Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Sunday, June 04, 2017
A Good Story
Brown Smith and Wilmeth
In Search of Moochie
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
is far from sane.
the chaos outpaces any hint of goodness. There is violence or slander in every
direction. The daily cultural assault is matched only by the cynicism that has
enveloped every aspect of our lives. When digging post holes is preferred to
being subjected to any form of media, something dramatic has taken place. That
is why mornings have become preferred times. The cool air is wafting through
the open window and there is temporary peace. It won’t last long, though. I am
headed out shortly to spend the day in surroundings that I have some degree of control.
It is there
that ideas often come to visit. They don’t appeal to most, but they appeal to
me. If only a fence could be built there, a water source installed there, or,
more importantly, if we could only have a real monsoon.
Each of those
is the basis of a good story. What did we learn from Pollyanna as kids? There
are some 826 good stories. We just have to find them.
In Search of Moochie
of the ‘50s and ‘60s were the best. That was particularly true if rural or
small town America
was the setting. Among all the influences were movies with good stories. Walt
Disney was a huge influence and we knew him personally. He spoke to us every
Sunday evening when he introduced the story line before his Wide World. During the week, we watched
Jimmie, Annette, and the rest of the Mousekateers. We could sing along.
Old Yeller was the only real hiccup out
of all his productions. Dragging us to see Old Yeller shot from a case of
rabies was a most traumatic experience. I can remember the theater lobby when
we were filing out in tow by our parents. It was akin to the recovery room
after a morning of delight with Dr. Walsh separating a half dozen school mates
from their tonsils. Kids were crying. The popcorn counter was closed from lack
of interest and Bullard was just an avenue to escape the horror of what we had
witnessed. Worse yet, we left Moochie in a permanent state of depression from
the loss of his canine buddy. He would exist into eternity hearing that shot in
that barn as Old Yeller was put down.
you thinking, Walt?
was just a forewarning of the things to come, but, in the meantime, the wonder
of it all continued. The aforementioned Pollyanna was an example. What was ever
wrong with making us feel good? The characters were our friends. We would
forever run to see Hayley Mills in anything she did, but the character of the
half century had to be Moochie. His real name was Kevin Corcoran, but he was
Moochie to us and remains so. With that mop of hair and sing song voice, he was
the absolute epitome of our childhood good guy and friend. Our familiarity with
him was absolute and complete. He would have been sitting there on Saturday
mornings tuned with us to Sky King or Judge Roy Bean. He would have baited
hooks on the river bank trying to catch a sucker. He would have been swinging
from the rafters in the barn with us. He would have ridden pigs with us under
the ultimate threat of execution by Sam if we had been caught. He would have
eaten sardines and apples and drank ditchwater with us. He would have played
sports, but the message from coach would have too often been, “Shut up Moochie
and listen!” If he walked through the door of our class on Monday morning, it
would have universally been, “Hey, Mooch, how you doin’?”
knew him well. He was our friend.
Brown Smith and Wilmeth
I knew two
real life Moochies. One was a cousin and the other was Brown Smith, he of Texas
Brazos river country.
know Brown until we were long passed grown, but, if Moochie was real, he
existed in the human form of Brown. Brown was a field man for Met Life Ag Investments
based in his home state of Texas.
I was always led to believe he didn’t have to work, but he liked the loan
business and he liked the rural clientele. Met liked him and his near fame
across the Lone Star state. He was really good at what he did.
Smith?” the question invariably was.
has been a Brown Smith on this earth every year since before the War of
Southern Rights,” he would state proudly.
“When I was
a kid, I was real bad to run off,” he said one day out of the thin air. “My dad
could stand only so much of that nonsense, so he fitted me with a harness, cut
a railroad tie in half, and chained me to it.”
your dad chained you to a tie?” was the quizzical response.
him lots of time and it gave me the freedom to go wherever I wanted,” was the
response. “He or mom could trail me up when they wanted me to eat or sleep.”
delivery was always immensely effective. His timing was perfect and his sense
of humor was deadly.
personal life was fascinating. He would do things like fly his Cessna to the
tip of Tierra del Fuego.
your plane from Texas
to the tip of South America?” was the question
trying to read his eyes and expression.
not?” was the answer. “I only had two weeks or I’da flown it further.”
for the ages, though, was when he described how he came to be a member of
Prince Phillips’ hunt club. I can’t remember the actual genesis of the invitation
(or is it the discreetness of keeping some things left unsaid?), but his
rendition of practicing riding in his “colors” on his newly acquired English
saddle was hilarious. His English stable mates had an underlying fear that the
new member from Texas
would embarrass them on the day of the big royal hunt. They had insisted he
acquire the right clothes and tack. Their worst fear was that Brown would show
up with his boots, leggin’s and seasoned M. L. Leddy silver belly. They also
insisted he practice before he made the crossing.
“So, I was
down in the pasture jumping mesquites when I noticed neighbors stopping on the
highway watching me,” he remembered. “There they were leaning on the fence and
talking among themselves.”
offering encouragement, too,” he recalled.
Brown, are you practicing to be a jockey?”
assembled with the hunt master and the crew in England, he was assigned a special
host to make sure all went well. He had been asked if he needed a second ride
during the day.
“No, me and
one old horse ought to be able to make it just fine,” he had told him. When they
brought his horse to him, though, he hadn’t expected something he needed a
ladder to climb aboard.
offered a leg up or suggested to rely on the point of the lorry,” he continued.
“I didn’t know what they were talking about.”
they were off and going cross country through the English countryside. He and
“James” worked things out but he had a hard time remounting after midmorning
tea. Taking time to “whistle” was an even harder nut to crack.
wasn’t a ladder and not a lorry in sight by that time.”
second half of the day, Brown had decided that nobody could ever convince him
those Limeys didn’t know anything about riding.
“Those ol’ boys are horsemen I’ll
Finally, at 4:00, the huntmaster sounded his horn and the
dog master was told to kennel his hounds. Brown was looking for a lorry to load
their horses and trailer them the 20 miles or so home.
“They sounded the damn horn and
told us to assemble on the hard surface,” he recalled with horror. “We trotted
20 miles home!”
The following morning Brown had a
hard time rolling out. By the third morning, he could hardly get out of bed.
“James wouldn’t even come out of
his stall when he saw me,” was his final line with those eyes lit and that smile
dancing Moochie like. “I had hammered that old horse’s back so bad he had a
permanent crease, but, hey, I had hunted with England’s best and me and the
queen’s men are buds.”
Indeed, Brown … you had many buds.
L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New
Mexico. “The Brown Smith and Wilmeth idea was
intended to be our retirement vocatioin. We were going to sell farms and
ranches and Brown thought the name had a Wall Street sort of ring to it.”