Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
By Janice Dunnahoo
Special to the Daily Record
I was recently invited to a book signing for a friend of a friend. Though I was unable to attend, I knew her book would be terrific, truthful, straightforward and entertaining. After reading it, it did not disappoint. The book is titled: “Growing up Proctor — Life on the Gallo” by Alma Proctor Hobbs.
I loved it so much I just had to share a few of her stories here, it is so typical of the New Mexico I know. I asked Alma Proctor Hobbs if I could share just a few of those stories in my column, and she was very generous in allowing me to do so. This book should be on the bestseller list before long. Following are just a few of some of her stories:
“Mama and Daddy
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“On Jan. 31, 1935, my daddy, Floyd Proctor and my mama, Loretta Porter of Corona, New Mexico, were married in Albuquerque. They honeymooned in a tent, for several months, while daddy cut several thousand cedar posts with an axe. Mama entertained herself by cooking their meals over a campfire and peeling a lot of those posts with a draw knife. They traveled to Corona using a team of mules and a wagon to deliver the posts, to be used in the highway right of way fence.
“Daddy and Mama eventually lived in a board and batten 10′ x 20′ house. Water was dipped from a cistern with a bucket.
“Their honeymoon was a productive time, as they had their first child in August 1936, followed by another in 1938, and another boy in 1940. Mama was using a rubbing board for laundry! She was excited to get an old gas powered washing machine to use, as they had my oldest sister in 1941.
“An old truck replaced the team for trips to town in the late 1930s. Groceries were always bought in bulk. Mama canned everything, including a lot of deer meat.
“When my oldest brother started third grade, Daddy was given a school bus route contract by the school. Daddy and Mama milked extra cows and separated the cream to sell. It was hauled into the depot at Corona and sent to Alamogordo.
“They raised pigs and chickens for the meat and for fresh eggs. My mama was killing and cleaning chickens one day when a pig grabbed my sister, who was born in 1944, and drug her off. Mama chased the pig down, and got Radna Proctor back. We still debate if it was the right thing to do.
“1950 brought electricity to the ranch. Her life must’ve gotten so much easier, she had time to have a couple more kids. Her older kids could help carry the wood to build a fire in the big black pot and dip the water to put in the washer and rinse tubs to do laundry.
“She got running water and an automatic washer in 1966. Daddy passed away in 1985; they had been married over 50 years. Mama passed away in 2013.
“Daddy and Mama, I think, were of the generation that saw and lived through more changes than any other in the history of mankind. They survived when it wasn’t a game.
“Mama’s recipe box
“Christmas cooking makes me think of my mama’s recipe box. That little pink and white metal box had some magic in it, for sure. Some of the recipes were written in my granny’s writing. Uncle John’s candy recipes were in there. Some recipes had a few stains, or were written down on a piece of paper that had been folded or unfolded so many times it was cracking apart.
“My mama cooked by ear most of the time. Really good, wholesome, economical food that she could have fixed blindfolded in the dark. But, she also would open up that box and pull out the recipes for Leta Sharp’s yeast doughnuts, or Uncle John’s pecan log candy recipe.
“In this day and time, it is a crying shame …
“When you ask someone, ‘Do you want the recipe for that?’ They reply, ‘No thanks, I will just Google it.’
“You can’t make people realize they are missing out on a lot of the magic and memories you can make cooking with those treasured old handwritten recipes.
“I think every bridal shower should include a recipe box with some family recipes in it. What am I going to do with my cookbook collection?
“When I was growing up, we had a bunch of chickens. There were white ones, black ones, wild ones, gentle ones. The chickens ranged out two or three hundred yards, scratching around, hiding their nests in the bare grass and surviving.
“Every day was an Easter egg hunt. The eggs that our hens produced were a lot like people. Our eggs were not like a carton bought at the store, all so equally matched in color and size. The outer shell was every color from white to dark brown, but those eggs were all alike inside. Well, except once in a while one would have two yolks. Other than that, if you cracked a white one in the skillet and a dark brown one in the skillet by it, and did away with the shell, nobody could tell which was which.
“Then there were special eggs. Sometimes in the early spring a hen would lay a tiny egg. That pullet’s first egg could be as small as the first joint of my thumb. If the timing was right, that tiny egg would be boiled and dyed for Easter to be the prize egg of the egg hunt. I remember several of those tiny eggs.
“The other rare egg was an occasional soft-shell egg. The membrane kept the white and yolk contained, but the egg had to be handled carefully, as there was no outer shell.
“I see those soft-shelled eggs in humans also. Some of them get their feelings hurt so easily. They seek to create drama. We have to handle them carefully. But we are all eggs in the basket together. White, brown, special, soft. Remove the shells and we all are just big gooey messes. …
“One of the most important life lessons you can learn is to treat life like it is cotton candy. Embrace the mess, savor the taste, and devour it fast.
“One of my siblings put her cotton candy up to eat it at a later date, and found out it does not work. …
“I learned from her mistake, and sometimes I just jump in and eat dessert first, lest might happen to it or me, before I get to it!
“Digging to China
“Did you know if you dug a hole through the earth you would end up in China? My brother and I knew it, and we were going to dig to China and eat all the Chop Suey we wanted. We dug on our hole for about two weeks; and if it was calm and the wind wasn’t blowing, I think you could almost hear people talking Chinese and eating Chop Suey.
“We came in from school one day to find our deep hole had the family outhouse placed over it.
“I don’t think Daddy wanted us to invade China.
“Jake the Judas sheep
“Sheep supported the Proctor family at Corona. As a kid I saw movies and read books that often cast sheep raisers in a bad light. You learn a lot though, raising sheep.
“Bottle baby, dogie lambs are a fact of life every spring, maybe because it is dry or maybe because a twin gets lost off from the ewe. I loved my dogies. Each year there would be one or two that was a special pet.
“Jake was one of those special ones. He was BIG, and hairy, not a good example of what you wanted your wool to be, so when the lambs were marked, he became a wether. You learned early that the buck lambs that were left intact were few and far between.
“Being a wether meant in the not too distant future, Jake would be leg of lamb in Chicago. Fall came and we took the lambs to the shipping pens at Gallinas (six miles south of Corona.) Jake was the first lamb up the ramp into the stock car with a lot of lambs following him. It was a sad time. We hollered “Bye Jake.” When we did, Jake circled in the boxcar and came down the ramp to us.
“He led the next bunch of lambs into the upper deck of the car and came back. He led all our lambs into the boxcars going to slaughter. Then, he led the neighbors’ lambs to slaughter.
We took Jake back home that day. He was a well-loved Judas sheep for years until his death. He saved countless man hours by making delivery so easy for years.
“We kids learned a moral lesson from that wooly sheep, be careful who you follow, as there are people that behave just like that lead sheep. They will lead you into a dangerous, harmful situation. Learn to think for yourself.
To be continued.
Janice Dunnahoo of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.