David Downey of Clovis, a member of the Mounted Patrol Unit, drives steers on Wednesday before the start of the 2003 Steer Roping Classic at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena.
By Darrell Todd Maurina
Today’s Curry County Mounted Patrol is best known for sponsoring the Clovis Pioneer Days Rodeo and participating in various parades and ceremonial events. That wasn’t how it started, however.
When Lee Hammond Jr. came back from World War II, he became a founding member of the organization when it was begun as an auxiliary to the Curry County Sheriff.
“In case somebody would get lost, they would call the Mounted Patrol up and we’d get saddled up and go find them,” Hammond said. “A horse could get places a car couldn’t.”
Hammond said in those days up to 60 members of the Mounted Patrol would turn out when needed. While the Mounted Patrol usually found missing persons quickly, one search remains in his mind years later that wasn’t so successful.
“We had one of those sandstorms. A lady went to her mailbox to get her mail, she got turned around and we hunted for three days but it was too late,” Hammond said. “She was an elderly lady and she didn’t make it.”
Being able to help others was part of what attracted Hammond to the Mounted Patrol, but in the 1940s and 1950s he was just one of many to volunteer.
“I’m a cowboy and I love it,” Hammond said. “Nearly everybody who was raised in Clovis was a member of the Mounted Patrol at one time or another but as they got older many of them dropped out.”
Those who stayed and their descendants are now the core of the Curry County Mounted Patrol.
“It’s about the same kind of people, sons and grandsons of the old-timers,” Hammond said. “Clovis was a very small town when it started but there were lots of cowboys.”
That doesn’t mean newcomers aren’t welcome, and the head of the Mounted Patrol, Capt. Duane Castleberry, is himself from a military rather than a ranching family. Castleberry said he loves being able to learn from those who have spent generations in ranching.
“Our charter says we are to promote breeding and raising of good saddle horses,” Castleberry said. “When I was a kid, my dad bought a horse for my sister and I learned to ride it. It was something I always wanted to do, and finally I got the time and opportunity.”