By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist
My theory is the human psyche is hard-wired for competition — and speed. We want to have the fastest car, mule, horse. In southern New Mexico they even have turtle races and, of course, duck races.
Sometimes the desire to win overwhelms the participant’s better judgment and sense of “right and wrong.”
Lucien Maxwell of northeastern New Mexico, who owned the huge Maxwell Land Grant, was said to be an inveterate gambler who kept plenty of cash in a trunk. His hospitality was legendary, also, but when he gambled he tried to make sure he won.
Like every other horse owner, Maxwell tried to raise fast ones. Horse races were cross-country deals, and the race course sort of went around the rocks and through the trees. It is said Maxwell told his rider which hilltop overlooking the race course he would be on, rifle ready. The rider had better be in front when they raced past that overlook.
One semi-famous punkin’ rollin’ local rodeo always had horse races as special events. Besides regular quarter-mile or half-mile races they had a pony express race where at a certain point one rider passed a short bat to the next rider who raced to the next transfer point. The third rider, bat in hand, hoped to cross the finish line first.
A horseman named R.B. was really proud of a young palomino stallion he’d raised. He entered the pony express race, and rode the young horse himself in the race’s third leg. That little stud, it turned out, really was fast, and he overtook Ray, a rider who usually won that race.
Ray couldn’t stand the thought of that little palomino passing him and, as R.B. drew even with him, Ray hit the palomino with his bat — in the eye. Of course, the little stud stopped running and Ray won the race.
R.B. loved all his animals, but that young palomino was his special joy. He took the horse to the trailer and tried to bandage his damaged eye. It didn’t look good.
R.B. wasn’t a man given to anger, but as he tried to comfort his damaged horse a fury took hold of him. He found Ray behind the bucking chutes and, with one blow, knocked him to the ground. Meanwhile, R.B.’s wife had climbed the nearby fence. As he held Ray down, trying to decide whether to damage HIS eye, she yelled, “Kill him, Honey.”
That did it. Fists began flying all over the place, and somebody, from behind, used a pair of spurs on R.B.’s head. “My lights went out,” he said later.
Meanwhile, Ray got away and fights broke out all over the arena. For weeks people talked about the big fight at the rodeo, and most of those involved had no idea what they were fighting about. They just fought for the love of fighting, apparently.
R.B. took his palomino home and spent the next ten months treating him. Luckily, R.B. was a pretty good veterinarian, as are most cowboys, and the horse finally recovered.