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Museum Announces Inductees into Cowboy Hall of Fame

10/28/2014 4:58:33 p.m. - Hobbs, NM.  

The Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame has announced the upcoming induction of three Lea County pioneers into the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame.  The recipients, who will be awarded the title “Bronze Cowboy”, will be honored at a banquet on November 8 at the Lea County Events Center.

“We are pleased to announce that Lea County pioneers Johnny Martin Etcheverry, Malcolm R. Madera, and Christopher Columbus “Lum” Medlin will be honored as this year’s recipients of the Bronze Cowboy awards and induction into the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame,” said Darrell Beauchamp, Executive Director of the museum.   “As we do every year, we received a number of outstanding nominations, and these three are the ones chosen by the membership for the honor.”

The Cowboy Hall of Fame has honored 94 Lea County pioneers with the Bronze Cowboy Award, the museum’s highest honor, since its beginning in 1978.  Beauchamp noted that in order to be considered for the honor, a person must meet several stringent criteria.  A nominee must be a long-time resident of Lea County, must be a person of good character and reputation, must have had the livestock industry as their principal business, and must be a distinguished rodeo performer or had a helping hand in the development of the livestock industry.

“There are so many qualified individuals in Lea County” Beauchamp added, “that sometimes it takes several nominations for a person to be selected by the membership.”

Johnny Martin Etcheverry (1931–1998) is the son of Basque immigrants, Maria and Peollo Etcheverry, who established their Lea County Ranch in 1907. Etcheverry grew up on this ranch and worked tirelessly raising Rambouillet sheep and Hereford cattle. He was an advocate for water conservation in Lea County and was named the Outstanding Conservation Rancher in 1960.  In their nomination his family noted that Etcheverry cared for his land in other ways: he almost entirely eliminated “pesky brush” plants like the prickly pear, cholla, and mesquite on his ranch by hand-applying one teaspoon of herbicide to each plant. Etcheverry said, “[these plants] compete for moisture and nutrients while crowding out grass. We can’t afford much of that in this county.”

Etcheverry graduated from Lovington High School in 1949 and enrolled in the University of New Mexico. His education was interrupted when he entered the United States Army serving during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged from the Army and returned to the family ranch.  He finished his degree at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. His passion for education led him to be instrumental in the Agriculture scholarship at New Mexico Junior College and involvement with 4-H.

Etcheverry was a member of the New Mexico Cattle Growers and Wool Growers Associations, the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was an active member of St. Christopher’s Church in Hobbs. His legacy continues through his wife, Nancy, his three children, four stepchildren, 19 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.

Malcolm R. Madera (1906-1996) born in Hubbard, Texas, began his career at Ochoa, New Mexico, west of Jal, in 1932. After marrying Ellen Kate Ross in 1933, he purchased his first ranch (the Jim Andrews Ranch) in 1938; later he purchased the old Jim Bryant ranch from his father-in-law, Charley Ross; and finally, the Battle Axe Ranch, which became his permanent residence.

Madera also served his country during WWII, first as a flight instructor at the Naval Air Station in Hutchinson, Kansas, and then as one of the highest-ranking flight instructors at the Naval College for Primary Flight Instructors in New Orleans, Louisiana.  He retired from active duty having achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

According to Madera’s nomination form, he loved both ranching and flying.  When the war was over he returned to Jal and continued in the ranching business with his wife, Ellen Kate, and her family on the Battle Ax ranch of Lea County and in Loving County, Texas.   He later became a Lea County Land Commissioner, and was instrumental in getting the Jal to Carlsbad highway built to the Eddy County line.

Madera helped manage the W.T. Ranch in partnership with his brother, Fred, near Pecos, Texas.  At one point they ran 3,000 Mexican steers at one time.  He also partnered with sister-in-law, Tommy Calley, on the El Caso Ranch near Quemado, NM.  The brands he rode for over his lifetime were the Battle Ax, the Six Cross, and the V Bar.

Christopher Columbus “Lum” Medlin (1853–1898) was described by one nomination as “More elusive than the prey he stalked . . . although there were sightings in various places, only once was he pinned down long enough to appear on a census record.” Born in Tennessee, Medlin’s family relocated to Texas in the late 1850’s. He spent most of his life in the Llano Estacado (Stake Plains) in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico as a buffalo hunter.  He supplemented his ranching income by digging water wells and building stock tanks throughout the plains, and is said to have dug the first well in Lea County.  The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed settlers to establish ownership of 160 acres by digging a well, and living on the land for 5 years, which is how Medlin established his ranch in Lea County.

Medlin married Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lloyd in 1877, and had seven children.  They lived for a time in Midland, Texas and Stanton, Texas, but kept their ranching interests in New Mexico. Medlin died in 1898 at the age of 41 from pneumonia. Lizzie, only in her thirties, had to take over and proved to be “as strong as her husband,” according to family lore. She remained, for a time, in Midland and moved to Knowles in 1908 and then to Lovington in 1912.  Lizzie and her older children obtained New Mexico land patents in the Lovington area between 1911 and 1917.  All but one of Lum and Lizzies’s children put down roots in New Mexico. According to one biographer, “in some branches of the family, the Medlin land is being ranched by the fifth generation.”

Lum Medlin, buffalo hunter, army scout, and rancher was once described as a “rough-hewn character with a sense of adventure.” He was a unique character and one of Lea County’s most prominent pioneers.

In addition to the Bronze Cowboy inductions, Shane and Barbee Beer were selected by the Cowboy Hall of Fame as “Young Ranchers” for 2014 and Jimmy Joe Campbell was selected as the “Young Rancher” for 2014. 

All will be honored on November 8 at the Induction Banquet at the Lea County Events Center.  Tickets are $25 each and are available at the museum.

For more information contact the Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, 575-492-2678.

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