Along the Rio Grande

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The Burris farm wagons

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A collection of turn-of-the-century farming and ranching machinery has been on display for the past 30 years at the Burris Ranch headquarters south of Albuquerque, N.M., reminding passersby that agriculture was as diverse historically as it is today.

The farm implements and ranch wagons belong to Elizabeth Burris, who moved with her late husband, Weldon, to southwestern New Mexico in 1949 to establish a cattle ranch. The fertile valley of northern Socorro County, nourished by the Rio Grande River, supported the Pueblo Indians' ancient farming practices and, since the time of Spanish explorers, a rich ranching culture.

The Burrises leased the Lajoya Land Grant from its owner, a Montana man named Campbell whose first name Mrs. Burris does not remember, although he was known locally as 'Gen. Campbell.'

In time, the couple bought the Lajoya property, as well as other New Mexico ranches, including the Lazy E near Deming, in Luna County on the Mexican border. In 1972, they received the farming implements as a gift from Campbell, to thank them for their long lease of his land.

The farm implements, which are representative of Midwestern rather than New Mexican traditional farming, include a sulky plow, a small disk, cultivators, a dump rake, an iron-wheeled sickle mower and a road grader. Some pieces were long ago painted a dark green with red trim to match the wagons. The grader is a Galion brand; the name is cast into the machine. It was used on the Burris Ranch in Deming.

On display along with the implements, and intended to represent New Mexico's ranching heritage, are two vintage wooden wagons, which Mrs. Burris said probably are John Deeres. Deere & Company began selling such wagons in the 1880s.

Remnants of dark green and red paint remain on both; one is a supply wagon and the other is a chuck wagon, its faint 'Lazy E' lettering still visible. Mrs. Burris said both she and her husband traveled the range on trail rides with these wagons many times from Deming to Bosque, N.M. Chuck wagons were an important piece of equipment to the cowhands on long cattle drives. All would gather round the chuck wagon to eat their fill of breakfast at morning's first light, and return to it later in the day for their lunch and supper.

Little traffic passes the Burris Ranch headquarters these days, and few stop to ask about the vintage equipment on display, but Mrs. Burris said she plans to just keep it in place. FC

- Charles Perry is a freelance photographer and writer who lives in Belen, N.M.