Friday, December 18, 2009

Indian Cowboys: The Brush Poppers

© Pat Murkland photo

(reprinted from the latest issue
of Heritage Keepers newsletter,
Autumn 2009 V. 6 No. 3)

It was while interviewing my neighbor Clarence Contreras that I first learned of a group of cattlemen who called themselves,
"The Brush Poppers."

This group herded cattle in the Santa Rosa Mountains, including the Pinyon Flats, Pinyon Alto, and Palm Canyon areas. While many had their own cattle, they also all rode for Mr. Jim Wellman. As a kid I had the opportunity to meet many of these cowboys in the Pinyon Flats area where Jim Wellman had his 101 Ranch.

At that time the area was considered to be open range and if you did not like cattle in your yard, it was up to you to fence them out.

This area was covered in thick brush, yuccas, cactus, and pinyon pines and gave the cattle a lot of places to hide. It was up to "The Brush Poppers" to flush the cattle out of their hiding places and drive them to the corrals.

I can remember watching riders trying to flush cattle out of the redshank up on the slopes of Santa Rosa Mountain. Back then, Jim Wellman had a large barbed-wire corral back at the base of Asbestos Mountain where the cattle would often be driven, separated by brand, moved to a nearby wooden corral for shipment out of the area, or released back out to graze. I assume the cattle were also branded while in the large corral, but I never saw that taking place there. Jim also had a series of corrals over at the 101 Ranch and the branding may have taken place there.

While I do not know if I have a complete listing of the names of those cattlemen who made up "The Brush Poppers," I do have the following names: Mr. James "Jim" Wellman; Mr. Clearance Contreras; Mr. Hank Lichtwald; Mr. Calistro Tortes; Mr. Arthur Guanche; Mr. Ernest Arnaiz; Mr. Castro "Chihuahua" Tortes; and the last surviving member, Mr. George Tortes.

Mr. Harry Quinn shares his memory at the 2009 Dragonfly Gala. (Learning Center President
Ernest Siva is at right). © Carlos Puma Photo for the Learning Center.

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