Living off the land

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

When Tucumcari native Janet McCoy needs a jar of tomato sauce, she ambles to her pantry for one she’s canned herself.

If it’s milk she’s after, she heads out to her goats or cows.

And she said the pig that now mud bathes in her yard is soon to be 175 pounds of pork chops and bacon.

Meet one of Tucumcari’s agriculturists, a woman who said she lives off the land, the livestock and Lowe’s only if she needs things like flour.

“We are self-sufficient,” McCoy said of herself and her husband Boots McCoy, “or at least we try to be.”
In addition to their 25 acres on East McGee, the couple has a garden and greenhouse seven miles out of town where they harvest vegetables for themselves and the Tucumcari Farmers Market. Although the greenhouse is not winter proof, McCoy said she one day hopes for a solar greenhouse that can grow year round.

In the interim, she’s well-prepared with a pantry full of home-canned goods. “I guess we’d survive if a bomb went off,” she said, “as long as we still had water and electricity, or at least gas for the generator.”

Perhaps as impressive — and numerous — as the jars in the pantry is McCoy’s array of farm animals.
“Just say we have several,” Janet McCoy said of the goats, cows, sheep, chickens, guineas, rabbits, dogs and pig that pepper the yard. The pens are set up and latched like a giant maze throughout the acreage, but she said some still manage to escape.

“We’ll get calls from the police — ‘Your cow’s loose again,’” McCoy said. “They like to get out and go for a tour.”

McCoy said other precocious animal antics have included goats that jumped up on the shed roof to tap dance while she was inside milking a cow and a youngster that took a ride on the wild side.

“The sheep was lying down and a baby goat was standing on her back,” McCoy said. “The sheep got up and there’s the goat riding around on her back.”

Although Janet McCoy has been married to Boots for 12 years — they met when she was a hired hand on his ranch — she said she’s the one who mainly tends to the livestock, unless they go out of town and she recruits her sister.

“This isn’t an animal farm,” said McCoy’s sister Gail Fletcher. “This is the funny farm.”

Fletcher also lives in Tucumcari, but said she does not share the same adoration of animals. However, she said she’s willing to help her sister with her livestock, even when they’re not nice to her.

“I was milking a goat and I felt something wet down my back,” Fletcher said. “I look and it’s the (dang) billy goat (urinating on her).”

Shenanigans aside, McCoy said there is some tragedy. Two recent hail storms killed off a lot of vegetables. A pack of dogs one night slaughtered seven heads of lamb. Two sheep she said were once stolen on a rainy evening while she sat mere feet away on her front porch.

“People have shot at the cows, shot at the goats,” McCoy said. “We even caught a kid with a blow dart gun.”

“Agriculture is a very hard way to make a living, with the weather, the thieves” McCoy said. But she said she would not have it any other way, especially since she’s tried working inside at a supermarket, with a veterinarian and at a meat-packing plant.

“I’m not much of a people person,” McCoy said. “I have to be outside. It’s a hard living — but a good living.”