Mike Moutoux's Ranch Notes
Our state celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and I was proud to be part of the Centennial Cattle Drive organized by Maderas of the Pitchfork Ranch near Jal, New Mexico. Bert and his wife, Montie Carol, were extremely nice folks and I hope to get back for a longer visit sometime. I was also impressed by the Longhorns—these were amazing animals that never seemed to tire. We drove them nearly 50 miles from the ranch to Carlsbad and believe me the cowboys were more tired than the cattle and we of course rode the entire way.
The cattle were also real traffic stoppers—I’m guessing there were more photos taken of them than were shot at last year’s Super Bowl. For two days we had to follow roads, but on the third day we left the roads and cut cross country for Carlsbad. Here is a shot of the cattle as we crossed that stretch, photo above.
I loved the routine: rise before the sun and take care of your horse, then look for the breakfast wagon where early risers could visit over the morning’s first cup of coffee. Next take down our camp tents and saddle up. I had a choice; ride with all the nice people in the back or up front with the cows. I picked the cows; it just felt right to me being up there and being useful. Lunch came in a paper sack and the cowboys ate with the cows, sometimes taking turns keeping an eye on them. Here is a shot of the cows taking a break while we ate lunch.
Late in the afternoon, we stopped, watered our horses and the cows and set up camp. I was a tent camper and on several nights the cows were walking by right outside the tent. I was sure they wouldn’t step on me on purpose, but not at all sure they wouldn’t do it accidentally if they got spooked. I laid there listening for a while and ended up trusting in the cattle. I did see them spook once on a wet asphalt road when a horse sneezed behind them. The cows moved like one of those tight schools of fish I’ve seen on TV—each moving in synch with the ones next to them. Fortunately they didn’t go far before they all stopped. It turned out to be our only stampede.
In the evening we were treated to a chuck-wagon supper and live music. I performed a little and made some new fans and new friends. Music has a way of bringing people together and it was especially nice to play for folks I had ridden the trail with that day. Together, we had done something we knew was very special and meaningful. We were becoming a part of New Mexico’s history and becoming friends at the same time. Let’s not wait another hundred years to get together; I might be a little too old to get in the saddle. If that’s what it takes to get us back together—I’ll be up there with the cattle. Well, I like to think I would.