Review: Turning back the pages of time

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By Lupita Gonzales

Susan Jensen and Paul Singer’s “Cowboy Shindig” in Las Vegas’ Plaza Hotel Ballroom last Sunday afternoon entertained a crowd of close to 200.

J&S Productions’ media package had invited folks with “pull on your boots and screw down your hat,” and some attendees, indeed, were wearing the proper garb. No matter, though, as all the branding, roping, riding and ranch work was confined to the screen.

The focus of the Shindig was screening of “Tierra Encantado,” the sixth in the “Vaquero Series,” films which trace the cowboy culture from its early Spanish beginnings to its “new world” evolution through Mexico and the American West.

True to the producers’ promise, the folks appeared to enjoy the contents — chuckling at inside jokes made by various cowboys featured in the film.

The film is notable for its mix of the culture- ethnic groups and geographical areas within New Mexico impacted by the evolution of the cowboy culture. Scenes depict the adaptations made by the Spanish, Native American and Anglo populations in New Mexico from the 1700s through the 21st centuries. Equally emphasized is how each group preserved its own traditions while adapting to the use of the horse, branding cattle and developing other ranching techniques appropriate to the tasks at hand.

In a live introduction to the viewing, Rod Taylor from Philmont Ranch warmed up the crowd with authentic range songs and his guitar accompaniment. He took an aside, saying, “I want to thank Paul and Susan for promoting me (in the film) to livestock manager for Philmont; I’m just a cowboy there.”

Nonplussed, Susan quipped, “We like to promote our singers ... in Rod’s case, we just wanted to promote him.” The crowd, enjoying the repartee, chuckled at the exchange.

Throughout the 96-minute film, scenes range from the far northeastern corners of the New Mexico-Colorado border, south into Mescalero Apache reservation country and to Magdalena, up into the northwest Navajo reservation and Canyon de Chelly. For the present audience, closer environs of Mosquero, the Valle Caldera, the Gallinas and Philmont Ranch, emerge.

There is something for everyone in this film. The producers placed much emphasis on the multi-generational aspect of the cultural traditions and the importance of family participation in all the processes needed for success in various foci of the ranching culture.

The scenes feature good-natured ribbing among the “differences among the various cowboys sectors — the chaps, the hats, the ‘dally vs. tie-hard’ practices,” etc., but in the final analysis, the cowboys are there to get the job done — and they did ‘git ‘er done,’ all right!

After the viewing, as the crowd filtered into the lobby, individuals exchanged comments, Ricki, Taylor and Cynthia Reed among them. Cynthia said, “It is very authentic. I feel like I was at the ranch.” Prompted by the question, “Were there any women in the picture?” Cynthia added, “There are women among the cowboys, but on horseback, they just blend in with the men.”

She did, however, point out that women played key roles in running the ranches. “The women (viewers) should not be taught that all the women do is open the gates.” Well said, Ma’am: J&S Productions, take note.

Local rancher Gabe Estrada preempted this question with the same prompt, “What did you think of it?” After a mutual laugh, Estrada said, “It was very realistic. That’s what cowboys are really like.”

Estrada’s assessment is valid. The presentation tells it like it is, with the dust and rough trailways, the hard work and somewhat meager day-to-day conditions such as wood stoves and canned food, no electricity, overnighting in tents: There is no doubt as to the need for cooperation and teamwork. But most of all, the film depicts the true beauty of our state — New Mexico — our Tierra Encantado.

As a closing remark, however, the phrase “Tierra Encantado” rang a bit strange to some, who opined that it should be Tierra Encantada.

After ranging research, including deep searching in Spanish-English dictionaries and a double-check call to retired languages professor Sara Harris for some help, we determined that there is no documented evidence that supports the o and that it should be a.