Stories Of The Men And Animals
That Flew With JPS Brown
FLYING WITH JPS BROWN
A cowboys flies when all he needs to do is think that he wants to be in another place and his horse puts him there with no extra effort at all. He flies when his partner on the other side of the herd lets him know that he needs to move to another spot with nothing but a look. He flies when he moves his partner the same way. He flies when he hears the porcupine’s song in the dark of the night. He flies when something he does in his cowboy work is effortless. He flies when he can laugh if he falls off or gets bucked off his horse, or he misses a loop. He flies when he discovers a newborn calf by its smell. He flies when his saddle horse bucks and plays and has a fit of fun. He flies when he cowboys, for that is the nature of people who live with horses and cattle.
Excerpt from ONE GILLETTE, “COWBOYS FLY” by JPS Brown
In the year 1938, Roy Adams, Herb Cunningham and Wirt Bowman were partners with Viv Brown in the ABC Cattle Co. of Nogales. Viv Brown was my Pappy. I was eight years old and the ABCs offered me a wage to cowboy for them. As an advance against my pay, one day after school, Viv took me to Brackers Department Store in Nogales and outfitted me with a hat, boots, canvas trousers, and a work shirt. That Spring, my duty would be to help the ABCs drive steers from the railroad pens in Nogales, Sonora to the Baca Float Ranch on the Arizona side of the border.
The next Saturday, my Granny Maude Sorrells and I returned to our home on the Tucson Road from a double feature movie in Nogales and found my horse Pancho had been returned to his pasture. I’d left him in the remuda of Cabezon Woodell’s cowboys in the Sierra de San Juan of Mexico when my Pappy brought me home from there to put me back in school.
Pancho had grown into much of a horse. My Mom told me that Uncle Buster Sorrells had met the remuda in Nogales, Sonora and hauled him with a supply of hay and grain back to his pasture behind our house. I had not yet worn my new outfit, but I began to ride Pancho every day so he’d be ready for work.
He needed to be calmed down. He had a new way of showing the whites of his eyes when he looked at people, as though anxious about the burden someone might load on him, or some wild thing with horns and hooves that he might have to jump out and overtake.
One day, as I filled his water tub with a hose, we both looked up and saw the heads and horns of a herd come around the Nogales curve on the Tucson Road. Boy, we couldn’t’t let anything like that go by. I bridled Pancho, jumped barefoot on his bare back and rode to the front of my Granny’s house to keep the herd off her lawn and flowerbeds.
Roy Adams and Viv came along in a pickup behind the drags. Felix Johnson, Manuel Valenzuela, Uncle Buster, my cousin Grover Kane, Bud Parker and George Kimbrough made up the horseback crew that drove the herd of 1,800 Mexican steers.
After the herd passed Granny’s house, I rode in behind the drags. Viv and Roy stopped the pickup in the shade of an Alamo tree and called me and Felix for lunch.
“Where you been, boy?” Viv asked and feigned an abrupt and unsmiling way. He always knew where I could be found. He asked the question because anybody could see I was in heaven right then and he should have come for me and Pancho before the drive began.
“I been waiting,” I said.
He pointed to a pile of bread, crackers, jam, cheese, sardines and Vienna sausage and said, “Better have lunch, now.”
I jumped down and took an open can of tomatoes, a spoon, some soda crackers, and squatted underneath Pancho to eat. Canned tomatoes could be meat and drink to me, anytime. Pancho stood over me, dozed, switched his tail, breathed on the top of my head, and poked me on the back of the neck with his whiskers.
I knew a craving or two. I loved canned tomatoes, but did not crave them. I loved my Godmother’s pan de huevo, a sweet roll, with cafe con leche, coffee and hot milk with plenty of sugar, but they did not stretch the cords of my being to satisfy a craving. However, I absolutely craved to cowboy on Pancho with Viv Brown and did not even think of meat or drink when I could do that.
On that drive to the Baca Float, I rode in the drags beside Felix Johnson. Felix was cranky. He’d been with the herd since it was driven off the mountain from Cabezon Woodell’s camp at La Morita in the Sierra de San Juan. After the herd was cut and culled, the steers and remuda had been paid for by the ABCs, loaded on the train in Magdalena and hauled to Nogales. Felix hired on with the new owners and rode the caboose to the Nogales, Sonora Embarcadero pens. He was cranky, because his pocket was full of money and he needed a clean, new outfit to wear, especially a new hat. The old hat he wore out of Mexico had been soaked clear through many times by rain, snowed on, scraped off his head in the brush, messed on, and trampled in the cattle cars. He wanted to look good again and his number one requirement for that was a new hat, a deep bath, and a change of brand clean clothes.