Clifford Call and his wife came to our church Sunday.
As I shook hands with him I remembered him as a little boy in my scout
troop many years ago. He also commented that he remembered some of the
trips we made as scouts.
I then told him the following Story: My first year in
High School at the Academia Juarez I signed up for an Algebra class
under Velan Call (Clifford's father) We were all expecting Brother
call to be a hard as nails Algebra teacher. When he walked into the
class room he had a big smile on his face and stopped right in front
of the class and with a boyish grin he said, "I have a question for
you". We all waited in anticipation of what we thought would be a
tough Algebra question. His grin spread a little wider as he asked,
"WHY IS A COW"? He then turned and got out the Algebra text and
proceeded with an explanation of what we would be studying. We all
looked around at each other and didn't know exactly what to think of
our new teacher.
I have thought of this question through the years and
now I can see that even a simple question that was meant to be funny
has many profound answers. Why is a Cow? Why is Man? A simple answer
would be they are both part of God's work and His Glory. To bring to
pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
The cow was among the beasts that God placed on the
earth for the use of man. Talk to any Cattleman and he will tell you
that the cow is the most useful animal in the world. In India the cow
is considered to be sacred and is protected as such.
The Dairy Cow produces milk. Milk and milk products are
being used in all the world as a very essential food. The Bible
mentions a good land as flowing with Milk and Honey.
When I was a little boy we used to have big Rodeos here
in Dublan. They were held at the Rodeo corrals they had built in a
vacant lot out across the tracks east of the Flour Mill.
The Cowboys would come from all of the colonies to
compete and participate in those big Rodeos. The Main participants
from Dublan were Uncle Loren Taylor and his Brother Uncle Harvey
Taylor. They always ranked high in the Team roping. The mountain boys
usually were the best riders.
I remember John Wood, Enos Wood's brother, would put on
a beautiful show with his well trained horses. He would come into the
arena on a dead run and slide his horse to a stop and back up. Then
whirl him around showing off his good handling and light reign. Then
the Horse would bow low to the crowd. John would get off and speak to
his horse and the horse would lay down and play dead. John would sit
on his stomach with his feet between the horses' legs. I thought that
was wonderful that a horse could learn to do such things.
I remember after these Rodeos LaSelle Taylor and I
would act it out in our play, being the cowboys and roping in the
Rodeo. I would ride my Stick Horse down to LaSelle's home. I would
have my Lasso Rope coiled up on my saddle ready for use. That rope was
a mill string about five feet long with a good sized nail tied on the
end of it.
In our play one of us would run whirling our rope
around our head and throw it and stick that nail firmly into the
ground. Then we would back up to hold the cow. The other would run up
and throw his Lasso Rope and stick that nail close to the other one.
That would be lassoing the cow by the hind feet. Then we would get off
our stick horses and release the cow by pulling up the nails. Then we
would ride to the next cow that we needed to doctor for Screw
Another memory is that I would get up early in the
morning and go down to help LaSelle milk his cows. Uncle Loren kept
about eight milk cows to milk and take the extra milk to the Cheese
factory. I guess my parents let me do this so I could learn how to
milk cows. Laselle was good at milking and would milk most of the cows
while I was struggling to finish one or two cows. I learned to milk
really well and it served me for the rest of my life.
After milking the cows LaSelle would saddle up his
pretty little Pinto Pony. The Pony's name was Sarco because he had two
Sarco eyes. A Sarco eye is an eye that is a bluish white color. I
later learned that "Agua Sarca" was water that was a milky bluish
white color like in many of the mountain streams.
We would turn the cows out and drive them up the farm
in San Isidro. LaSelle would get on Sarco and let me mount up behind
him. How I enjoyed those rides driving the cows up to the farm. On the
way back I would wind the saddle strings around my hands so as to hold
on when LaSelle would let that little pony out to run at top speed. I
remember the feel of those hind legs vibrating under me. LaSelle would
lean forward and let out his pony in a dead run and I would lean back
holding very tight to the saddle strings. I soon leaned to ride well
and could relax and enjoy those runs on old Sarco.
During the depression years all of the farmers in
Dublan had from twenty to thirty dairy cows. The milk was taken to the
Cheese factory which was a cooperative business owned by the farmers
of Dublan. That milk check that came twice each month was what kept
their farms going and it's what fed their families during those very
hard years. The cheese became famous all over Mexico. Ara Call
developed a blended Craft Cheese that was very good and was sold in
wooden boxes labeled Queseria de Dublan. The Cows kept Dublan alive
during those years.
After we were both married and raising our families in
Dublan we lived out the dreams we had as small boys on Stick Horses.
LaSelle and Chato would come out to the Ranch and help me Doctor the
Cows that had pink eye. We would rope the cow by the head and the hind
feet and stretch her out and get off and doctor the sore eyes. We got
a lot of practice roping and it helped us in competing in the Rodeos
held in the Ranchito bull ring in Casas Grandes.
Soon after Naoma and I were married we bought a milk
cow that was crossed with Holstien and Jersey. We named her Josca
because of her dark Josca color. She gave very good rich milk and I
fed her well. I would go out to the corral of the Old Bowman Home and
take Old Josca a pan of Moistened bran to eat while I was milking her.
I would bring in a bucket full of rich milk and strain it and put it
in two quart size bottles and place it in the refrigerator. Naoma
would take the rich cream off the top of the bottle before using the
milk and use the cream to make butter and have whipped cream for our
desserts. We supplied our family and Dad and Mother with milk, butter,
Ice Cream, Cheese and Cottage Cheese from that cow. She provided a
very important part of our food at that time.
Later as the boys came along they learned to milk and
were given the responsibility of milking and taking care of the cows.
We always had cows during all of the years that our family was growing
up. The boys developed strong hands and learned responsibility. They
had to get up early in the morning before school and milk the cows and
then get ready for School. They would be ready for family prayers with
the rest of the family before all of us sat down together to have a
hot breakfast. Then in the evening no matter what time they got home
from school or activities they had to milk the cows.
That was a very important time in our lives and our day
began with all of us eating and visiting together and it ended with a
good hot meal at night usually all sitting down together again.
At that time I am sure that many times our boys
wondered, "Why is a Cow" but in later years they realized the growth
and development they received from having that chore of milking the
About fifty years ago we took over the Ranch around the
lake and began taking care of the cattle and running the Ranch. We
learned the importance of cattle in the world especially in Mexico and
the United States. A good part of the economy of the State of
Chihuahua is based on the business of raising cows and the cattle
At the time we took over the ranch I needed a good
saddle. I went up to the saddle shop that was run by Edgar Wagner at
that time. It was a very important business that was supplying Leather
from the Tannery and Saddles, Harnesses, shoes and all kinds of
leather goods for this whole region.
I went to see my dear friend Nacho Ruiz who was a
skilled saddle maker who had learned under the teaching of Brother
Alvin Coon. Bother Coon was the master craftsman of the whole leather
shop. I told Nacho I wanted him to make me a very good saddle for my
own use. He made the tree and covered it with wet rawhide and when it
dried it shrank and tightened around the wood of the Saddle Tree
making it very strong and durable. He selected the leather from the
very best tanned cow hides and made me a beautiful strong durable
saddle. I used that saddle on the ranch and in the mountains, roping
big heavy animals and it never broke. I still have it in good
condition. I used it in all kinds of weather and under many different
conditions. I used it hunting with heavy saddle bags on behind with a
Rifle on one side and a shot gun on the other with a big dear tied on
behind the saddle. The Scabborts for the guns were made of tanned cow
When we were going hunting on Emilio Burgos' Ranch Don
Panchito Peña was usually with us to take care of the animals, do the
packing and help us in our camp.
He told me that he wanted to make me an "Aparejo". We
went to the Tannery and selected two full cow hides of tanned leather
and a sheet of soft leather for the inside and for strings to sew
with. He made me an Aparejo stitching it all by hand with the finest
workmanship. On the cover he stitched my brand on the back corner of
each side. The eight inch wide Tarria or tail piece that goes back
from the adjustable straps in the middle of the Aparejo across the
mule's hip where there is no movement, he decorated it with an inlaid
mule on one side and my brand inlaid on the other side. It was made of
two thicknesses of heavy cow hide leather. The tail piece that goes
under the tail is made of soft smooth leather stuffed with horse hair.
He also made me a heavy Carona or pad to go on the mule's back under
the Aparejo. The Cinch was a six inch leather strap that went around
the Aparejo with a wide braided horse hair cinch that went under the
belly of the mule. In the end of the cinch was a big D ring that was
used to run the Latigo through to tighten the cinch and secure the
Aparejo around the mule's mid section. The Latigo was secured to the
other end of the wide leather strap of the cinch in an adjustable ring
to be able to adjust to the girth of the mule. He made me a Raw-hide
Riata Carguera or Pack Rope with a leather cinch on one end with a
Manzanita Hook on it. The leather cinch went under the mule's belly
exactly on the wide braided horse hair cinch. The Riata carguera was
hooked into the hook and thrown back over to form the Diamond hitch.
When all was in place and tightened down the pack could go all day
without having to be adjusted. He completed the outfit with a braided
horse hair hackamore and lead rope.
This Aparejo worked so well for packing all kinds of
pack stuff that I asked Don Panchito to make me four more Aparejos.
From watching him make these Aparejos I decided to make one on my own
which I did. It turned out very well so now I had six complete
Aparejos with all of the corresponding equipment. We used this
equipment for many years and I still have the ones that Don Panchito
made. They are stored in good condition waiting to be passed on to my
sons.The leather from those well tanned cow hides really lasts and is
When I first started to rope on the Ranch Don Panchito
gave me a six strand Riata or Braided Raw Hide Rope. It was about 3/8
of an inch in diameter and had very good weight for roping and
especially for heeling. It was strong enough to hold a big fat cow if
you dallied around the horn and let it slide just a little to lessen
the solid jerk. I used that rope for a long time until I wore it
I asked Don Panchito to teach me how to braid Riatas so
I could braid my own. We went to the Rastro or Slaughter house and
bought a fresh cowhide. We selected a big Brahman Cross cow hide that
would be best for a good Riata. We took it home and cut off the legs
leaving it almost round. We staked it out on the lawn to dry for a few
days. We watched until it was just stiff enough to cut without bending
and not so hard that the it would be hard to cut.
He showed me how to start at the outer edge cutting a
half inch wide strip going around and around the hide until it was all
used up and we had one big long strip of raw hide with the hair on. We
put it in water over night to soak up and get soft. We then stretched
it back and forth between two trees that were about fifty feet apart.
It stretched into a round string with the hair on the outside. When it
was dry and hard we took it down to shave off the hair. We found a
bunch of dark glass empty beer bottles and broke them in pieces using
the sharp edges of the glass to shave off the hair of the Raw Hide
string with out cutting the string. It was easy because the raw hide
was very hard and would not cut easily.
After two or three days of work shaving off the hair we
put all of the raw hide strip back in the water to soak up and get
soft and pliable again. We procured a Walnut log about 5 inches in
diameter and four feet long. We put half of it into the ground to hold
it solid with the good end about two feet off the ground. We filed a
nice smooth groove in the top of the rounding end. We buried a big
sharp knife in the wood so that the cutting edge was in one side of
the groove at the width that we wanted for the size of the wet soft
raw hide strip. We then carefully pulled the strip through the groove
cutting of the surplus raw hide leaving us an even strip of raw hide
about 3/8 of and inch wide. We then went through the process again
with the flesh side toward the knife giving us a very long strip about
1/16 of and inch in thickness through out the whole length of the
strip. We now had an even strip of raw hide about two hundred feet
We next divided it into four equal lengths. We put them
together and tied it in the middle with a strong nylon string. We then
greased each sting from each end to the middle with cow tallow. Then
we rolled up each strip from the end to the center into a weavers
knot. That left us four balls of raw hide strip hanging from each side
of the center that we had hung from a solid rafter in the back
He showed me how to start braiding in the middle,
braiding the four strands into a round smooth tightly braided rope. We
had to braid one strand over and wrap the slippery strip around a
pulling stick and tighten it with all of my weight. As the braiding
progressed and we tightened each strand the greased strips hardened
into a round solid and very strong Riata. We started at the middle so
that the finished rope would not twist but would always remain
I spent many evenings braiding that rope keeping the
strands moist and greased with cow tallow to facilitate getting an
even, hard round rope. When I was through for the night I would wrap
the balls of raw hide in a damp cloth and plastic so that they would
not dry out. When I finally finished braiding I put a braided loop in
the end and sewed a raw hide Honda in it for the rope to run through
and not wear out the loop. On the other end I secured the stands by
passing them through a slit in the strand next to it. That way there
would not be a knot in the end of the rope to tear your hand if it
happened to slid through your hand.
When it was all finished it was a beautiful, strong and
useful Riata. It took me a long time to make it and it was so much
work that I decided that I would not use it for roping so as not to
wear it out. I finally gave it to one of my daughters as an heirloom
for her to keep as long as it would last.
I have tried to answer by this epistle that question of
long ago. "Why is a Cow". I have learned how the Raw Hiders could live
on the proceeds of a cow. Making their Teguas and Huaraches their
Chaps and Riatas. Their saddles, bridles and harnesses. They made
almost everything they used out of the things derived from a cow
including a good share of their meat and food.