Life of a cowboy
edited: Sunday, April 30, 2006
By Marie Wadsworth
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, April 30, 2006
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Published in the News-Sun on Feb. 8, 2006, and by Associated Press.
ANTELOPE RIDGE -- Those who know him might describe Bert Madera as a modern cowboy.
The 62-year-old Lea County cowboy looks like your typical cowboy with the weather-worn hat, dust on his jeans and spurs on his boots.
Unlike the legends of the past, Madera uses many of today's modern conveniences including eletricity, cell phones and the Internet. He uses quite a bit of starch on his clothes -- so much so that they can stand by themselves in a corner.
But it wasn't until the past few decades that he even had the use of such comforts.
He lived without electricity on his 35,000-acre ranch 35 miles west of Jal until 1960, which was around the same time his family got a TV. It wasn't until 1989 that a phone was installed at the ranch and he couldn't get online until last month.
But Madera said these items are practically necessities these days.
"We're way out in the country and it takes awhile for help to get to us," he said. "So you want a cell phone in case of emergencies."
Growing up cowboy
Madera comes from a long line of cowboys. His grandfather and father, Rubert, who was inducted in the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, started Pitchfork Cattle Company in Lea County in 1932.
He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and Lea cowboys Tuffy Cooper and Tom Linberry as long as he could remember, Madera said. These men taught him the skills to become a successful rancher and cowboy.
"One of them said the hardest part of being successful is showing up everday," he said.
"He is a pretty good cowboy," Cooper said about Madera. "He wasn't a rodeo cowboy, but he's pretty good in a branding pen. He works cattle slow and easy and he always rides good. He's easy going and listens to his elders."
Country living is peaceful, Madera said, but it did make it difficult to go to school. He is the only youngster who had to be flown into Jal for school.
The 1961 graduate of Jal High School studied agriculture at New Mexioc State University and the University of Texas but he missed cowboying too much, so he returned to the life he love.
"Out here things don't talk back to you," he said. "The reason I like cowboying is no day is average. You just look around and be thankful for what you got."
Many believe that the cowboy lifestyles existed long ago, but Madera tells folks that if you want to find a cowboy you have to get off the road.
Cowboys tend to start when the sun comes up and quit when it gets dark, Madera said. After he wakes up at 6 a.m., he gets oriented, drinks a cup of coffee and takes vitamins. He doesn't bother to shower, he just heads out into the paster.
"No one cares whether I smell bad except my girlfriend," he said.
Madera's rather particular about how he dresses. He's careful about tucking his jeans inside his boots.
"There are two reasons I do that," he said. "I don't pick up grass burrs while I'm working in the pasture and my jeans don't rub my leg when I ride."
He also enjoys cooking outdoors in his cowboy kitchen that has a chuckwagon box, sink, barbecue grill, deep fat fryer and folding chair. He also build the bunkhouse behind his home. Due to its design, the toliet is immediately inside the door so the cowboy can sit there and watch the sun set.
As he walks around his yard, Madera notices some of his cattle have come in from the field. He identifies one longhorn cow named Bucko that's lived on the ranch for nine years. The cow's mother came from a heard at Big Bend National Park.
"We'll keep him till his horns quit growing," Madera said.
The cowboy culture is neighborly, Madera said. Cowboys always check on each other and help out with chores such as branding. Madera has a branding at his ranch every Easter.
Madera said he loves cowboying because he loves working with cattle and horses. He doesn't worry about things he can't control and knows that eventually it all works out.
"It's all in keeping things in balance," he said. "Sometimes we get the mistaken assumption that we're in charge. We're just caretakers. We can't own the land, we're just passing through."