A Potential Meal or a Story of Life in New Mexico

The expansion of the Painted Pony Resort to include an additional 216 acres of San Simon Riverbed outside the isolated twin hamlets of Portal and Rodeo in southern Arizona and New Mexico meant fencing.  Not a particularly attractive proposition but cattle love good grasslands and a herd of 40 or so had moved into the area, grazing on the tall native grasses of the river bottom.  To protect the existing native grasses and allow re-growth of over grazed areas the owner had decided to fence the land and my job was to make it happen.  Fortunately only a mile and half of fence was required to completely enclose the newly acquired property since existing fence was in place on north and east sides so it was time to get busy.  Throughout December and January the daily sound of hammering t-posts was heard across the San Simon Valley as new t-posts and then barbwire was installed.  It was a busy time and although new at fencing, a rhythm was quickly established along the flat terrain allowing rapid progress, but the far side of the riverbed was another matter.  A steep bank rose from the riverbed which was cut by several deep arroyos, presenting a problem.  Driving t-posts into rocky ground along the bench above the riverbed proved to be a much slower task but stringing barbwire across arroyos proved even more challenging.   When strung, the wire was upwards of 20 feet above the bottom of each arroyo and just the right amount of tension was required to allow each of the 4 strands to be pulled down to the awaiting t-posts along the bottom of the arroyo and clipped in place.  To little tension and the fence line would sag and not do its‘ job keeping the cattle at bay, to much tension and it was impossible to pull each strand down and clip it to the t-posts.  The process of adjusting tension and pulling down wire was repeated with each strand of barbwire as work slowly progressed through the rocky arroyos. 

One afternoon while stretching wire along the bottom of one arroyo a particularly memorable event occurred.  After adjusting the tension on a strand of new barbwire crossing an arroyo the process of pulling the wire down to attach it to t-posts began.  Having misjudged the amount of tension required the wire would not reach its’ place on the t-post.  It was just a few inches short of its intended position but no matter how it was pulled the wire would not quite reach.  The prospect of hiking back to the end post and loosening the wire again was not particularly appealing late in the afternoon after a full day of fencing, so dropping one glove to get a better grip on the wire and putting my full weight on the wire one more attempt was made to get the barbwire to its intended location on the t-post and clipped in place.   It was at that moment the barbwire broke pulling through my ungloved hand.  As the barbwire suddenly parted several barbs raked through my closed ungloved palm that was gripping the wire.  That sinking feeling one gets when things go wrong immediately started to set in and the sight of blood only compounded the situation.  More in shock and angered at a preventable mistake I cursed.  I cursed the wire, the fence, and myself for the error.  Opening the injured hand there seemed less damage than expected.  Although there was blood, it was dripping and not spurting so shaking off the excess and pulling the glove back on it was back to work. 

A slight breeze from the north had made working conditions pleasant throughout the day and figuring only about an hour of good light left it was back to clipping the bottom unbroken wire to t-posts along the bench top.  Repair of the broken strand of barbwire would be put off till another day.  After climbing back out of the arroyo and working from t-post to t-post the bottom strand of wire was clipped in place which required kneeing down and pulling the wire up from the ground to install the clip.  After about 20 minutes of clipping wire across the bench top and upon arising from the ground while simultaneously turning around I found myself face to face with a well fed young coyote.  With a shiny coat this coyote did not appear spooked by my presence but rather he seemed to be sizing me up as a potential meal.  The sudden realization hit that I had been bleeding, was upwind of this coyote, and had been down on the ground not moving but clipping wire.  The smell of fresh blood indicated a meal and the coyote had come to investigate a potential stroke of  good luck.  We stared at one another for perhaps 30 seconds or so, neither of us moving, just staring.  Deciding to speak to this unexpected visitor, I first let him know I did not consider myself a coyote meal, then secondly apologizing for having nothing for him to eat.  Moving on to the weather I commented on the pleasant day for working outside while the coyote, not taking his eyes off me, explored a small mesquite that stood between us.  After several minutes of staring, the coyote seemed to realize that his potential good luck was actually bad luck, not a meal, and he slowly turned and quite casually began to saunter away.  I watched the coyote for about another 5 minutes as he descended back into the San Simon riverbed, crossing it heading towards some cattle but never looking back at his misfortune and lost meal opportunity. 

fence line across the San Simon River
Across the riverbed

fenceline onto river bank
Up the river bank

painted pony resort fence
Down in an arroyo


  1. What a good story the coyote was just enjoying himself watching you and the conservation you had with him and of course the smell of your blood!

  2. thank you. Yes I believe the coyote was initially quite pleased with himself to have found a potentially big meal, until I got up off the ground from clipping wire and proved to be still alive.

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