The Madera Family and the Pitchfork Ranch

In the October 13, 1966 issue of the Jal Record, it was reported that the Lea Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors named Rubert “Bert” Madera as the Outstanding Lea County Conservation Rancher of the year, stating that he was the operator of the Pitchfork Ranch located about twenty miles west of Jal.

Rubert Madera: Image credt: Jal Record – October 5, 1966

A grandson of Rufus and Pearl, also named Bert Madera, gave another interview many years later and told a bit more about the history of the ranch. The family had come to Fort Davis in West Texas around 1900. The earliest of the Madera family to live in Lea County were Rufus Frederick and Pearl Augusta Richmond Madera. Rufus had been born in 1881 in Arkansas and raised in Hill County, Texas where his family had operated a farm. Rufus and Pearl had later operated the Chico Ranch in Culbertson County, Texas south of Guadalupe Peak in Texas until they retired in the 1930s, after which they moved to Carlsbad. Rufus passed in 1956 and Pearl followed him in death in 1969.

Two of their sons, twins Rubert and Ruford and another brother named Malcolm originally leased the Pitchfork Ranch, according to the interview, from a previous owner named Baird. Rubert and his wife Loys originally lived in a dugout on the ranch and raised their family there on the property. They told of dealing with the sometimes harsh weather conditions and (a common practice in the southwest) burning cow chips for warmth. They purchased the ranch in 1946 and later added to it as opportunities presented themselves.

Bert Madera, the subject of the Jal Record article, said he had started out in the livestock business by purchasing heifer calves at $4 each and later purchased 40 registered Hereford cows in 1945. He practiced conservation by cross fencing, building surface tanks for water, rotating his livestock, digging storage and drinking troughs, broadcast seeding of grasses and doing his best to eliminate mesquite.

Sources include local newspaper articles and the Summer, 2008 issue of Lea County Traditions, a periodical.

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