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Scatterin’ the Drive

by Curtis Fort

A Camp On The Rio Grande

As the summer went on we kept prowling for the last yearlings, and had cleaned them out. They were going to winter another set of cattle and it would be a couple of months before they started receiving stock. I knew I needed to get back to doing some sculpture, but I’ll always remember the long days a horseback, with good hombres at the Orndorff.

So I changed ranges to Bosque Farms and worked on my art. While camped there, Tye Terrell would call me several times over the next couple of years and ask me to help him receive a set of cattle that he’d contracted, so I got to see some new country and meet some new people. On one trip we received 2,100 yearlings off the Cat Mountain outfit, owned by Bob Dunlap, and located fifteen miles or so west of Magdalena. Tye had contracted 4,500 yearlings from Bob for Pete Caviness that summer, then received the balance of them a few days later at the Dunlap Ranch at Vaughn, New Mexico. It was fun because Tye had us a room at the old Vagabond Hotel in Socorro, where all the cow folks around that area gathered. Each morning we’d get in the white Lincoln way before light and meet Bob for breakfast at the café in Magdalena, while his crew was penning seven to eight-hundred yearlings. We’d get there just at daylight to weigh them, sort off any culls and load those potbelly trucks. The yearlings were in good shape, averaging 750. They blew snot and jumped and kicked at you, the way they should. Robbie, our amigo Bob Weil’s sixteen-year-old son, was also with us. Now, he and his wife Monica have a cattle and hunting ranch in southern Oklahoma. It was fun working those cattle and loading trucks in great fall weather. We’d be done around noon if all the trucks showed up on time. By the time we got back to the hotel it was late afternoon. Then we’d get cleaned up, take a short nap while Tye was on the phone, eat a big steak and all for supper, and sleep like a rock till 3:00 a.m. Then we’d do it again. We did that for three days and all went well. These cattle all went to wheat pasture around Hereford, Texas, and a few months later I went with Tye and Bob to look at them. We spent a night at the Vaughn Ranch on way back.

Another time we received 1,300 calves off the Fernandez outfit at San Mateo, NM, a really neat place. It had an old-time headquarters similar to the Bells. The ranch is several hundred sections and covers the west slope of Mount Taylor and located way out onto the flats and brush. The ranch was managed by D.R. Daniels. He and his wife Edwina became friends, and we had many a good time at the NM Cattle Growers’ conventions. We got to a big shipping camp north of headquarters that morning as they were penning the cattle. They were forever getting them penned and we helped strip those cattle down the alley. It was nearly noon before they started separating the heifers and steers, then sorted off their keeper heifers. So it was two or three o’clock before anything was weighed. Buddy Majors had contracted the calves that summer, and Tye had brokered them from Buddy for Dusty Ray. We shipped them to grass on the Ray Ranch at Roy, New Mexico. It was a long day and night . . . and cold. We loaded the last trucks at daylight. We were young, but I was never more tired than when we got to that hotel room in Grants that Buddy had for us.

That next spring, Myles Culbertson called and said they could use me at their spring works at the Park Springs, and told me that they were going to run a wagon. My amigo Hagen Strauss, from the Strauss Ranch at Las Cruces, was twelve years old or so and wanted to go. I arranged it with his folks, thinking it would be a good experience for him to see how they worked up in that rim rock range. So his Dad met me in Vaughn with Hagen’s mount of horses, and he took my pickup. Hagen and I pulled into the old Park Springs outfit mid-afternoon. I love that ol’ Ranch and had helped them before. There was lots of activity. A couple of men were tacking on shoes, while others were loading a flatbed trailer with things for the wagon and cow works. Myles was roping out a couple wrangling horses for the men who would gather the horse trap early the next morning. The wagon was camped there at headquarters under those big cottonwood trees. Bedrolls were scattered around on the grass, and the crew was setting around rolling smokes and shooting the breeze. Sitting on their beds, Kiko Padilla, Carey Culbertson, Delfinio Montano, were drinking coffee, and visiting with Paublin Romero. There were some young hands, Bobcat, and his brother Pistol from the Conchas outfit, along with a couple of Ray Saiz’s boys, and my sidekick Hagen. They reminded me of John Wayne’s movie, The Cowboys. Also, there were a couple of young cowgirls, Myles & Georgia Culbertson’s daughters, Meredith and Avery, ages 8 and 6. They all craved punching cows and were already experienced and helped round out a good crew.

I made it a point to sit by W.O., Myles’ Father. I always enjoyed visiting with him about the history of the Park Springs Ranch, as well as the ranching history of the Culbertson Family, starting in the early 1900s in the Texas panhandle around Dalhart. He loved the life, and loved history on the American West, so we were into a good story when the wagon cook rang the bell and said, “Come and get it!” Now, this wagon cook was named Georgia, and was Myle’s wife. She ran a tight ship, and kept things in order. As I was writing this, I called Myles and he told me how Georgia decided to cook for this works. When Myles and W.O. were discussing who they could get to cook, they were having coffee at the Chupainas camp where Myles and Georgia lived. It seems that good wagon cooks have been few and far between for many years, as most of you know, and they couldn’t think of anyone. So, Georgia, as a true Park Springs patriot, volunteered. She was well aware of the stress, long hours and hard work involved in cooking for a roundup crew at a wagon. Now, Georgia is a lady, and the prettiest wagon cook I’ve ever seen! Not only is she a pretty lady but she is the only female wagon cook I’ve ever worked with that actually cooked for a works. Needless to say, the food was top of the line, and had that extra little flavor only a lady can do! To quote Myles, “It was a relaxing scene that night, the wagon, scattered bedrolls with their occupants, the cook fire still glowing, in the silhouette of the old Park Springs Headquarters.” I still remember that evening lying there, excited over another branding works, knowing I needed to sleep, but savoring the moment. A Great Horned Owl would hoot, as a cool summer’s night breeze made sleeping very sound. Just as you were really sleeping, you heard the wranglers corralling the remuda, caught a whiff of that camp coffee, and in no time were wolfing down those Georgia-made biscuits and gravy.

After another cup of camp coffee, Myles and W.O. roped out mounts. Soon Myles was leading the crew at a high trot, and scattered the drive to gather a herd. There were a couple of hands left behind to help Georgia. One was a volunteer, W.O., who had done enough bone- rattling high trots to the back side. I’m sure he was deeply appreciative of his daughter-in-law’s willingness to help, and the other one of the buttons who would load those ovens and see what a job it is to cook for a roundup crew. Myles was also very appreciative of Georgia, and made sure she had plenty of help, as a happy cook is a great cook.

When the drive came in at the Palmia, they were held up outside as we cut out the bulls and any dries, then penned them separately from the pairs. We penned the pairs, stripped off the cows and the irons were soon hot. That’s the way it went through the next ten days of the Park Springs spring works. What a great memory of working with good punchers young and old, a special crew and a special concinera!