Lee Pitts: Unlucky ranch has spooky names, scares possible tenants away
For some strange reason cattlemen have this desire to name the fields and pastures of their ranches. These names can’t be found on any map and most of the names make no sense to anyone, other than the owner.
This was clearly illustrated to me years ago when I answered an advertisement for a ranch that was up for lease. I should have hesitated when the man on the phone gave me directions to the ranch by saying “you come to a dead end.”
Truer words were never spoken.
From first appearances the ranch was nothing special to look at and neither was the owner, a Mr. Tinglewelder. He had a pock marked face and was getting a little long in the tooth, emphasis on “tooth.” He only had one real long one. He’s one of those people who could spear olives and pickles out of a jug.
We climbed in his Dodge Power Wagon and were soon joined by his Airedale dog, Chainsaw Tinglewelder. I inquired about the dog’s unique first name and was informed that he was named after a former renter of the ranch who died from a firewood accident. It seems that Mr. Tinglewelder believed in naming everything after former renters. Not a good sign.
As I opened the gate to Billy’s Bone Pile I noticed a cow that was as dead as a can of Spam. Even the lone buzzard circling above appeared as if it had wintered hard. “Why do you call it the Billy’s Bone Pile?” The answer quickly became apparent as I noticed the largest pile of decaying carcasses I’ve ever seen. “What’s the death rate around here?” I asked.
“About the same as everywhere else I guess… one each per cow,” laughed Mr. Tinglewelder. He continued, “We named it Billy”s Bone Pile in honor of the last guy to rent the ranch. He fell off an old windmill when he tried to swat a fly. Billy survived the fall with only a broken pelvis and was able to mount his horse. He almost made it to the house but unfortunately his horse spooked when he took a whiff of that dead pile and his horse permanently planted Billy right here next to those old white bones.”
“That’s the saddest story I’ve ever heard.”
“Yeah. God sure has a strange way of saying ‘goodbye’ sometimes. Let’s go through this gate here,” he said as we continued the tour. “We call this Poor Pete’s Pasture. Pete and his wife leased the ranch a few years back. They were a nice couple but one day I found him deader than a door nail right in this very pasture due to mysterious circumstances involving a twelve gauge.”
“That’s terrible. Did he leave his wife much?” I asked.
“Most every night,” laughed Tinglewelder. “Which might explain the shotgun.”
“Sure could,” I said as we entered Dead Fred’s Field. In that field there was one house that was mobile and an assortment of trucks that weren’t. Mr. Tinglewelder soon explained.
“You see, every night I park my truck at the top of that hill. Then in the morning if it won’t start I coast it down the hill to jump start it. These are my old trucks that never started. They just died right here along with poor dead Fred. I guess he never saw us coming and I didn’t have any brakes.”
“Poor dead Fred,” I responded, as we entered another field. What do you call that interesting pasture over there?” I asked as I pointed to a moonscape landscape with uprooted trees and green rocks.
“We really haven’t given it a name yet. It never has really come back from that crash of the cotton defoliating airplane. We thought of naming it after the pilot that perished but we didn’t really know him.”
“Well, I sure appreciate the ranch tour but I regretfully must decline the invitation to lease your ranch,” I said in a rush.
“That’s a shame. I knew the minute I met you that you belong here. I just know there’s a pasture here with your name written all over it.”
“Yeah. That’s what I’m afraid of,” I said, trying to escape before something bad happened.❖