Gretchen Sammis remembered as a teacher, rancher

(Chronicle file photo)
(Chronicle file photo)

Longtime Cimarron resident Gretchen Sammis died Aug. 14, 2012, but she left a legacy that will live on for generations to come.

Linda Davis of the CS Ranch near Cimarron said Sammis would be greatly missed.

“She’s a real loss to the community,” Davis said. “She supported Cimarron and the entire Cimarron school district.”

Davis said Sammis taught physical education and science at the schools in Cimarron. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and master’s degree from the University of Wyoming, she said.

“She was a real cowgirl,” Davis added.

Davis added that Sammis also loved local children and said she felt it very important that the youngsters in the community were challenged.

“When we would have snow days or rain days — we used to have rain days in those days believe it or not — Gretchen would get all the kids into the school gym and teach them how to dance,” Davis recalls. “I think my four oldest kids learned to dance because of Gretchen. She was the best thing to happen to these country kids.”

Davis said Sammis thought it was very important to keep kids in the community active.

“She was a wonderful teacher,” she added.

The CS Ranch has been in Sammis’ family for four generations. Her family came to New Mexico from Tennessee, and Davis said she believes Sammis’ grandfather brought the family to New Mexico in a covered wagon.

Sammis was a hardened ranch hand/cattleman and cowgirl and wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Davis recollects how much Sammis loved her horses.

“She knew how to shoe them, how to take care and maintain their hooves and coat,” Davis said. “She knew how to ration their food and what kind of diet the should be on.”

Sammis was also known for her skills while in the saddle, and for her tenderness and stubbornness at the same time. Sammis was also known for her all-woman work crew, which was made up of schoolteachers and friends from several different states.

Sammis was born on the Chase Ranch and lived there for the vast majority of her life. It’s rumored that she even slept in the room in which she was born. It’s also believed that the bed she slept in was brought to New Mexico via the Santa Fe Trail.

When Sammis was working as a teacher, it was said that her partner and she would get up in the wee hours of the morning to feed the animals on the ranch and get back to the house in time to change into their stockings, skirts and heels and head to the school to begin their day of teaching.

Sammis lead an active life, and in addition to her work on the ranch, she was also a long-time member of the New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Commission as well as the New Mexico Range Conservation. In 1986, Sammis was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. In 2007 Sammis was named New Mexico Cattleman of the Year.

“Whether you’re a man or a woman, the title is ‘cattleman,’” Davis explained.

She also received various soil and water conservation awards. She strove to improve the range and the cattle lands and to leave the ranching industry better than she found it.

Services for Gretchen Sammis where held at 11 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 18) at the Chase Ranch.