Scatterin’ the Drive

Fall 1970:
Cothern & Lazy Ranches

That fall when I got back to Las Cruces, the Corralitos ranch wasn’t the outfit it used to be when Gene Nix was there. Someone told me to call Wilford Cothern. He had a farm in the valley with a nice ranch up close to Hatch that took in most of the Uvas mountains.

The south side of Wilford’s outfit was the whole north boundary of the Corralitos, so I had prowled some of his country when I worked for the Corralitos. Wilford told me he could use some help and to bring a couple of other cowboys. I had met a couple of students from Montana who had cow written all over them, so that Friday we showed up before daylight at the farm as Wilford wanted to do three days then the same next week.

He had eight or 10 horses in one corral, so we each saddled a mount. Along with Wilford and his son, we loaded them in a big gooseneck trailer. We went north 20 miles or so up the river, then back west several miles to some corrals called the Alamo pens. It was a neat place with good corrals made of railroad ties and two by eights. It had a windmill, cottonwood trees, and a little adobe one room camp house. It all set down in a little canyon, a pretty setting. The Uvas Mountains are big hills, six to maybe seven thousand feet with good grass, some cedar and other brush. As we hit a high trot up a canyon, we struck a trail that led us out on top of those hills. We pulled up and stepped off to reset our saddles. Some rolled a smoke, and we all paused to enjoy the beautiful sunrise with the deep blues of the San Andres and Organ mountains. The eastern sky was pink and red . . . God painted a picture no artist could touch. Looking to the north the lights of Hatch were shining far below us.

Wilford pointed out the corrals down below us in the canyon, and scattered the drive. It was a great early fall morning, and cattle were in good shape and were good-bred Brangus. When you found some, a good holler and a pop of your leggings would sure start ‘em on their way, as they were pretty trotty. The cattle came off those hills and down those side canyons into the main canyon that the Alamo pens set in. The roundup came together, without any wrecks. We had around a 100 pairs, some drys and several bulls. We were getting close to the corrals, going down the canyon, a good fence on one side and a big canyon wall on the other. A big yearling heifer decided to turn back. I had stepped off, tightened up and pulled my horn knot down tight. She came out between Wilford and me. I whacked it on her, and whirled around in hot pursuit. She was headed for the far away, but I dropped the slack over her hip and turned off. It bedded her down good, but she didn’t lay. She bounced up blowing snot, so we really got to flying, I flipped my slack over her hip and really fairgrounded her hard. I let her soak and when she came up this time she was sure craving to go back to the roundup. As I followed her back toward the pens, I still had my rope on her. They had penned ‘em and here came Wilford waving his arms the way bosses do. I figured I might be in trouble, and my time on this outfit quite short. I was taught to be ready when you’re penning cattle. “Don’t let anything get away,” especially when you’ve used up company time and horseshoes getting within 100 yards of the pens. Mr. Cothern rode to the side to let the heifer by. He was still excited and red faced. He rode up beside me grinning and said, “Those so and so’s have been doing that to me for years, you keep that rope down and use it anytime.” A rope is the best tool on a ranch, if you know how and when to use it!

We stripped off the calves that needed weaning which were all but three or four late calves which we branded and put back with their mothers. There were five or six of the big calves that were slick ears, I guess them and their mama’s gave ‘em the “slip” in the spring roundup. Wilford had a calf table, I’d never seen one till we branded those late calves. He wanted to put those 500 pound ones through it, I didn’t see that happening. I had tied my mount in the water lot, where the chute and table stuck out. The calves were big and snuffy, and Montana was using the hot-shot on them quite freely. The first big calf just blew through that table. I got on my horse, brought that calf around the corral, and when he ran between me and the table I fore-footed him. It turned him over with a bang and those northern punchers knew what to do. One fell on his neck, the other in his flank, I held his forelegs a-horseback and they had him branded pronto. Wilford said, “You just stay on your horse and IF anymore jump out, you catch ‘em.” Needless to say, each one went over, around or through it. We laid them out flat in the same manner as the first one.

We worked the dry cows out and they were fat and snorty. They were cutting ‘em down the alley, and into another big corral with a big round, steel water trough in the middle, about two feet high. Wilford was at the trough cleaning the vaccine gun. He had said to cut that wild heifer with the drys so she could go to town. Here she came, flying down the alley. I hollered at Wilford to lookout! I was setting on my horse in that same corral, and I never laughed so hard. She took him around that trough and then across it. She was blowing snot on him and would have got him, but she hung the float arm, breaking it off. Water was shooting in the air and it slowed her down enough for Wilford to make a break for the fence. I don’t think he would have made it, and she was about to catch him, when I ran into her. He had been so occupied with all the bellerin’, and sloberin’, that he didn’t hear my laughing, so I was in good standing! We had to hold up the works and fix that float before it drained the storage tank.

He had brought sandwich stuff, and had a pot of coffee and pot of beans on a fire over by the windmill. It really hit the spot. Then he and his son made several trips hauling the calves down to his feedlot at the farm, and me and the Montana boys trailed those drys to a trap at the ranch. I helped him a few more times while I was in school. The last time I saw him was 1986 or so. I stopped by to visit and it was a good powwow. He mentioned that first time I helped him, and that wild heifer. He got a big grin on his face and said you know I never did find that vaccine gun. He was a good fella.

Another outfit I helped several times was the Lazy E. It lay on the west side of the Corralitos, and was 100 sections or so. Dick and Genivieve Davis lived on the ranch. Genivieve’s Father, L. F. Burris, came from Texas around 1915 and started the Lazy E. She was raised there along with two sisters and five brothers. Tink Burris who ranches at Cook’s Peak and Silver City was kind enough to help me with this history. His father Howard was one of the five brothers. Right in the middle of the ranch was Massacre Peak, a butte several hundred feet high. I climbed it once and from the top you could see the Butterfield Trail to the north which was the southern mail route established in the 1850s. In the 1860s Apaches attacked a small wagon train of immigrants and killed everyone. Years later someone found several guns and bolts of calico that were hidden in the rocks up around the top of the butte.

I always enjoyed cow works there on the Lazy E. The Davises became close friends, more like second folks. We spent many great times together and they passed away a few years back. But that May of ‘71, the branding irons had just been hung back on the wall at the Lazy E. I took my final exams for that semester and headed for the Bell Ranch. n