By Michelle Duregger — Staff Writer
EAGLE NEST— “That reminds me of a story about a hundred years ago…” as Robert Mutz, of Elizabethtown used to say. And it was a decade shy of a hundred years ago that Robert’s story began.
Robert G. Mutz was born to George and Alice Mutz in Prescott, Arizona, July 10, 1925. He passed on to greener pastures Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 at the age of 89, living almost 90 years in the verdant valley around E-Town, as well as serving a couple years in the Army during WWII.
“I don’t know anything else,” Robert said in an interview in 2005 with the Sangre de Christo Chronicle,“there’s a lot of satisfaction in this life. When the grass is green and the weather is almost decent, watching them calves run around makes up for a lot of hard times.”
Robert’s passion and livelihood starting at age 16 was running Hereford/Black Angus crosses. In 1942 he came over from Arizona with his father George to take over a plot of his grandfather’s 15,000-acre ranch and historic Hereford lines. Herman Mutz’s HM brand is the oldest in the state. The mining town needed meat and Herman’s cattle fit the bill in the late 1800s. When Herman passed away, the ranch was split three ways between the three sons, Amel, George, and Adolf. George’s plot was the actual homestead of the ranch and Robert, the only one of five children who was interested in the ranch, continued to be actively involved in running cattle until he was 83. Robert improved on his family’s Hereford line through the years. Despite his father’s disapproval he brought in Black Angus bulls that would allow calves to be smaller at birth and easier on the cows. “He did it anyway,” said Robert’s wife Juanita (Jenny) with a chuckle. “They grew up just as big as the others on that green grass with their mommies.”
Jenny can be credited with ending Robert’s 53 years of bachelorhood. She was born and raised in the area and though she was 11 years his junior, he did not go unnoticed. “He was just always there in the crowds, but I was a kid and you don’t like kids,” Jenny said with a smile. They ended up getting hitched in 1978. Jenny and Robert continued to run the ranch in a way that would have made George proud, using some machinery, but relying on horse power when the ground was too soft and wet for the wide tires of the heavy machinery to be useful—the horses left lesser ruts in the soil.
George would have never relied on machinery—if it couldn’t be pulled by a horse it was no good. Machinery crept in at Robert’s prodding. They acquired a tractor on consignment in the 1940s and, a few years before George passed in 1982, Robert convinced him to buy their first hay baler (though they had been in production since the ’50s). Robert later traded the baler for a better, safer, model; Jenny and her daughter Beni Jo would work alongside him. Robert would cut, Jenny would bale, and Beni Jo ran (and still maintains) a herd of around 37 head of cattle on the property after Robert and Jenny sold the rest of their herd off six years ago.
Sun, rain or snow, Robert and Jenny would get up to eat breakfast at daybreak, gather and hitch the horses and begin the ranch duties of feeding/haying/repairing/fence mending/doctoring and whatever else the cattle required that day. If lucky, they would make it in by 2 p.m. for lunch and then begin house duties such as the never-ending task of splitting wood for the kitchen stove Jenny used to cook the evening meal. Their dinners were seldom enjoyed before 8 p.m.
Through hard times, Robert continued to persevere. Even during years when snow would come a foot at a time, he would get on a horse and ride to Eagle Nest to bring home bread, mail and whatever else was needed. A winter-born calf or two would provide extra winter work as well as calves running around the house, each going to their own blanket to relax in the evening. Robert would build a large fire in the back room to warm them up and dote on them until they were ready to go back with their mothers.
Robert’s life was full to the brim with a beautiful ranch life a supportive wife and her two daughters Beni Jo Fulton and Erica Jean Fulton of E-town, three grandkids to dote on: Jonathan Fulton of E-town, Rachael Johnson and husband Carlos Lopez of San Antonio, Texas; Victoria Kelly and husband James of Las Vegas, Nevada; and five great grandchildren.
“He loved the grandkids, he really thought they were just it,” explains Jenny. When the children were young they would be given “driving” privileges for the team of horses, under granddad’s careful guidance of course. Grandson Jonathan Fulton at a young age was known to escape the yard and start any tractor that was sitting close by after his granddad taught him to start the machinery.
“We learned everything from him, how to change a tire, oil, how to put things together, haying, pretty much everything,” Rachael said.
Robert was preceded in death by his father and mother, one brother and a twin sister. He is survived by his two sisters, Virginia Bradford and husband Francis and Tena Moore, all of Richland Center, Wisconsin, as well as Jenny’s daughters and the gaggle of grandchildren. Graveside services were Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 at 10 a.m. at the E-Town Cemetery. Deacon Michael Sedillo officiated.