By Sharon McIntire The Wild West was built on grit and determination –and the yarns that were spun around the campfire.So tie up yer hoss and set a spell while I weave a tale about Ma’am Jones’fifth son, Sam.Most folks who enjoy New Mexico history have heard of Barbara Jones, known fondly as Ma’am Jones. In 1877 she and her husband Heiskell moved into a large abandoned adobe home in the Seven Rivers area with their 9 sons and one daughter. While her husband worked as a truck farmer and trader, this resourceful woman seemed to do everything else, and soon weary travelers would go out of their way to stop in and take advantage of her gracious welcome, warm hospitality, nursing skills, hearty food and, of course, good whiskey.Ma’am insisted that her children be educated and the family was instrumental in building a schoolhouse at Seven Rivers and hiring a teacher. Later it was rumored that Heiskell would take the children to school in Lincoln in a wagon. By the time he returned home in the morning, theyhad run over the mountain and beaten him home!Sammy was particularly horrified about this cruel and unusual form of punishment, and made it his mission to obtain freedom –at any cost.Things weren’t going too well and he was beginning to feel a bit desperate when he learned a new word: expulsion. Suddenly he had hope! Surely it couldn’t be too hard to get expelled!Opportunity presented itself one day when the Pecos flooded. In passing the cemetery, which was located on the bank of the Pecos, he noticed a grave that had been partially exposed by the flood, exposing a leg. Cutting that leg off at the knee, he headed off to school and deposited his prize in the teacher’s desk.The inquisition began, and he crafted his confession carefully. When he began to fear there was a danger of convincing the teacher of his innocence, he reluctantly confessed. The teacher unrolled a quirt and told
Sam to step to the front of the room. Shoot, what was a quirt in comparison with freedom? He accepted his punishment, and had the last word when he slapped the teacher.“An’ that fixed it,” he was reported to boast. “That was the day Igrad’juated. Didn’t get no sheepskin. My diploma was made outta rawhide,but it was wuth it!”Thus was listed in the census of1880:Haiskell Jones50laborerBarbara Jones42wifeWilliam Jones17son, cattle herder, singleThomas Jones12son, no occupationSamuel Jones10son, cannot writeDoctors were few and far between, so Ma’am Jones also learned that trade. It came in handy the day young Sammy fell headfirst over a mesquite root into some broken glass. Dragged into the house screaming hysterically, he was cleaned up while his mother got her sewing kit. She didn’t have much choice: the eyelid was dangling by a shred of skin. Unless she took care of it, he would lose the sight of thateye.It wasn’t the neatest job of sewing Ma’am had ever done, but Sammy kept the vision in both eyes for the rest of his life. It did bother him some, though, and he had a habit of puttingmentholatum around it when it would bother him. His wife Elizabeth reports that he once got up in the middle of the night and opened the tin to apply the soothing ointment.Imagine her surprise the next morning when she opened her eyes to see him coveredin boot black!With both eyes functioning more or less normally, Sam was back at it. One night a trader who spent the night announced that there would be a 4th of July rodeo in Roswell. Sam and his brother Nib (Charles Nebo) saddled up to check things out. On the way they met a man with a basket full of paper bags on his arm who announced that he was selling peanuts.
Sam and Nib had never seen a paper bag. “We’d never heard of them peanuts neither,” Sam said, “so we paid him a dime to get eddicated.”What a disappointment. “Them peanuts wasn’t nuthin’ but goobers, and we had bushels of them at home! We’d be took,” he said in disgust,“and we knowedit.”The situation was about to improve, however.“In them days ladies’ skirts touched the top of their shoes,” he observed. “So when a gal come a waddlin’ acrost the street with her skierts heisted plum to her knees, we begin to feel like we’d got our dime’s worth!”In addition, “she was wearin’ garters with big red flowers on them as big as my hand!”“You rope her,” said Nib, “and I’ll take ‘em off.”So I did. And hedid.Then they had some explaining to do. But, “When we told the judge how we’d been took, he just sorta grinned and turned us loose.”In 1883,Bill, Sam, and Frank moved to Rocky Arroyo and set up ranching. They ran their cattle from the Pecos River to the Guadalupe Mountains. At one time their herds were so large that they had over 500 horses in their remuda. Sam would be gone for months at a time, rounding up cattle and branding them.Some time in the early 1900s,a seven-year drought hit the Pecos Valley, affecting all of the ranchers in the area.Sam recalls a visit from his neighbor.“I was lower than a snake’s belly that evenin’ when Pete Corn rode up.He was a good man and a good neighbor, but I was all yaw-yaw ‘count of the drouth.”“Sammie,” he says, “We want you all to cook up and come over to the schoolhouse Sunday. We’re goin’ to have a all-day prayer meetin’.”
“Don’t know as you can count on us, “I tolehim. “What did you say thishere prayer meetin’ is fur?”“We’re gonna tell the Good Lord that we need a rain.”“Well,” I tole him, “iffen he don’t know it by now he’s a hell of a cowman.” Sam may not have been “eddicated” but he was a skilled horse trader. He isreported to have sold one of his horses to an Englishman named Lord Trayner. Included in the sale was a ranch, an adequate remuda, a wagon, saddles, and other necessary equipment.Sam waited for him to get down to the primary essential, but he apparently overlooked the idea of cattle. Eventually Sam convinced him that he needed not only the cattle, but a brand, and one of the youngest Jones boys, Bruce, to serve as his ranch foreman.At Bruce’s suggestion, Traynor bought a gentle horse, one that Bruce’sdaughter had learned to ride on.This mount, according to Bruce, didn’t throw him.It just walked out and left him.One morning Sam woke up to find the horse in question standing outside the gate. He turned him into the corral and waited.“Sammie, that horse I bought –he ran away,” Traynor complained. “Did?”“And I can’t get along without a horse.” “Sell you this one, Traynor,” Sam said. “Looks a lot like mine.”“Course he does. Same sire and dam.” “Gentle?” asked Traynor.“He’s as gentle as a dog, Traynor. $60.”
“That’s $10 more than I paid for the other one.” “This here’s a better hoss.”A few days later the horse returned again. Sam put a bell on him and turned him loose in the canyon. When Traynor came, Sam took him to a thicket where he could hear the tinkling, and showed him the horse.Traynor squinted and said that it looked like a fairly good animal, but not the equal of the last.Solemnly Sam informed him that he was mistaken: this was a bell horse and consequently worth more.“How much more?” “At least $25.”Traynor shook his head, but agreed to the purchase.Sam was married three times, and widowed three times. When his third wife, Elizabeth (Lib), became ill, they sold the ranch at Rocky Arroyo and moved to Carlsbad. Sam was 86 when he died, and his honorary pallbearers read like a Who’s Who of Carlsbad:Cicero Stewart, Ned Shattuck, Collin Gerrells, Arthur Forehand, Bill Queen, Jeff Farrell, Heartsill Martin, Perry Hutchison, and Babe Campbell.The conversations around the campfire must have been legendary that night.From”Ma’am Jones of the Pecos” by Eve Ball