By Myles Culbertson
Apr 18, 2022
An opinion today published in the New Mexico Sun: https://newmexicosun.com/stories/623333794-the-precious-right-to-vote
This is a story about my father – W.O. Culbertson, Jr. A few of you reading this will still remember him.
In the spring of 1972, we were branding calves on my family's ranch in Northeastern New Mexico. It was the first Tuesday in June, primary election day, and our plan was to finish up the morning's work, turn the horses loose, and stand down the chuck wagon and camp so that we and the crew could take the rest of the day off to go vote.
In the corral, as we were finishing up that day's set of calves, my father's horse fell with him – the full force and weight of the horse landing on his chest. For a moment it appeared his back might be broken, but thankfully that wasn't the case.
He was able to stand up and kind of walk but was really beaten up. We were 25 miles from the nearest highway and almost 60 miles from the nearest medical facility. My wife Georgia and I got him into a pickup and drove from the camp to the ranch headquarters, where we changed to a more comfortable vehicle and rushed him and my mother to town.
When we got to town, I turned onto the street leading to the local hospital. Dad tried to sit a little higher in the back seat and asked where I thought I was going. I responded this was the quickest route to the hospital.
A little annoyed, he matter-of-factly said, "No, we have to vote first."
"Are you kidding?" I asked. "We've got to get you to the hospital!"
"Nope. We vote first. Then we'll go," he insisted stubbornly and with mind made up.
After the argument for first getting medical help proved totally futile, I submitted and turned toward the place to vote.
Georgia and I literally acted as crutches to help him into the voting place. Once inside and registered, we got him to the booth where I had to close the curtain for him because he couldn't raise his arm high enough to reach the handle. After he, and then the rest of us voted, Dad allowed himself to be taken to the hospital. He was admitted with three cracked ribs, a bruised lung, and a bruised liver.
My family has often laughed about that day and my father's stubborn insistence on getting to the polls, but the laughter has always been laced with a deep respect for his attitude toward a very precious right and privilege, paid for in blood and treasure so many times in so many places.
W.O. Culbertson, Jr. was a man of insight and principle. Had he lived long enough to see what my brother and son-in-law witnessed in foreign countries that were finally voting, I believe he would have enthusiastically wanted to hear every detail, and he would have said to them, "Well done. Remember what you've seen."
He would have been amazed at the grasp for liberty being made by tribesmen in the middle east and Asia. He would have understood with clarity their implications, and what their success or failure would mean for his grandchildren and great grandchildren. It would never have occurred to him that his own example would be the measure by which I and my family follow the news of liberty on the other side of the planet.
He saw things in simple profound terms. He would have known – and would have told us all - "You have to vote." That's about all he would have said about it.
…and, in recollection I would add, even if a horse falls on you.
The lesson of that first Tuesday in June 1972 has never left me. It is the single basic determinant of a free society. This nation and its destiny belong, rightly so, to those who have the passion, and the gumption, to vote.
Myles Culbertson has been engaged in ranching, banking, international trade, border development, regulation & law enforcement, and management of specialized projects. He has served as Executive Director of two state agencies, under four governors, and is presently owner of Myles Culbertson Partners, a business strategy firm.