My First Time to Jingle
(An Enchanted Morning in and Enchanted Land)
"Ranger, Ranger, wake up, Ranger it's time to go!" shouted Tucker. I heard this distant booming voice, and felt the world shake beneath me. Being very tired from the previous late night's "boy talk," I was not sure of what I was hearing or what I was seeing. Slowly my mind began to churn and I began to remember. I was in the Clarks Fork bunkhouse and this morning it was my first time to herd in a remuda of horses, or "jingle" as the old cowboys here in Northern New Mexico called it. The excitement began to build. I was nineteen years old; the world as I knew it was pure, new, and full of adventure. This day was starting out with great excitement.
"Come on, Ranger! It's getting late. Grab your rigging and let's go! You ride Double S!" commanded Tucker. Lying in my bunk that had just been shaken to near collapse, and now wearing my glasses, I could see the back of Tommy Tucker as he walked away. I remember well the sound that he made, as we all did, when we walked in this old bunkhouse. The floor was so worn from time that its wooden planks, which had never seen paint, were wavy. No matter how many times a day you swept the floor it always remained dusty and dirty-looking from all the mud that had been tracked in over the years. When you walked there was this hollow echo which was enhanced by the grinding of the dirt into dust, and the musical metal jingle of spurs on the heavy cowboy boots we wore.
Quickly I glanced around the bunkhouse taking note of all the nails that had been driven into the walls by previous inhabitants on which to hang their clothes or other items. Though many nails were empty, nails continued being driven into the wooden walls as though someday they might all join as one continuous nail. The smell of the bunkhouse,
even though it was quite airy, was a mixture of old leather, dust, and body odors laced with a light scent of aftershave lotion.
The aftershave was used in the place of a shower. The showers were a half mile from the bunkhouse. There was no hot water and the walk back produced the same body odors that the showers took away.
"Ranger, hurry up,” barked Tucker. I quickly walked to the grain room that was located at the end of the bunkhouse, and grabbed a feed bag. I then walked to the tack room to gather my rigging, which had been selected for me because of its weight. It was ten pounds heavier than a normal saddle, making the horse believe that a bigger and meaner person was sitting upon his back. Coming out of the tack room door was like taking a step back in time. It was just before sunrise and the light had not yet reached the trees that surrounded the bunk house. The early morning mountain air was chilled crisp to the point that you could see your breath before you. I carefully approached Double S, my ride for this morning. I slipped the feed bag over his nose and gave him a reassuring stroke on the neck. I swung my rigging onto his back, positioning it and cinching it tight. I waited for Double S to finish his feed bag. I looked around the corral and saw Tucker, who was checking Concho for loose shoes. Tucker had been raised on many ranches as a child and always knew what to do when it came to horses. Double S finished his grain. I slipped on the bridle, checked the cinch one more time for tightness, and swung into the saddle. I waited for Tucker. I was to ride as a bumper. Concho, who put on a rodeo show every morning, needed another horse and rider to ride alongside to calm him down because he had been broke as a cold back and not gentled as the new horse are today. As soon as Tucker's weight hit the saddle Concho began bucking. As we rode out the gate together Concho gave one last kick and we were on our way.
We rode in silence Tucker being of few words and not to disturb the serenity of the mountains and the feeling of peace that surrounded us. We rode our horses to a little knoll just above the main pasture over looking the hay racks and waited for the sun to rise over the
mountain ridge in front of us. As the sun's rays approached I could see the horses in the pasture below. Before me appeared a painting so vivid in color that no artist could duplicate, nor a writer ever describe, its beauty. Now I knew why they called New Mexico the "land of enchantment."
"Sixty-one, three are missing. Let's ride!" as Trucker snaps the bull whip in the air. The sharpness of Tucker's voice woke me from a feeling of grace that I have known only a few times in my life. For the next hour we rode hard, gathering renegade horses and herding them back to the corral, the bunk house, and a welcome hot cup of campfire coffee. The other wranglers were up and waiting. While they grained and saddled the horses for the day's work ahead, I was told to go look for the three horses which were missing. I reined Double S back down the trail that I had ridden earlier that morning. For me this was a blessing. I rode back to the knoll, dismounted and sat in silence for some time knowing I would soon be in trouble for being so long. My thoughts returned to the vision of that early morning. I "jingled" many times that summer of 1968, but never again would I see or feel the experiences of that first time and that morning in the same way. The lasting impression of that one moment in time has never gone away for it was truly an enchanted morning in an enchanted land.