Michael Says – Jan 6, 2014, Statehood plus 102 years

NMSU's Bill Gallacher, lower right
Today is New Mexico statehood day plus 102 years. I was thinking of William Gallacher, NMSU Class of 1908. He died at age 98 a few years ago. I drove out to his ranch North of Carrizozo in 1978 to ask him about the day New Mexico became a state.
     Since Bill was four years out of college by then he would be a perfect person to ask. I pictured writing a story about people firing guns in the air, firecrackers going off, dogs barking, people toasting statehood and speeches, “Our date with destiny and our place in the sun.
     New Mexico spent 60 years trying to become a state with one thing or another stalling our chances. In 1912 came statehood. Bill Gallacher’s neighbor, William McDonald was New Mexico’s first elected governor, and owner of the famous Bar W ranch also north of Carrizozo.
     Bill greeted me warmly and we sat over coffee at the kitchen table. Then I asked about statehood day. I told him my perception about the celebrations. He thought a moment and then leaned closer, as a school master would a student who was a slow learner, “Celebrations?” He remembered back all of those years and did not smile.
     “On the day we became a state I got up about an hour before dawn, had a little breakfast and at first light went out to tend to sick animals, kill coyotes and do all of chores that used up the entire day so that about an hour after sunset I came back and had a little supper and went to bed. I was cold, tired and hungry. I would not have gone into town for a celebration.
     “The truth is we never even noticed statehood for the first 25 years or so. Most of us ranchers were too busy just trying to stay alive, to feed ourselves and to carve out a place that would become our home to notice any politicians, not even a fine cattleman like McDonald. Every day I got up early and worked late. I had no other energy and did not come in off of the range sometimes for months at a time.”
     He noticed my lack of comprehension so he continued, “Politicians and celebrations were a luxury most of us then could not afford. For 30 years on this land I worked with all of my energy. It was not a 40 hour a week, it was dawn to dark seven days a week or we just would not have made it. Only after the ranch was on solid footing did I notice the government and became part of it as a member of the Lincoln County Commission and school board.”
     I was thankful that Bill brought me back to reality before I wrote something silly about the celebrations the citizens all had when New Mexico became a state. It was a hard time back then, more so than most of us can even realize. And January 6, 1912 was, for most of the citizens of New Mexico, just one more working day.
     The way to celebrate the anniversary is by going to work early and working late. Amen.