Now it is officially fall and we are still waiting for the entire monsoon to wet the poor dry New Mexico soil. I often think when this happens of the ranchers and what they have to put up with when we do not get enough moisture.

I was recently at Smith’s where they had a “buy one chuck roast, get one free.” What that really means is you pay about $12 apiece, a bargain if you like to cook pot roasts. Who works on making this possible? The ranchers, who have to buy feed, when the rain does not come and there is no pasture. Or what to do when beef prices drop? There is never enough good said about the folks that do this for a living.

That reminds me of when my husband decided that not only could he fly jet fighters, he could answer the call of family heritage, like his father, and go into the cattle business. Bill got the aid and attention of the guy who was his flying teacher and good buddy, Jack McCormick. Both were in the Air National Guard, and so figured out they could do it together.

Now, Bill has been retired from flying for the last 18 years so it has been awhile.

As I recall, two good friends of my mothers, Rube Pankey and John McDaniel, actual ranchers, were sitting in her kitchen the day Bill came home and announced that, not only would he be fulfilling his job as fighter pilot, but he and Jack really were going into ranching. Now to look at them you might not know that John and Rube had the appearance of “real” cowboys. If you did, you might notice their Stetson hats, genuine snake skin boots (that had some dung on them) and the way they drank their coffee, black with good humor. They did not try to stop Bill in the middle of his explanation of how they had bought 40 head of cattle, rented some land outside Moriarty and were going to fly overhead, at 600 mph, to check on them. They were gonna “clean up” in the cattle business.

I remember Rube tipping back on one of my mom’s new kitchen chairs and I thought he’d tip over when he said, “Worst thing those boys could do is make a little money from this.” Not to worry, he didn’t.

When the cattle arrived, two died that day from shipping sickness. Cattle don’t like jet aircraft, so the fly-over idea also died on the ground. The leased land was decent, but cattle must be looked after, and the time on the weekends started to mount up.

Jack was a bit more dedicated to this task than Bill. To this day he still raises a calf or two and he has professional stables for keeping horses. I have been known to hate horses, but that is next week’s story. For these New Mexicans, the fall talking about what tags they drew for hunting, going hunting and how flying and being a cattle baron were not always good. There was talk of getting an official brand with all that meat on the hoof, but Jack figured it all out and they have a real brand, Bar Lazy BQ.

Winter set in and three head of Bar Lazy BQ cattle got out of the leased area and on to the King ranch. You may have heard of it! In the middle of a snowstorm, in the middle of Sunday dinner, we got a call to come and get them. Now I don’t know how the King ranch figured out three little doggies were not theirs in the middle of a blizzard, but it may have been the smell of jet fuel that had been splashed over as the guys flew by. It may be that real ranchers have an intuitive sense. Jack and Bill loaded up the horse trailer and two horses, and off they went to get the strays. Hours later, they came back, tired and frozen. Early to bed and early to rise made Bill grumpy.

Springtime: time to make the bacon. No, that’s the other meat. Anyway, they went to see the cows. The price dropped! I was looking forward to having a beef in the freezer. I did not name them. It was like the old commercial, “Where’s the beef?” They barely broke even, if you don’t count their time and effort. Nobody said a word except John and Rube. And then they didn’t actually say anything. They just laughed and laughed. Both of these cowboys are tending to herds with riders in the sky. No better men, no better ranchers. When we eat beef at our house and say a blessing, we always include the professionals. We know where’s the beef and we appreciate it. Roaring mouse…getting the grill on. Out. 

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.