Granny Part 3; Conclusion:
We’re in the early 1970’s, the price of oil was in the crapper, exploration for it was at a standtill,,,, dad got in bad financial shape and sold his interest to his partner,,, without him involved, Granny and Grandad moved back to Artesia, bought a place in town and “retired”. They started right in on improving the place to their spec’s,,,, 6’ privacy board fence around the back yard, for privacy of course, but also to keep Greecher in. All the hounds were gone by then except grandad’s pet hound, Greecher, a big boned black and tan dog that weighed 75-80 Lbs,,, I know, I weighed him a couple of times. His head was as big as a grown coon. Every winter, he and Greecher would load up and head east of town, across the Pecos, to the sandhills, and set up a winter trap line. Coyote hides were still selling pretty good then and Greecher, old as he was, needed to keep his trap trailing skills honed. Granny had to have flowers, shrubbery and stuff,,, but with one rule,,, NO GARDEN. There were enough produce farms around there to buy fresh veggies, which was a good thing ‘cause one thing granny’d never give up was canning something. Wasn’t long before she was filling the freezer and filling jars with everything they and 3 large families would ever need,, no, there weren’t three families, BUT, you never know, get out of her way, anything was fair game, and no more brandy making, There was a crab apple tree in the middle of the back yard that was great for making shade, which is always a very valuable “crop”. Cain’t have too much shade in southeast New Mexico. Now, to me, crab apples are not edible,,,but remember, Granny prob’ly still had a 120 Lb. sack or two of Mexico beet sugar. She watered and baby’d that tree, grandad and Greecher enjoyed the shade, the tree grew, and crab apples don’t make every year, BUT when it decided to make apples, all that TLC granny had give it was give back, another bumper crop. During the backyard apple harvest, granddad and Greecher went off somewhere, this apple harvest wasn’t their sport. Granny had already gathered all the low hangers, and out comes her ladder. She set it against the tree, and up she goes with a walking cane, you know, with a crook on one end to grab and shake crab apples loose from limbs,,,and she knocked a lots of apples to the ground. Crab apples are hard and cannot be bruised if they were throwed out of an airplane. Those higher limbs were loaded, so being the half monkey she thought she was, she found a solid limb, went up a couple more and was immortally knocking out crab apples. BUT the wind got up, and yep, her ladder blowed down. She was stranded in the tree, she kept on downing apples til she ran out of apples within reach and started to figure out how to get down without breaking vital body parts. She was trapped,,, or rather, she was tree’d. As luck would have it a couple of her lifelong, oldtime, Hope, New Mexico raised widow women friends came by to see her,,, Granny heard ‘em knocking at the front door, the door was locked,,,, and Granny went to hollering “Come around back, I’m stuck in this tree.” Them two old gals thought she was joking,, granny told em to come thru the gate and help her. The gate latch was on the inside and them widow women couldn’t reach the latch, it’s 6 foot high.One of them found a small bucket that allowed her to step up on and open the gate. Both come in the yard and said, “Clara Mae where are you”,,, granny said “Up this dammed tree” she didn’t cuss much,,,,, they couldn’t see her cause they weren’t good at looking up til granny started chunking both of them with apples. Then they looked up and said, “Clara Mae what in blue blazes are you doing in that tree???”. Granny told em to get the ladder, set it back up, granny finally got her escape route. Til the day grandad died, she never told him about this. But she then decided she’d gathered enuff apples for the year.
About this time, I had a place leased south of Carlsbad and Granny and Granddad came to see us. We were all in the kitchen visiting, my son Bronc was a yearling past and was just mastering walking. I had a flock of semi-tame turkeys, never fed ‘em, they were doing well on grasshoppers, flying ant larvae in the yard grass and happily roosted every evening in the tall ancient cottonwood trees surrounding the house. About this time I had fallen into bad company that told me how wealthy I could get raising white rabbits for meat. But as I said, we were discussing rabbit harvest etc when son Bronc slipped away from us and was on the screened in front porch, watching things outside. That flock of turkeys were pecking flying ant larva in the yard grass and parading passed him. We kept the porch screen door latched all the time to prevent his escape, this latch like every screen door latch in the world was 4 feet, 2 and 1/2 inches from the floor, it’s in the constitution. First time to do this, he got the broom from the corner and figured out how knock the screen door hook loose and he was free to get a closer look at this flock’a turkeys. Next thing we know, he’s bellering like whooped bear cub, we all jump up, run to the porch as the herd sire bull turkey is flogging Bronc pretty bad,,,Bronc’s on his knees, dressed only in the full armor of a Pampers, got his face and head covered up like a boxer, really getting flogged. I ran over, got Bronc up and safe, kicked the turkey off Bronc and me. His mad mama told me that wudn’t gonna happen again, so a few minutes later, the herd sire turkey died, bang.
One of Granny’s reasons to be there was to show me how to kill, skin and dress a rabbit properly. But first she and Bronc’s mom started boiled water so granny could show us how to properly dress a fresh killed bull turkey. Well we got that done, and out to the rabbit hutch we go. She asked me how many we oughta dress, and I said all but the sow rabbit, and the boar rabbit. He was already separated from the bunny flock. Boar rabbits will kill the baby rabbits in confinement, so you gotta separate them. I showed granny I had already rigged up a rabbit skinning rig in a tree, she looked at me and said all we need is two empty feed sacks. I go get the sacks, wondering what’s wrong with my skinning and dressing rig, it was strong enuff to hang a bull elk, if the tree limb didn’t break. I get back to the hutches, she reaches in, grabs a fat rabbit by the scruff of it’s neck, somehow with her free left hand, breaks the rabbit’s neck, takes her two thumbs, splits the hide on each of the back legs, with the back feet in her right hand she, in one stroke, this rabbit never wiggled or twitched,,,, she pulls the hide completely off the carcass. She then somehow, with her bare hands eviscerates the rabbit. I’m watching this and marveled at how fast she just did this. I sack up the hide and innards and there on the other sack is a perfectly clean rabbit carcass. No wonder coyotes, foxes, bobcats etc love rabbits, that meat was a light pink and beautiful. I tried the next one, but after a couple of clumsy, faulty moves, she took the rabbit away from me, butchering that one and the next 6, quicker that it took me to rig up my butchering setup. I told her, let’s go ahead kill the breeding pair, as I was done with rabbit raising for fun and profit. I vowed, this was the last of my rabbit raising and never mastered her lifelong skill of rabbit processing technique. She brought it to my attention those pretty pink carcasses sold much better than the bruised ones I would have caused, AND she reminded me, those rabbit hides, salted down brought a penny apiece when she was a girl. Rabbit harvest back then resulted in 80 to 100 rabbits at a time. I never sold a rabbit. We eat ‘em all ourselves, and I assure you they were lots better than the stud turkey I had killed that attacked my baby boy.
Not too many years later, my two sons, Bronc and Colt had grown some, and Christmas time rolled around,,, we ate better than rabbits and range raised stud turkeys, and after Christmas dinner we were opening packages. Bronc and Colt had acquired a small jug of a popular after shave and decided that was just what I needed. So I opened my present,,,swirled it around, it was a pretty color too, opened the bottle and dabbed some on me, right there on the spot. Remember, granny understood all facets of outdoorsy stuff, including all there was to know about trapping,,, she, granny, sniffed the air,,wrinkled her nose and said, “What is THAT?” I told her I called it trap bait, and that the boys had gotten it for me for Christmas,,,, she smelled again and said “Honey, tell me,,,,,do you consider that an attractant or a masking scent.” That brought the biggest laugh of the whole Christmas time.
In her older years, she played piano, something she’d done all her life, but she was playing piano at the Methodist Church in Lake Arthur, as a favor to her Methodist friends, every Sunday, the same women that came to her rescue in the crabapple tree. They’d send somebody to pick her up and bring her back home after church. There weren’t many left in that congregation. I was at her house seeing her when she told me, one of those older farmers had died and before dying had requested granny, Clara Mae, play his funeral. Well it was that afternoon at 2. So after we had lunch, she went to get dressed, came out and said since I was driving her to the funeral, a 10 mile drive, she wanted me to be her page turner. She had taken sheet music and scotch taped the pages like a book, and these were the songs the recently departed had requested. She’d played those songs for decades, had ‘em memorized, her problem was, without sheet music to guide her she’d be playing Amazing Grace and her mind would shift into How Great Thou Art then into one of the others. I asked her to tell he how I was supposed to do that, first time for me, being a page turner, she explained the procedure. I ask if she wanted to practice before we headed to the church, and she said , “No honey, I make plenty mistakes as it is without having to practice ‘em”.
Well, as it happens, the years rolled by and granny was nearing the end of her days. She had outlived all her brothers and sisters,,,and never lost her eyesight or her hearing. She could read a magazine or newspaper, without glasses, she never owned a pair. She was the only one in her family, including her parents, that didn’t go plumb deaf by the time they were 45 or 50. We figured it was hereditary. She’d outlived her husband, my grandad; her son, my dad; and she was ready to go home and join them all. She died in February, 2007 at 94 years.
Now there ain’t no way to roll granny up in a few stories, her life was too full of them. And I may need a new keyboard once I’m through typing this, but I have tried to put down enough for yall to understand some of all she had seen and done in her lifetime. Like Red Stegall said in that song, but I steal it and paraphrase it, “She’d seen in her lifetime a gas-powered jitney, then a picture they sent back from Mars”,,,, she hadn’t seen it all, but she’d seen and lived through a bunch of it all in her 94 years.
A while after Granny was gone, a friends wife asked him, “What was granny’s real name ?”
Her husband Rob looked at her like she was a dunce and said “GRANNY !!!” and that tells it all. I’ll leave you with one last picture of her.
We usually kept the horses in the horse trap, at least one or two of them, those we used most often. That was in pretty hard country and that horse trap was a full section, 640 acres, 5 or 6 head can bone out and slick off a section of that country pretty easy. When rains were scarce and we weren’t needing horses, we’d turn them all out in a bigger pasture. Usually all you needed to catch them, was a bucket with some gravel, rattled at them and they’d usually come in a run,,,but it had rained, we’d been busy haying, horses didn’t get used, grass was green, ponies were slick, fat and shiney,,, BUT we had first calf bred heifers I needed to check and I could not trick those heifers with a honking pickup horn and a promise of cake ‘cause the grass was too good. I needed a horse. The heifers were slick, fat and really kind of bashful and did not venture out to a promise of cake. So, gathering horses I went, but no, they weren’t falling for gravel in a feed bucket. After failing to capture a mount, I drove to the barn, dumped out the gravel, got about a gallon of oats, and a lead rope looped around my middle to resemble a belt. You didn’t catch these horses with a halter and lead rope unless you had ‘em penned. And I had previously learned as a small child, never to catch a horse outside with just your belt cause your prob’ly guaraunteeeeed to have your captured dink snort, fart, jump and run off with your belt, the belt never to be seen again. So, back after the steeds I go, now they know the deal, and they’re all sworn to avoid capture,,, once again I tried and failed. Drove back to the barn to get the ranch jeep so I could cross country them, well you know that ain’t a real good top idea anyway. Granny saw me and asked what I was doing, I told her the story, she got in the pickup and said, let’s go try again. Let me get some feed,,,What ? No feed ???,,, she said “no feed”. I didn’t say a word but when I got within a couple hundred yards of the remuda she said, let me out and you drive off,,, I tried to hand her a piggin string, she shook her head “no” and walked off towards the horses. I idled off a ways but I was not gonna drive off and leave my grandmother unarmed and afoot in a 4 or 5 section pasture. All of the horses seen her coming and had their heads way up high as I drove off and this whisp of a woman, she wasn’t but maybe 5’6”, and she was swaying, walking one direction, wandering and piddlin’ around, hunting arrowheads, and I was taking all this in,,,and danged if the horses, heads and tails high,,,come trotting right up to her, but she didn’t try anything,,, soon she was moseying around them and they were moseying around her,,, she knew which one I wanted, so she petted and rubbed on all of them but him,,, and my top mount was doing his best to get petted. In a couple minutes I seen her come walking back and I started to drive to her, but she waved me off and said, let’s take them all to the trap, you go open the gates,,,, I did and like the pied piper, she had my dink caught and all them others following, walking head to tail like a pack string. She had ‘em mesmerized ,,,, Once they got in the trap, I shut the gate and she led them all to the catch pen in the corner of the trap and shut the gate on them.
I drove around to the catch pen in time to see her taking her bra from around my horses throat latch, her bra,,,,,,granny give him a sweet “thank you” petting and I opened the gate, and she got in the pickup. I didn’t say a word til I drove her the hundred yards or so back to the barn. She started to open the door and I said, “THANK YOU”. She said, you think that’s the first time I had to catch spoiled saddle horses?,,, and chuckled as she shuffled off to do more granny things. Her leading my horse across that pasture to the headquarters is a picture I shall never forget, with her bra.
Sometime later, we were gonna work cows and our neighbors had come to help and we were gonna mount the three of those guys. Lemme see, by head count, me, dad, grandad and three neighbors, yes, 6 guys, 6 horses. I headed out the kitchen door to pen the remuda, they were all in the horse trap and had re-learned to come to a whistle and oats,,,, I was out the door and halfway across the yard when granny said, “Honey, do you need to borrow my brassiere?” I ducked my head, mumbled no thanks and kept walking. No way was I gonna look back at the men in the kitchen. Later I had to explain that one to my dad, my grandad, and the neighbors that were in the kitchen drinking coffee while I captured horses.
Rest easy Granny, you deserve every bit of your rest. You’re missed.
Love you and see you again someday.