A 77-year-old cow watcher from Arizona

  • Pauline Sandholdt with her Plymouth in 1948, Skull Valley, Arizona

 

Reader Pauline Sandholdt wrote to let us know that a photo caption in our May 1 issue had blown a "considerable hole" in her confidence in High Country News. The picture in question appeared on page 19 of our special issue on land grant universities headlined, "Reform comes to "Ag" Schools." It depicted cattle in what appeared to be a fenced-in dust bowl. The caption, said "Cows graze on a BLM "range restoration site" near Congress, Ariz."

"It's enough to bring tears to the eyes, whether your heart is wrung by "those poor cows!" or "the poor Earth!" wrote Ms. Sandholdt. "The trouble is, whatever the cattle are doing in that spot, it is not grazing, nor is it supposed to be. In fact, there is a row of horsemen on the hillside (some faintly visible) above to see to it the cattle do not scatter up and graze."

Photographer George Wuerthner disagrees: "There's nothing in those hills!" he says. He took the photograph last spring and said he was struck by the difference in the quality of range inside and outside the fenced site. "Outside the fence it's really thick with grass; inside it's really beat."

Being the farthest party from this situation, we squinted at the picture and shrugged. But talking to Ms. Sandholdt was a lot of fun.

The 77-year-old admits to being a lifelong cow watcher. She was born near Monterey, Calif., "back when California was part of the West." She moved to Arizona in 1943, and spent the war years taking dictation for the forest supervisor of the Prescott National Forest. "Back then, we were environmentalists," she says. "We curtailed (cattle) numbers; the boss was scared he was going to get shot."

After that, she spent a few years working for a Prescott bank before she earned a degree in education from Arizona State Teacher's College in Flagstaff (now Northern Arizona University) and turned to teaching. She's taught "all the subjects, all the grades," and spent a stint in a one-room schoolhouse in Crown King, Ariz.

She now lives in the high desert town of Salome, Ariz. "There's about 600 or 700 people rattling around here in the winter," she reports. Including neighboring hamlets of Wenden and Vicksburg "and - for Chamber of Commerce purposes - it's got about 1,200."

Did Ms. Sandholdt ever marry?

"No."

Is she glad?

"Yes. I think it makes me lucky and some poor man is also lucky."

Currently, her main interest is local history. She's not writing a book about it ("Writing's hard work!") but she likes to talk about it. "I've got my material. I want to dish it out, little by little."

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