Us old farmers and ranchers never slow down, particularly when the “do you remember” topic comes up. Yes, this causes some of us to remember and record just one more story as we put pencil to paper.
My down-the- road neighbors invited me in for a cup of hot mint tea (refreshing) and of course old time stories came up. Their horses were probably listening to us as they grazed just outside their picture windows.
I have a book of old country things, which is a treasure in itself. The author described his grandfather, a crusty old Vermont farmer, and his approach to life long ago. Seems the old man lost the top to the kettle that sat on the wood stove, heating water for the family. He searched high and low for this very necessary lid and couldn’t find it. Finally his small grandson asked him about that thing he had in this hand, Yes, it was the lid, much to his amazement and embarrassment.
My uncle Dee was a cowboy from Oklahoma, who had a sixth sense when working with horses. He would disappear for a week or two at somewhat distant intervals when he was our dude wrangler here at the ranch. As a kid, I worshiped him and followed him like a loving pup, so I always asked where he was, and my aunt Margaret would just say he was ill and out of pocket. Truth was, he was recovering from yet another alcoholic, drunken fall- off-the-wagon episode, a demon that ultimately caused his death from liver failure. And when he sobered up he was always his wonderful, fun self.
Sweet brother Bill and I liked to watch him shoe our many horses. He would take to the ornery ones and calmed them down all while hammering on the necessary shoe. About a day after his recovery from his “out of pocket” even, he needed to put shoes on one of our big pack horses, a horse who could not go up the mountain without shoes because he had a big load to carry.
Dee put one shoe one, then hammered the second one in to make it fit. Then he started walking around, looking everywhere for something. He banged stuff around in the old wooden shoeing box, went into the shop, and banged stuff around, then started kicking the junk stored by the shop door. To us this wandering around and looking for something seemed really strange so we decided we better ask him what he was looking for. He said he had set his shoeing hammer down somewhere and he couldn’t find it. Bill couldn’t believe what he had just heard, and he asked Dee what that thing was in his hand. Was that the lost hammer? Dee just mumbled something about that was the one place he forgot to look and quickly went back to the job at hand. Bill and I both thought that was the funniest thing we had ever seen, and of course Bill had to tell our mother all about it. In her very reserved and strict way she never saw the humor in this and she reminded Bill once again that children should be seen and not heard.
Although we prefer not to admit it, all of us have had that same experience at one time or another. I’m a member of this club and I lose things all the time. And sweet brother Bill would accuse me of stealing his treasures, particularly his big cast iron yellow taxicab toy we had to share. I never stole it, I just put it in a very safe place so it wouldn’t get banged up or stolen by our resident ghost.
My neighbors and I are both hooked on Willa Cather and we are now rereading “Death comes for the Archbishop” as I write this, spurred on by the most recent New Mexico Magazine. Never discount the power of mint tea leaves, the good doctor would say!
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.