Mike Moutoux, New Mexico's Enchanting Cowboy


Mike Moutoux

New Mexico's
Enchanting Cowboy

Mike Moutoux's Ranch Notes
October 2016


Flanking at the branding
Two Cowboys at a Branding
Branding, Flankers on the run
above photos by Mike Moutoux

There is a line in one of my songs that goes: “Seen fine roping done by the best of quiet men,” I think of them, the guys that inspired it, when I sing the line or join them in a branding pen. A recent branding at the Huston ranch near Cuervo, New Mexico, allowed me to join them, be one of the crew, and take a ton of photographs. Now, it is my pleasure to share that all here, with you.

The work is necessary, dusty, and potentially dangerous. The danger is mitigated when everyone is experienced, skilled, and paying attention. We start early, when it’s light enough to see, getting the equipment we will need out, saddling horses, etc., and before we are finished with all that, the first trucks begin pulling in, each towing a trailer with a horse or two inside. There is barely time to greet everyone before our assignments are made and we are headed out to gather cattle. I rode Rusty, a horse that belongs to a friend, Randy. I have ridden the horse before and we got along just fine.

Gathering the cows was easy and driving them to the corrals was slow with opportunities to chat a bit and take it all in. It was warm enough at sunup that most of us had removed our jackets; it was perfect-weather day. Once the cows were in, a bit of sorting was done and part of the herd moved to a separate corral to make room. We all took a quick break and enjoyed the homemade sweet rolls one of the wives brought, the kind made with yeast, big and delicious. There were several ranch wives and even a couple of really cute ranch kids all enjoying a short break in the pen together while the horses waited quietly for the real work to begin.

Since we had a big crew, I got permission to just run my camera for a while. I’m no roper, but I know good roping when I see it. These guys were good. There were four ropers and just as many on the ground crew at any one time, so the photo opportunities were more than I could keep up with most of the time. And being on the sidelines, so to speak, I realized this was more fun to watch than a rodeo. There were plenty of misses, which were soon forgotten, because the catches kept everyone hopping from one calf to the next.

I remember Toby, one of the quiet men, who brought such a beautiful dark gray horse that I couldn’t keep my camera off of them. And Owen, one of those quiet guys that would make wonderful long catches that would make you smile and shake your head. Roger rode a nice looking gray, always ready to rope a head or heels; whatever needed done, he was there. Those were his kids in the pen and his wife Shantell who made the sweet rolls, I think. If I mentioned them all, this whole thing would be too long and I feel bad about that.

Branding:  Mike Moutoux by Kamee Young
above photo of Mike Moutoux (blue shirt) by Kamee Young

We branded 81 and grabbed some chow up at the ranch house. I don’t see grub like that much anymore and was grateful for that. Shoot, I was grateful for the invitation and the chance to visit with friends. Grateful to have a good horse between my knees, and grateful to see all those Corriente cattle moving out under a sunny New Mexico sky. I was especially grateful to see some fine roping, and to think of those guys as friends of mine that I don’t get to see very often. It is necessary, dangerous and dirty work; but it’s also a time of coming together to help a friend get it done, to swap stories, and make some good old memories before the good old days are gone. When I am asked to help, I try to say yes because that is what friends do. But I am keenly aware that these are my good old days and that someday, they will, for me, be gone.




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