Thursday, June 5, 2014

One Morning in "The Enchanted Land"

"Jingling" in New Mexico

by John A. Roof

"Ranger! Ranger, wake up! Ranger, it's time to go!" shouted Tucker.

I heard this distant booming voice, and felt the world shake beneath me.

Overly tired from the previous late night's "boy talk," I wasn't sure what I was hearing or what I was seeing.

Slowly, my mind started to churn awake and I began to remember. I was in the Clark's Fork bunkhouse and this morning it was my first time to herd in a remuda of horses, or jingle, as the old cowboys called it. Oh, and I was deftly sure I was Ranger.

The excitement began to build. I was nineteen years old; the world as I knew it was pure, new, and full of adventure. Today was starting out with great excitement.

"Come on, Ranger! It's getting late. Grab your rigging and let's go! You ride Double S!" commanded Tucker.

Lying in my bunk which had just been shaken to near collapsing, and now wearing my glasses, I could see the back of Tommy Tucker as he walked away. I remember well the sound that he made, as we all did, when we walked in this old bunkhouse.

The floor was so worn over time that its wooden planks, which had never seen paint, were all wavy. No matter how many times a day you swept the floor, it always remained dusty and dirty-looking from all the mud tracked in over the years. When you walked, there was this hollow echo, enhanced further by the grinding of the dirt into dust. Add to that the musical metal jingle of spurs on the heavy cowboy boots we wore, and the picture was complete.

Quickly I glanced around the bunkhouse, taking note of all the nails that had been driven into the walls by previous inhabitants to hang clothes or other items. Though many of the nails were empty, more nails continued to be driven into the wooden walls, as though someday they might all join as one continuous nail.

The smell of the bunkhouse, even though it was quite airy, was a mixture of old leather, dust, and body odors laced with a light scent of aftershave lotion. The aftershave was used in place of a shower, because the showers were a half mile from the bunkhouse. There was no hot water, so the walk back produced the same body odors that the showers took away.

"Ranger! Hurry up!” barked Tucker.

I quickly walked to the grain room that was located at the end of the bunkhouse, and grabbed a feed bag. I then walked to the tack room to gather my rigging, which had been selected for me because of its weight. It was ten pounds heavier than a normal saddle, so the horse would believe a bigger. meaner person was sitting on his back.

Coming through the tack room door was like taking a step back in time. It was just before sunrise and the light had not yet reached the trees surrounding the bunkhouse. The early morning mountain air was chilled, crisp to the point of seeing your breath out in front of you.

I carefully approached Double S, my ride for this morning. I slipped the feed bag over his nose and gave him a reassuring stroke on the neck. I swung my rigging onto his back, positioning it and cinching it tight, and then I waited for Double S to finish his feed.

I looked around the corral and saw Tucker, who was checking Concho, his ride, for loose shoes. Tucker had been raised on many ranches as a child and he always knew what to do when it came to horses. Double S finished his grain. I slipped on the bridle, checked the cinch one more time for tightness, and swung into the saddle.

Now it was my turn to wait for Tucker. I was to ride as his bumper. Concho, who put on a rodeo show every morning, needed another horse and rider to ride alongside to calm him down because he had been broke as a cold back and not gentled as the new horses are today.

Sure enough, soon as Tucker's weight hit the saddle, Concho began bucking. As we finally rode out the gate together, Concho gave one last kick and we were on our way.

We rode in silence. Tucker was a man of few words so as not to disturb the serenity of the mountains and the feeling of peace that surrounded us. We rode our horses to a little knoll just above the main pasture overlooking the hay racks and we waited for the sun to rise over the mountain ridge in front of us. As the sun's rays approached, I could see the horses in the pasture below.

Suddenly, in front of me, appeared this panarama -- just like a painting -- its beauty and color so vivid that no artist could duplicate it, nor a writer ever describe it. It took my breath away. In that one moment, I knew why they called New Mexico "The Land of Enchantment."

"Sixty-one -- three are missing. Let's ride!" Tucker shouted as he snapped the bull whip in the air.

The sharpness in Tucker's voice woke me from a feeling of grace that I have only known a few times in my life. For the next hour we rode hard, gathering the renegade horses and herding them back to the corral.

Then we hit the bunk house and a welcomed cup of hot campfire coffee. The other wranglers were up and waiting. While they grained and saddled the horses for the day's work ahead, I was told to go look for the three horses that were missing.

I reined Double S back down the trail that I rode earlier that morning. For me, this was a blessing. I rode back to the knoll, dismounted and sat in blessed silence for some time. I knew I would be in trouble for being so long, but my thoughts had returned to the vision of that early morning.

I jingled many times that summer of 1968, but never again would I see or feel the experience of that first time, especially that morning, in quite the same way. The lasting impression of that one moment in time has never gone away, for it was truly an enchanted morning, in an even more enchanted land.

About The Author

John and Betsy Roof
Originally from Coshocton, Ohio, John A. Roof is an artist, furniture restorer, writer, and a published Western Memoir Author who lives in Staples,Texas with his wife, Betsy.
"As a young man, I spent my summers in Cimmarron, New Mexico, at Philmont Scout Ranch. I could walk for hours looking at the trees, sky, and mountains. Sometimes it was like the earth was put here just for me to see the true beauty." ~John A. Roof

John's Books:

Bill the Calf and the Ride Down the Road
The Walk: Short Stories of a Teenage Boy in the 60's

John's Website

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

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