Joe N. Brown
Joe N. Brown

As I have lived in West Texas for most of my life, I will try to recall some tales of lighting strikes that I experienced or heard first hand.

In 1957 I was enrolled in Sul Ross College at Alpine, Texas taking courses in Range Animal Husbandry. The school had bought a young Hereford bull from the Wyoming Hereford Ranch. The very best! But a decision was made to sell the bull due to wrong blood lines. I bid on this bull and bought him.

When I got him to the ranch I found out he was very wild and would not stay anywhere. To change this I put a large bell and collar on him. After not seeing this bull with the cows, I went horseback to find him. About 1 mile down the draw I found his carcass. He had been struck by lighting and killed. Probably because of that large bell!

Another time I had shod all my saddle horses getting ready to shear sheep in the spring. The next morning I sent the hands out to get the saddle horses in to work. The crew come in short of one horse. This was a old horse I called Taffy. Getting in my pickup I went around the horse trap after daylight. I found Taffy’s carcass at the foot of the hill. He had been running when struck by lighting as his nose was badly skinned. He had a one-inch burn down from his ears to his neck and down his front leg to his left hoof where a new iron shoe had been put on the day before.

Much later on I leased a ranch down on Maxon Canyon in Brewster County. I did not live there but came and went as necessary to tend to the cattle. I kept my favorite saddle mare named Honey there in the horse trap. I could not find my mare so I walked around the fence. Up where the trap cornered under a bluff where there were two mesquite trees I found Honey. She had been struck by lighting and was laying against the fence. I believe lighting hit the fence then hit Honey and killed her.

Many years later when I was working as a probation officer in Alpine, we had a young officer there from Marfa. He was raised on a ranch his father ran in Presidio County. On weekends he would go help his dad work cattle. One Monday morning he did not report for work. We called Marfa to find out where he was and why he did not report for work. His mother answered the phone and told us he had been struck by lighting Saturday morning and was in the hospital in Alpine. Going immediately there we found and talked to Emilio’s dad and brother. Their story was they were gathering cattle in a storm west of Marfa when they saw Emilio get hit by a lighting strike. Running to him, they found him unconscious on the ground and his horse was dead. Rushing him to the nearest hospital in Alpine they found he was only shocked into his state of unconsciousness. Emilio survived this hit and returned to work in the local probation office.

But from then on around the office we referred to him as, “Old Sparky!”