By Glenda Price: FNM columnist
I was in high school when I saw television for the first time. Some friends who lived in town had one. They bought a green plastic cover they taped over the screen to make the “snow” seem not so bad.
Our family wasn’t impressed, but everyone else thought it was great. I think we were just accustomed to making our own entertainment.
George, the cowboy who lived alone at the neighbor ranch’s line camp, often came over, and everybody played card games like pitch. We used wooden matches to keep score. Payoff was in nickels and dimes.
We kids made little tractors out of empty thread spools, rubber bands and slivers of soap. We made stilts in the summer and snow ice cream in the winter. We also made pets out of every animal we could manage to catch or trap.
We tried to make ourselves scarce during the summer when it was vegetable gardening time because that invariably meant hoeing weeds. Interestingly, I don’t remember my mother paying much attention to what we were doing outdoors, where we mostly spent our time.
Music was ever-present, of course. The choice was not “Do you want to play?” but “Which instrument do you want to learn?”
Ropes were the other omnipresent items, and nothing was safe. We roped the milk pen calves, the dog (until he’d had enough and bared his teeth at us), and the chickens, of course.
The grownups in our family had a unique calf-roping method. Few old-time ranches had arenas. They had corrals, a water lot and maybe a small horse pasture. So during the summer before they got too big, a dozen calves were loaded in the stock trailer and hauled out in the middle of the big pasture. Their mothers were kept in the corral so the babies wouldn’t keep on going if they got away.
My mom would climb into the trailer and coax one calf into the rear section and close the middle gate, keeping the others in the front compartment. My dad and George always bet $5 per calf. They didn’t need a stopwatch because they figured whoever caught and tied his calf closest to the trailer was the winner.
When the roper nodded, my mom opened the trailer gate, the calf jumped out and off they went. As I think about it now, I marvel that she never complained about being stuck with the yucky “arena director” job.
When I got interested in barrel racing, my parents came up with three trash barrels and set them up in that same pasture for me. It was great. I had my own private practice arena — 4,000 acres.
To this day I can’t get excited about television unless it’s transmitting a rodeo. Also, I only use my cell phone as a phone, much to my grandchildren’s dismay.
Not long ago they were visiting me when one of them announced, “I know what your favorite TV channel is.”
Mystified, I asked which one that could be.
“Off,” he said.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: email@example.com