Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ride, Buffalo, Ride: by John A. Roof

John on Lisa
It was getting close to the fourth of July and there was always a big celebration in Cimarron, New Mexico. At the time, I was working as a burro wrangler at Harlan Camp.

We had been in the high country for three weeks and I was hoping that Bill Leach, my Camp Director, would let me have a couple of days off around the fourth. I always enjoyed going to the rodeo and, of course, checking out the girls.

Cimarron was a small town located at the mouth of the Cimarron Canyon and on the Cimarron River just on the edge of the high country and the plains which lead to the Texas flat lands and Lubbock, Texas.

I was going to college there at Texas Tech University, and working on an art degree in studio painting, which my father considered to be a waste of time.

This was also my third year at Philmont Scout Ranch and, in my mind anyway, there was no place greater in the world to be than there.

Later that day, Bill Leach said I could have the Fourth off, if the staff would let him have July 20 off so he could watch the first moon landing. Steve, the other staff member, had no problem with either one of us having our desired days off. He just wanted to have three days later that month so he could go to Denver for a weekend. So it was set. I would have the fourth off.
The problem with being in the high country camps was, even if you had the day off, you might not be able to get in because there was no traffic to the camps. So you would have to hike in or wait for a ride to show up.

I decided to take a different route. I was going to ride my horse, Lisa, in to headquarters. It was faster than hiking and I thought it would be a great experience, being on horseback for part of the day alone, and taking in the beauty of the landscape from the back of a horse. As a little boy, I had always dreamed of being a cowboy -- back then, I think everyone wanted to be.

The day of my departure, I grained the burros, cleaned the corral, gave a lesson on burro packing and showed the scouts how to tie a diamond hitch so their equipment would not fall off. 

Then I gathered my things, shoved them in the saddle bags, checked out with Bill, and headed for the corral. I saddled up Lisa, tied on the saddle bags, swung into the saddle and I headed out. I was really looking forward to this ride.
I followed the trail which led to Camp Cimmarroncito, between Deer Lake Mesa and Antelope Mesa. I had hiked this trail many times, when I was a Ranger, but this was the first time I had on horseback. I was hoping I wouldn't run into any bears.

I had been riding fence a couple of weeks before and Lisa and I ran across a bear at one of the stock ponds and she really gave me a ride. I don’t think she likes them very much.

I checked my map and ahead was a cut off that would lead into the pasture and on down to headquarters. I found the cut off, it was old and not used very much, so it was like unexplored territory. I followed the trail till I found the first fence gate, dismounted, opened the gate and went through. I rode for the better part of an hour and then came to two gates. Without checking my map, I took the gate to the right, figuring that was headed the correct direction towards Headquarters.

After a while, I saw some cattle up ahead and I thought I would investigate. As I got closer, I pulled my rope and thought maybe I would do a little roping. “Wow! Those are some big Angus cows!” I spoke out loud to the open spaces. I didn’t know the ranch had any Angus Cattle. The closer I got, the bigger they looked. “Those are the biggest Angus I have ever seen!” I said again out loud to no one.

Then in a flash, it came to me. “Shit! I'm in the buffalo pasture! Oh hell ...” this time, speaking even louder, again to no one.

For the next few minutes, all you could hear were my spurs singing as I pushed Lisa into a hard run and headed for the nearest gate.

Coming up on a small rise, I dismounted, making sure I was not being followed by any of the buffalo. Quickly, I checked my map and located the closest gate out of the pasture and headed straight for it.

Once I was out of the buffalo pasture, I again spoke out loud, but this time it was to my horse, “Okay, Lisa, this is OUR little secret. We won’t tell ANYONE that we were in the buffalo pasture.”

We continued our ride to headquarters and then had a great Fourth of July.

The whole time I was in headquarters, and while I was at the rodeo, there was a smile on my face. The ride back on July 5 was not as exciting but it was a ride back in time and the beauty of the west. I was in the saddle early that morning and I am still in the saddle, in my thoughts.

An Honest to God True Story
Happy trails.
John A. Roof

About the Author

John and Betsy Roof
John Roof graduated from Texas Tech in December, 1973, with a BFA in studio painting.

Bill the Calf and the Ride Down the Road

The Walk: Short Stories of a Teenage Boy in the 60's

Visit John's Website

John and his wife, Betsy, live in their home amid  the wildflowers and fruit trees in Staples, Texas, where they are accomplished artists and photographers.  They also love to build and restore antique furniture together.

He's one of the nicest and most regular guys you'll ever want to meet.

John is fond of saying, he has found his garden ...

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

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