistant field manager Michele Easley said. “Right now Fossil Island is the only path with enough snow.” According to Easley, the BLM has an agreement with the City of Kemmerer to groom the edge of the fairways for the cross-country skiing course. “We have been grooming the course for about 10 years now,” Easley said. “It gives us a chance to prepare our equipment for the winter and groom the other trails we have.” The BLM cares for other trials further north on Lake Viva Naughton, but the snow is not deep enough for grooming yet. Most of the trail follows the perimeter of the course, starting at hole 1 and ending at the driving range. The BLM will only groom Fossil Island on an as-needed basis. “We will groom it when we have the staff available,” Easley said. “We will also groom it when there is a significant snow fall to change the course.”...more

BLM Proposes Energy Development Zones for Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management today unveiled plans to create new guidelines for wind and solar projects on public lands. Today's announcement said that the agency would set aside so-called energy development zones before competitive leasing for alternative energy projects could occur. "Existing regulations limit the competitive process," said Bob Abbey, BLM director. ""The renewable energy resources on America's public lands are enormous." The BLM will accept public comment regarding today's proposal until Monday, Feb. 27, 2012...more

The Fed. Reg. notice is here.

Gone and Mostly Forgotten: 26 Abolished National Parks

As of this writing, there are 397 national parks -- or as some might prefer to say, 397 National Park System units. The National Park System would be even larger had it not been for a bit of pruning here and there over the decades. Let's first make it clear what pruning is not. At least ten sites initially authorized for national park status were subsequently removed from consideration without ever having been assigned to the National Park Service for administration, These sites were not pruned national parks in the strictest sense, since the sites were never part of the system. Thirty-four additional sites or areas, including a National Park-designated one (Platt National Park ), once had independent identities but subsequently became administrative components of national parks bearing other names. Since all of these sites have remained within the National Park System, we cannot fairly say that they have been pruned either. Here is what we mean by pruning. During the period 1895-2004, 26 sites or areas with independent national park-authorized identities ended up being abolished and either transferred outside the National Park System for administration or simply delisted. Whether you call them abolished, decommissioned, or delisted, these 26 sites or areas have been removed from the National Park System. They are the pruned national parks...more

Bison ranchers rebuild their thinned herds as consumer demand grows

Record-high bison prices are good news for ranchers — if only they had more of the regal beasts to sell. In the topsy-turvy world of bison, consumer demand is outstripping supply. That has the industry scrambling to rebuild herds after years of decline. "Five years ago, I spent 90 percent of my time trying to get people to eat bison. Now, I spend 90 percent of my time getting people to raise bison," said Dave Carter, executive director of the Westminster-based National Bison Association. The volatile bison industry surged in the 1990s when it appeared that bison meat — also known as buffalo — would be a popular trend. Ranchers made a run on breeding animals, sending prices soaring. But consumer interest was slow to develop, and retail prices failed to cover production costs. Prices crashed, and many ranchers fled the industry. But times have changed. Bison meat finally has reached its anticipated popularity. "The message we've put out has really resonated," Carter said. "It's a lean and healthy food, and it tastes great. People have taken that first taste, and now they're looking for more." Strong consumer demand combined with short supplies have generated record prices — as high as $9.50 to $10 a pound for ground meat at retail — that once again have caught the attention of producers. The total U.S. bison herd will reach an estimated 215,000 in 2012, up from the past few years but still below the modern-era high of 225,000 in 2002...more

Steel Country - Where That Little Light Shines Written By Chuck Cusimano

The Song of The Day has taken a rest this week, but here is a great song written by Chuck Cusimano. I don't have the song, but here's the tune as posted on YouTube. You can check out Chuck's web page here or on Facebook here.

Food Fights and Free Enterprise

It is sometimes said, following Milton Friedman’s insight, that business is not a friend to the free market, and the truth of this is no more evident than in recent battles between established restaurateurs and operators of mobile eateries. Once a business becomes established and enjoys a measure of success, a narrow view of its own interests can lead its principals to thwart innovation by others, and this is usually done by influencing the way laws are enacted or enforced. At the local level, this kind of rigging of the system is often done through zoning restrictions and other regulatory measures by city and county governments. In the case of the food industry, these kinds of fights are increasingly occurring between brick-and-mortar restaurants and mobile food trucks...more

So is your area a "hot spot" or a "not spot"?

NM ranchers, farmers pinched by high hay prices

Hay prices in New Mexico and the West are climbing and there's no end in sight at least through May. The high cost of hay is hurting not only horse owners, but dairy and beef producers. "Our producers are even going to Canada to buy hay," said Beverly Idsinga, executive director of the New Mexico Dairy Association. "You know it is bad when they have to go that far." Hay prices are a boon, however, to the state's alfalfa producers who are pulling in their best prices in years. Some are getting double what they were paid a year ago for a ton of hay. Poor alfalfa production, low forage supplies and increased demand from livestock and dairy producers all hit the hay market at the same time. "These forces when combined have constituted historically high hay prices," according to an October report by agricultural economists Jerry M. Hawkes and Terry L. Crawford at New Mexico State University. "As the growing season in New Mexico comes to an end for 2011, expectations for continued upward movement in prices are anticipated." Increased prices paid for corn, wheat and cotton also spurred many hay producers to switch crops. Western states saw a 15 percent decline in hay production. Hawkes and Crawford estimated total hay production in the U.S. was the lowest this year since 1993. "The supply in New Mexico is estimated to be well below historical averages," the economists said...more

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hastings, GOP target Endangered Species Act

The gray wolf hit a major milestone on Dec. 21, when the Obama administration said the wolf's population in the Great Lakes region had grown to the point where the animals no longer required federal protection. With more than 4,000 gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said the wolf could be removed from the Endangered Species List, which "once again ... has proved to be an effective tool for bringing a species back from the brink of extinction." But critics of the law say that happens far too infrequently, and that's a big reason that many Republicans in the House of Representatives — led by Doc Hastings of Washington state — want to overhaul the 38-year-old law. Of the nearly 2,000 U.S. and foreign plant and animal species that the nation's endangered species law protects, only two dozen have "recovered" to the point where they could be taken off the endangered list, according to figures the Fish and Wildlife Service compiled. "That's a 1 percent recovery rate, and I firmly believe that we can do better," Hastings, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said at a hearing of his committee earlier this month. When Hastings took control of the committee last January, he said that changing the law wasn't among his top priorities. But he's ready to take it on now, promising a series of hearings on the subject in 2012. Hastings may be entering dangerous territory: A former Republican chairman of the committee, Richard Pombo of California, tried hard to change the law, only to earn the enmity of environmentalists, who helped defeat him in 2006. Hastings said the Endangered Species Act — which Republican President Richard Nixon signed into law in 1973 — "is failing, and failing badly" in its efforts to recover endangered species. He noted that it hasn't been updated since 1988. While he has yet to outline specific changes he'll pursue, Hastings said: "I believe it's the responsibility of this committee and Congress to ask questions and examine if the original intent of this law is being carried out two decades later."...more

Environmentalists Block Fire Retardant use to Protect Wildlife

Nearly 47 million acres of American forests are now off-limits to slurry drops to fight fires because of a successful lawsuit by environmentalists who say the retardant kills fish and endangered species. The Forest Service decision that was due before Dec. 31 says the new directions for the use of the fire retardant will help them protect water sources as well as plant and wildlife. To decide when or where to drop fire retardant, fire managers now have roughly 12,000 maps identifying avoidance areas on nearly 100 National Forest System units that identify the locations of waterways and areas for hundreds of plant and animal species. Robert Gordon, senior advisor for strategic outreach at the Heritage Foundation, questioned the decision in light of prolonged fights by environmentalists to ban logging in many forests to protect species like the “endangered” Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet. “Now that they are preserved, the new plan is to let them burn?” Gordon asked. The change is opposed by several Western Republican lawmakers, who say it will significantly hamper efforts to contain fires, and elevates the welfare of animals and fish above people and property. Led by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R. –Calif.), the lawmakers called it a “one size fits all approach” that treats remote Montana forests the same as California lands next to highly populated urban areas...more

Environment: Some bad forest juju in the 2012 budget bill?

An environmental group says the budget bill that’s awaiting President Obama’s signature includes a rider that eliminates the public’s ability to administratively appeal Forest Service management decisions. “This year’s appropriations bill is a bad deal for the American public and our national forests,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “National forests are publicly owned lands that deserve public oversight. Curtailing the public’s participation will mean more bad timber sales, drilling and other development proposals.” According to McKinnon, the change applies to all management actions across the 193-million-acre national forest system. It could cut public input on timber sales, oil and gas leasing and other activities affecting forests, recreation, wildlife and pristine landscapes. Instead, it leaves litigation as the public’s only recourse to challenge Forest Service decisions. The bill replaces the administrative appeals process with a Bush-era “pre-decisional” objection process that only allows the public to “object” to management proposals before they’ve been finalized. The bill also reduces the amount of time that the public has to respond to specific proposals — from 45 to 30 days. In addition, it includes a sweeping, vague clause allowing the Forest Service to bypass even the pre-decisional objection processes whenever it determines that emergency circumstances exist. The rollbacks in public participation come just as the Forest Service is re-writing National Forest Management Act regulations that provide the framework for national forest management nationwide...more

Tougher protections loom for sage grouse

The U.S. government is getting serious about protecting sage grouse — gradually — according to conservationists reviewing the latest land-management guidelines. The Bureau of Land Management released a set of guidelines Tuesday for protecting the imperiled range birds during a planning phase expected to last a couple of years. That part, subject to local BLM managers’ case-by-case interpretations, disappoints activists who hoped for immediate restrictions on drilling, mining, grazing and roads in core grouse habitat. But the agency also released planning directions, including long-term recommendations by a technical team of state and federal biologists. It contains potentially huge changes — such as a 3-mile buffer around the birds’ breeding flats — that conservationists believe will help the BLM curtail habitat destruction. Facing a 2015 review over the bird’s potential threatened or endangered status, they believe, the BLM will have to adopt the science it just released to preserve the species. "It’s going to be very difficult for the agency to unring this bell," said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with the Laramie, Wyo.-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance...more

Conservation groups critical of BLM's new sage grouse plan

Conservation groups across the West expressed disappointment Wednesday in a federal document that will guide the management of sage grouse habitat over the next several years. The Bureau of Land Management's new Instruction Memorandum, released Tuesday, recommends policies needed to mitigate the threats to sage-grouse habitat until long-term protection measures are developed. But conservationists and biologists on Wednesday called the interim plan flawed, saying that while it encourages stronger protections, it fails to establish the policies needed to safeguard grouse from the threats the bird faces across its range. "In cases where BLM officials want to ignore the welfare of sage grouse and ram through projects that are detrimental, there will be little in the new policy to stop them," said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance. "The interim policy is written with such loose language that BLM officials will have the latitude to do anything they want — or nothing at all — to protect the grouse."...more

U.S. Can Support Enviros in Oregon Dispute

The Department of the Interior has not tried to evade federal court orders in a dispute over land-management plans for Oregon terrain that is home to the northern spotted owl. In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Interior Department adopted revisions to land-use management plans for 2.5 million acres in western Oregon inhabited by the owl, a designated threatened species. Compared to previous versions, the Western Oregon Plan Revisions allowed greater timber harvests on the Bureau of Land Management property. The department determined that it did not need to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the potential impact of the plan on the northern spotted owl because the revisions "would have no impact on listed species or critical habitat." As environmental groups challenged the action in court, President Barack Obama's newly instated secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, said his predecessor's finding of "no impact" was a legal error, and he withdrew the revisions without a public notice or comment period. A group of timber companies and logging unions, led by Douglas Timber Operators, in turn sued the secretary, saying the plan withdrawal violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. A federal judge in Washington agreed and reinstated the revised plans, considering only whether Salazar abused his authority in withdrawing the plan without formal proceedings. The court did not look at whether it was erroneous for the previous administration to approve the revisions without making consultations under the Endangered Species Act. A conservation group, the Pacific Rivers Council, then filed suit in Oregon over the reinstated plans, taking up the Interior Department's Endangered Species Act claims...more

New, bigger army sets out to smash beetles

Two years ago, David Gonzales started a small army he called TreeFight. His citizen soldiers, more than 100 strong, took to the backcountry, waging a war against mountain pine beetles killing the valuable and now endangered whitebark pine trees. The fighters stapled their secret weapon, pouches filled with pheromones, to the tree. The verbenone, a pheromone mountain pine beetles use to communicate, was meant to confuse the beetles by sending the signal that the tree was full and to leave it alone. More than 100 of Gonazales' volunteers attempted to protect more than 1,000 trees. Yet, thousands more continued to die. This summer, Gonzales plans to create a larger army to continue the fight. In addition to working with volunteers protecting trees on hikes, he's launching a new educational component of TreeFight, teaching the next generation about the importance of whitebark pine and how it can protect the species. The nonprofit will focus on working with kids in the outdoors. "It's the ultimate classroom," Gonzales said. "I wish I had gone to classes in a whitebark forest when I was young." Gonzales is working on the lessons that will teach students about ecology in an immersive and adventurous way, he said. While showing students whitebark pine trees at 9,000 feet, kids will also learn how to travel safely and comfortably in the mountains. Gonzales plans to partner with the Teton County School District and hopes to forge relationships with other organizations, such as the Teton Science School, he said...more

Mountain lion trapped in Aromas after killing two steers

A county-designated trapper caught a mountain lion Tuesday after an Aromas rancher reported two steers were killed the previous day, said San Benito's agriculture commissioner Ron Ross. A rancher off Anzar Road on Monday discovered two dead steers of about 450 pounds each. He suspected a mountain lion may have been responsible and reported it to the San Benito agriculture commissioner's office. On Monday night, a county-hired expert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture set out a trap, and caught the mountain lion in a cage Tuesday morning, Ross said. The lion was about 100 pounds and has been euthanized, which is a state requirement when the big cats are captured after such encounters. There have been occasional reports from local ranchers of possible cougar attacks – some officials have expressed concern about a growing population and needing a statewide count of the species – but it is uncommon to actually capture a mountain lion in a trap, or large cage with a door that shuts when an animal enters...more

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mexican Canyon Trestle Vista in Southern N.M. Now Open

The Mexican Canyon Trestle Vista is complete and now open for visitors. “Much appreciation goes out to all who contributed, donated and diligently worked with the Lincoln National Forest to see this wonderful project to fruition … we couldn’t have done it without you,” said Peg Crim, Lincoln National Forest partnership coordinator. The Mexican Canyon Trestle, constructed in 1899 to access timber and provide tourism, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is an important local symbol of the southern Sacramento Mountains railroad logging history, according to a National Forest Service press release. The Lincoln National Forest built the Trestle Recreation Area in 1993, and the New Mexico Rails-to-Trails Association partnered with the Lincoln National Forest to build a trail system in this area. The mountain communities have and will continue to benefit economically from these projects...more

Cattle theft case


In January 2009, Hadden was charged with grand theft of approximately twenty calves owned by Steven Bilbao, a cattle rancher near Shoshone, Lincoln County, Idaho. The charge arose from an incident in the winter of 2008, where Bilbao awoke to find that twenty head of cattle were missing from his ranch. Hadden filed a motion for change of venue, primarily due to the extensive pretrial publicity surrounding unrelated charges for the attempted murder of her former father-in-law, Craig Hadden, a well-known realtor and businessman in the area, and for the solicitation of the murder of a police officer, filed against her during the pendency of this case. The district court denied the motion. Hadden again renewed her request for a change of venue during jury selection, which the district court again denied.
At trial, Blaine Ramey, a rancher and owner of a cattle company in Bingham County, Idaho, testified he purchased Bilbao's cows after being contacted by a man named Laramie Keppner, with whom he often did business, about buying some cows from a woman who was going through a divorce. Ramey testified Keppner was accompanied during the transaction by a woman and two teenage boys. During the transaction, a brand inspector came to the ranch and indicated the brand on the cattle was Bilbao's. The woman told Ramey she had a bill of sale for the calves from Bilbao, but had forgotten to bring it with her and would mail it to him. As a result, Ramey made his check payable to both Bilbao and Keppner. Ramey, who was elderly, could not identify at the preliminary hearing or at trial whether Hadden was the woman who was present at the transaction. Likewise, the brand inspector could not identify Hadden with certainty as the woman present at the transaction.
At trial, Keppner testified that Hadden, whom he had known for approximately four to five years, contacted him and indicated she was going through a divorce and wanted to sell some cattle without her husband knowing. He further testified that early one morning, he accompanied Hadden, her sixteen-year-old son, and her son's teenage friend in Hadden's pickup truck and trailer to a ranch in Butte County, Idaho, where they backed up to a corral and loaded twenty cattle into the trailer. Keppner testified the group took the cattle to Ramey's ranch, where they received a check made out to him and Bilbao for approximately $8500. Keppner cashed the check (apparently without Bilbao's endorsement) and gave the money to Hadden, who gave him $2,900 she owed him and kept the rest. On cross-examination, Keppner was confronted with the fact he had testified at the preliminary hearing that only Hadden's son and the son's friend accompanied him to the Butte County ranch to load the cattle, as well as other inconsistencies...

Read the decision HERE

John David Graham (November 23, 1944 - December 26, 2011)

John David Graham, age 67, died Monday, December 26, 2011 in Plano, Texas.

Funeral Services will be held at 2:00 PM on Saturday, December 31, 2011 at the Des Moines School Gymnasium with Terrell Jones, pastor of the Trinity Fellowship Church in Clayton officiating. Burial will follow in the Des Moines Cemetery by Hass Funeral Directros of Clayton.

John David Graham was born to Claude R Graham and Ruth (Baldwin) Graham on November 23, 1944, in Socorro, New Mexico. He attended schools in Datil, New Mexico and Magdalena, New Mexico and graduated from New Mexico State University College of Agriculture in 1968. In August of 1965, he married Midge (York) and they began their careers together in areas of education. David taught vocational agriculture at Des Moines High School for four and a half years; then spent a year at the New Mexico Department of Education as a vocational agriculture specialist/state supervisor. In August of 1973, he started his career with the Cooperative Extension Service as the Agricultural Agent in Union County. He loved his county and its people; and he was absolutely committed to agriculture programs, 4-H and FFA programs, cattle ranching and range management in Union County and statewide. He committed time and his real focus to research of noxious weeds, range pests, and pesticide management for many years. He co-authored many scientific papers, working collaboratively with research specialists at New Mexico State University and the United States Department of Agriculture Poisonous Plants Lab in Logan, Utah. David was preceded in death by his father and mother, a special nephew Jimmy Graham, his brother-in-law Dick White, a favorite uncle Jimmy Graham, and maternal and paternal grandparents. Also, by his mother-in-law and father-in-law, David and Sylvia (Peppin) York.

SURVIVORS: He is survived by his wife, Midge, of the family home in Des Moines; a son Kevin of Plantersville, Texas; a daughter Wendy (Cory) Fulfer of Jal, New Mexico; his daughter Stacy Graham of McKinney, Texas, and daughter-in-law, Beth Graham, of Spring, Texas. He leaves behind eight “perfect grandchildren”: Matthew, Emily, Trevor, and Carly Graham; KC, Kimberlee, and Kolby Taylor; Alex Graham. Also surviving is his brother Lee (Bonnie) Graham of Raton and his sister, Ellen (Don) Hiles, of Alamogordo. He is survived by a most special Aunt Helen and cousins in Montana. Near and dear to his heart are his sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law: Buddy and Jennifer York, Sue and Dallas Dowell, Elaine and Larry O’Neal. Surviving are nieces and nephews: Susanne, Leona, Barbara, Billie, Bobbie, Justin, Tiffany, Denton, David, Kaila, Toy, Timothy, Dorothy, Jennifer and Michael.

MEMORIALS: In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial donations be made to the Union County Fair Board. Memorial donations can be sent to Union County Extension Office, c/o Tommy Jantz, PO Box 428, Clayton, NM 88415.


Dr. Allison requested I post this.

Midge and Family,

    I first met David in the summer of 1970 after my freshman year at the university. I was working in Clayton that summer and David was the Vocational Agriculture teacher, here in Des Moines. I can still remember the 2 things that impressed me: 1) his passion for his job of teaching and helping young people and 2) his NMSU letter jacket for bull riding!
    Several years later, I was hired as the Extension Range Management Specialist at NMSU and my first trip to Union county was to look at some poisonous plant issue. Dr. Reif and Dr. Dean Doitchinoff and I performed the field inspection while David was doing a 4H bicycle safety course. I posted a reward for anyone with a picture of David on a bicycle!
    I worked closely with David during the many years of locoweed management and research. I vividly remember during one rancher gathering, Dr. Lynn James of the USDA Poisonous Plant Lab was telling all of us the strong addictive properties that locoweed possessed. In fact, he said it was second only to tobacco. David and I concluded that Dr. James (a devout Mormon) had gone from preaching to meddling!
    One day we were travelling from Clayton to Des Moines in David’s white Ford pickup (anyone who rode in David’s pickup needed to take a shower immediately afterwards). David was pulled over by a rookie state cop for seatbelt violation (I could have told the officer that we couldn’t find the seatbelts). After listening impatiently to the short lecture, David informed the officer: “Either give me a ticket or let me go. I have important things to do!” David always had important things to do.
    Many times in my career, whether it was supervising the Clayton Livestock Research Center, judging a science fair project, listening to high school students make presentations about range management, judging the Union county fair hog show or high centered on a big rock in the middle of a locoweed pasture; I would stop and ask myself:”How did I get myself in this predicament?” The obvious answer was that David Graham had convinced me to do it. David had the unique ability to persuade people that the task at hand was the most important thing going on in the world at that moment and we needed to get to work.
    David’s passion for helping people, especially ranchers and young people, and his knack for making the most mundane task fun was the reason that I relished the work that he and I did together. I have a feeling of anticipation as well as trepidation knowing that when we are re-united with David in heaven, we all need to be prepared to serve on the fair board that he has organized there!

Chris Allison

David's niece has her own blog and has posted her remembrances as One Of The Good Guys.  She has granted permission for me to repost it here.

One of the Good Guys
"To live in hearts you leave behind is not to die..."

    My Uncle David was one of the good guys. The kind that I'm not convinced they make anymore.
    A real cowboy, who used to rodeo with Chris LeDeux. Who could fix whatever, threaten to fight anyone, wasn't afraid of anything, and liked a cold Coors Light. A guy with a booming voice, a look that made you instantly sit up straighter and say, "Yes sir!" and who constantly threatened to the kids that he was "gonna kick your butt!"
    And yet, the same guy who spent part of Thanksgiving dinner playing peekaboo with my two younger cousins and used to untangle my toy puppets. A man who would give you the shirt off his back if he thought for a second you needed it. He was one of the good guys.
    I don't know if our family is like most others. Aunts and uncles here are not just people that we see once a year and who buy us crappy Christmas presents. In our family, they go to ball games and speech contests, graduations and weddings, and take you out to dinner anytime they are in town. Oh, and they buy really good presents. Aunts and uncles are part of our lives, and for that, I'm grateful.
    My Uncle David was the kind of uncle every kid should have. The only guy I knew as a kid who was brave enough to curse in front of my mother. Curse word of choice: Dammit as a new first name. (For example, my Aunt would say something that made no sense and his response would be, "Dammit, Midge!" or my mom would be worried about something or lecturing someone and his response would be, "Dammit, Sue!")
    He was the guy who everyone knew. At the State Fair, he would park himself at the corner of the pig show ring bleachers and never leave, because people who knew him just kept on coming by. He knew more about loco weed and winning a science fair than anyone you'll ever meet. He became quasi-famous (maybe infamous is more like it) after he was quoted in the paper for this gem: "Pigs can't read." We were so proud.
    You could always spot my Uncle David in a crowd, because he'd wear the same thing, without fail. Boots, Wranglers, solid colored shirt, black hat. He might mix it up and add a tan vest if it was cold or take his hat off at the table. For 28 years, that's how I expected to see Uncle David.
    Uncle David hated Olive Garden. But Aunt Midge and I loved it, so when they would be in town to take me out to eat, that was often the destination. He would moan and groan all the way through his shrimp alfredo. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he texted to check on me when I had a medical procedure done. I told him they had found a food allergy. His response, "Probably from that damn Olive Garden."
    Speaking of texting---if you knew Uncle David, you might find it strange that he texted. He told me he didn't have a choice if he wanted to communicate with his grand kids. There was, however, a rule. When you wrote Uncle David, you used correct grammar and spelling if you wanted him to answer. Otherwise, you would not get a response, and would, instead, probably get the new first name described above.
    And he loved to text me during Oklahoma State football games. I'm not sure if I've watched an OSU game in the last several years without a text from Uncle David. My favorite was the text I got the morning after Bedlam a few weeks ago. Here's the conversation:

Uncle David: "Okay, so what hospital are you in? I saw on tv that 13 people got taken to the hospital after getting trampled while rushing the field, and I knew right away you had to be one of them."
Me: "Ha! Well you are correct---I did rush the field---but you will be proud to know I only twisted my ankle and went to a bar and not a hospital."
Uncle David: "I'm so proud of you for not being a dumbass."

    And you know, I'm happy I made him proud. :)
    We lost Uncle David yesterday. A week after he was diagnosed with cancer. And Saturday, we will gather to say goodbye. I know that there will be tears, but I also know there better be one heck of a party. Because if there's not, I've got a feeling that there may be a booming voice from Heaven giving the rest of us that new first name.

UPDATE from Facebook

Bobby Ann Vinzant Dictson
    Thanks Frank for sharing this web site. David was special to so many people. I was blessed with his friendship for many years. He and Billy were co-workers for many many years. We worked very closely with David the last several years on... Ag Security issues. He was so interested in protecting his producers and the agricultural industry from any problems. He worked with us on a statewide and a national training curriculum. He was very passionate about this project.
     We will miss David a lot. He always made my day when he would call, text or e-mail me. He had a way of always making you chuckle.
     He was so proud of his children and grandchildren. He loved to talk about them. He was especially proud of his baseball playing grandson. One afternoon he invited us to meet him at a local eating place and brought this special baseball player to meet us. This was a very special time. We know David will be watching every game!!!! I will miss this special friend.
     I will keep Midge and the rest of the family in my thoughts and prayers.

Obama Administration Spending Millions to ‘Better Connect’ People With an Urban Park

The Obama administration is giving $20 million in taxpayer money to the State of Missouri for improvements to I-70 that will "better connect" people in St. Louis with the parkland around the base of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Sen. Claire McCaskill -- a Democrat who faces a tough re-election battle in 2012 -- made the announcement in St. Louis last week. The $20-million federal grant is funded through the TIGER III program. (TIGER stands for "Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.") The money going to St. Louis will help build a pedestrian land bridge over I-70 connecting the Old Courthouse, Luther Ely Smith Square and the Gateway Arch grounds. The I-70/Gateway Arch improvements fall under President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which aims to reconnect Americans to the outdoors...more

How your tax dollars are being know...during these "tough" budgetary times Congress keeps telling us about.

Montana blocks out-of-state trout egg shipments

Montana officials are holding up shipments of tens of thousands of trout eggs from a federal fish hatchery to other states, as Gov. Brian Schweitzer seeks to pressure the Interior Department into changing the way it manages another species - bison. The clash between the governor and Interior comes as the Ennis National Fish Hatchery near Bozeman is entering one of its busy seasons, with 5.7 million eggs slated for shipment in the next eight weeks. Officials said most of those eggs were intended to go out of state. So far, two trout egg shipments scheduled this week from Ennis to state hatcheries in Utah and New Hampshire have been delayed, state and federal officials said. Those totaled more than 140,000 eggs. Schweitzer signed an order last week prohibiting any fish or wildlife shipments by the Interior Department without state approval. That came after Interior officials in recent months repeatedly rebuffed the Democrat's proposal to allow bison hunting in parts of Yellowstone National Park to help control an animal disease, brucellosis. The federal agency also has resisted Schweitzer's idea to relocate some disease-free bison to the National Bison Range...more

Great to see a Governor standing up for the sovereignty of his state and giving a little lesson on federalism to Interior. More on this later.

Interior: Region's Hispanic heritage worth preserving - A Park for Colo-NM?

When Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar comes to Adams State College on Jan. 4, he'll come armed with a report he hopes can convince Congress and the National Park Service that Southern Colorado's Hispanic heritage is worthy of their attention. The 56-page survey argues that the settlement of a 5,100 square-mile area, once part of the Mexican frontier, made up a significant chapter in American history that has left a legacy found today in the region's, language, art, religion and agriculture. The area includes parts of Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla and Saguache counties, reaches across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to take in parts of Huerfano and Las Animas counties and extends south into two northern New Mexico counties. It would be up to the Park Service, with direction from Congress, to determine whether it would be feasible or suitable to bring the area into the park system and whether it required direct management from the agency. The largely undeveloped terrain that make up the Trinchera and Cielo Vista ranches in Colorado and the Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico, could provide an important wildlife corridor, linking eastern prairies and the high mountain valleys...more

Conservation plan in works to avoid tougher wildlife regulations

San Luis Valley officials are working to put the finishing touches on a conservation plan for a pair of birds that they hope will spare farmers and ranchers from tougher regulation under the Endangered Species Act. The plan, if accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would preserve a core level of habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher and the yellow-billed cuckoo, he said. The flycatcher was listed as endangered in 1995, while the cuckoo is a candidate for listing, according to the agency. It also would allow for the continuation of traditional agricultural practices such as grazing, fence-building and ditch-clearing. Local communities would be able to maintain or build levees and remove vegetation from floodways. But the plan would not cover subdivision or energy development or any projects that receive federal funding. The planning process in the valley received a prod last summer when federal wildlife officials announced they would consider adding 99 miles along the Rio Grande and 44 miles on the Conejos River as critical habitat for the flycatcher...more

The hearty ingredients of Canis soup

The wolf is iconic and charismatic. We see him on t-shirts, on posters, and in fantasy novels. Conservationists do battle with ranchers to preserve populations of wolves. The coyote, on the other hand, is neither iconic nor loved. A newcomer to suburbia, he is feared as a suspected predator of cats, small dogs, and even small children. He is rarely seen on t-shirts; his name is not used to designate a rank of Boy Scout. But now that we have the genetic tools to look at these animals’ genomes, it turns out that many of the populations of coyotes in North America are actually coyote-wolf hybrids, as are many of the populations of wolves. Unable to draw clear lines between these species, biologists have dubbed the populations of hybrids “Canis soup.” The term “canid soup” has also been used for this mess of wolf, coyote, and even dog genes that we find in some populations of canids. So what does Canis mean, and what is a canid? Wolves, dogs, jackals, and foxes belong to the family Canidae, but only wolves, dogs, and jackals (not foxes) belong to the genus Canis. We call the wolf-like canids “canines” and the fox-like canids “vulpines.” As foxes do not interbreed with wolves, dogs, or jackals, what we’re talking about here is correctly Canis soup, or perhaps canine soup, but not canid soup...more

From the Scientific American and written by a DVM student.

Wolf fund frozen, at least for now

Oregon's wolf compensation fund is off-limits to ranchers under a recent order by Gov. John Kitzhaber to freeze some general funds. But the Oregon Department of Agriculture is asking counties to establish advisory committees and start assessing wolf compensation requests. Oregon State Veterinarian Don Hansen said he hopes the governor lifts the freeze by Feb. 15, the date the department would like to receive all requests for the newly established fund. "We're going to keep moving forward and think positively," Hansen said. Under the fund, Oregon ranchers are eligible for compensation for wolf depredation suffered after Aug. 2, which is when the fund was enacted. Also under the fund, the department will help ranchers pay for non-lethal measures to prevent wolf attacks. Oregon lawmakers put $100,000 in the fund for the 2011-13 biennium. In the case the state receives requests for more money than is available, Hansen said, officials will "distribute the funds as evenly and as fairly as we can." Wolves from one pack in Eastern Oregon, the Imnaha Pack, have killed 20 cows since the spring of 2010 and six since an Oct. 5 court-ordered stay ended ODFW's plans to kill two wolves from the pack...more

Wisconsin looks to limit hunting since gray wolf removed from endangered species list

Landowners will be able to hunt and kill wolves causing problems on their property now that the legendary predator is no longer considered an endangered species. The Obama administration last week declared more than 4,000 gray wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan have recovered from widespread extermination and will be removed from the endangered species list. Coupled with an earlier move that lifted protections in five western states, the decision puts the gray wolf at a historical crossroads — one that could test both its reputation for resilience and the tolerance of ranchers and hunters who bemoan its attacks on livestock and big game. State officials welcomed the federal announcement as long overdue and pledged to keep wolf numbers healthy while allowing people to kill those caught assaulting farm animals or pets. The states might allow hunting and trapping wolves, although no seasons have been set and the federal government will monitor the population for five years. . Scott Walker has charged the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with implementing a state wolf management plan by Feb. 1 that allows controlled kills and limited hunting on qualifying private properties where the animals have become a nuisance...more

Looking for Ways Panthers and Ranchers Can Coexist in FL

A new study in Florida is aimed at helping determine the best ways for cattle and panthers to coexist. The endangered Florida panther has made an amazing comeback. Once only 20 remained, but now the population is estimated at 100 to 160. However, finding a place for all those panthers to live without conflict is getting more difficult. Last year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began receiving reports of the cats preying on calves, beyond their natural prey of deer, wild hogs and other native game. The University of Florida and Defenders of Wildlife are studying the situation in an effort to find solutions...more

Cattle mutilation/slaughter hurting local ranchers - Florida

A Fort Myers rancher says he found one of his calves slaughtered and left in pieces Friday morning. He says it's not the first time someone has come onto his property. Several ranchers we spoke with Monday say at first, they just thought their calves were just missing - until they made the gruesome discoveries. Across Southwest Florida, ranchers say their cows are being mutilated for their meat. Paul Dinger says he's used to hearing nothing but the sound of cows on his ranch. So, he says, the sound of cawing birds caught his attention late last week. "We happened to see some buzzards circling in the next pasture," he said. He says when he went over to investigate, that's when he saw the head and hooves of a tiny calf. "Got to looking at it and we could see where the foot was sawed right off," Dinger described. And he says in the past few months, three of his calves have disappeared. "The others, we thought, died in the woods. Now we know what's going on," he said. Other ranchers across Southwest Florida have shared similar stories...more

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Mexico's first 100 years: Lots of history ... and more to come

Turning 100 years old guarantees that one has endured bumps, bruises, bad times. In New Mexico's case, reaching its first century also meant it had a vital part in America's triumphs and advances. Indeed, the state played a key role in saving the planet from dictators. New Mexico became the 47th state on Jan. 6, 1912. It had been a U.S. territory for more than 60 years before that. Statehood was achieved as the Mexican Revolution raged to the south. William Howard Taft was America's president, fighting for another term in a three-way campaign. He would lose. Jim Thorpe was training for the upcoming Olympic Games in Stockholm, but not many people had time to focus on such diversions. Most Americans lived in rural areas 100 years ago. There was no minimum wage. Many workers were on the job 12 hours a day, six days a week. In that time, the American West was growing to its limits. New Mexico received statehood eight days before Arizona did. They were the last of the lower 48 states to be admitted to the union. Alaska and Hawaii would become states in 1959. Four years after statehood, New Mexico became familiar to the rest of America. It happened when a Mexican revolutionary's army attacked a small New Mexico border town...What is clear is that New Mexico is full of good stories from its first century. Here are 100 of them - one for every year since statehood...more

Drought Takes Toll On Forests

A combination of drought and insect infestation has taken its toll this year on trees throughout the Southwest, but state and federal forestry officials said Wednesday the effects in southern New Mexico have been particularly striking. Brown patches of ponderosa pine trees have been surveyed across tens of thousands of acres of the Lincoln National Forest, particularly in the Sacramento Mountains. Here, the number of acres showing signs of tree mortality has jumped from 380 in 2010 to 41,000 acres this year. The Mescalero Apache tribe has seen more than a 140-fold increase, with tree mortality reported on some 22,000 acres this year. The story is the same for state and private land. “It’s a significant jump, and it’s because drought has stressed the trees and this has allowed the population of bark beetles to attack more trees,” said Katherine Sanchez Meador, a spokeswoman for the Lincoln National Forest. If the drought persists, she said tree stress and mortality will likely increase next year. Land managers have been busy this week poring over new aerial and ground surveys done on forest lands in New Mexico and Arizona. The annual surveys look for everything from signs of bark beetles to declines in aspen stands...more

Navajo weavers turn art to profit at Crownpoint Rug Auction

On the second Friday of every month, two very different groups of people, most of them New Mexicans, get together at a school on the Navajo reservation for one of the state's most unique commercial customs. The Crownpoint Rug Auction got started in 1968 as a way for Navajo weavers to profit more from their hand-spun and woven textiles that were once used casually as saddle blankets, but were quickly becoming expensive works of art. By 4 p.m., when the doors open to the Crownpoint Elementary School, more than 100 Navajo weavers and their families begin moving into the gymnasium with the results of months of work rolled up in plastic containers. By 5 p.m., the bidders, almost all of them Anglos, begin to arrive and look through what will be for sale. The biggest contingency is from Albuquerque, with a few from Santa Fe, Rio Rancho, Farmington, Gallup, Las Cruces and other New Mexico towns, a handful from the contiguous states, a smattering from other states, and one European couple...more

Elephant Butte Reservoir: Century-old dam will open to public for first time in a decade

It's been a decade since the public was allowed to walk across Elephant Butte Dam, located on the Rio Grande 200 miles south of Santa Fe. Now, on Jan. 7, for one day only, the public can again tour the dam that has played a pivotal role in New Mexico's history. Rising more than 25 stories above ground level, the massive concrete structure at Elephant Butte backs up the Rio Grande to form New Mexico's largest water body. The nearly century-old dam has played a key role in the water politics and disputes among three states and Mexico. It was part of the first major project built by a fledgling U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in the early 1900s to control flooding, resolve cross-border water disputes and supply irrigation to hundreds of farmers. Today, the reservoir created by the dam also is a primary recreation spot for sailors, boaters and anglers. "The dam really makes a lot of the agriculture in Southern New Mexico and El Paso viable," said Estevan López, director of New Mexico's Interstate Stream Commission. "Without it, the water supply would be so much more [intermittent]. Most years, the farmers wouldn't have water at the end of the irrigation season." Elephant Butte Reservoir is the Rio Grande bank account for Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. Every year, it's the place where their water debits and credits are counted. It is the delivery point under the 1938 Rio Grande Compact for water deliveries to Texas. "It ends up affecting how all the river's flow is managed all the way to the headwaters," López said...more

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The snowy outhouse

by Julie Carter

The abundance of recent snows isn’t always as easy on folks as the beauty of it, or the need, would imply. Country folks are forced into a different work mode for economic survival.

Not infrequently, a complete change from a northern zip code to a southern one is prompted by winter after winter of fighting life in a blizzard. Most years, that plan works well until global warming backfires and the Southwest is blanketed with repeated snow storms that put the Rocky Mountain high communities to shame.

Abandoning heavy winter wear, vehicle cold weather kits and other Nordic related items seemed like a freeing moment –at the time.

The new set of coveralls under the Christmas tree of the newly relocated rancher, now with a banana belt location, was received much like he’d been gifted with a vacuum cleaner. He promptly returned them, declaring in colorful language he had no intention of wearing such again – ever.

Fast forward to recent days and two feet of snow, ice that is six to eight inches thick on the cattle drinkers and there is a considerable amount of “noise” taking place.  

A 4x4 that’s needed fixed but hasn’t been, got stuck when just backing it out of the shop. The tractor has been coaxed and cajoled to start, chains drug from the back corner and put on a second pickup, also without the 4-wheel drive working. 

The grumbling of the rancher and the grinding of resistant wheels rolling give way to the bawling of the cattle crowded along the fence line waiting for their “meals on wheels” that they know will come.

Those that live in even more rural circumstances face other serious winter challenges –like keeping the outhouse accessible and in good working order.

A recent memo of response from More Value Outhouse Inc. outlined one such situation:

    “Dear Mr. Larsen: Our sales person Frank is out of the office this week until Jan. 2 but I, as the top sales person here at More Value Outhouse, will be pleased to help you. As I look at the invoice where you requested the Florida Model Rx 77-22, I must remind you that this is to be used next to the equator only.
    From the photo you share, it is evident that you also didn’t install the R77 springs on the door. We at More Value Outhouse do not warranty any model being used improperly.
    “After closer inspection of your installation, it is noted that you have installed the tie downs improperly which are against Outhouse EID code because of tripping hazards. Also, changing the size of the moon from original size voids any warranty. If you so desire, you may return it back to our factory outlet. We will refund your purchase price of $235 less the shipping of $325 and will bill your credit card for any excess.
    “As an added bonus, we will include a month’s supply of freshly harvested cobs that need only a good soak in water and then dried fully for a fluffier texture.
    We look forward to helping you with your future Outhouse needs. Thank You for using More Value Outhouse products. We aim to please.”

Julie can be reached for comment at

Christmas 2011: It Does Matter

It Does Matter
Christmas 2011
A Holy Reminder
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            As the world around us seems intent on destroying those things we hold dear, we find ourselves at the dawn of the most sacred of days.  Christmas has arrived. 
Here in southern New Mexico we can actually say we have a Holstein Christmas with patches of snow still covering the ground.  What a blessing the moisture has been.  From October, 2010 until October, 2011 we had begun to think we had been forgotten. 
Our young cows and our old cows suffered mightily as the monsoons only teased us with the hope of rain.  A year with less than two inches of rain is something none of us ever want to face again, and  . . . can’t face again.
  Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
     Let your heart be light.
            From now on our troubles will be out of sight . . .
Watching Kathy make candy yesterday, makes me realize that we may talk about Christmas being for the kids, but that is just an excuse for us.  It is really for us.
Oh, yes, the opening of gifts will be the highlight of the day as our children and grandchildren again take the stage with our attention, but Christmas has become the single day of the year that the door can be closed for a few hours.  That world outside is not welcome. 
 The smells, the sights, and the sound of all things familiar surround us.  We don’t have to compromise.  We don’t have to accept some contradiction of thought or demand imposed on our belief system and our heritage.
We will honor the way of life that makes our hearts again hopeful and reassured.  We will say our prayer . . . and tell our grandkids how much we love them.   
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
     Make your Yuletide Gay
From now on our troubles will be miles away . . .
Fifty years ago we were no different from our grandchildren today.  After Christmas morning at home, we were on our way to Cliff and our first stop would be at my maternal grandparents, Carl and Leona Rice.  The smells of those days are reproduced from the same recipes and the traditions that were prepared and cooked at our house yesterday. 
They come alive every year from scraps of paper and tattered and yellowed reminders of notes from Nana, Ma Rice, Ethel Sperry, Grandma Lewis, Minnie, Aunt Ellen and other loved ones for which we now substitute. Fudge, divinity, peanut brittle, taffy and cream pies chain together generations now gone to the hearts and minds of our children.  Only the mincemeat, and the green tomato and pear preserves are absent . . . and I miss them.
By Christmas afternoon we were on the Mangus at my paternal grandparents, Albert and Sabre Wilmeth. Grandma Wilmeth always held court with her brood.  She alone kept the family together, and when she died . . . the unity of the family died, too.
We really didn’t want to eat, but we did . . . again.  Then it was to the horse pasture to catch something to ride or down to the creek to shoot at something.  Somebody always had a new gun.  We didn’t need supervision.  We knew darn well how to carry a gun.  We respected what we had been taught.
Here we are as in olden days,
     Happy Golden Days of yore . . .
There are a few things I remember about those very first Christmases.  There were the bubbly ornaments that hung on Ma Rice’s tree.  They had oil in them and they would bubble up from the bottom of a transparent bulb. The tree was freshly cut and I know it was a pinon.  It had been cut at the ranch on Sacaton.
There was the big wood cook stove on the kitchen side of the fireplace from the living room.  It kept the whole end of the house warm and it smelled good as some of those same recipes prepared yesterday were being fussed over and baked. 
Ma Rice, my maternal great grandmother, had come from Texas to the Gila Valley in 1884, 28 years before New Mexico even became a state.  Her generation remembered the Apache Wars and the Buffalo Soldiers that were stationed at places like Ft. Bayard for the protection of the scattered settlers.  In fact, we have a copy of her hand written letter in a special place in our library to her grandchildren about that time in her life.  She is our direct literary bridge to a West  . . . that is now history.
Faithful friends you are dear to us,
     Gather near to us once more . . .
Four children of another era were in our home the other night.  Joe Delk and Hank Hays and their wives sat by our fire and we reminisced.  We talked about two dads in particular, Forrest and Dick, and the wonders of a younger New Mexico. 
I was reminded that night of other men in those familiar ranch homes through the years.  They were men that didn’t always gather for family events, but Christmas was different.  With sunburned hands and faces (below their brow), they always looked half naked with their hats off.
Few times did we pray, but, if and when we did, those men would act very strange to a kid. There wasn’t a thing in their lives that seemed to scare them or put them ill at ease, but a crowd and the praises to God made them different. 
They could deal with a cow on the fight, a horned Hereford bull with rotting flesh in a wound filled with screw worms, a horse humped up wanting to pitch, or a Cat with a final drive out, but it was only Christmas that allowed them to interact with their Creator in a confined setting and feel welcome and secure . . . it was different, and  . . . it was so important.
Through the year we all will be together,
     if the fates allow . . .
Christmas was truly a time of renewal and hope. It was the one day that all could come together and be a united family.  It was bridge from daily difficulties back to the safety and spiritual haven of our God.  Think of the implications of that. 
Life creates enough complications, but life without a method to rebalance is indeed a life with difficulty.  Our world faces that dilemma.
Hang your shining star upon the highest bough . . .
As we have gotten older, the meaning of Christmas has curiously changed.  As kids it was the wonder of it all.  As young parents, it was the wonder of joy in our children eyes.  As grandparents, it is the hope for our families and the importance we now put on those things that don’t change, that provide lasting strength, and promote the loving kindness and glory that only God gives to our being and our World.
And have yourself a Merry little Christmas, now . . .
Open the door this morning to those things that are truly right and salutary.  Close it to those things that seek the destruction of those things we hold most dear . . . and tell your grandkids and your family that you love them . . . ‘just as your grandparents told you in those wonderful Christmases past.
Merry Christmas . . .

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “God bless our families and our way of life.  May we always fight for what is right . . . and be wise enough to understand when to stand and when to give.”