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, 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 is part 2 with more of her stories:
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“I found out that the last family member of my mama’s and daddy’s generation has passed. Our Aunt Evie Porter Woods was a wonderful person.
“Our mama had a brother named Jack. He married later than most, but he sure picked a good one. Evie was a welcome, entertaining, kind addition to our family. Jack and Evie had two daughters.
“He worked at New Mexico State University. His boss was a widower who had six kids. Jack passed away with a heart attack.
“Evie had once told my mama that Mr. Roy Wood sure was a nice guy, and she hoped he could meet a nice woman that would help him raise those kids. He did, her name was Evie. When our Evie married Roy, we gained new cousins that were close enough to our age they came to the ranch a lot in the summer and hung out with us.
“If we had to go to Las Cruces we stayed at Roy and Evie’s house. It was pretty crowded. He had six kids, she had two, and then they had two more. It was pretty wild on Sunday mornings, getting some kids ready to go to the Mormon church, and some to the Catholic. They made it work!
“I remember one night when we were all staying at their house, my parents were in bed on the couch. The dog proceeded to gnaw a bone, and he chewed and chewed on it. My daddy said, ‘I wish he would finish that @#$& bone!’
“He did, and it wasn’t a bone. … It was my daddy’s false teeth.
“The last time I got to see Evie, we laughed about Daddy’s teeth. It wasn’t near as funny when it happened!
“Evie was the spirit of New Mexico. She taught us so much about the culture she grew up in. She was instrumental in making me a cactus eater; in fact, I cooked some for supper last night.
“She had the wisdom and integrity to let her stepchildren be raised in their faith. I loved that woman!
“I do like to eat the plant called Lamb’s Ear. It is one of my favorite greens. It grows wild. I like eating wild, always have. Mama fixed young tumbleweeds sometimes, and told us about people having nothing else during the Dust Bowl days.
“My brother and I knew where a certain cactus grew that had delicious little fruits on them, and Mama made prickly pear and algerita jelly every year.
“During the 1964 drought, my daddy burned cholla cactus for the cows. We discovered that the new growth fingers on the cholla, with the stickers burned off, could be pickled just like okra. It tasted like okra.
“Small immature devil claw pods also made good pickles. They also taste a lot like okra. I learned that after I moved out of sheep country. We seldom had one get big enough to make pods as we chopped them. Didn’t want the devil claws in the wool.
“I remember eating cookies at Mrs. Wharf’s house. I thought the cookies had piñon nuts in them. Nope, she had pulled nut grass in the canyon bottom, picked the corms from the roots and washed them up. Time consuming but good.
“I remember Daddy showing us a plant. He said smell it. If you cannot smell onion, do not eat it. It is Crow’s Poison. It looks like a wild onion.
“We never ate wild mushrooms but we did graze out of the pasture occasionally!
“You grow up hearing ‘Take one for the team!’
“A lot of Americans do not know how many New Mexicans take one for the team. I am talking about the flyovers of military jets, which used to frequently involve breaking the sound barrier and the nerve rattling sonic booms that go with the flyovers. Several rural areas of New Mexico have had periods of time when they got to hear and feel eight to 10 sonic booms a day.
“We lived at a ranch with no electricity when I was a kid. We were uptown though, as we had gas lights. Gas lights have a mantle. The mantle is a little woven sock with drawstrings. You tie it over the fitting of the gas light, clip the excess string off and hold a match close to it. The mantle flares, burns and draws down into a small sack of ash. A mantle is delicate, but it will last a while, until you get sonic booms. Then the ash of the mantle comes falling down like snow and the gaslight becomes worthless until another mantle is put on.
“When you’re miles from town and out of mantles for your gas lights, you fall back on your trusty old kerosene lamps. You trim wicks, and wash the chimneys, and have enough light to read by.
“My 1960s days of living without electricity gave me a love for those old lamps.
“I am thankful for the military and those jet planes, even though they knocked out the gas lights. And I am really thankful for electricity!
“If you did not grow up on a sheep ranch, you probably never heard the term wool blind.
“My family scrambled to make a living on a small ranch. One source of income every fall was shearing eyes. My daddy would shear eyes on sheep for numerous ranches at as little as three cents a head (in my memory) to make extra income.
“Some breeds of sheep have extremely woolly faces. The wool in their face grows more than the spring shearing takes care of. That mat of wool in their face can get so dense that it actually impedes their eyesight.
“Ranchers, realizing that an animal with its sight curtailed will not do as well, want each sheep to get a ‘fall facial’ so it can winter better.
“It just takes three or four swipes with a shearing hand piece to clear a sheep’s face. Someone has to catch and drag each ewe to the shearer. You do that by grabbing a hind leg and pulling her backwards. If you are a ranch-raised stout teenaged girl, it is not hard work, just tedious.
“I was kind of grumbling one time, about wool blind sheep. Daddy told me that people get wool blind too. His explanation of wool blindness hit home.
“Wool or circumstances grow, evolve, change slowly, and the sheep or the person adjust to the gradually narrowing view. That new narrower view becomes the new normal. It becomes accepted. Views and visions are restricted.
“We are in the fall of the year, and the traditional time to sheer eyes, clear our vision, widen our horizons and see the wide, wide, world for all, and every opportunity that is available!
“Friends, do not be a wool blind sheep! Try something new, do something different, reach, stretch and enjoy a better tomorrow.
“Nobody ever left hungry
“A pot of beef vegetable stew is always good. I sure miss Mama’s stew and cornbread.
“It was an evolving work of art to watch her make a pot of stew. She would start off with a lot of chunks of meat, and brown them, then at least two big chopped onions were added. A lot of potatoes and carrots got peeled and cut up and added in to cook. Canned tomatoes from quart jars or those large cans would be added. Then cans of corn, green beans, and maybe mixed vegetables if Daddy had found some at the freight depot at Roswell.
“If she saw a pickup coming up the road to the ranch while it was cooking, somebody would be sent to the basement for another can of corn and another can of green beans. … ‘No, better grab two of each, as it is Buster and the Murray kids. …’
“Then she would make another pan of cornbread real fast. Nobody ever left hungry!
“I was working in Roswell in the early 1990s. A storm hit and dumped about 30 inches of snow up in the area of Lincoln County where my family had always lived. My mama was born in 1914 so she would’ve been about 75+ years old. She was living by herself at the place my daddy homesteaded in 1924.
“The storm shut the area down, a state of emergency was declared, the National Guard was deployed and they flew the area in a helicopter helping people feed. They flew house to house checking on people.
“I was watching the news that night. They were interviewing the chopper crew. They asked them if people were glad to see them, and the pilot said, ‘Well that one woman said she had lived there over 50 years, they might come back and check after another 50 years!’ That was my mama. Be like my mama — prepare, don’t panic, and show some common sense.
“Also weigh information, be comfortable with yourself, contented in your mind, and develop your skills in entertaining yourself, and you can survive anything.”
Thank you to Alma Proctor Hobbs. There are many more intriguing life stories in her book. The book is available online at amazon.com.
Janice Dunnahoo of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at email@example.com.