Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Color Green

Echoes of Home and old Friends
The Color Green
We are Ranchers
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            We branded another bunch of calves Friday.
            As I drove up through the Coldiron Pasture, several competing issues slowed my pace. I was early and a few extra minutes would give BJ more time to get loaded and ready, but, the recent rains have also played havoc with the roads and I had to slow down. The surrounding green held my attention. There is something about green grass that is hypnotic. It isn’t just me. It is the same for all my neighbors. Several nights ago Jim and I had been on the phone together tracking a storm that promised rain for both of us. I was watching the Doppler and he was out in the pasture calling play by play in his pickup.
On my way out this morning, Bill and I had compared notes through the continued wonders of cell phones. On the eastern side of the Floridas, he has had repeated, good rains. His comment was that it almost hurt your eyes it was so green.
            “It’s good and it is getting better every day!” has become his byline.
            For the Dudley conversation, it was no different. His big country had been nearly impassable for several days this week. Where it had been dry in the lower Mimbres drainage, wet is finally starting to take effect. Tanks are full, and cattle are scattered to the winds.
            We’ll take it. We may never see the likes of this again!
            Echoes of Home
            This little gray mare, Dotsy, is making a horse.
            She is still being ridden with a running martingale because she has been throwing her head, but even that is starting to subside. I like her motor. She just goes and goes and that alone is worth the price of patience with her progress. She is now loading when shown an open trailer gate and she is backing out rather than trying to turn and getting panicky.
            On the outside circle the evening before, she and I had time to communicate and work on things. As she got warmer and I could start to smell her working, many thoughts and worries just sort of drifted away. The expanding sea of green around us helped for sure. It also stirred memories.
            What a pleasure it would have been to share that ride with my grandfathers. All sorts from firsts to greats and great-greats would have understood the impact of the green. Being cowmen they would have seen, too, the things that from time to time keep me awake at nights, but the green for that day would have prevailed.
            For this day’s work, we had penned the cows the night before in our dry lot at the Howard pens. Because of the heat this summer, we have gathered late in the evening of the night before we brand and then be at the pens by sunup to brand in the cool of the morning. I like that approach and it remains the pattern we have followed even as the days have cooled with the onset of the rains.
            The first calf of the morning was branded a few minutes after 7:00.
            Before I started typing this, my thoughts returned to those same memories. What a pleasure it would be to brand that set of calves with my grandfathers. The collective skill level would have far exceeded anything we did this day. Horsemen they were as well. Riding their own favored finished horses would have been witness to a symphony of heritage and craft. After recounting how his own northeastern New Mexico range has improved his mood, Frank talked about people who described how Lee Rice could tie a honda as if it was a magic rope trick. Dim memories of Hinton Moss described him as the best cowboy of his time. Peter Shelley would have been contemplating how he could make everything more efficient and put the entire deal under his 916 irons. Albert Wilmeth would have ridden and roped in strict and no nonsense efficiency. Carl Rice would have made sure I had the personal tools to fit the part, and he would have made sure I was there. Throw in great-great uncles Tom and Will Shelley, and great uncles Blue Rice, Roy Wilmeth, and Joe Hooker and that crew would have been elite among southern New Mexico history.
            Several of them probably extended to me too short a fuse and other personal traits, but I am the combination of their beings. I would suggest we, together, were and or are cowmen. It all started at home, and the homes that they sought and created.
I am awed to be part of their chain of heritage and history.
Old Friends
After I got home and unsaddled, Billy, he of the Porter clan, called me.
He was driving by our Coldiron Pasture along I10 and witnessed the same green that had slowed my drive at sunup earlier in the day. Billy and I met for the first time when we fed a package of #2 Okies 44 years ago this summer. He had commented on how good that pasture was starting to look.
“It is good and it is getting better every day,” was the mantra that is now being repeated.
We talked about many things, but it was all prompted by that color of green. There is a realization that when that stimulus abounds a common mood of nostalgia arises and pervades the senses. We have to reach out and share the euphoria. Invariably, we seek those who understand the feeling and all that it means. We are all young again in our speech and our actions. We realize what common friendship and our heritage means. We are trying to find the right words, but it is actually very simple.
I am, you are, we are … ranchers.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.

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