A year ago this picture would have been just another photograph I’d glance at as I sorted through a stack of very old black and white photos. It is actually printed on a postcard, and the printed wording on the front of it says: “Valmora Delegation, Cowboy’s Reunion, Las Vegas, N Mex.” “Malaney photo” is written on the lower corner.
The picture was probably taken at Valmora, but there is very little background visible. There are six horses and riders trying to look as though they had the right pose for this shot. The four mounted riders are obviously in their western finery, and after a bit of study, it is apparent to me that three of the riders are my grandfather, Dr. Brown, and my mother and my aunt, the doctor’s daughters. The ladies are wearing bandannas with clasps around their necks, and all of the riders have huge 10-gallon western hats on, plus fancy cowboy boots, of course. None of the horses have a martingale on them, so that tells me they are quite gentle. And each rider has a coiled rope on the saddle as well. I know this picture had to be taken before 1935 when my grandfather died.
My next question is: How did they get the horses to Las Vegas for the Reunion parade? I know we had a big old International truck at Valmora, but it was used for hauling coal. I’m very sure this bunch didn’t ride the 20-plus miles into town. And stock trailers were unheard of for the most part in this area until after the war. Questions, questions!
So! Now I have a copy of Pat Romero’s book, “Cowboy Reunions of Las Vegas, New Mexico.” I attended many reunions from about 1948 through 1965, and I must confess, I get so involved and taken by the history, the descriptions of the parades, the dozens of people and names I knew well that I really haven’t taken the time to properly review the book.
Pat has done a huge amount of research. That comes through loud and clear, and for the first time ever, one can find a list of the bands and musicians that played for the many dances held during the Reunion, and one can read the Optic’s own Walter Vivian’s take on the reunion and his pleas to bring it back.
Through the 1940s and 1950s the Optic printed a special edition, up to six full pages in length. I have a copy of many of them stashed away in a file cabinet. I am so glad Pat discovered these many and varied treasures and, she pulled them together into a fun and readable book, to boot.
I have my grandfather’s chaps (he is wearing them in the picture) and nobody in my family can wear them. He was a long legged 6-foot-4-inch Irishman, so the chaps would have to be cut down to fit this family, and that would spoil them. They do hang on my stairs, however, and I wish I could have seen him and his Valmora delegation as they rode in the Reunion parade. What fun that would have been, and thanks, Pat, for writing such a fun book about that Las Vegas history of long ago. And I suspect it will bring on yet another story or two as I get into the full text.
Happy trails, as they used to say.
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.