Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Fun in the fire

by Julie Carter

As record breaking drought brings with it a fire season that has the West in a choke hold, finding something to laugh about is critical. As usual, out here in the country, we tend to just laugh at ourselves.

It happened one night on the unpopulated open plains in the middle of the state. An errant strike of lightning flared the tinder-dry pasture grass into a threatening blaze.

In the heart of miles of nothingness, the only landmark that gave the fire a notable location was what remained of a long-ago deserted town. All that was left were a few deserted buildings and a name. The fire was at least two hours by highway from any real fire-fighting agency.

The nearest rancher to this ghost-stop along the road served as mayor and fire chief by title and reputation. High desert ranching requires a great sense of humor and the occasional ego boost that an important sounding title can provide.

One of the items left behind in the population exodus from Ramon, New Mexico was an ancient fire truck. The battery required constant charging, which didn't happen, and the water tank leaked so it was never full. Other than that, it was in fine shape.

The night of this specific grass fire, the phone calls went out to neighboring ranchers. Waking up the chief of the Ramon Volunteer Fire Department took some doing, but he finally answered the phone.

Pulling on his britches and his hat, he hollered at his nearly adult son and out the door they went. The process of charging the battery and finding a hose to fill the water truck began.

Meanwhile, another area cowboy with an addiction to farm sales knew he had a cattle sprayer parked somewhere "over yonder on the hill."

The most recent endorsement of this antiquated piece of equipment had been at a cattle-spraying event. A cowboy there had commented that he could pee further than the sprayer could spray, leaving its validity as fire fighting equipment certainly at least questionable.

However, it did hold water, so after the tires were aired up, the cowboy hooked it to the pickup and off he went to join the fire fight. By this time, the fire had gotten large enough that the glow in the dark summoned country folks from near and far.

Back at the Ramon Fire Department, aka the chief’s ranch headquarters, the fire truck was revved up ready to go. It was quite dark and very difficult to see where to drive as the truck made its way through the pasture toward the flames.

The chief was at the wheel of the truck, barreling through the night to the rescue like a caped crusader, while his son rode fireman-style on the truck fender hollering "YEEEE, HAAWWW," at the top of his lungs.

Directly, the chief drove the truck off in a wash and it came to a sudden, solid halt, nose down. The son on the fender was tossed through the air, landing somewhere in the near vicinity. He came up dusting himself off. Nothing was broken except the fire truck.

Nearly everyone in close proximity of the fire left what they were doing to go check out the fire truck wreck.

In the meantime, the cowboy with the sprayer coming to save the day blew out a tire. When the chore of dragging the chief and his fire truck out of the wash was finished, the crew all went to see what the problem was with the sprayer cowboy.

Meanwhile back at the fire, the rancher who owned the flaming property put his road grader into operation. He made a fire-line circle around the burning grass and eventually the fire burned itself out.

In the wee hours of the morning with everyone wide-awake, nobody wanted to go back home. So they circled their rigs, drug out the food they'd brought (another country folk standard) and had their version of a block party.

The exhausted rancher thanked everyone for their help as he headed off to tend to his livestock and ranch chores.

All this, while you slept.

Julie can be reached for comment at

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