Mike Moutoux's Ranch Notes
My good friend, Randy, invited me up to his place near Santa Rosa, NM, for a branding and suggested I head on up to a music and poetry gathering in Nara Visa after that. The dates worked for me and I was in the wide open grassland of northern New Mexico the very next day. A fairly decent monsoon season had the grass up, but by this time in September it was starting to turn brown. Some clouds rolled in near sunset and created a fantastic sky-show and even brought more rain in the night. That meant the corrals would be slick but not dry and dusty as is often the case.
Randy and his dad wanted to look the cattle over one more time before the next day’s branding, so we took the old blue pickup and a couple of sacks of feed and drove around a bit. Lots of grass, and quite a bit of broom weed and some cholla—two plants we have down here in southern New Mexico as well. They aren’t good for cattle, but made the photos come out nice. It was also a chance for the three of us to get caught up and that was a welcome opportunity. We finished as the sun fell in the West lighting up the clouds in a spectacular way. I never get tired of the show no matter how many times I’ve seen it.
Neighbors and friends arrived in the morning light, and got instructions for bringing in the cattle. We saddled up in that warm morning light that photographers live for. The gather went smooth and the branding was soon on. Randy likes the traditional way of doing things so the cattle that he wanted to brand were roped by the head and the hind legs and stretched out for the ground crew. There were great rope shots and some misses; a few tangles and a bit of excitement and some laughs. At times we had two on the ground and a third on the way, so the ground crew was jumping just a bit to keep up.
Another thing I never get tired of is watching the quiet and calm way good cowboys work around a herd. There is great concern for the welfare of the animals and the safety of folks in the pen. When we had just a few head left to brand, I quit my job as flanker and grabbed a camera to capture the scene. Rain finally interrupted our chance to bring in a second herd and all the cowboys headed for the house and a huge lunch. We ate and swapped stories and then said our goodbyes.
I already miss what we shared; the country, the work, the great food and the friendship. Such is my life—awfully nice in short bursts. Maybe that’s what Life is. I guess when the short bursts become stretched longer; it’s time to take a good look around for old friends—‘cause you are probably now in Heaven.