Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the life and times of Kathy Edwards. Her report will conclude next Wednesday.
“I was born in Roswell,” said Kathy Edwards, “because where my parents homesteaded in DeBaca County, Roswell had the closest doctor. My Daddy was L. W. Barnhill, coming to New Mexico from Oklahoma in 1932. But prior to that, my grandfather, Lafayette Preston Barnhill, his wife, three sons and five daughters had homesteaded at Melrose in about 1907. The fourth son, age 10, became my father later.
“Granddaddy Barnhill found work in Melrose at a feed store, and came back to the homestead on weekends. There was an awful snowstorm within a couple of years. Granddaddy couldn’t get out to his family. It was terribly cold and they ran out of fire wood so Granny and the kids burned the new fence posts he had brought out earlier to fence his homestead. About that time they packed up their ‘duds’ and went back to Oklahoma!
“My Daddy-to-be had his mind made up when they left Melrose to come back someday and have a ranch in New Mexico. He married a pretty town girl in Oklahoma, Flosye Gragg. Daddy was sheriff at $100 a month. His wife, my mother-to-be, was a school teacher and couldn’t teach because the law didn’t allow two bread winners in the same family during the Depression. That was in 1931. A friend of Daddy got wind of land still available for homesteads in New Mexico and told him ‘You ought to go out there and do that!’
“They loaded up and came to DeBaca County, homesteading near Dunlap. Soon many homesteaders gave up and moved off. Daddy bought their relinquishments, some six or eight pieces of land, and built up his ranch. Too many thought it was farm land, but it was grass land fit only for cattle and sheep.
“Then my sister Beth and I came along. Beth was born in 1937 and I in 1938. We were the only ‘boys’ Daddy had! In 1940 the opportunity came up to buy a ranch seven miles west of House. (Named after John L. House in 1906.) In 1940 we didn’t have electricity, no toilet in the house, and Daddy had to build other rooms and piped water into the house from our windmill.
“My sister Beth started to school at House before I did. Our mother had already become a teacher at House. She went on the bus for the first two years — rode the school bus with us — and then if she had to stay for the teachers’ meeting after school, Daddy would go back and get her in his old pickup.
“One day Beth and I and Granny (my mother’s mother, VeOra) had to go pick up our mother as Dad was off somewhere with the cattle. Granny couldn’t drive. I couldn’t drive as I was only 5. But Beth (who was 6) said she could drive.
“We three got in the pickup. Beth could barely see over the dash; I couldn’t. Beth started the pickup and worked the clutch and the gear shift, and hit the foot feed. There we went.
“Mother saw us drive up to the school and I guess her eyes nearly popped out of her head! She said ‘What in the world!’ Granny said, ‘Well, Beth told us she could drive! And she did just fine!’ That was the last time my Daddy left home in the afternoon during school time.
“My Uncle John Barnhill, who never married, lived with us. He and Daddy did their business together as partners. One time my uncle had to milk the mean cow Levita and Dick Bellew had on their place down below the Caprock to the west. The Bellews had to be gone a few days. The only way my uncle could approach and milk that cow was to wear one of Levita’s aprons!
“My parents moved to Fort Sumner in 1966 after us girls were grown. My sister Beth and her husband Bill Parmer moved onto the Barnhill ranch and ran it. I had met my husband-to-be, Brown Franklin Edwards, earlier when my mother sold live turkeys we raised to his parents who ran a store and butcher shop at Fort Sumner. I went to study to be (a nurse) in Amarillo, nursed at Fort Sumner hospital, then went to nursing school in Dallas for post-nursing, came back and worked at the old Memorial Hospital in Clovis. I married ‘Brownie’ in 1966 and we lived lots of places, but now we are currently living in Clovis.”
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: