Hi there! My name is Kathryn! I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When I was just a few days old, I was adopted and brought into this small town in Eastern New Mexico called Portales where, based on the 2016-2017 census, has a population of 12280 people.
Portales was formally settled in 1909 when cattlemen moved into the area and discovered water that was coming from a rocky outcrop that resembled a Spanish porch. The word portales actually is a word for a porch that has porticos, so Portales means porch, essentially! Eastern New Mexico University was established in 1939 and the Administration Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with our courthouse and our post office. Portales is also known as one of the major US exporters of certified organic peanuts and a major US exporter of our infamous sweet Valencia peanuts.
My fathers family settled in Portales 1906, building a homestead on what became known as the Bar T 5 Ranch which was passed down the generations for over a hundred years. My great grandfather, John Howl, and great grandmother, Atha Howl, had four children, two daughters which were the eldest, my grandfather Elbert, and a younger son. The two daughters, however, didn’t live past their childhood. One was bit by a rattlesnake and died and the other died from Diphtheria. My grandpa got Diphtheria at the same time as his sister and the doctor gave the speech, ‘starve a fever, feed a cold.’ My grandfather, however, rather than go hungry, would sneak out of bed in the middle of the night and eat. His sister, unfortunately, did not, and this, along with her weakened state from having the fever, led to her passing.
My grandmother on my fathers side, Pauline Howl, went to school to be a beautician and eventually worked in a beauty salon a short time before she met my grandfather and they were married. Together, they had four children, three boys and a girl. One of my favorite stories my grandmother told me was, when my father was younger, maybe eight years old, she had told him to do something and my father retorted with, ‘You can’t catch me,” before he took off running. Well guess what, folks? She caught him! It was truly fun watching him sit with her at the dinner table and laugh about it when he was grown and a grandfather himself. My grandmother and grandfather, not having space for a crib at the time, actually had my father sleeping in a dresser drawer which, according to my grandmother, suited him just fine.
My mothers mom, Kathryn Longacre, was the daughter of a Methodist minister and during her childhood, moved many times, eventually being transferred to Las Vegas, New Mexico. I guess she always knew she’d live there when she was out in the world on her own. Growing up, she was not allowed to have any cats or dogs. It was said that if any of the neighbors chickens were killed, the neighbors would always blame the ‘p.k.’ (aka–the preachers kid). She did, however, find a cat in the attic which she kept secret and only got to keep a couple days before it was found out she had it, and of course, it was re homed. She was also not allowed to dance due to her upbringing as a child of the Methodist minister, but she was an adventurous woman and would sneak out the window at night to go dancing. She had an older brother named Joseph who caught scarlet fever which weakened his heart. Later on, he contracted pneumonia which caused is death at the age of 17. She had a younger sister, Beth, a woman who married and never had children, who died in her fifties. She also had an older brother named Wit who also never had children. My grandmother was the shining star in that department!
My grandmother Kathryn, in my childhood, was the type of woman who really would try almost anything once, and it made for many great times with her. She graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Omaha during the depression and then she moved to Las Vegas where she was offered a teaching job. At the time, it was against the law for married people to both teach because it was the depression, and they wanted to spread the employment around, so she eloped on December 21st, 1934 to my grandfather, William Hurt, and kept it secret that they were married until the end of the semester when she quit to become a housewife and start a family. They had a son and a daughter.
My grandfather’s father worked for the railroad as a conductor and died of a heart attack in his mid 40s, leaving his wife widowed with two girls and two boys. My grandfather, Bill, being the next to youngest child yet also the oldest boy, became the man of the house. He had dreams of being an architect, but instead spent his younger years taking care of his mother and siblings. He went to school, eventually receiving his masters degree in Boulder Colorado in Math. It is said that he studied so hard for his masters that he’d often forgotten to eat well. When World War II broke out, he wanted to enlist, but he wasn’t accepted into the military because he was too skinny, having lost all this weight studying for his masters, not to mention he was color blind. It was hard for him to be denied and left behind. He would also know many of his students who were caught or killed during the war. He taught Math, naturally and was principle of the junior high, then the high school in Las Vegas, then became assistant superintendent of the school system until he retired.
My grandfather enjoyed a great many hobbies in his retirement, which included but were not limited to draw, fishing and spending time with his family. He was my best friend.
My father, Steve, before I was born, was brought into the farming business by his father, and rather than become a poultry inspector in Roswell, stayed in Portales on that very homestead that John Howl settled in 1906, and ran the farm with his father. At the time, we were farmers and ranchers, raising both crops and animals. My father is the hardest working man I have ever met. No one truly knows what it is like to become a rancher or a farmer. You’re up early, you work all day mending fence, counting cattle, checking crops, feeding animals, fixing breaks in the water lines, checking heifers in the night who were expecting their first calves. Its amazing how much needs to be done and how much can go wrong on a ranch! There were many times I recall him coming in well after dark, the dogs barking in the driveway to announce his arrival home.
He was a giving man even though there wasn’t much to give. If he had it, it was yours, if he didn’t have it, he’d find a way to get you what you needed. I always admired my father and still do! He’s truly an inspiration and a hero to me.
My mother, Marcia, was an English major and actually taught some classes at the college, but when she came out to the ranch with my father, she became a mother, my parents first adopting my brother and then adopting me. She had always had this dream of writing books and, in between taking care of children, running a household, feeding several handfuls of hungry cowboys at a moments notice and singing John Denver while cleaning the house, she realized her dream. She wrote over thirty historic romance and several novellas, some written in shorthand in a notepad, and some typed out on her old word processor before computers were ‘a thing’, mostly during the evening hours while us kids and the husband were sleeping. Though I do recall days of sneaking into her office to hang out while she worked.
I still remember curling up in her bed with my brother and having her read The Hobbit or Silver Chief Dog of the North to us, and having bake sales in the house where I sold back to my parents food they had already rightfully purchased at a grocery store, for an inflated price. Hah! I don’t know how she managed to do it, but she was, and is, an amazing woman.
I have many great memories of living out in the country, having pets be they cats or dogs, horses or gerbils, and a great deal of other creatures big and small! We rode in the tractor while dad plowed the fields and I, being a major allergy sufferer since I was in diapers, would often fall into a congestion induced sleep in the back window of the tractor. (Riding in any vehicle has always rocked me into lullaby land!).
I rode my first horse when I was five, which included riding in cattle drives. (Yes, I was on my wee little Shetland pony just trotting along with the big guys, driving the herds.) I was outside as much as possible, even for someone who suffered allergies like I did!
Growing up, I always enjoyed cooking or baking. I was always the kid there waiting to lick the icing or the batter from a cake bowl when it was done, or wanting to help crack the eggs. Anything I could do to get my hands dirty in the kitchen. When I was around nine or ten, I was baking carrot cakes for something to do and serving up my creations to my parents. I wasn’t half bad either! Maybe that’s because I’m not afraid to experiment!
A few years ago I decided that I wanted to make cakes and when I say ‘make cakes’, I mean fancy type of character cakes with gum paste figurines, handy detailing, fondant and all the ‘oo and ahh’ that professionals did it with. The only issue was, no cake classes nearby. No teachers. No cuisine school. Nothing. So.. I did what any good cook trapped in a small town does. I went to the internet! None the less, I would still hit snags when it came to availability of equipment or supplies. For someone who has always lived on a fixed budget, I can’t just rush out and go buy everything I ever wanted for cooking and baking. Lord help us all should that day ever come because I will need a whole other house just to store the stuff!
Overall, I’ve always had a grand many dreams; to own a bakery, to make fancy wedding cakes, to go to the Makeup Designory School in California, to work on movie sets doing special effects..(Yes I know, strange differences in my wants!) I believe that it is important to not limit yourself by what you have a desire to do. You may never be a professional in everything you’ve ever wanted to do. But instead, you can say ‘I did that’ and you can enjoy it and that is what I intend to do!