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  • This article by Betsy Marston originally appeared in the Aug 23, 2012 issue of High Country News.
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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Heard Around the West     Comments: 0

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Queen of the Old Timers

News: Aug 23, 2012
by Betsy Marston

Colorado bare-back

COLORADO: Gives "bare-back" riding a whole new meaning. Courtesy Cherie Morris

NEW MEXICO

Magdalena, a high-plateau town of about 1,000 people southwest of Albuquerque, N.M., once served as a center of mining for lead, zinc and silver in the 1880s, before it took on another role as a shipping center for cattle. The cowboying peak came in 1919, when 150,000 sheep and 21,000 cattle found their way to Magdalena, ending their 10-mile-a-day trek on what was then called the "hoof highway." These days, Magdalena attracts artists and early retirees who help the town celebrate its historic past every July with a three-day Old Timers Reunion that features rodeos, a street dance, a quilt raffle and even three kinds of "villages" -- Indian, Spanish and Cowboy. There's also the crowning of an Old Timers Queen, and this year that queen was an extra-special one, partly due to her age -- 91. Thelma Reynolds told the Mountain Mail that she was born in a log cabin in Nemo, Mo., in 1921, and that she later worked at a variety of jobs for some 70 years. Waitressing and other restaurant jobs accounted for 36 years of her working life, with her first food-serving stint coming at a men's boardinghouse in Springfield, Mo. –– "quite an experience for a young woman," she recalled. Reynolds went on to a job refurbishing spark plugs in an aircraft plant during World War II, and also worked at a nursing home caring for the elderly. Finally, at age 82, she retired from a job at a Walmart Sam's Club. The secret of her longevity? "I just believed I could do it."

MONTANA

Mountain lions rarely visit Baker, a town of 1,700 in eastern Montana, but recently, a young male lion with an impressively long tail ended up not just dropping by, but breaking into a family's house after a stream of unlikely events. Alerted by a police dispatcher that a lion had been noticed in their backyard early one morning, Mark and Isabelle Jacobsen were naturally alarmed -- and not just for themselves: Their daughter was on her way home from church, on foot. Mark Jacobsen decided to slip out to his truck to go get her, but that frightened the lion, which ran around the house and then crashed right through the glass door that Isabelle Jacobsen had been standing behind, scattering glass everywhere. "Suddenly," reports the Missoulian, "Jacobsen and the mountain lion were a couple of feet from each other" … and "a handbag-sized bichon frise named Queen was in full bark just two feet from the big cat." Jacobsen, who was still in her nightgown, said the lion seemed more bewildered than anything else, so she grabbed her dog as the lion bolted for the basement. Unfortunately, a 16-year-old houseguest lay sleeping down there. Jacobsen told her son to phone the girl and warn her to stay put in her bedroom; meanwhile, the lion "retreated to a downstairs recreation room and hid behind a recliner." This story does not have a happy ending, at least not for the confused cat cornered in the wrong place. It took more than an hour for the game warden to track down a tranquilizer dart, but when it was fired, it accidently hit bone and failed to sedate the big cat. Finally, the Jacobsen family was urged to open all of their doors and back off, so the lion could run out. It did –– only to be killed by a gunshot in someone else's backyard a few hours later.

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