Scatterin’ the Drive 2-11

The Corralitos.

In 1911, the Mexican Revolution was just getting in high gear. The Mexican people were fed up with their Dictator, Diaz. Revolutionary forces were on the move and the fighting had started…

Several large ranches belonging to Americans saw the need to get their horses and cattle out of Mexico.

The Wallace family managed to get their livestock into the U.S. They relocated on a ranch west of Las Cruces and brought the name of the Mexican ranch, Corralitos (Little Corrals), with them. The Wallace family managed to buy back the ranch in Mexico in 1936. I appreciate Carmella Wallace assisting me with this history.

 The Corralitos ranch is 300 sections and has country on both sides of the Interstate, west of Las Cruces. When I was there in 1968, there were the Headquarters and two camps . . . the Cantler and Adobe. It is a big range of desert and hills, tall yuccas, black Grama grass and Tabosa draws.  Headquarters consisted of a big bunkhouse, cookhouse, commissary, and houses for the manager and married cowboys. There was a big barn and regular corrals . . . as well as the main house the owners used when at the ranch. They had well-bred, quality Brangus cattle. The Brahma in them sure helped them to fit that desert range as, it was a long way between waters. 

In the Fall of 1968, when I enrolled at NMSU, I had a room in the Alumni Dorm. I didn’t know a soul except my roommate, Tony Pena from my range. I worked a few days at the NMSU stock pens. The boss, Charlie Stone, knew what he was doing. He was herdsman for the Animal and Range Department at NMSU. He let me halter-break some big Hereford steers. I enjoyed snubbin’ them up, with all the choking and slobbering, but there was no horseback work. I asked around and met a fellow that knew this range. He said there was a big ranch called the Corralitos located west of the valley and that they should be firing-up for fall works. I found the phone number and talked to the boss, Gene Nix. He said to show up Saturday morning at the headquarters. I spent a bunch of time that evening with NeatsFoot oil and a rag, greasing up my saddle and all. 

On Saturday morning, I was there at 4:00 a.m. for breakfast. Gene roped out mounts for me and Curtis Payne, Tom Sidwell and some Mexican punchers, who lived at the bunkhouse. We made a drive on a big pasture, weaned some calves, hauled the keeper heifers to headquarters and threw the cuts in a trap to be driven to headquarters later. Then we threw the rest back into the pasture. In the next few weeks we worked the Corralitos, weaning and shipping. Gene would try to work on Friday through Sunday so we could show up at class at least some of the time. It was a good fall works . . . cold mornings, and by noon, jackets and coats were hanging on the corral. Then, by sundown we’d be looking for our jackets again. 

We finished fall works around November 10th. Gene asked me to come by the ranch office on that last day. He poured me some coffee and mentioned the young horses in the north trap. He told me that someone had green-broke them that past summer and they needed lots of miles. He said that I could come to the ranch anytime, roll my bed out in the room off the cookhouse and eat all I wanted. He even included pay! Needless to say, I said, “yes.” That made living in the dorm much better because I spent a lot less time there. I’d arrive at the Corralitos mid-afternoon two or three days per week and almost every day on the weekend. Then I’d put a big circle on one of those three broncs. Ramon, the chore-boy, and I would fry up some of that bacon from D-Pack at Deming. Then we’d make gravy and biscuits with some creamed corn, and it was great! I’d sleep at the ranch, and get up early so I could make it to class. That year I went home for Christmas a couple of days and went back to ride those young horses.

I ate at Dick’s Café in Mesilla Park on a regular basis. I had seen a fellow in there several times and on campus. He always had on a good pair of Bluecher boots, with his pants “jobbed’ in the top. We happened to sit close enough to visit one day when I was headed to the Corralitos, and asked him if he wanted to go with me.  We picked up his saddle and made a circle on those broncs. Tye Terrell and I have been close compadres since that day.

On another trip to the Corralitos, my friend Marvin Gard went with me. He’s a good hand with young horses. Jim Mussehl was living at headquarters. I roped Chili Ring for Marvin and Half Moon for me. Jim had started a two-year-old, Prince Albert. We hit a high-trot toward the west, went around the south end of Sleeping Lady Mountain and up the west side. Then we went east up a canyon and out on top, looking down at headquarters.  It was a grand view of the Organ Mountains, as it was starting to turn those afternoon pinks and blues. We dropped off the trail into the canyon and hit a trot. Marvin hung his toe on one of those yucca stalks, which caused him to “job” his spur in Chili Ring. Wham! That horse blew up and sent Marvin straight up in the air. He is a tall, long legged fellow . . . and at his peak in the air, he reminded me of a frog in flight.  Chili Ring ran off and I was in hot pursuit.  He, of course, outran me to the top of the mountain, but couldn’t get off the other side. As he ran back towards me, I stuck it on Chile Ring and threw the slack to him.  I caught him deep, so stepped off the right side of Half Moon, just as Chili Ring hit the end of the rope and my mount went down.  I had drug some late calves on Half Moon, but hadn’t roped anything on him that was that big or going that fast. I got it all gathered up and led Marvin’s mount back to him. Another good day on the Corralitos! I made lots of tracks that winter on those broncs. Some weaned heifers got in the south Adobe and were wild. I got them one by one. Their necks were longer than when they escaped, as me and those broncs had to stretch ‘em.

In April, Gene decided to brand while we had a break from college for Easter.  The crew consisted of Gene, Waylon Waller, Jim Mussehl, me and the same bunkhouse boys we had last fall. The next day we made a drive on that big south pasture. We threw everything to the northwest, through the underpass and penned them at the corrals named Brass. Thankfully Gene had sent one hombre to drive the remuda and meet us there around noon. We needed fresh horses after working that big pasture. We weighed and loaded the calves on a couple of pots, branded some late calves, cut out the dry’s and threw the rest back under the Interstate. We put our saddles in that small camp house, put a wrangling horse in the corral and turned the others into a small trap. The next morning we were at the Brass Corrals roping out horses at gray light. We hit a high trot north through a trap and into a big pasture. Gene sent all but four of us to the back side. He and Waylon went to a corner and he told Jim and I to hold up what ever came out at the windmill. He knew they’d be wild. Jim and I trotted to a rise where we would be in the right place and could see the action. In a little while we saw two Brangus cows, coming at a high rate. Gene and Waylon were trying to bend them toward the windmill. We pulled out, trying to turn them, also. I knew they weren’t going to bend and was getting my rope down and anchored. Just as we were getting close, Gene’s mount, Red Moon, fell hard . . . just a big cloud of dust. I cut straight to him, behind the runaways. As I stepped off, Waylon and Jim slid to a stop right behind me. It looked bad, as Gene was laying just like he hit. I told them not to move him and I’d go for help. I rode hard two miles to the Interstate, hobbled Chili Ring, and flagged a ride. We went to Bowlin’s Running Indian store and I called an ambulance. They picked me up and I directed them to Gene. Jim took our mounts so Waylon and I crawled in the ambulance with Gene. We got to the Las Cruces hospital and the doctor immediately said Gene needed to go to El Paso. Gene never awakened, and eighteen months later he went to the big roundup. He was a good boss, a good cowboy and a Corralitos puncher.