Jones, Bill and Jones, Panzy
Ranching and rural life in the early to mid-twentieth century in southwestern New Mexico. Bill Jones's family raised cattle and Panzy Courtney's parents were primarily goat ranchers. Bill and Panzy together raised cattle at Wind Mountain in far southeastern New Mexico.
Tape 1, Side A
Jane O'Cain begins interviewing William Thomas Jones, born in Weed, N.M., on January 28, 1915,and his wife Panzy Courtney Jones, born on April 9, 1919, at Weed, N.M.; both were born at home. Bill's grandmother attended his birth; he was the fourth child in a family of seven, the first boy. Bill first lived at Orange, N.M.; it is now Cienega. An anecdote was related concerning Bill's mother returning to Orange driving a covered wagon after Bill's birth in Weed. In addition to the six-month-old Bill, she also had her three young daughters with her on the three-day trip cross country.
Panzy names two midwives in the Weed area. Aunt Zone Inman and a "Grandma Robertson", whom she states she was "told about." A Dr. Shields came on horseback, though, to attend her birth at home [in 1919].
Bill's parents were ranchers. Bill's grandfather came from the east, hearing that there was wonderful country to be had in the Southwest. Bill's father was about six years old at the time. His grandfather homesteaded at Orange. (Bill's father, in 1914, around age 35, homesteaded in southern Otero County around Wind Mountain.) He was married and had four children at the time.) More details are given of Bill's birth and he provides the names and birth dates of his siblings.
Bill's grandfather came out of Mississippi then stopped in Texas where Bill's father, Thomas William, was born in 1886 at Cross Cut. Bill speaks of his paternal grandfather telling anecdotes of his grandfather being frightened by American Indian scares and of free ranging cattle. Bill's father and his uncle, Alton Jones, were his grandparents' only two sons.
Bill's grandfather and his sons formed a company to ranch land on the border between Texas and New Mexico. (Bill describes the dugout where Alton was born [on March 4, 1892 on the trip to New Mexico along the Black River], as a hole dug in the dirt with lumber and dirt stacked against it.) Eventually the Jones partnership went bankrupt, and they all filed on homesteads.
Bill mentions briefly, while looking at a photograph, that the school in Orange closed in 1925 causing their family to move to Alamogordo for the children to be educated.
Tape 1, Side B
Bill's mother's family came to New Mexico from Arkansas via Texas, taking a homestead in 1897 below Weed on the Agua Chiquit. Bill explains the early hardships of pioneering and shows photographs (archived at Rio Grande Historical Collections, Branson Library, New Mexico State University.)
Bill tells of going on horseback with his paternal grandfather to get groceries, each carrying a "tow sack," some forty miles round trip in one day. He speaks of how they and the horses would stop and drink from a hand dug "slip," a two-foot wide hole. Bill's grandfather would use such occasions to instruct Bill on life's lessons.
His grandfather had a fifth-grade education, was born in Mississippi in 1855. Bill speaks of his grandfather going bankrupt. Bill believes that loans backed by the federal government were too easy for stockmen to get at the time [most likely he is referring to the World War I era, given his reference to governmental concern about having enough food to feed the American people and the soldiers]. When the bank foreclosed and came to roundup the cattle bank administrators had to re-brand the cattle. Cattle that "were so poor they could hardly stand up anyhow, ... had to be thrown down or put in a squeeze chute ... and branded with ... a tadpole." The part of the ranch that was foreclosed was in Texas and the family held on to the homestead in Orange, N.M. The bank let the family keep about eighty head of horses. In his family it was customary that the boys were given a colt and the girls were given a filly. Although it seemed like a good deal at the time to the boys, it looked less that way a few years down the road when the girls each had two or three head of horses. He tells of various horse-riding adventures.
The wineglass was his granddad's brand; after Thomas Willis went bankrupt Bill applied for and obtained this brand. Bill's father's brand was the globe. (Jones continues to share family photographs as he talks.)
Panzy Jones speaks of Bill's mother's family, the Greggs, homesteading in Weed. Panzy's family migrated to New Mexico in the 1880s and 1890s and also settled in the Sacramento Mountains.
Tape 2, Side A
Bill's parents moved their family from Orange to a homestead at Wind Mountain. When the bank foreclosed and gathered the cattle for sale they left behind the cattle that were dwarfed and orphaned because of the drought conditions. These animals were the basis of his parents' next cattle herd. His mother was able to get enough milk to raise about fourteen dogies. The drought and the attending cattle die-up contributed to the family's bankruptcy.
His grandfather's ranch did not have naturally occurring water sources, but was dependent on some wells and dirt tanks which take a "hard dashing rain" to fill. (He discusses that later Panzy and he dug enough wells on their ranch, actually his parents' homestead at Wind Mountain, that a cow would not have to walk further than a mile to water.) Bill discusses the big cattle die-up that started in the middle of the summer of 1935; however, this was, according to Panzy, ten to twelve years after the foreclosure. Later Panzy stated that the foreclosure occurred in 1918 or 1919.
Panzy says that Bill's Grandfather Jones owned 450 cows and 101 horses in 1921. But they started out with ten or twelve cows after the company went bankrupt. This information is in New Mexico tax records; Panzy has not obtained the tax records for the Texas portion of the ranch. Bill says Panzy can follow his grandfather "all the way to dead broke." (Bill's grandfather had about seven or eight hundred head of cattle in New Mexico in his prime.) In 1921 the cows were valued at $11,250, the horses valued at $1,643, and improvements at $3,360. Taxes paid were $464.
Bill can remember a circuit-riding preacher visiting Orange on two occasions. He recalls school plays arranged by the teachers, dances held at the school, but visiting with neighbors was difficult for his mother with many small children, limited transportation, and close neighbors being eight miles away.
Provisions of the Homestead Act were discussed. Bill's mother tried to raise a garden and have fruit trees but there "just wasn't enough water, but she had seven kids an' she had seven buckets. An' we'd carry water from the tank, which was about half a block away from where she had the garden. A little kid had a little five-pound lard bucket an' the, the, bigger kids they had an big ol' galvanized bucket." Panzy continued by saying, "An' [his] daddy would have to go off an' work for wages, an' [his] momma would stay there an' raise dogies an' kids." After the bankruptcy Bill's father did not attempt to purchase additional land and go into to ranching in a big way, he had developed a "life-long fear and dread of goin' broke again."
In 1932 or 1933 Bill's father went to work for the Circle Cross Cattle Company managed, not owned, by Oliver Lee. New York City investors owned it. Bill discussed the business arrangements Oliver Lee had with the company. His father's first job with the Circle Cross was to train thirty-three head of horses for the summer branding season within a specified length of time and to a specified degree of control. (When Bill's father was nineteen or twenty he ran a "pool" outfit for Sacramento Mountain ranchers.) After the successful completion of this work for Lee Bill's father was offered the job of foreman or wagon boss who ran the cowboys' work, though the firing and hiring remained in the hands of Mr. Lee, the general manager.
Tape 2, Side B
Jones talks of the cook who went out with the branding crew and the commissary at the ranch. Tells of an anecdote about the cowboys not liking dried fruit, especially prunes and how they were left behind. The chuck wagon was stocked before branding started on June 1, for the twenty-two cowboys plus the wagon boss, Bill's father, Daddy Tom, the horse wrangler, and the cook. If a large number of calves were being worked perhaps supplies would be replenished two or three times before branding was finished. At age twelve Bill went out on a summer branding with the Circle Cross outfit. On this occasion Mr. Lee fired some cowboys before they had really gotten started because they were "mean to their horses." Bill states [Mr. Lee] "was sensible enough to know that he couldn't reshape all of those men, but he could damn sure get rid of 'em." Branding was completed by September 1.
He also speaks of the size of the horse remuda on the big cattle drive of 1927. The cowboys changed out their horses "some days just twice." The wrangler took out lame horses, rounded them up if they ran from a storm, and culled out old horses; he did no veterinary work. The horse wrangler should be a person of a "certain dependability." Jones says that the neither wranglers nor the cowboys did veterinarian work.
He describes a chuck wagon — it had a water barrel holding fifteen-twenty gallons for drinking and cooking on each side. After eating the cowboy had to take his dishware and put it in the dishpan underneath the front end of the wagon. The cook measured and prepared ingredients on the chuckbox lid; "the fire was right out here," he says, pointing to a chuck wagon model. He'd start cooking at about 2:00 a.m.; the cowboys were out on the line by 4:00 a.m. The cook prepared mostly beef. While traveling the five miles between camps with the wagon if he had a problem, the wrangler helped him. He would gather wood to cook the next meal while traveling between camps. The cook baked biscuits three times a day and there was always a ready supply of molasses.
Sometimes the crew did not stop for a meal at noon; that would depend on conditions and events during the drive. Sometimes the wagon would move five miles, sometimes ten. In the evening, you'd break because cattle get hard to hold then; they want to browse and rest.
Tape 3, Side A
The interview continues on February 11, 1998, with a discussion of Bill's father's work for the Forest Service in 1908. He counted the livestock each permittee had in his allotment and compared then to the number allotted on the permit. The number of permits was extensive. Different permits were given for horses and for cattle. One individual was over his allotment and was required to remove his cattle from the Forest Service and was fined $5000. Bill's father's was responsible for the entire Sacramento National Forest for the season of 1908-09. [This document is archived at Rio Grande Historical Collection, Branson Library, New Mexico State University.]
Panzy Jones reads the record Bill's father kept (on the wall of his house) of the rains that filled his dirt tanks from 1922 to 1942 on the ranch in southern Otero County. Rainfall was noted on several occasions between 1935-1939 that filled both of the dirt tanks, but the "whole year of 1940 the tank didn't catch any water." At that time the ranch had no wells. Other weather related records are read.
The previous mentioned record ended in 1942 because during World War II "the army leased his ranch and put him off." The ranchers were given a choice to leave and be paid the total lease rate, or to run a portion of the usual number of livestock and get a partial lease payment. Fort Bliss was utilizing his father's ranch. Several ranchers who leased their property are named.
Bill and Panzy stayed on his father's ranch even though it had been leased to the government. They describe seeing the planes and the bombing practice on the ranch: "you tell which way the bullet was gonna go by which side of the planes the target was on. And you'd just simply jump off your horse an' crawl in a ditch." The ranch was leased for the duration of the war. Bill's father sold his cattle at the time he leased the ranch to the government. More details are discussed on the ranch leases and the actual targets used by the military. The lease payment on the ranch was $1500 per year. His father never returned to the ranch after leasing it during World War II.
Bill begins discussion of his father's skills with horses and roping.
Tape 3, Side B
Bill continues to discuss his father's horsemanship. He denies that there was much fighting and disagreements among the cowboys working for his father. He states in the of dissension, "An' mostly they just bowed up an' didn't say nothin'." He describes a severe injury he suffered from being kicked in the ribs by a horse in the 1950s.
He speaks of his early schooling in Alamogordo after the school closed in Orange in 1925 when Bill was ten. From then on his mother lived in Alamogordo with the children during the nine-month school term. Bill recalls an amusing anecdote about starting school at age four in Orange in order that they would have enough students to keep the school open.
Tape 4, Side A
Discussion continues of Bill Jones's early education. Of his youthful chores, he mentions milking the cow at an early age and of raising dogies. In addition to raising dogie calves, his mother canned a great deal of their food. He speaks of making soap, of clothing his mother made for the children from Light's Best flour sacks, "ever' kid in the country had [Light's Best] written across his rear end."
Bill says that the boys liked living on the ranch but that the girls, who saw the better life and clothes of the town's women, didn't. He speaks of July Fourth celebrations (which you were able to go to if it had rained). Christmas stockings had oranges in the toes. Panzy tells of baking buttermilk pie, a family recipe.
Bill says he learned to ride when he was a very young child. He was twelve when he had his first paying job working cattle for the Circle Cross outfit, "that meant I was men then." He was paid $30 for that first summer's work. He continued to work for the Circle Cross until the ranch was dispersed when Bill was in high school. He states that he is uncertain as to why the Circle Cross went out of business. He describes taking the cattle to the railhead and not being able to get them loaded on the cars the first day because the cattle became agitated.
Tape 4, Side B
Both Bill and his father worked on and off for Oliver Lee personally after the Circle Cross was dispersed. Bill finished the eleventh grade in 1933. He then went to live on his parents' ranch and "day-worked" for ranchers in the area. The ranchers would confer early in the season so that their branding would be staggered and they would have plenty of cowboys to assist during each of their branding works. He discusses several ranchers for whom he day-worked; however, he worked most often for Oliver Lee over a period of about twenty years. (Bill and Panzy met and married in 1937 while Bill was working at a grocery in Alamogordo.)
When the Circle Cross dispersed Oliver Lee ended up with most of the ranch land because he controlled access to the Sacramento River water and thus had a water source with which to secure Bureau of Land Management leases. He mentions Lee having used registered Hereford bulls for forty or fifty years, which leads to a discussion of Bill's view on cattle breeding and the loss of some of the adaptive traits of the old-style range cattle.
Panzy and Bill moved to Bill's parent's ranch in 1939 when Bill became ill and could not work. They toughed out the war years at the ranch when it was leased to Fort Bliss, and bought the ranch from Bill's parents in 1951. Panzy states, "we spent all of our money buyin' the ranch and we didn't have any cattle, so we both came back to Alamogordo, and he went to work for the city and I went to work for the schools." They worked and saved, bought more cattle and drilled wells, working on the ranch on weekends and living and working in Alamogordo during the week. Eventually they were able to start ranching full time in 1961.
They talk about the change in ranchhand salaries over the period from 1927 to 1941 and realize they only went up $15 a month (from $45 to $60). Bill quickly points out that "the depression was in there" and wages were stagnant in many industries. Furthermore, room and board was provided to the cowboys.
Tape 5, Side A
Bill explains that because many ranches were comprised of failed homesteads there were many "camps" where cowboys lived year around. Some ranchers provided "chuck" for the family members of the cowboys they employed. Young single men worked the branding and round ups and were "turned off" when the work was done.
Bill most liked training horses of all his cowboy pursuits. While they were sharing a bed roll at night his father would indirectly give Bill guidance, much in the same way that his grandfather had guided him when he was a small child. However Bill says that his father did not encourage him to ranch, "I did it in spite of him." Three of his sisters married people in the ranching business as well. His brothers chose other careers, "ranchin' had lost its glitter" and land became more difficult to obtain. Bill and Panzy retired from ranching in 1992.
Tape 5, Side B
This side of the tape is blank.
Tape 6, Side A
The interview on February 25, 1998, commences with a discussion of the history of Panzy Jones's family. Her father's family came from West Texas to New Mexico in 1887; her father, Harve Courtney was born in Weed, N.M. His parents homesteaded on Perk Canyon, southeast of Weed. They had a sawmill and did dryland farming, raising sugarcane. Describes process of making sorghum syrup that they sold through the Weed store. Her family also raised mules. The homestead was comprised of a section of land. Her grandmother, after her grandfather's death in 1910, held on to the homestead. Her father, born in 1894, was thirteen at the time of his death. Her father played several musical instruments and played for dances and other community activities.
Panzy's maternal grandfather, Wash Parker, arrived in New Mexico about 1890, settling in the Sacramento Mountains on Perk Canyon. They also came out of Texas and knew the Courtneys before they made the move to New Mexico Territory. (Her family is related to Quanah Parker, American Indians captured his mother in Parker Fort, Tex., in 1836; "Cynthia Ann is about a third cousin to my mother," Panzy says.) Wash Parker's "girlfriend" and his parents followed him to New Mexico at a later time and "walked most of the way because the wagon was loaded [with] household goods." Her maternal grandparents raised goats and cattle.
In 1905 her grandfather, Wash Parker, was waylaid and shot on his way home from selling mohair in Roswell. Panzy describes the murder and subsequent search for his killers in some detail. His wife and her five (soon to be six) children (Panzy's mother was one of them, an eight year old, born 1897) continued to farm.
Mohair was sold to a warehouse in Roswell during this time period, later a warehouse was opened in Tularosa. At the time of Parker's murder he had deposited $700 from the sale of mohair. (Panzy's maternal grandmother remarried and had four more children.) Discusses more details of her grandfather's murder and read a newspaper report of the murder from 1905.
Panzy's mother and father married in 1913 at Avis, N.M., and bought a farm on the Agua Chiquita above Weed where they raised corn, alfalfa, and some livestock. They had four children, but only two lived.
Tape 6, Side B
Panzy was the third child; her two older siblings died, one in 1921as a result of burns when her dress caught on fire. Her younger sister was born in 1923 when Panzy was four. Panzy knew both of her grandmothers. She tells an anecdote regarding the mental toughness of these women in relation to Wash Parker's murder.
Her parents sold their property in Weed and moved to La Luz Canyon with their goats in about 1922 or 1923. They believed they could acquire more land in La Luz Canyon than at Weed and wanted to raise more goats. They moved to the Carrizozo area three or four years later and ran their goats on the malpais. Panzy went to school in Carrizozo. Discusses that Weed had been an area settled earlier by people moving out of Texas.
Panzy states of the families' decision to move to Carrizozo, "nothin' could go on the malpais except a goat." Discusses how the dogie goat kids became family pets, the dogie was usually one of a triplet. A nanny only has two teats, so can only raise two kids.
Prior to moving to Carrizozo her father never hired a herder, but goats are easy to herd and they always owned a "goat dog." She discusses the work of the dogs, and the fact that the goats were taken out to forage every morning and brought back to the corrals and sheds overnight. It was difficult to hire herders; it is lonesome work. The move to Carrizozo was prompted again by the search for more land. Goats prefer to forage on brush.
Her father did his own shearing by hand until he purchased a shears ran by a gasoline motor. Brief description of hand shearing. They sheared once a year in the early spring. Shearing too early can be dangerous because a newly shorn goat can freeze to death very rapidly in the event of a storm. Her father never had this happen until he leased his goats on shares to a rancher and "a bunch of 'em froze to death." She says, "And that was when we went out of the goat business (laughs). But by [that] time, the goat business was dead anyway." People no longer ate goat meat or used mohair and that lead to the demise of the goat business.
Discusses that her father continued to sell his mohair to the warehouse in Roswell. He would take it by wagon from their place at La Luz; when they moved to Carrizozo they had the mohair trucked to Roswell. Panzy tells an amusing anecdote of her father driving the first car he bought home to La Luz. Prior to that he used the workhorses they brought from the farm at Weed for transportation.
Panzy brifley discusses her elementary schooling, starting first grade in Alamogordo and then continuing in Carrizozo. Her mother drove her back and forth the five miles to school in Carrizozo.
Her father leased the ranch at Carrizozo; she discusses buildings at headquarters, the wells, and improvements her father made. The family drove their goatherd from La Luz Canyon to the ranch at Carrizozo. It took about three days.
At the Carrizozo ranch they had to watch for bobcats and rattlesnakes, at La Luz the main predators were coyotes and dogs from the nearby village.
The family stayed at the place at Carrizozo about six years.
Tape 7, Side A
Panzy describes in detail the work involved in raising goats. Kidding started around April, describes methods associated with raising kids and discusses raising kids born as triplets. Describes the shelters built to protect the toggled kids; the kids stayed on the toggle grounds "a couple of months." They raised about a thousand head of Angora goats. Kidding out took about two weeks, but it was usually a couple months before the kids could follow the nannies on the herd. They had twenty-five or thirty billies to a thousand nannies in order that they could kid out over a shorter period of time.
Shearing was done before the nannies kidded in February or March. The sack used for shearing held about 250 pounds of mohair. Panzy and her sister, Cleo, would "tromp" the mohair in the sack. (Gestation for a kid is five months.) Kid wool and the adult wool would be kept separate at shearing. Depending on how well the mohair was growing sometimes kids would be sheared in the fall. Kid mohair would be three or four inches long; adult, five to seven inches long.
Goat meat is best taken from a four to five month old mutton. You castrate a billy at around a month old to make a mutton. Her father kept replacement nannies. He bought his billies elsewhere to avoid inbreeding. During shearing the coarser hair of the billies was kept separate from the other mohair.
When her father was able to hire herders, they were usually Mexican. The herders lived and ate separately from the family. Her parents furnished their groceries.
Prior to around 1930 goat ranching in New Mexico was quite profitable. When the mohair market began to fail in 1930 the family's goats were let out on shares to a rancher in the Sacramento Mountains. The family moved to Alamogordo where her father found wage work. Eventually [about three years later] their goatherd froze to death in a storm. Luckily the goats were not mortgaged, but they were not insured either. Panzy mentions that her parents never used credit of any kind in their ranching business. Panzy states, "They passed it on down to me . . . don't ever borrow money an' don't ever let yourself be broke." Although her parents bought their first farm at Weed, the other two ranches were leased. At that time in history it was easier to lease properties than it is today.
Tape 7, Side B
Panzy believes the family was better off economically when they were goat ranching than as salaried workers. The entire family worked with the goats, including her mother, but all family member, including her father, were responsible for cooking and household chores. The girls however, were not responsible for the sometimes-dangerous billy goats; they were not herded but fenced in a pasture by themselves.
The consultant describes the "cooler" her father constructed as they had no electricity and consequently no refrigeration on the ranch at Carrizozo. Her dad built a little square house under the windmill tower and wrapped it with burlap sacks, three or four inches thick. The water dripping down on the sacks kept them wet, and the interior was cool enough to keep garden produce and milk fresh. Her dad also piped water from the well to the house; they had one faucet. In Alamagordo, later, they did have electricity but no indoor toilet.
Once Bill and she were ranching, Panzy raised a small herd of Mexican goats for meat and because she liked having them around. Eventually they got to a point where they were unable to kill the goat kids for meat. Panzy had to learn to ride and work cattle when they started raising cattle.
Panzy states that her parents looked ahead and saw the end of goat ranching. Bill says, "We think the cow business is at the same spot right now." Panzy mentions that her parents were able to buy their home in Alamogordo for cash ($1250) with the money they saved from their goat business. Panzy and Bill never borrowed money to buy or stock their ranch. They increased their cow herd to about 150 head by the time they went out of the ranching business.
Bill speaks up to say that it used to be customary for a newly married couple's first child to get a heifer calf as a gift from their family or neighbors and it would multiply and provide a start for the child's herd. That is how he got his start in the business. Panzy says that usually all the children received such a gift.
Panzy's best childhood memories are of Carrizozo where, as a child, she liked playing with the goat kids. She doesn't remember real hardships from this time of her life. Her parents were able to buy a new car every year; had money for Christmas present and trips to the circus when it came to town.
Bill remarked that although Panzy "didn't like" ranching, "I did what I liked nearly every moment of my life." They managed through leaner times on the ranch because they didn't hire help frequently and they didn't go into debt. He says that his grandfather Jones lost money because he didn't anticipate droughts, emergencies, and that he overbuilt, all too rapidly, saving nothing back for emergencies. He compares his own way of managing to his grandfather's. Bill did his own fence repairing; he drilled wells on his land without borrowing money, recognizing that water was as important as feed. He got nine "waterings" from four wells. He stated again that a cow did not have to walk further than a mile to get water on the ranch.
Panzy is a water dowser. She first learned that she could douse while still a child. She did not tell Bill of this gift until after they were married. She doused for the first time for Bill about four or five years after they married. She uses a willow switch about five feet long with a knife stuck in the end of it. It must be a pliable switch. She walks back and forth in the general vicinity of where a well is needed. When she crosses an underground water source the switch turns in the direction the water is running.
Tape 8, Side A
The first well she witched for water on the Wind Mountain Ranch the water was found at 117 feet. The wells were at varying depths—one was 700 feet, another 350, and another at 250 feet. She continues to describe witching, one that she did for their nephew after she had retired in 1992. The 700-foot well cost $4,500 to drill. That the Jones had developed the water on the property attributed to the success of the ranch.
Bill says that the price of land, people's changing tastes and concerns about eating red meat, environmental issues, and importing beef from other countries are all factors in the decline of ranching in this country. Panzy says, "Especially here in New Mexico, they have taken so much of he land, and cattle prices are down, and it isn't raining as much, and even out where we were people are in debt." There is also pressure on the land for residential development. Panzy says that is now sometimes difficult to find cattle buyers. She states, "We feel like it is a dying industry."
The interviewer asks Bill what sort of chores he was taught a child. He was taught to make bisquits with baking powder and clabber; and to patch clothes.
Panzy answers in response to whether she would be a rancher if she had to do it over again that she didn't think so, she says she would have stayed with secretarial work. "The ranch life was hard" from the physical standpoint. She details some of the arduous work and long hours. She states of the isolation, "I learned to like it, but it was very lonesome." Panzy says of her husband, "Now, he loved it, see." Bill recalls with pleasure the "thrill" of working with horses.