A man walked into the office some weeks ago in the uneven, bow-legged gait of one who has spent many years on the back of a horse. He was a little man and not loud. But he was the kind who stands out in a crowd. From the soles of the high-heeled riding boots to the big black Stetson on his head, he was a character. There was the clean, creased Levis, white shirt, vest and the black bow tie, the latter his only concession to conformity.
The man was Doughbelly Price of Taos and we wonder now if he wasn't stopping in to say "goodbye." For Doughbelly Price died Saturday.
We wonder at that visit because Dough's conversation wasn't along the usual lines for him. He seemed to have no particular reason for the visit, except to talk. But there wasn't the usual banter about politics, or who were the biggest crooks, real estate dealers or newspapermen. He seemed a little sad and tired. And his attempts at his particular brand of humor were only half-hearted.
Doughbelly Price had a large and faithful following--tourists who looked upon him as a real character, or something left over from the "real" West; an unestimable number of readers of his newspaper and magazine columns; readers of his books; nearly every person in Northern New Mexico, and an army of cowboys and just plain guys who crossed his trail over the years, whether at rodeos, on ranches, in bars, at poker or dice tables, or even in jails.
Nearly everyone considered Doughbelly a character, which he was. Others prefer to remember him as a sagebrush philosopher with a lot of sense in the crude, but easily understood words he wrote. We prefer to think of him, however, as one of the masses of humanity in this world who found a way to stand a little higher and speak a little louder than most.
For Doughbelly Price had something to say and he said it.
There were the ramblings about his own experiences and interwoven through everything he wrote or spoke about was his admiration and respect for the little men and women who go through life satisfied with their role and trying only to do a good job.
As an observer of the world, he was on a level by himself. He attacked the English language with a thoroughness unequaled anywhere. He at times got a bit earthy, in fact about the only editing we have ever seen on Doughbelly's columns was to blue pencil unprintable material.
His comments were in a sour, grass roots language that seldom contained praise. One knew what he liked by the way he cursed a subject. As a result his beloved real estate business was made up of people with licenses to steal and he shot-gunned his fellow brokers with a continual stream of abuse, but all with tongue in cheek. On the other hand, he might pour much of the same abuse at the Kennedy administration, but the tongue wasn't in cheek and the reader knew it.
Doughbelly's comments in print covered the field of world affairs. And they brought forth extreme reactions from readers. To print his column brought a charge from some readers that the publication was insulting the intelligence of the readers. But to others he "is the only thing I ever read in your paper."
One thing is certain, Doughbelly never sat on a fence.
He compared the Kennedy family to the House of Lords in England and commented: "I think I will change my name to Doughbelly Kennedy so I will have a chance of being something beside a real estate bootlegger."
As a man with little formal education he was continually jabbing away at the diploma set. At one time he saw his kind as, "It looks like we dunghills that ian't got no diplomas on something has got two things for shore (and no one wants them): A hard head and A body odor. Mother nature gave us that and we diden't have to go to school to learn to live with that affliction.
As an old timer, Doughbelly wasn't quite happy with modern life and liked the slower life of the old days. "... in the days when we was taking our semi-annual bath we was happy, endependent and diden't have to look up to nobody. Today, there is nobody happy, nobody independent and we have got to look up to everybody."
We don't believe Doughbelly intended to change the world. He was just a fellow who wanted to tell the world how he felt--and he did a pretty good job.