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At the Roundhouse: Lawyers, Sheep and Newspapermen

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I wrote earlier this week about the occupational composition of the New Mexico Legislature in 2013, including its 14 lawyers and the historic decline in the number of farmers and ranchers.

(“At the Roundhouse: Who Are These Guys?”)

A friend has since sent me a reference to the way things were in the state’s second Legislature, in 1915.

Not only were there more farmers and ranchers, there were more lawyers, too.

The concentrations were higher as well, because the Legislature three years after statehood had 73 members, compared with 112 now.

“Of the seventy-three members of the two houses … twenty-four are wholly or largely interested in the raising of (live)stock,” The New Mexican newspaper reported on Jan. 9, 1915.

“Of these twenty-four, a large number are exclusively concerned with sheep,” the story said.

The New Mexican report is cited in the 1967 book “Politics in New Mexico” by the original director of the Legislative Council Service, Jack Holmes. University of New Mexico Press was the publisher.

“There are seventeen lawyers in the two houses, nine farmers and five doctors,” the 1915 news report said.

“Merchants, railroad men, and real estate and insurance men are represented among the remaining members.

“There is but one banker, one capitalist, and one industrialist among the members of the two houses.”

The writer is unnamed in Holmes’ footnotes, but I note that he or she exercised some newspaper writing flare when describing the composition of the 1915 Legislature, when several members of my profession apparently served.

“The newspaper men number three,” the writer said, “but one of these has had the good sense to combine farming with newspaper activities.”

This must be an allusion to a newspaper adage put forward to me by my first editor, offering me a job in 1974 while also warning me of the consequences.

“You aren’t going to get rich,” he said, getting around to the $90 a week salary.

My guess is that the “newspaper men” serving in 1915 were higher up the ink-stained ladder than I — more like publishers than reporters. But these days, even if I had added a little farming to my newspaper endeavors, I’d probably be praying for a lottery win in addition to rain.

And please excuse all the references to men in 1915. The election of the first woman to the Legislature — Bertha M. Paxton of Las Cruces — didn’t come until 1922.

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