It’s almost Christmas

December 23rd, 2011

No one could tell  a story better than the late James Kenney, and it was my good fortune that the well known and admired New Mexico rancher, roper and cutting champion, asked me to help him write a memoir about  his experiences as a cowboy for hire in the 1920s and 1930s.

In one chapter of The Cowboy Life of James Kenney, James tells about the time he worked for the Double Circles, when most of the other cowpunchers got to go home for the Christmas holidays.

“We got off from the twentieth of December until the first of the year,” recalled Kenney¬† (pictured here a decade later in the 1940s). “Bill Martin stayed there at headquarters. He’d been working there for fifteen years and he sure knew that country and was a good hand, but he was really bad about drinking.

“He’d been passed out in the bunkhouse while we were gone and he never had shaved or anything. He sobered up a little bit when we came back and pretty soon, he said, ‘Boys, we’d better shave and take a bath. It’ll be Christmas the first thing we know.’

“Bill, Christmas is already gone,” we said.

“The hell it is?”

“Yeah, we’ve already come back to work.”

“Well, give me another drink then,” he said. And he took another drink or two and out he went again.

The next morning, we started back to work. Bill had a horse called Bluefoot that he always kept there. He was really a good horse, too. We saddled old Bluefoot and got old Bill up on him. He was still drunk and could just barely make it, but we had to go to Four Mile Hill.

We went out of there and rimmed out on a flat, on top of the mountain. When we got on top, old Bill just fell off of Bluefoot and said, “Boys, I believe I’m going to die.” The bridle reins fell on the ground and old Bluefoot stopped. I thought maybe he was going to die, but the others all knew him.

We went on to Point of Pines and stayed all night. Along about two or three in the morning I heard a noise and looked out, and here came a horse walking in real slow. It was old Bill on Bluefoot. He’d made it in. I guess that cold air sobered him up. From then on he was really a hand. He knew that country better than anybody and he sure could rope. Anytime he turned it loose, he had something in it.

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