Scatterin’ the Drive

Armendaris, Part II. 

I ended Part I in 1971 at the Armendaris ranch, which was originally a Spanish Land Grant given to Pedro Armendaris in 1819. We had gathered the south half of the Cedar Lake pasture and had dinner at 2:00 p.m. At 5:00 p.m., we hung morals on all the saddle horses.

Feeding with morals was interesting to me as it was the first outfit I had been where they fed ‘em like that. It takes a lot of troughs to grain fifty or more horses, and the way they fight, it made sense to me to use a moral. Each horse got the grain he needed then we gathered all the morals and hung them in the feed barn. We turned them in the horse trap and a couple of men had already roped out their wrangling horses to gather the remuda the next morning. Something else I learned from feeding with a moral was that none of those horses were silly about their ears and they were easy to bridle. Over the years when I have had a young horse to break that did not like being touched around the ears I would grain him with a moral and pretty soon he was not a problem.

The next day we jigged out before daylight and gathered the north half of Cedar Lake and threw the roundup together at Deep Well Camp. There the bosses cut the drys and we threw the roundup in a holding pasture, where they would gather and wean the calves in a couple days after they worked the herd gathered the day before at headquarters. When we got there the next Friday the crew was staying at the Casa Grande Camp, which was twenty miles north of headquarters at Engle. Ten miles north of headquarters was Deep Well Camp, where Dennis and Alice Cleaver lived. Dennis was raised at Alamogordo, and Alice up the hill at High Rolls. They worked for the T4, a big outfit west of Tucumcari, and other outfits before hiring on at the Armendaris. Alice’s folks, Les and Mary Fleming were cooking at the cook-house , and also cooked at the camps when the crew was working other ranges. Dennis and Alice have been my close friends ever since. They now live at Ft. Sumner, where Dennis traded his hackamore and saddle for a Pistol and is the sheriff of De Baca County.

We saddled our mounts at Casa Grande and struck a high trot single file through that lava country. The pasture they had been gathering was called the Malpais Pasture and was sixty-four sections. They had already made three drives, throwing everything into a holding pasture at Casa Grande. There were 1,200 yearling heifers when they started gathering that pasture. That morning we were still short two hundred or so. I’ll never forget that morning we left camp single file at a high trot. Spurs a-jinglin’, the glow from a puncher’s smoke, a horse blowin’, and the sounds of ten ponies at a high trot with sparks from their shoes striking rock, were the sounds of going to the back side. What a blessing to be able to work a big range with a good crew! As we trotted along, those Arizona boys had jingle-bobs on their espuelas and it sure sounded good. I thought then, that there is no place I’d rather be on God’s range than right here with these punchers on a crisp fall morning on the Armendaris! The drive came together around eleven at the holding pasture between Casa Grande and Lava Station on the railroad. The cattle were trotty and we felt good when we held ‘em as Arizona Ed eased down the fence and opened the gate without stirring them up. With some easy handling, one of the leaders went through the gate and the rest followed. Bobby was in the right place as a boss should be and got a good count on ‘em.

The cooks, Mr. and Mrs. Fleming, had a great dinner ready when we unsaddled at camp. I know most of you can relate as to how good beef-steak, taters, biscuits, gravy and coffee are after a ten or fifteen mile high-trot through a big range . . . especially when breakfast was eight hours ago. As we all rolled a smoke after that meal, and had another cup of java, Bobby was thumbing through his day-book and said we were short fifteen. Allowing for a lightening strike and natural losses, there should be a few more. From his pow-wow with the crew about the last few days working that pasture, they figured the last of the wild bunch were around Hackberry or Middle Well.

It was a hard drive that morning, so Bobby roped out fresh mounts for us to make another circle for those outlaw heifers. By then I had got acquainted well with all the Armendaris punchers on that fall works and was glad when he told Joe and I to go with Dennis to cut for sign in a corner of that wild Malpais Pasture. Dennis knew this range really well as he had put out lots of horse tracks gatherin’ and prowlin’. Dennis hit a buggy-trot for a couple of miles and no-one talked as those heifers would have pulled out if they smelled or heard us. Dennis eased up a ridge and just before we got to the top, we stepped off and crawled to the top. He rolled a smoke and pulled a pair of binoculars from a pouch on his saddle made from a boot-top. Dennis saw two . . . no five of those heifers close to Hackberry Well! So we re-set our saddles and followed him on a trail through the lava so we would come out close to them. We came in on ‘em just right and started them the right way. Dennis took the lead and we had them going down a fence. They had gotten away before and were plenty snaky. Soon we were out of the rock and crossing some flats, so it would be a good place to rope ‘em if needs be. We were getting close to the gate to the holding pasture when one threw a figure-nine in her tail and came out between me and Joe. Dennis hollered “Catch her,” and Joe rolled a loop on her. They all broke out and in short order we had all five sidelined. We stepped off, loosened up the cinches and let our mounts rest. As Dennis rolled a smoke he had a grin on his face and said, “I hate we had to rope ‘em, but I sure enjoyed it.” We led each one, or I should say “drug” them through the gate. As we turned the last one loose they weren’t near as full of “snort” as they were before. I bet they all made good mother cows and had plenty of respect for a fella a-horseback.

As the crew worked north they gathered that range around Fort Craig, which was on the ranch. The adobe walls of this old fort were witness to the battle between Henry H. Sibley’s Confederates and the Union troops stationed there under Edward R.S. Canby. As I rode past those ruins one November morning, I tried to picture the scenes of the battle. As most of you folks know the Confederates whipped them all the way up the Rio Grande. At Glorieta Pass they did not guard their supply train as they should have. The Feds burned the supply train at Pigeon’s Ranch and left a lot of Confederate soldiers without supplies. The Confederates were turned back at Glorieta Pass.

We also camped at Cienaga Camp up on the north end. It is located in a pretty spot at the foot of the Magdalena Mountains. One fall morning as we high-trotted out of that camp, it was just getting daylight. I remember we had kept that pace for a good ways. Bobby was in the lead, pulled up and stepped off to re-set his saddle before he scattered the drive. He pointed up the canyon towards a house and corrals, just becoming visible in that first light. He said that’s the Ball Ranch, the folks that got wealthy making those canning jars. My Mom, Ruby Faye, used hundreds of them canning great green beans and other vegetables from my folk’s garden.

It was a great fall working for the Jornado and Armendaris outfits. I even managed to make decent grades and was ready to graduate. The owner of the Lazy-E sent word for me to call him and offered me the job taking care of that place, but I had enough of the desert and wanted to head north. I talked to Don Hoffman at the Bells and they had a camp-man leave. My amigo, Gary Morton and his wife Suzy, were taking the Mosquero Camp. That left a house open at the Bell Headquarters. As that great song goes . . . “our hats were pushed back and our spurs were jinglin.” So we headed back to a good riding job at the Bells.