Cattle guards prevent livestock from roaming county roads. They also prevent Quay County resident Lee Stone, 64, from driving his horse-and-wagon team from one piece of property to another.
And so Stone is taking the county to court. He’s asking Quay County remove the guards from county roads where Stone drives his horses.
District Court Judge Albert J. Mitchell Jr. on Jan. 14 made no ruling in the case, but gave Stone 30 days to amend his arguments and seek legal counsel.
The county, respresented by Albuquerque-based attorney William Slease, argued Stone has no legal basis for forcing the county to remove the cattle guards.
“I’m learning a lot about the law,” Stone said. “But I can’t afford $10,000 for an attorney.”
Stone said cattle guards installed on Quay Road 70 impede his use of the county roads he has traveled with this team for five decades. He uses the horses and wagon to check on cattle and for recreation and exercise.
“I have no idea why they are so determined to keep the cattle guards,” Stone said. “I’d have no objection if there was a practical reason for them.”
Livestock typically will not cross cattle guards so they often serve as gates, but still allow vehicles to cross over them.
However, in Stone’s case, he said, they “restrict my use of the road” because he drives a team of horses.
Stone said he has to get off of his wagon, open a gate adjacent to the cattle guard and lead his horse-drawn wagon around the cattle guard to continue on the road.
Stone also said the county is not maintaining the cattle guards in a manner fit for public safety.
In his efforts to get the cattle guards removed, Stone subpoenaed several county commissioners and other staff. The county’s attorney asked the subpoenas be quashed and Judge Mitchell agreed because they were unrelated to the case.
The county’s attorney, Slease, argued the county had a right to install the cattle guards because it is authorized to protect the public by keeping livestock off of public property.
Stone said the county’s installation of the cattle guards prevent him from using his team on a public road, which is a right he said was grandfathered in with the introduction of laws for vehicular traffic.
Slease said the cattle guards may be inconvenient for Stone, but the county is within its rights to install them.
Slease also said Stone should seek a solution by taking his request to a Quay County Commission meeting.
Last year, Stone did ask the county to remove the guards, but no action was taken.