Mr. Fred H. Miller was interviewed at his home in Taos, New Mexico. A native of Pennsylvania, Fred graduated in Forestry from Cornell University. He worked at various jobs in District 3 while going through college. After graduation he took a laborer's job on the Pecos. He took the Ranger examination at Santa Fe in 1916 and received an appointment. His story starts there.
After I had my appointment as a Ranger, C. A. Long was Chief Engineer in Region 3 at that time, and I worked for him in the office in Albuquerque that winter. We were making plans for the Clifton - Springerville road, that is, the layout plans. I stayed on that job until spring. Then, in the spring, we went down and started the survey from Clifton to Springerville.
In the meantime, the War broke out, so some of us in the camp enlisted in the 10th Engineers. We went down to Fort Bliss at El Paso and enlisted, and we stayed I don't know how long not very long, and then we went to Washington. D. C., where the 10th Engineers was being organized, and most of the officers were Forest Service people. Major Guthrie (He was a Captain at that time) John Guthrie was one, and Major Kelly, of course, was Regional Forester in Region 1, that is, he was Regional Forester after he got out of the Army. At any rate there was a large number of Forest Service in the camp.
Well, we went back from Fort Bliss to a camp on the campus of the American University just outside of Washington. It was in the District but just outside the City. Then in September we left for overseas.
I stayed with the 10th Engineers in France for two years. I went in as a private and came out as a Second Lieutenant. So after I came back, I came back of course immediately to Region 3 and the first job they gave me was Ranger on the Zuni District of the old Manzano Forest. The headquarters was at a little town of McGaffey. It was a lumber mill.
I've forgotten who was Ranger before me. It was one of the oldtimers. He was a practical forester, that is, a non-technical Forester. But he was a good one and he taught me how to pack horses, et cetera. I learned how to get around by myself under his guidance.
After that I got an offer of a job down in Puerto Rico, so I went down to San Juan in February 1920, but I stayed for only about seven months. I got an attack of malaria while I was there and didn't feel very well so I decided I'd better get back to Region 3.
I came back here in the early spring months of 1920 and reported in to Albuquerque and they sent me out to what was then the old Tusayan, with headquarters at Williams. I went down and made the first management plan for the woodland type, down between Ash Fork and Cedar Glade. I spent most of my time at Putney where I did all the field work. Then I went back to Williams and finished up my management plan report on the woodland type. While I was at Williams I took the Junior Forester exam at Flagstaff. After I took that exam, and was fortunate enough to pass it, then I was changed from the non-technical old Forest Ranger position to a Junior Forester position. Well, after I finished the management plans at Williams, which was then the old Tusayan, I was assigned to the Carson at Taos.
While I was here at Taos I made a management plan of the Rio Pueblo: I believe it was the working circle. I worked on that job for, oh, for several months. After that I went down to Santa Fe and started a management plan on what was then the old Pecos District. While I was there I got an offer of a job at the Southern Experiment Station, so I went down to New Orleans and worked there for Reggie Forbes, who was Director at that time. I worked there throughout that summer. After that I came back to Region 3 again, and came back to Taos for a short time, and then I was assigned to the Santa Fe Forest.
In the meantime we had been married and had a small child, so I quit the Forest Service and went up to Denver and bought a small ranch up there and stayed there about six years. Well, Forestry was in my blood and even though I made a pretty good living I decided I wanted to go back into the Forest Service.
In 1929 I came back to the Forest Service. That was in Region 2, and I was made Chief of Party and sent out to Durango where we made a timber survey of some of the country just north of Durango. Then after we finished that job, I went back to Denver to finish the paper work. Then the next year, in the spring of 1930, I went up to Medicine Bow and worked there for about four years with Huber Hilton, Supervisor at that time. Then just before I transferred in to Washington, Philip Woodhead became Supervisor of the Medicine Bow.
It was in 1934 that I went back on detail to the Washington Office. I was supposed to be there only six months, but I ended up in Washington 25 years. I always did want to go back to the West, but I couldn't quite make it until I retired in 1958. In the meantime, in Washington I ended up in Personnel Management. I started out on a detail to the Administrative Office in Research, and worked with Paul Roberts at that time. Then I left Research and went into Personnel Management with Peter Keplinger and I stayed in Personnel Management then until I retired in 1958.
Well, we always did want to get back to Taos. During my time in the Washington Office of course I traveled all over, from Puerto Rico to Alaska, so even after going through the States pretty thoroughly, we decided that New Mexico was the place for us to build our final home. I never did buy a home in Washington; we always rented there. I am glad we didn't, because that made the final transition from the active life in the Forest Service to retirement easier. I've seen so many people retire in Washington, who had bought their homes, and one day they are in the office and the next day nothing to do. Well, in three or four years they became old men. But in my case I stepped from one job into another.
About two years before retirement, we figured out when I was going to retire. We came out to Taos and bought this lot here. Then we made a contract to have the building completed by the time we were ready to move out. I think my last day of duty was June 15; well, on June 16th the moving van came out to our house and loaded all our furniture and belongings, and the next day then we got into our car and started from Washington to New Mexico.
Well, we got out here and the house was just about finished. But you can imagine, when you build a new house there is no lawn; there is no yard. There are a lot of things to do so that the minute we got out here I had plenty to do. Since then I've been quite busy in the garden. Then we have some horses and I take care of them, and some chickens, and with all these chores around the place there hasn't been an inactive moment since I retired.
When you went to Zuni, that was after the War, wasn't it?
Yes, I went to Zuni right after the War.
Did you work on management plans?
Jim Mullen was Supervisor on the Manzano at that time, at Albuquerque, and I was a Ranger on the Zuni District. I didn't work on management plans then. I did general administrative work.
Did the Zuni District take in all of the Zuni Mountains?
Yes, it came down almost to Grants, and then there was a little area just north of Grants, in those cliffs, that was within the District. It took in the Zuni Mountains and went down to about the town of Zuni, on the Indian Reservation. Inscription Rock had been designated as a National Monument at that time.
Was there a caretaker there?
No, no caretaker; no National Park caretaker there. We used to ride down there. We didn't really do anything, but it was supposed to be under our protection.
Your work as administrator on the Zuni consisted mostly of what?
There was a big timber sale there. Timber sales and grazing, those were about the only two uses in those days.
There were quite a few homesteads in that country, weren't there?
Yes, there were lots of homesteads. The homesteaders were trying to raise beans and oats, in season things of that sort. The homesteads were not in the high country; they were found in the woodland sections.
Then you went to Taos and Santa Fe to work on timber management plans?
Well, no. I was on the Ranger District when I got this chance to go to Puerto Rico. When I came back from Puerto Rico, then I went on the timber management plans. I went directly from San Juan to Albuquerque to Williams. Then from Williams I went down to Drake to do my field work for management of the woodland type.
At that time the American Pencil Company was quite interested in a new source of Utah juniper. One of their men came out and I took him into that country up north of Ash Fork where there were some very fine Utah juniper; some of them would make very nice six foot or eight foot long, good and clear. But for some reason or other they never followed through on that exploration. I showed them thousands of acres of very fine Utah juniper.
But to your knowledge they never did go ahead with operations?
No, they never did come in there as they had planned.
What I am getting at, on those management plans. as you look back now, do you consider those plans pretty solid for the type of country?
Yes, I think so. At that time we were figuring on using some of the timber for pencil wood, which would have been a much higher use. But about the only practical use at that time was for fuel wood. They used to cut fuel wood and ship it to California. I don't think that lasted very long, though. They used to cut it and bring it along the railroad, that road from Ash Fork down to Prescott, and load it onto the cars there and bring it up to the mainline of the Santa Fe and on to California.
And fence posts; of course, they cut quite a few fence posts at that time. But in the meantime the pinon and the cedar began to spread.
I remember that I wrote an article one time on the migration of the woodland species. Of course when I was down there, there was practically nothing in the entire flats. Now they tell me it is practically covered with woodland types.
Do you have a copy of that article?
No, it was in the old Journal of Forestry back around 1921, but I don't have a copy now ["Reclamation of Grass Lands by Utah Juniper on the Tusuayan National Forest, Arizona." Journal of Forestry (1921) Vol. 19, No. 6: 647-651].
But our management plans in those days were pretty darned crude because we didn't have good estimates. The only thing we could do was to go out and sometimes I'd cover as much as 30 miles a day on foot trying to get some idea of how to estimate the volume of wood, cordwood mostly. I don't really think there's ever been much of a change over those old estimates. But then the area covered by woodland is so much greater now then it was then; there's been these big invasions.
Of course there were lots of animals, lots of deer. I remember one time I took a horseback trip from Williams down to Ash Fork and we went down right over the Rim. I must have seen hundreds of deer, and when we got down into the flats there were lots of antelope. I don't know whether they are still there.
Fred, you worked in Engineering, Research, Timber Management, and Personnel. What do you think of the Forest Service policy through the years? Has it been with the proper objectives for conservation?
Yes, I think so generally, and especially in the South where you can see in a few years the results of management. I think that's a pretty good indication of the results of the Forest Service policy in renewal of the resources. Now, up here in the North, where the life cycle of a tree is much greater over a hundred years in some cases you can't see it so quick. But results of the policy, I think, are paying off.
What would you consider some of the Service's outstanding achievements?
Well, right here on the Carson, I think one of the outstanding achievements is the stopping of erosion in these high grazing areas. Just look at Taos Canyon where they've done a lot of work. I can remember when that was just a goat range. In fact, nothing but arroyos starting, and now you go up there I happened to go up and help one of the ranchers here with his cattle in that particular area; and by Golly, in a good year, grass is belly-deep to a horse and, as I said, I can remember when it was good for nothing but goat pasture, with erosion and nothing else. Now that has all happened within 40 years a change from goat country to this excellent grazing land.
From your memory of this country from the time you were first here in 1915, '16, along in there, it was pretty badly beaten up?
It was badly overgrazed. As far as timber is concerned, I can see practically no change, except for the sales areas, of course. The biggest improvement has been in grazing and forage, and of course roads and trails.
When I was here before, the roads were nothing to speak of at all. You could get over them in a Model T Ford but every time you'd drag the bottom it would mean an overhaul job. Earl Loveridge was Supervisor at the time I was here in the early Twenties, and he was about the first Supervisor that had a car on this Forest, and of course he had an awful lot of trouble with it. Cars weren't built then like they are now. As a matter of fact, there weren't any but the old Model Ts.
I remember when we were operating under the old statutory rule. That meant there were so many Forest Supervisors, so many Assistant Forest Supervisors, so many Rangers, etc. Now, when we had a vacancy, and the vacancy happened to be in what we now call Administrative Officer classification on the Forest (We called 'em Chief Clerks then), and if they didn't happen to have a Clerk vacancy and they did have an Assistant Supervisor vacancy, they'd put him on in the Assistant Supervisor position. So title meant nothing; there were no real classifications.
There's a tremendous difference in the number of personnel employed then and now. Along about 1923 on this Forest there was a Supervisor, an Assistant Supervisor, a Technical Assistant, and two girls; that was the staff. Then there were, I think, seven Ranger Districts at that time. In the summer they'd hire several trail-makers to brush out trails, just to make them passable for puck stock. I don't know how many personnel there are on the Forest now. We had maybe 20 for the seasonal work, and they now have probably over a hundred.
In your work up here, did you do much packing?
Well, that was about the only way to get things into this country. Quite frequently we would take a buckboard or just an ordinary wagon drawn by two horses, with our camp outfits. We'd go as far as we could along the road, and from there we would use pack animals and saddle horses. That was about the only way we could get in. Down on the Lincoln, when I was on that road survey, instead of using pack horses we would use burros. Of course, at that time the country was just full of burros; now they are a rarity. Everybody used them as pack animals. They were small and easy to pack, but it took two of them to replace a horse. But here on the Carson they still have pack mules for occasional use on the trails.
How was the game situation then as compared with now?
Well, I really believe there's more game now than there was then. I've been riding quite a bit through the mountains here since I retired, and I see more elk; I never saw any elk before. In Taos Canyon you can't always see the animals, but you can see their tracks. And there's turkey up there. We used to see a lot of turkey when I was here before. We used to go to the U.S. Hill for them. I haven't been up there recently, but I understand there are plenty of 'em around there yet. I don't know about game on the West Side, around Tres Piedras and in that country, but I hear there's a lot of game over there.
Fishing must have been better in those days.
Oh my, yes; there's no comparison there. But then there were very few people coming up from Santa Fe or Albuquerque or Los Alamos. Now they come up every week-end and of course now practically every stream has a good road on it and, like Los Pinos, west of here, and Laguna Larga and Lost Lake, there are so many people coming into there now it is hard to get to the stream to fish. Now when I first started going to Los Pinos the only way to get in was on horseback; there wasn't any road. And, Boy, what catches! you had two hooks and if they had eaten the fly off of one of them, you would still catch fish on it. But now, unless the fish truck has just been up there, you probably won't have much luck.
I had one experience over there. I was there all by myself, and at that time there was a little one room overnight cabin and the front door step was up about that high, and the back of the cabin was right up into the slope of the hill I had a great big horse. He weighed about 1200 pounds, a big stout animal. I went down to get some water from the spring, and when I got back, here was my horse inside the cabin! I couldn't get him out because the door wasn't high enough; it was only about five feet high, and when the horse stood up, his head was higher than the door. I just couldn't get him out that door, and I didn't know what the Devil to do. Then I remembered that he was an oat-hound, so I put some oats in a box, and when he put his head down to eat, I finally got him out. But it took me half an hour to get that horse out of there.
I went over to Los Pinos a couple of summers ago and there were so many cars up there and so many people camping that we just couldn't find a place to fish. But there are still some good streams around. I hear there are some good ones up Pot Creek. I haven't been up there but they say if you take a horse and ride up five or six miles, you'll get some pretty good fishing.
Did you get out on fires much?
Oh yes, not any real bad ones, but I got on the aftermath, the investigations of some bad fires in Region 1. That summer that those parachutists were killed, 13 or 14 of them; I happened to be in Region 6 at that time, and they called me from Washington to go over and help in the investigations, which I did. But of course that was after the fire was all over. You see these men had parachuted in and they got caught in one of these areas where the trees were exploding all around. If they had only stayed with the Ranger they would have been all right, but he couldn't control them.
Did they panic?
Yes, they panicked, but two of the fellows stayed with him. What he tried to do was hold them and get them to lie down and cover themselves with some blankets or something they had there. The Ranger and the two men that stayed with him came through OK. They were singed a little, but they got out. The others just panicked. The explosive power of the fire caught them and they were all killed. But of course it was all over before I got there. Seth Jackson usually investigated all those fatalities, but he wasn't able to make this one and asked me to do it that time.
I happened to be back in Washington when Smokey the Bear was shipped back there from Santa Fe. He was just a little cub, and Lyle Watts was Chief, so a group of us from the Chief's Office went out to the Zoo in Rock Creek Park to welcome the little cub (Figure 1). Lyle Watts was there, and Senator Chavez was also there, so that bear was quite a sight, and one of the attractions at the Zoo. He's a big fellow now, a big male, but still one of the main attractions. Kay Flock was Supervisor on the Santa Fe at that time and he was instrumental in having the cub sent back.
Yes, it was his idea.
It was certainly a fine piece of publicity. In fact, Smokey has developed into a highlight of publicity.
There must have been some amusing incidents that occurred that you still get a chuckle out of now and then.
Yes, there was one that might have ended tragically, and you may not want to include it, but it was really very funny.
I was riding from McGaffey on the Zuni District, in this old saddle that I've still got out here. I was going down to El Morro Inscription Rock and on into Zuni to some of those homesteading areas in through there.
I remember I came down a very steep slope that was covered with woodland type, and here was a Navajo girl, or woman, riding a burro. and she was wearing a beautiful concho belt. She had an old brown jacket and a voluminous skirt with this beautiful belt, and I wanted to buy the belt.
There I was, sitting on my horse, a great big horse (I always seem to get big horses), trying to make her understand. I couldn't speak Mexican or Navajo, and she couldn't speak English so, using a kind of sign language I started pointing to the belt. Finally she started to laugh and after a while she got down from her donkey, sat down under a tree and began to pull her dress off. I was still on my horse.
I started shaking my head and yelling, "No, no, no." Then she got real mad and started picking up rocks and throwing them at me. You can bet that I decided about then it was time for me to hightail it out of there!
Another time I went up to Medicine Bow, and Hilton was Supervisor, and he and I were riding together. We had a couple of pack horses with us. Hilt was a great fellow for getting off the trail and going anywhere. We went through a little stream, and on the other side of it there was a lot of brush, and pretty soon Hilt's horse began to pitch and he began to go up and down. The horse wasn't really pitching, I guess; he was more jumping than anything else.
What had happened was that his horse had gotten into a yellow-jacket nest and was pretty badly stung. It was all Hilton could do to hang on and I'll never forget the sight of him yelling and waving his hat this way and that, trying to fight off the yellow-jackets, while his horse was jumping up and down. Hilt was yelling, "Jesus Christ! yellow-jackets!" That was the type of incident a person has to see to get the humor in it. But anyway, that warned me about going through that spot.
There are a couple more questions I would like to ask you, Fred. Now that you have been retired, about six years, and with the interest in people that you have had in Personnel Management, what would be your advice to people approaching retirement? Is there anything they can do to prepare for retirement?
Well, I think the major thing is not to let off an active life and do nothing. Find something it doesn't matter what it is but have something to occupy your time, because time and time again I have seen these men in the Washington Office who are intensely interested in their jobs, retire and have absolutely nothing to do the next day. And, By Golly, in three or four years they died. The ones who got right into something else fared better. Maybe they take another job, or maybe they do as I have done, more or less develop some hobby. In other words, do something that will keep them active, and don't just sit around and mope and feel "Gee Whiz, I have nothing to do, nothing to do," and they sit there and before long they just deteriorate.
They must have an interest?
Yes, there are lots of interesting things in the world, and they must have an interest in something. It doesn't make a particle of difference what it is. Maybe you're a reader; maybe you find enjoyment in reading. Maybe you can take up something that involves physical activity, like taking another job. Parkinson, Chief of I&E in Washington, took a night-clerk job in a hotel there. It doesn't make any difference. The idea is not to make money; it is to keep yourself occupied.
Do you think that Personnel Management is giving enough counseling to retirees?
Seth Jackson was preparing some little kits. I don't know whether they have been distributed or not, but I think they're pretty darned good. He showed it to me when I was in Washington. I think something like that will be helpful. I don't think you can preach, but as you go around and talk to people who are about ready to retire, you might ask them what they're going to do, or if they have made any plans.
Or you might start this before people reach the actual retirement age, maybe when they are in their 50s. To people younger then that, retirement seems a long way off, but when they reach the early 50s they're surely beginning to think about this transition they are going to have to make, that everybody has to make, and how they can meet it more successfully by planning for it. You can't give any set formula other than, "Have something to do."
Kay Flock was my Supervisor on the Santa Fe and he said and I've heard him say it several times "A fellow should start planning for retirement the day he starts on a job."
Well, I think he was about right there. Probably what he was thinking about was the financial end of it, and I agree that's not too early to start some kind of insurance, some kind of investment program, something of that sort. But I was thinking about it from another angle, that is, the transition from an active life to a life of inactivity. But the financial angle is just as important, maybe more so, to give yourself real economic security by having some kind of insurance to supplement your income. Now, if I had been entirely dependent on my annuity, I couldn't take these trips on the side, and that took a little planning. That dates away back, a long ways back, before I ever thought about retirement.
I started building up a little investment income, and it is certainly paying off. Take General Motors, a number of years ago while I was still working I've forgotten the year I had $1,500 that I put into GM stock. That $1,500 today is worth over $10,000. So, some kind of financial planning should go along, and that is the thing that young people could be indoctrinated with.
And that is something that is not being done.
No, it isn't, so far as I know. Now, that is an entirely different matter from this transition business; it's something to talk about to the young people. Then, after they reach their 50s, then is the time to talk about the transition period.
Do you consider, as a land-managing agency and a conservation agency, the Service policies and objectives are such that we are doing the job that we should be doing?
I think so. Of course, we can always pick out weak spots, but overall I think we are an outstanding agency and, generally speaking, our personnel have done the best they could with each situation that comes before them for decision, in accordance with policy, and I think the policy is right.
I think one of the failures of the Forest Service if you want to call it a failure is not in policy or anything like that; it is in not selecting the right man for the job. Of course, you can't always tell what a man is going to develop into, but when you put a new Supervisor on a Forest, you ought to follow up on him a little more closely and help him.
But the Forest Service as a whole, I think, is a pretty darned fine organization. There are individuals in it who need a little supervision, a little guidance, and that's where Personnel Management should come in more strongly. When I was in Personnel Management, a lot of it was paper work, classification and that sort of thing, and you lost sight of the more important things like dealing with people.
If you had it to do over again, would you choose a career in the Forest Service?
Yes, I sure would, because I've always liked working with the soil and growing things. I think that's more or less basic; if you like natural sciences and like working with plants and animals, you'll like working with the Forest Service because here you're dealing with growing things. Yes, I wouldn't change. A man has to like the outdoors, like the environment.
Annuities are getting better as time goes on, but even with the better annuities that we are getting now, as I said a little while ago, a young man should start some kind of saving program just as soon as he can.
Mr. Robert Ground was interviewed at his home in Tesuque, New Mexico. He started to work for the Forest Service in 1917 as an Administrative Guard at the old San Antone Ranger Station, where his brother was the Forest Ranger. After serving in World War I, Bob returned to the Carson: took the Ranger examination, and received an appointment as Ranger on the Jicarilla District. Bob tells some of his experiences:
What was life like when you started in?
There's quite a difference between that time and now. We'd go up there to these Ranger Stations and of course we had to have horses. We didn't have any cars when we first started out, and every trip was either by foot, or on a horse. Of course we didn't have near the office work in those days that they have now. Most of it was pretty much field work.
Now on the Jicarilla you didn't have much timber work, either, did you?
No, the only thing I had over there was small, commercial sales, S-22 and such as that. Just a very little. Probably wouldn't have over 20 or 30 sales a year.
Your work was mostly range work?
That's what it was, yes, mostly riding, checking sheep, cattle, and such as that. Of course at that time we had lots of trespass stock, especially on the Jicarilla. A lot of cattle would come in from the west side, and at that time over there there were a lot of wild horses, too. Runnin' just as wild as a deer. But it was practically, most of the work was practically just grazing, field work.
How did you get rid of the wild horses?
Well, people used to come in there and chase 'em some, and catch some of 'em. But the final outcome of course was after I left there; people came in and killed 'em, shot 'em. But they were rounding up some of them. They'd run the horses; several people would get after them and they'd run, and kill a good horse to get a poor one. I've seen 'em run; a lot of people got a lot of sport out of that, runnin' wild horses.
There wasn't any game in that country at that time. There was practically no deer, practically no turkey well, I saw one little bunch of turkeys. I don't think I saw a deer all the time I was over there. There was a lot of predatory animals, lots and lots of coyotes, and quite a few cats. That country was overrun with coyotes, at that time.
That's strange, because that's good huntin' country now.
Oh yes, I know it is, but there wasn't I saw up just in one corner, west of Laguna Seco, I saw a few deer tracks up there. That's the only place I saw deer tracks up there. That's the only place I saw deer tracks all the time I was over there. Practically no deer, you might say. Just a very few. But since then, now they've got deer all over the country, they tell me.
Well, Bob, that was pretty isolated country in those days.
Oh yeah. At that time it was kind of wild country. People around there, everybody carried a gun, and everybody that rode much always carried guns on their saddles. One fellow came up there: later on he killed a fellow, after I left there. He came up there carryin' a gun on his saddle, went up to Vaqueros to stay all night with me there at the Ranger Station. Yeah, they were wild then. A lot of stealing going on.
Cattle and horses both?
Yeah, mostly cattle. But if you had a good horse you had to watch him.
Well, what was the attitude of the local people over there towards a Ranger, towards the Forest Service?
Well, of course at that time on the Jicarilla, there was only about twelve people on the District, little homesteaders. And at that time I think it was very good. They had a few cattle. Most of the homesteaders had goats over on the Cabresto. At that time I think it was pretty good. Never had any trouble with the permittees or anything like that. There were a lot of people on the outside infringing on us.
There wasn't much fencing, was there?
None at all at that time. No fencing at all.
How did you control trespassing?
Just tryin' to run 'em down, run 'em out and make 'em quit trespassing, that's all. Continue ridin'; that's all you could do.
Did you have many court cases?
Yeah; I had about three cases. I think it was, something like that. Had one old fellow over there, that's all he did, this Manual Trujillo; I think I had three cases on that one man, cattle trespass. Of course there was a lot of 'em we never even got, but then there was a lot of it goin' on.
And then of course the sheep going across on the driveway from the Indian Reservation, we checked em across. It was about six or seven miles of driveway there. Didn't have much trouble with those, though; once in a while they'd stop.
Then, while I was over there, of course they enlarged the Jicarilla District. If I remember, there was about three miles in width from Vernus Canyon north that they added to the District. We spent about two or three days running that out, over through those big old bluffs there. Some places you go down through those rocks there and you'd get down and you couldn't get back. A feller had better know where he was goin', cause you could sure jump off of rocks that high; bluffs. We spent about three days in there on that, with a camp outfit.
Well, being right adjoining the Apache Indians, did they give you any trouble?
No, no, they didn't give us any trouble. Sometimes their horses they had a lot of horses at that time and once in a while they'd get over on our side, but not very much. They didn't give us any trouble you might say. At least while I was there.
With all those people carryin' guns, did any of 'em ever pull a gun on you?
No, they never did. Of course I did just like they did; I got guns and carried a gun, too. I carried a gun there. Never had to use it. I scared a man down there pretty bad one time, there was a fellow by the name of Bischler he was supposed to be a bad man, horse thief run him out of the country once and he come back. I rode down around his place there on a barefooted horse after a rain. I just scared the life out of him; he saw my tracks but I never really had any trouble.
Loveridge come over and wanted me to go down to El Vado and go out and take some pictures of the Indian timber-cutting and also some of the Forest Service on the Santa Fe Forest. So I went down there and then rode out on the log train and took quite a few pictures of the Indian operations, just cuttin' everything; everything that would make a log they were cutting. Well, on the Santa Fe it was just altogether different. Of course there was quite a lot of big trees, seed trees, on the Santa Fe operation the Forest Service'd leave quite a few trees there, with maybe four or five logs in it, good young thrifty trees, but it was just the other way on the Apache Reservation. They was takin' everything.
Did they have a forester there?
Yeah; had two of 'em there part of the time, but they believed in cuttin' everything they could find. I might have some of those old pictures around here yet; I don't know just where they are, but some of that cutting.
They'd be interesting to see.
I spent, I don't know just how long I did spend down there, but I went down there and spent two or three days takin' pictures and millin' around. It strikes me that I made two trips down there, but it's been so long ago now that I don't quite remember. You see that was along about 1920 or '21; 1920. I think.
When you left there, you went to San Antone?
Yeah; that's right. At the time I went to the San Antone, our authorization for sheep was 52,000 head.
On that one District?
On the San Antone; not the Tres Piedras, just the San Antone. As I remember I might be wrong about the cattle but as I remember it was about 3,500 head of cattle and horses. And then in 1921 I think that was the last year we dipped sheep up there; we dipped over 100,000 sheep. Of course they weren't all off the Forest, some of 'em were outside. But at the station there at San Antone, we dipped over 100,000. Now I think their authorization is down to about 30,000, something like that, and that's on the two districts, the Tres Piedras and the San Antone. At that time, I don't remember what the Tres Piedras was, but that was just for the San Antone 52,000. We had sheep behind every sagebrush up there.
What was the condition of the range then, Bob?
Well, some of it looked pretty rough, but some parts of it, where they had bunch grass, it didn't look so bad because sheep won't eat much of it unless they're forced to it. Of course I was kinda new at that time: maybe I didn't know much about range conditions. But as I remember the Los Pinos area, and goin' over to the Brazos to fish, why you'd drag your feet in the bunchgrass in the stirrups, it was up so high. But there's no doubt there was a lot of places just overgrazed. And the losses of stock, especially in the spring, was awful heavy, 'cause they'd run in there to lamb in April, and time after time they were caught in snowstorms you know. The sheep would come in very poor cause they'd run 'em on the outside there. They'd come in poor and one of those snowstorms would hit and they'd go down and couldn't get up, a lot of 'em. I've lifted up a lot of 'em but a lot of the others never did get up. The losses were heavy. And the pinguay was bad. Then, as time rolled around, the pinguay come out and they had heavy losses. It was pretty rough about that time.
Were there any conflicts between the sheep and cattle people?
Not very much, no. At that time a lot of the sheepmen had cattle, too, run both classes of stock, and there wasn't so much at that time. Once in a while there might be a little trouble.
How did you handle the sheep grazing; did you make routes on the maps, and so on?
Yes, we had these contour maps and then we had each allotment drawn off on there, showing boundaries, and ridges. As much as we could we used well-defined lines like ridges or canyon, creeks, such as that, and assigned these fellows to the various quadrants.
Then have to ride to see that they stayed there.
Yes; that's right. Of course we had a lot of trouble; they wanted to stay too long in one place, and we just had to ride, ride, ride, all the time, or they'd have, especially the sheep, they would have their camps established and they might keep 'em there for two weeks in one place.
Did you have an established policy on how long they could stay?
No, well, yeah, we had a policy; three nights was supposed to have been in one place. Of course most of the time they were a week or ten days at a place, cause you couldn't keep right on all of 'em. We had quite a little trouble in that respect.
I was a Ranger up at San Antone until 1928. Then they transferred me down to Tres Piedras and they consolidated those two districts. I still had San Antone, but they was all in one, and my headquarters there was at Tres Piedras. So then I was there until 1942 when I went to Pecos.
When you came over on the Pecos, it was still mostly grazing, wasn't it?
Yeah, yeah. You see I took over the Lower Colonias District, the Lower Pecos. We did have a little timber work. Most of it when I first went down there was wood sales, props, and sometimes, and such as that, stulls. And later on, though, it was, before I left there I had one or two sawmills. Of course I was only on that part of the District for about a year, or a little over, maybe. I think it was '43 when I took over the Upper Pecos.
Was the Pecos Wilderness established when you went there?
Yes, it was already established.
Already proclaimed. You had some dealings, then, with the trail riders?
Well, there wasn't any at that time; didn't have trail rides in the early part. Later on the trail riders come on the Pecos. I was out on trail rides. They were very nice. Enjoyed 'em very much.
I guess you were there when they started the hunts, the elk hunts, up there.
Well, I think they had started, actually, a year or two before. I don't know just what year they started, but it was a year or two before I got there. I know I wasn't the first one, 'cause I heard Johnson tellin' about hunting up there,
Have you been on an elk hunt up there lately?
No, haven't been on an elk hunt since I left the Forest Service. I went up there in I guess it was in 1955 that I went up with a couple of fellows just to show 'em the country more or less, a couple of fellows from Mississippi. I believe it was Mississippi. Anyway, they got a couple of elk and I haven't been up in that country since.
Goin' back to my first year up on the San Antone as Assistant along in 1917, I drove a team of horses up on top of the San Antone Mountains, in a hack, hauling sand up there no roads. There was sand and cement, packed water up there, and then I helped build that cabin up there. Of course I don't suppose that cabin's up there now. I don't know: I haven't looked for it in quite a long while. Of course they have a jeep road up there now. They built one. But at that time there wasn't anything up there. You had to pick your way out. And then comin' back, I just slid off. Come straight down wherever we could get through the timber. Yeah that was in 1917.
Guess there weren't any elk there at all then?
No. There had been elk there, but there wasn't any at that time. We found horns there. About 1935, we got in twelve elk and they were in bad shape; they'd brought 'em in from Oklahoma. When they got up there they were poor and when we turned them loose a storm hit there and three or four of 'em died. Then the following year they brought in another batch, and they'd been crated individually and they were in good shape. But there was one old cow there that was sick, and she finally got down, so rather than just let her lay there and die, I killed her with a markin' axe. Expect that's the only elk that was ever killed with a markin' axe. Then a little later that summer they brought in another four, and that's the original stock that's up there now. I guess they've got quite a few of 'em up there now. They furnish pretty good hunting,
Well Bob, some of the stories you used to tell around the campfire can you remember any?
Well, I can tell you one; it's in Elliott Barker's book about when I was a kid. The two Barker boys, Marion and Omar, they were about my age or a little younger then I was I think I was the oldest one; we decided we were goin' on a bear hunt. So we got three burros; had two of as packed and took one of 'em along for bear bait. We packed over the range out from the Sapillo.
We were crossin' the mountain and got into an awful rain storm, lightning storm. As we started to come down the west side, it just poured rain, with lots of lightning and thunder. One of the packs on the burros slipped and rolled over, so we stopped to fix that, There was mud and it was on a steep hillside. I told the other two kids, Omar and Marion, I says, "Let's take the burros down the hill there," a little farther down there was a little flat place, about 20 yards or something like that, where we could work on it: it was steep where we were. So, one of the kids held the saddle up on the side of the burro, and the other pulled the burro down there, and we straightened out our pack and put it on.
We'd just finished tightening it when lightning hit a stump up there not five feet from where we'd been 'rastlin' that burro. It hit that stump, right on the trail. Well, all I saw was a big ball of fire. My horse run off down the hill and left me standin' there. Marion had his hand on the butt of the gun; he'd already got on his horse, and that lightning just burned his hand on that metal. Gosh, there was just us three big, overgrown kids up there. We finally went on down to Pecos there and the rest of the day I just don't know, we were just in a shock.
That was a narrow escape.
We went down there then and camped at Mora Flats. We killed us a burro there: went up in the canyon and killed us a burro and built a pen around it, set a trap there, and each morning the three of us kids would go up there with our guns all loaded, ready for bear but no bear. So finally I told the other kids I had to go home. Marion and Omar decided they'd leave the trap set and they'd come back in two or three days and look at it. Of course they did and when they come back to look at the trap, they had caught a cow!! Finally she got out. So that was the end of our bear hunt.
We haven't talked about the watershed any. Thinkin' about your first district over there on the Jicarilla, all those gullies Were they there?
Yeah. They were already there. I'll tell you, that was the hardest country to ride when I first went over there of any country I was ever in. Because these gullies, the walls of 'em were ten or fifteen feet high and you couldn't cross 'em just anywhere. Sometimes, like goin' on the Bancos, goin' down the main stream, well there were arroyos there from 50 to 100 yards across, and on the high banks, and quicksand in the middle there, then on the hillside, rimrocks. And until you've learned the country, I think that's the hardest place on earth to get anywhere. Had to know where you could cross, on account of the quicksand, high banks, and the rimrocks. I tell you, the first year I was there of course I wasn't there very long, but it took me about a year to find out how to get around. It was a small District, and after you learned where you could cross and where you couldn't why then it wasn't so bad.
Mr. Lee Beall was interviewed at his summer home in Lincoln, New Mexico. Lee was a Texas cowboy who came to New Mexico in 1915 to work on the TJ Ranch. After World War I, in which he served as an expert mule packer, Lee returned to the Gila country. He worked at various jobs on the McKenna Park District (now Wilderness District); Big Burros District (now part of Silver City District); and on the Mimbres District. He took and passed the Ranger examination at Silver City and was appointed an Assistant Ranger. In that capacity, Lee worked on the Gila on the Kingston (now Black Range) and Dry Creek (now Glenwood) Districts.
His first Ranger District was on the Lincoln; the Guadalupe District with headquarters at Queens. That was in 1920. In 1926 he transferred to the Mesa Ranger Station and then later to Capitan (now Smokey Bear District). From Capitan he went to Mayhill for a short time, then was transferred to the Lincoln Forest Supervisor's office. There he completed his service as the Grazing Staffman. Lee recalls a couple of incidents from his days on the Guadalupe District:
There is quite a history to the first tank that was put in that area. The way it got its name was that this man would go in there after rains and tank while the water lasted, then he'd go out and wait for the next year's rain to come. So that was the way Panama got its name. The man's wife he was a man by the name of Weens first started the development of the Panama Ranch she said it had taken as long to build the tank as it had the Panama Canal, so it became the Panama Ranch.
I remember one time when every permittee on the District went broke except two.
That was because of the drouth?
Yes, it was because of the drouth and the prices for cattle. Willard Bates didn't go broke, and a man by the name of Mike Errivarni, a sheepman, didn't go broke; everybody else went broke closed out. After the loan companies got through chousing them around, they made some kind of settlement and got their ranches back. None of them ever signed a waiver. At that time they had these loans and none of them signed the grazing waiver, so they all had their grazing preferences and no cattle left.
That was another time I talked too much. I told the permittees not to sign grazing waivers unless they wanted to lose their ranches. They all stood pat and didn't sign waivers. After they had gotten those loans and gone broke, they still had their preferences on the Forest even after they were closed out by the banks.
Now, about the erosion, do you attribute much of it to timber work? You know some of the country down there is pretty badly eroded.
Yes, I know it is. But if we could solve our grazing problems, timber sales wouldn't be erosion wouldn't be so bad.
You lay it more to grazing than to timber-cutting?
On the majority of the ranges, yes. And to concentration of water. When I took over the Guadalupe District, Willard Bates had about 2,000 head of cattle on that Panama Allotment, most of them big steers. Those big steers would trail four or five miles for water over that rough country. You could look away out across the country and see a bunch of 'em coming' in and the dust of lyin'. Once he got down to where he had water in only two tanks. All those cattle had to water in two different places.
That would really cause concentration!
You bet. Well, that's what you get into down there, all the tanks drying up but one, or something like that, and all the cattle piling in on that one watering place. That causes trouble.