Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, I was trying to ranch in the Chihuahuan Desert. I had about 50 sections of this type of country leased. Let me tell up front – the stocking rate was four cows to the section if you fed.

The area I speak of was where Pecos, Terrell and Brewster Counties all come together. The only difference between this country and a true desert was no sand but we had plenty roads to make up the difference.

I had tried sheep and goats but the predators took the profit out of that real soon. Therefore, I went to trying to raise cattle and let me say up front, this was not cattle country.

I tried several breeds and finally settled on Longhorns. They would travel the rocky country, eat the desert plants, walk five miles for a drink of water and produce a calf every 10 months. Not perfect but the best I could do on this range.

This tale has to do with some yearling heifers that I cut off from the herd and put up on the north side next to the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Now the fences were good and the heifers did well. I saw then about every third day while checking the water.

This tale concerns the S.P. right-of-way along the north side of the pasture.

Now this right-of-way is open from end to end, no cross fences, no gates, just a piece of land.

This is no problem for the railroad as they don’t run any cows on the lane!

One afternoon, I got a phone call from a Mr. C.E. Cox who ranched on the railroad about 25 miles west of me. He informed me that he had 12 head of Longhorn heifers with my brand on them in his pen and would I come get them.

I looked at the cattle and agreed they were mine but wondered how they got that far away?

Mr. Cox reminded me of the railroad lane and stated that a train had scared the cattle and they had stampeded over the fence and ran all the way to his ranch where he penned them!

I thanked him for being a good neighbor and loaded my heifers and left for home The next morning, I saddled a horse and went to ride the fence.

I found where these cattle had bedded down in the corner of the pasture next to the railroad tracks.

Apparently, the train engine had spooked them while asleep and they broke to run over the fence.

I rode out into the right-of-way and checked the tracks. The cattle had left in high run so it would appear that Mr. Cox was right about the cause of this.

I repaired the fence and did not put any cattle next to the railroad from then on as long as I stayed there.