Don't count out us old folksby
years of 1951 and 1952 went down in ranching history as the worst screw worm infestation
ever. The year before, 1950, had above-normal rainfall, and the climate stayed
mild through the winter. As this was before the national screw worm eradication
program, if you had livestock you most certainly had screw worms. |
year 1951 opened and closed with increased cases. In 1952 our ranch in New Mexico
started out with more than its share earlier than usual. By mid-June the problem
worsened to where two men, prowling 60 sections of rough Canadian River country,
could not keep up. We were give out, our horses rode down and the worm problem
growing each week.
We put out word for additional cowboys, the ranch partner
sent us a short semitruck load of sale ring horses, we hired a neighbor lady to
cook while we made plans to start earlier and stay later hoping to catch up. The
ranches in Texas were experiencing the same problems, had their hands full and
could not spare us any help. Mother spent her time running back and forth buying
and distributing worm medicines and supplies that were often on back order.
We unloaded the load of strange horses; had no time to become familiar. Two men,
one a young pilgrim-wanna-be-cowboy and an old man who appeared almost crippled
with rheumatism and stiff joints, answered our plea for help. Jack said he would
work with the young man, and I agreed to work with Buck, the old man. We all slept
in the bunkhouse and woke long before daylight.
Buck wore long-handles
even in hot weather, sat on the edge of his bed, put on a black hat and took two
long sips of whiskey straight, rolled a cigarette with shaking hands and coughed.
I watched the ordeal with dread as this was the man I had to help me roping in
Five miles from home at sunup, we split up in the River
Pasture, boot-top bags filled with chloroform, cotton and forceps, and whiskey
bottles of Smear 62. To this day, I am still amazed. From the time I caught the
first wormy cow, Old Buck, the decrepit old-timer who could hardly mount his horse,
never faltered. He never left the saddle. Time after time he heeled both hind
legs of whatever I caught, stretched the critter out and held while I doctored,
removed my rope and remounted. Never once did he miss or let me down.
had to unsaddle his horse each night for the two weeks as Buck didn't have the
strength. We whipped the worm cycle and things smoothed out, and a big portion
of the success was due to Buck and his magical rope.
Dad gave Buck a nice
bonus and bought his bus ticket to somewhere in Arizona where his daughter offered
him a home for his last years. I helped put his saddle and gear in a gunny sack
for the last trip it would probably make.
So, all you young whippersnappers,
listen up. A lot of us old folks can still do the job if we are given the chance.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" May 12, 2009 Column
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