Hello, New Mexico! For those of you that have been following along as I explore the beautiful state we all call home, from time to time we thought you might be interested in meeting some of the people that work with Pattern. All of them are different, unique and interesting, just like our state.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Cody Winner. Cody is the Ranch Manager for a ranch owned by Pattern, and I recently spent some time meeting his beautiful family and seeing the ranch.
I got in the car and drove south, far out into rural New Mexico, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
When Cody sent me directions to the ranch via phone, there was a point on the map in the middle of nowhere. For an adventurous soul like yours truly, when I get a text that says, “Hey, there’s no real address, you turn off the highway onto a dirt trail, and eventually you end up here,” I’m interested.
Suffice it to say, I was excited to check it out.
A Day on the Ranch
As I wound my way south from Albuquerque, soon I was the only car out on the road. I’m originally from Chicago, and when I’m the only car on the highway, it’s pretty great. Eventually, I found it; a dirt “road,” (let’s call it a big trail) off the highway. I drove down and found myself, as promised, at the ranch.
Cody has had five jobs in the course of his life. In high school, he worked at Wendy’s, and after graduation, joined the military. He spent eight years in the Army, and was in the Military Police. Along the way, he became the kind of guy heroes are made of: He was a Master Rapeller, Air Assault, (he came down after bad guys by rappelling out of helicopters) and eventually became Army SRT, which is the military version of SWAT. Some of his missions included things like guarding Generals, Ambassadors, and other VIPS.
We got to talking shortly after I arrived, (I’m a Vet, too) and he said, “I’m proud of my service, but the most dangerous thing I have to worry about these days,” he chuckled, “are coyotes and rattlesnakes coming after the chickens.” He smiled. “I love it here.”
After the Army, Cody wasn’t sure where his career would take him, and for a while he worked security at a casino, but decided it wasn’t for him and eventually got into being a construction liaison. That means he deals with owners of land and talks to them about using it for all sorts of different things. As several landowners that have had land in their family for many generations have said to corporate executives from the coasts, “You guys better never let Cody go, because we’re only dealing with him.” As he did in the military, Cody has a reputation, it’s a good one, and he’s rightly proud of it.
“Everyone likes being treated with respect,” Cody said, “and I’m a native New Mexican. I know these folks.”
That night, he invited me to dinner with his beautiful family, and we had a great time. His daughter was excited to have visitors, and let me know I’d be sitting next to her at dinner. She also let me know matter of factly, (with a serious look on her face) that I’d be playing frisbee with her tomorrow, and I thought it best to agree.
The next morning, I had access to the large, industrial kitchen that was installed by the ranch’s previous owner, and made myself eggs that were laid a couple hundred yards away by Cody’s chickens. It doesn’t get any fresher than that, and they were delicious.
Cody took me to the chicken coop, and while I don’t know chickens, these chickens were big, and looked happy and healthy. The Rooster gave a couple growls to let us know this was his turf, but behaved. I gave him a second look, not so sure. He was a big guy, as roosters go.
“That guy ever get rowdy?” I asked, aiming my thumb at the rooster.
“He used to,” Cody laughed, “and he and I had to have a discussion. Now he knows the rules and puts up with me.”
Pattern Mascot, Rebel the Hound Dog
We got into the ATV and went out to see some of the nearly 7,000 acres of ranch land. It is so wild and old here that there are the remains of a shepherd’s hut easily 150-years-old or more, and all that remains is a pile of rocks in the shape of a house. Also, there was a curious pile of sticks that looked like they were put there intentionally. Cody saw me looking.
“Pack rats,” he said. “Anything interesting, they’ll pick up and bring back to their nest. I’ve found all kinds of things by pack rat nests.” We moved on. Over there,” he pointed to a big wall of rocks in a circle, “is an old storage tank for well water. A river runs underground here, and they’d store it in that.”
I couldn’t believe it. I always thought the desert was kind of barren and dead. As I would find out, there is life everywhere out here, and even a herd of elk passes through the ranch property fairly regularly. Near a small pond, Cody pointed out their tracks.
“Wow,” I said, pretty impressed. “I had no idea there was this much life out here.”
Cody smiled knowingly. “Let’s go see the canyon.”
Back in the ATV, we got to the ledge of what looked like a mini Grand Canyon. We were probably seven hundred feet up or so, and Cody pointed out what looked like a very thin trail hugging the canyon wall. I couldn’t believe anyone would walk on that, and Cody saw me looking. I said, “Is that a-” and he cut me off. “Yep, it’s an ancient trail. People have been walking up and down this canyon for longer than you can imagine, and that was their road.”
We went next to a smaller canyon, and he talked about the underground river and showed me places where the water would sometimes rise to the surface, and there were what looked like big puddles up top where we were standing.
Cody explained that the water would come up through the rocks and and then crouched down and pointed, “Look- see that?”
I crouched too. I couldn’t believe it. Little shrimp, sort of a cross between a crawdad and a horseshoe crab, grow in these little areas of water, and when they get big are fed on by birds and other animals passing through.
Once again, I was amazed at all the abundant life around me, and Cody knew all of it.
As the day grew long and the sun started heading west, we were driving back to the ranch guest house. In addition to knowing everything there was to know about the eco diversity, Cody was a businessman who regularly dealt with construction crews, land rights, coordinating people, equipment and basic ranch upkeep, and he did it all with a smile.
As we drove, I thought about my two days here, and thought I probably knew the answer, but had to ask.
“What’s the best part of running the ranch?”
He smiled. “Every day is different, every day a new challenge. I might be dealing with contracts, or scaring off coyotes, or fixing equipment”
Then he waved his hand around. “Really though,” he added as I looked where he pointed, “It’s this. I love it out here. Living here is heaven.”
I couldn’t argue.
The next morning, as I made it back to the highway, I thought about the next time I could get out here to visit Cody and his family again.