Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Road Grader Bull

Auto Patrol
The Road Grader Bull
It’s not Over until it is Over
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            When I was born twenty years removed from the Depression, the world still showed its footprints.
            Jobs and their importance were a constant subject. We heard the words of counsel, almost a compulsion, related to how important it was to have and take care of a job. They were more important than the money derived from them. They were security and dignity. A job was so important it existed as a sovereign relationship. It was a partner of utmost importance.
            Road graders are one best example.
            Auto Patrol
            Like jockey boxes, Denver Sandwiches, and cartridges, auto patrols were part of our vocabulary.
            Every kid in our neck of the woods was as familiar with them as the mention of sky, road, breakfast, church or school. The ones we saw most often were parked under the big cottonwoods just west of the bend in HW 180 on the west side of the old steel bridge between Riverside and Cliff.
            That was all familiar territory.
            Rusty Lewis lived across the road from them (a road that Tom and Marie kept busy). Grandma Lewis lived in the house to the south and just behind where Rena and Karen’s grandmother, my Aunt Ellen, lived. Up the road a bit was Aunt Izzie’s house.
            When the auto patrols, road graders in modern parlance, weren’t parked there, they were out performing civic functions by keeping the traveled roads safe and obstacle free. The operators that were lucky enough to operate them were fortunate indeed. Since the only paved roads “on the river” were the highway and the main roads up each side of the valley, the dirt roads were by far the most prevalent.
            The machines represented security and permanent employment to those who operated and took care of them. Those positions were highly sought after in the days when jobs were still scarce, and when people knew all to well what universal despair was like when you couldn’t find a job to honor and depend upon.
            Its not Over until it is Over
            The road grader bull is now being served up at your local burger joint.
            He was the wayward bull that came through this venue during the last month when he turned up missing in our gather. For too many days, we looked for him and were deciding he might be piled in the bottom of a canyon somewhere or at least foregoing his daily rumination of cured tabosa or black grama grass.
            It was then his singular track was found at the Lion drinker, the one on the north side of the Apache/Burris pasture fence line.
            So, I pulled a horse up the pipeline road to within a mile of the drinker, got mounted, and headed over the gap to find him. When I topped out and could finally see the drinker, by golly, there he was with his head in a salt tub.
            I made a big circle around him and came to him from the east to push him back over the gap and toward the Howard pens. When we got within 50 feet of him, he shook his head at us but moved off with a vocal reminder we meant business.
            He turned and trotted up the fence.
            That was alright until he started trying to find a place to jump it. On the second attempt, I ran at him and forced him off the fence and toward the two track on which we had come over. He drove okay from that point with the exception of trying to brush up in two separate stands of mesquites.
            At the Apache drinker, we picked up two pairs that were not supposed to be there and drove them with him on to the corrals a mile away. That was working until we tried to pen them. The bull was just not going to have anything to do with the gate and that set the whole thing up for a wreck. Long story short, I was able to get up on his shoulder with the horse as we passed the gate and pushed him enough to get him to go through it.
            By then, he was really on the hook. I decided on the ride to the truck that I’d leave him there and come back in the morning to load him.
            The Road Grader Bull
            He was no better the next morning.
            On the first attempt to put him in the load up, I went in horseback. That ended with him coming to us all squared up bouncing on his front feet blowing snot and trying to get his head under the horse.
            I had heard the county auto patrol working on the road just above the corral, and, in a split second, told BJ I was going to go get Robert and his road grader!
            From a local dairy family, Robert didn’t hesitate a second. He had the grader turned around and he got to the pens before me. As I got the truck and trailer backed up and in place again, he was squeezing through the gates getting to the bull. Getting into the pen with him proved to be the most difficult because the bull was intent on getting by us. Successfully getting that done, the next part should have been caught on camera.
            It was the duel of the giants.
            When it was all done and the bull was in the runup, the closed gate separated the two breathing behemoths with the bull still trying to challenge the big yellow machine. Getting him on into the trailer was another torturous task, but it was accomplished, and the gate was shut.
            To say the least, he was not unloaded until we reached the pens where the truck would load him and haul him to the processor. Whew!

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Indeed … whew!”

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