The 40 Largest Private Landowners in New Mexico
NAMES ON THIS PAGE
36. Huling (Jupe) Means
37. Spires family
38. Wootten family
39. Floyd Blackburn
40. Carl Lane Johnson
From CROSSWINDS, New Mexico’s largest alternative newspaper
36. HULING (JUPE) MEANS, Mule Creek
H Bar Y Ranch
40,000 acres in Grant County
THE JUPE BOX
The year was 1916. America was on the verge of entering World War I. Billy The Kid had been dead only 35 years. New Mexico had been a state for just four years. John Zachary Means struck out from San Saba TX and bought some land in the rolling and thinly populated western half of New Mexico north of Silver City, midway between towns named Buckhorn and Mule Creek.
More than 80 years later, the Means family still hangs on. When we called, Jupe, his grandson, was out on the spread, but his wife, Jenie, was more than happy to talk about her husband. "He loves the ranch; he loves the cattle," Jenie explained. "He is a cowman and a good one." In case you're wondering, the nickname Jupe came from youthful playmates who couldn't pronounce ``Junior.''
37. SPIRES FAMILY, Cliff, Ruidoso, Snyder TX
40,000 acres in Grant County
ALL IN THE FAMILY II
In 1951 Leroy Spires Sr. of Sweetwater TX anted up a down payment for a cattle spread in the high mountain country of southwestern New Mexico north of Silver City. The Moon Ranch it was called--for reasons nobody now can really remember. Upon his death in 1964 the land went into an estate for his four grandchildren. One of Leroy Sr.'s two children, Leroy Spires Jr., managed the spread, leasing the property from his dad's estate.
After Leroy Jr. died in 1991, the ranch was divided. Cindy Spires, one of his three children, bought out a sibling and ended up with 50% of the original land. She lives in Snyder TX where she has another ranch. Her half of the Moon Ranch is managed in common with the quarter-interest owned by the third child, Susan Spires of Ruidoso.
Charley Judd, the son of Leroy Sr.'s other child, Anna Lee Spires Judd, owns, lives on and runs the other 25%. He says ranching is the life for him. ``It's all I know,'' he says. ``You get to enjoy living out in the country. The animals teach you something every day if you listen.''
Says John Sanders, a non-family member who manages the 75% portion, ``I think the Spires and the Judds get along pretty good. They're just two different families.''
38. WOOTTEN FAMILY, Springer
Red River Ranch
35,000 acres in Colfax and Mora Counties
Around 1915 the Wootten family acquired the 34-year-old Red River Ranch south of Springer and hasn't let go. Steve McClure married a Wootten, which ran out of male heirs to help oversee the spread. (Whether these Woottens are related to Richard L. ``Uncle Dick'' Wootton, who built the famous Raton Pass toll road along the Santa Fe Trail in 1866, seems to be unknown.) So McClure and his wife, Karen--who had grown up on the ranch--took up residence and management 14 years ago. They now have two daughters. The property, in the high northeastern plains near the Sangre de Christo mountains, is owned through a corporation by a number of Wootten descendants.
``I guess one of the things that's most important to me and obviously to the family is that we've preserved the ranch and protected it," McClure says, adding that it probably still looks the same now as it did a century ago. "We've taken great pride in preserving it for the next generation." McClure said he uses the ranch, and some land leased from the state, to raise cattle.
The Canadian River forms the ranch's eastern boundary, and the Ocate Creek runs through the property. But there's no Red River on the grounds. So where did the ranch name come from? ``The story goes that years ago, before they did any geological surveys, they thought the Canadian River was the (Oklahoma-Texas) Red River,'' says McClure, adding that when the geography was finally figured out, ``they did not see the point of renaming the ranch.''
39. FLOYD BLACKBURN, Dumas TX
35,000 acres in Colfax County
As it meanders southwest from Independence MO, the Santa Fe Trail crosses the Crews Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. Located among the rolling hills at the base of 7,761-foot Eagle Tail Mountain a dozen miles south of Raton, the Crews Ranch and its historic abode headquarters have been fixtures along that famous route since the turn of the century. That's when Martin Crew started assembling the cattle spread, which specializes in Stockard and Yardling breeds.
Don Butler, who manages the Crews Ranch today, says Crews bought up a number of small ranches. Later, a tiny portion of the land was sold to what is now Crews Airport and the National Rifle Association training center. In 1994 Crews' grandson, Bill Crews, sold the ranch to Texan Blackburn. He uses the ranch to fatten up his cattle, which he ships in from Dumas, Texas, where he lives. Blackburn could not be reached for comment.
40. CARL LANE JOHNSON, Tatum
Johnson Cattle Company Ranch
35,000 acres in Lea County
ON HIS OWN TERMS
Johnson sure likes to be left alone. In 1994 he sued an oil company whose operation near his ranch, he complained, was keeping him up at nights. By all accounts he won the case.
But we didn't learn much else when we got him on the telephone. How much land? ``I don't have any idea,'' he said. What do you do with it? ``I'm not interested in answering any questions,'' he groused ``It isn't any business of yours what we're doing down here."
Folks around Tatum, the tiny town north of Lovington that Johnson calls home, say he grew up locally and bought the ranch more than 30 years ago. Johnson enjoys an excellent reputation as a rancher, has nearly 1,000 animals on his spread and is well known. ``Everybody knows who he is in Tatum,'' said one Tatumite. ``He's a real character.''
Oh yes, one other thing. After decades as a bachelor, Johnson last year got married to a Ruidoso woman, a move that surprised even some of his close associates. ``I figured,'' laughs Gene Saberson, his lawyer in the noise case, ``he was going to be a bachelor for the rest of his life.''