Tuesday, December 1, 2009

WHEN COWBOY WAS A NOBLE TRADITION

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

They could strike a match on the backside of their jeans and light a cigarette they just rolled while holding the reins in one hand and the cigarette paper in the other.
They laughed easily, worked relentlessly and found peace in doing an honest day's work.
It was an era when the cowboy was defined by the work that he did. You found him on dusty plains trailing thousands of cattle to the stockyards at the railhead. He worked for a $100 a month, worked until the work was done or until he drifted on to move another herd.
Many were men but just as many were boys. It was the 1930s and it was more the norm than not for a boy of 12 or 13 to be working a man's job for a man's wages. His momma would watch him ride away as he left to meet up with a cattle drive, not knowing if she'd ever see him again.
Most never went more than 6-8 years to school. Ranches were vast, covering hundreds of square miles. Getting to the school was a problem and finding work was not.
They ate their meals cooked from the supplies in a chuck box that followed along, not always in a wagon but sometimes in a jeep or pickup.
They rolled up in cowboy tarp bedrolls at night and were glad for the chance to be still for a few hours. A fire crackled and cast off sparks into a black night. A coyote howled in the distance and the cattle rustled just enough to ensure their intention of bedding down.
That cowboy didn't see movies or read books to find out what he was supposed to be like.
He broke his own horses and shod the same.
He wore his boots and his hat because they had a functional purpose. Usually there was a crooked crease in the hat and a careless look to him overall.
These same boys became young men, picked up rifles and shipped off to war. They were in foreign countries and on remote islands where they fought an enemy they'd never seen and knew little about. They were shot at and they shot back. Some were wounded, some never came home.
But, those that did, found their way back to the wide open country. They strapped on their spurs, saddled up a bronc and went back to the business of punching cows.
They took brides and rewarded them with ranch-camp living that offered no more than a shack and a cook stove but came complete with kerosene lighting and no plumbing.
In most parts of ranch country, not much changed until the railroads gave way to highways and trucking forced a complete shift in the rail industry and with it, the way cattle were shipped to markets.
They were the last generation of full-time horseback cowboys, working cattle in much the same way their grandfathers before them had. Horses were hardened and tough and the men the same.
As renowned Western author Elmer Kelton so eloquently put it, "What the real cowboy is, and has always been, is a common man in an uncommon profession, giving more than he receives, living by a code of conduct his detractors will never understand."
I pray we hang on to the best of what those men were.
Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net

Saturday, November 21, 2009

WHO GETS THE TURKEY LEG?


Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

Everywhere I turn, I hear people making plans for next week. A trip, shopping, cooking and the inspiration for it all -Thanksgiving Dinner.
In the peripheral, there are bets on football games and plots for spending vacation time from school classes.
Paintball wars, cattle workings, roping, skiing and lots and lots of eating, napping, visiting and family togetherness. If the ropers aren't going to a roping, they will discuss at length, every roping they have ever entered in their life.
Somehow, a turkey drumstick, dressing and of course the traditional pumpkin pie, still have the power to bring the family home, even from afar.
Almost everything that takes place on Thanksgiving could happen on another day of the year. I'm fairly sure the Pilgrims at the first such event didn't look at the calendar and say, "Let's do this on a Thurs-day in November. Is that good for you?"
So what is it really that keeps us coming back to the historical observance of collecting a crowd, cooking up everything in the house and then some, eating until it's gone and then moaning our way back to our tepees and cabins.
I believe it is the tradition as much as the food that brings families together year after year, under all circumstances. And rural America re-mains steeped in tradition for many things, but none more than a traditional holiday.
We don't get too revved up about President's Day, Mother's Day (except to hold a branding) and Secretary's Day, but give us the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas and we'll show you some genuine Yee-Haw down-home country tradition.
There are a few folks that hold with the thought that the Pilgrims more likely ate chicken-fried elk steak than turkey and chose to follow that menu instead of the bird.
Others have sought a variation to the roasted fowl and opted for the deep-fried version.
This cooking method generated a retail Tsunami of turkey deep-fryers followed by the landslide of warnings about how the combination of fire and hot oil can quickly turn a fryer into a vertical flame thrower.
This year, our family traditions will again be orchestrated by my mother, who started the entire thing for my generation.
She will cook a turkey, make the best stuffing in the world, ours anyway, and we'll gather to eat at her big oak table that will be stretched with extra leaves from round to a long oval.
We, as a family, have been putting our family traditions "on the table" at Mom's house for five decades, and all of those have been around that oak table. As we grew to adulthood, the next wave was the grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren. If that table could talk ...
This Thanksgiving, our newest family member will be introduced to roundtable family holidays. He is just six months old and making his debut to New Mexico and grandma's Thanksgiving.
It's not quite like the days of old when "over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go" offered images of horse-drawn sleighs and piles of snow.
We've evolved to pickup trucks, baby car seats, long miles of paved highways in a snow-free Southwest. But the destination promises the same as the song:
Over the river, and through the wood -
Now Grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
Enjoy the holiday however you spend it. You are making memories for your family to treasure in the next generations

Sunday, November 15, 2009

COWBOY SHORTS

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

Now that I have your attention, this is not about underwear, mostly. In the day-to-day nonsense and banter that whips through the cowboy world, there are always a few short stories that offer up a chuckle but aren't a volume on their own.
These are a few of those "shorts."
First, I will report that the buxom Fastenal nuts and bolts salesgirl that had our man Dan the Team Roper, aka farm store purchasing agent, so interested in fasteners, has quit. She's been replaced by just a regular guy.
Dan is broken hearted, bought no more bolts but did admit to having a three-year supply already in stock.
There seems to be a pattern here that keeps him in a state of bachelorhood with his dog Mary Margaret and cat Gato for company.
The upside is that all is well since he acquired the new toaster oven. He finds solace in cooking.
While the nuts and bolts business has plummeted at the New Holland store, Dan is admiring his friend Rob's operating plan.
Rob says he has three gals on the line and one on his "to-do" list.
While he seems to have one romantic disaster after another, it hasn't occurred to him that it could be his technique.
He told the current gal he didn't have any more time to spend with her.
This was while telling another that he had out there on the horizon and at the phone call stage, that he was out of a girlfriend at present because he mostly kept one around for recreational purposes.
She did not relate to that well at all.
From romance to ropers
Lloyd and Russell are both ace-high, in-demand heelers and the two of them seem to trade out winning it all at every event where they both show up to rope.
Russell is looking for a new heel horse and when Lloyd got word, he just happened to have a whizbang great heel horse for sale.
He wants a mere $17,500 for him.
In only the length of time it took to rope another steer, down the arena and back to the roping boxes, Lloyd decided he didn't want Russell to have that horse.
"Russell would be too hard to beat if he had that horse," he commented. "I better keep him for myself."
Seems the price or the quality isn't always what dictates a sale in the horse trading business.
Sometimes you have to find every edge you can to stay on top, even not selling the horse that was for sale.
OK, here's the underwear story.
It was a big roping, and a pretty flashy gal-roper named Lisa had drawn a steer with a guy she knew, but didn't see often.
The catch-up visiting commenced. The team knew approximately when they'd have to rope in their rotation, but somehow managed to miss their call and their steer was turned out.
When they finally wandered up to the roping box end of the arena and realized they'd missed their run, the guy-end of this team when up to the announcer fully armed with a plausible reason.
In case you missed it, team ropers are notorious for their excuses.
He told the announcer that the reason they'd missed the call was because Lisa's bra strap had broken and he'd been tasked with the chore of fixing it.
A twinkle in his eye and a nod toward the well-endowed Lisa, cinched the deal.
Whether the announcer really bought the story or not is doubtful, but he rewarded the effort by giving them another steer.
Only a male roping with a female would come up with a story like that to make it her fault. He was hilariously proud of himself. She was not at all entertained.
If you have a smile, share it. If don't own one, find one. Life is much better if you laugh.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A PRICKLY SITUATION


By Julie Carter/ Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

There he was, standing in all his glory, and his underwear, with his glow-in-the-dark white skin glaring in the late afternoon sun.
His spindly cowboy legs were still in his boots and his hat and sunglasses were in their places.
He was holding his clothes in his right hand and a set of broken bridle reins in the other.
His wife had been doing chores at home. That was the deal.
With 23 head of horses on the place, give or take a few depending if anyone had hauled any off to the sale, or drug a few home, there was never any shortage of work to be done - feeding or riding.
Each afternoon she takes on the feeding duty while he saddles up a young, green horse to put some miles on before sunset.
It is a good life for them, but it also keeps any dull moments from finding their way to the ranch.
The wife looked up from her work when a pretty bay Hancock filly came in a high lope up the road, still wearing a saddle but without the reins on the headstall and worse yet, without her rider.
Trying not to let fear overcome her, the wife ignored the alarms going off in her heart and in her head. She and the ever-present dog jumped on the Polaris Ranger and zoomed off to find the missing cowboy on the mountain.
Calling his name as she searched the hillsides, she soon heard him holler back at her. As she drove up on the scene, her first words were, "What in the hell are you doing?"
This, by the way, is a phrase of standard dialogue if you are married to a cowboy and one that both parties will use with wild abandon.
There is no good answer to that question in a situation like this, but the cowboy gave it his best effort.
"The filly spooked and when she jumped, I hung a spur in her accidentally," he said "She really went to bucking, and was really getting with it. Then all of a sudden, a rein snapped."
"I tried to pull her around with the other rein to get her stopped," he said. "But it broke, too. Then she was really getting with it and well, she just flat bucked me off."
His wife was obviously concerned for him, as he wasn't a kid anymore and those hard landings take their toll. However, she was somewhat more concerned about why he was standing there on the hillside half naked.
Asking about the obvious seemed called for. "So why are you walking home naked?"
"She bucked me off in a prickly pear cactus," he said as he turned to reveal millions of cactus spears sticking in the backside of his body.
It took his wife and daughter the better part of six hours to tweeze the cactus spines out of his back, arm, leg, head and other assorted assaulted spots.
The pain finally did subside.
However, the humiliation of his plight over those broken bridle reins will last for as long as anyone remembers the story. I'm just doing my part.
Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net

Monday, November 2, 2009

CALL OF THE WILD

BY Julie Carter
There is something about the cool fall air that brings out the plaid jackets, crock pot recipes and the smell of cedar burning in a wood stove. It is also Mother Nature's call of the wild to the world of hunters.
The primal instinct to hunt and kill "a little winter meat" rises up like sap in a maple tree. It brings out in men the same stalk, kill and drag-it-home instinct as it did in the days of the cave men.
Die-hard hunters look offended if you should ask them, "You going hunting this year?" In their minds it is a national holiday and they really do believe that. Ask any crew boss with a few hunters in his employment.
Hunting season is marked on the calendar before anything else for the year. Vacation time is scheduled around the season's dates.
I've known men that actually would quit a job in order to be able to go hunting. And another who would injure himself just enough to qualify for some paid time off, which of course, he used to go hunting. Neanderthal instincts are alive and well.
I know. There was a time when hunting kept food on the table, whether the table was a rock in a cave or a crudely built slab table in a log cabin. Don't dare mention that the cost of the sport far outweighs any justification said hunter can ever give for the possibility of the meat he is promising for the freezer.
The sport remains a huge business in many states and is very big business in the mountain counties of New Mexico. I've never been able to put a solid Advertisement dollar value on the business statewide or what it pours into the economy in Lincoln County alone, but it's huge.
Between the hunters who come on their own and the guides and outfitters who import a good number from faraway points on the map, hunting brings income to the coffers of the businesses in town. Just try elbowing your way through the camouflaged shoppers at Walmart prior to or during a hunt.
Signs announcing the sale of licenses, food and beer flash up and down the streets and often free meals are offered to the hunters by grateful merchants. One fella said he spent $200 in gas driving from burg to burg to take part in the meals. He wasn't a hunter, just an eater.
The motels and restaurants are a sea of camouflage with parking lots filled with pickups and trailers loaded to the brim with coolers, 4-wheelers and camping paraphernalia.
As one local commented when he went into the grocery store to get a loaf of bread, only to find an endless checkout line, "I decided it was faster to go home and make biscuits."
I grew up in a family of hunters. We lived in the mountains, so the hunters hunted early in the mornings, did a day's work, squeezed in some hunting before sundown, and slept in their own beds each night. Camping was for the out-of-staters.
For us, hunting was a generational skill passed on from the days of truly needing winter meat.
My grandmother would laugh at the hunters when they arrived home empty-handed and telling tales of the big tracks they saw, but never spotted an game animal. "Well. I guess we'll just cook up some track soup," she would say.
One of the best things that has evolved over the years in this hunting deal is that now, the women can and do say "you killed it, you clean it." No Wilma Flintstone dresses hanging around this outfit. But I do have some of her jewelry!

Friday, October 30, 2009

THE GHOST STALLION OF LLANO ESTACADO


By Julie Carter
The white stallion was sky-lighted on the ridge top, his proud head held high. Poised, his beautiful body stood still for a fleeting moment before he took one mighty jump and landed fully 25 feet away in an alkali bog that would become his grave.
It is an old story told around campfires for 100 years. Its origins came about in 1879 when some cowpunchers rode into the camp of a buffalo hunter who was known to be quite the spinner of tales.
That night around the campfire the grizzled hunter pointed a roughened finger in the direction of a heavily loaded wagon of buffalo hides he was preparing to freight to market and said, "I would gladly give every hide for the 3-year-old white stallion I have seen upon these plains. He's as fleet as the wind and is a purebred, not a native mustang."
"I've been trying to catch him for two years without any luck. He ranges from here to the Black Water Draw, south, and as far as the Tierra Blanco on the north.
I first saw him when he was a yearling running with his mother. Both were pure white."
The hunter went on to say he didn't see the mare and colt for a year and when he caught sight of them, the mare had a filly by her side and the young stallion, now a yearling , was still running with her, wilder than ever and fast as an antelope.
After a failed attempt to capture the mare and colts, the stallion disappeared, "as if a mirage."
The hunter never saw him again.
The tale of this ghost-white stallion held the cowboys spellbound and they knew they'd never be satisfied until they could ride the plains and hunt the white mirage.
After the fall works were done, they traveled to Fort Sumner to meet with the Trujillo brothers, Pedro and Soledad.
The brothers said they had often seen the white stallion on the plains "He is too fast to catch; we have all tried and failed," they said. When we get close to him, he vanishes, so we have named him "The Ghost."
Agreeing to help hunt the stallion, the brothers told the cowboys to meet them at Gato Montes Spring on the Blackwater Draw in March. "We'll find him if he's still alive."
True to their word, when the cowboys got to the spring, the brothers were not only there, but they had learned where the white stallion was watering with his band of heavy-bred mares.
The next morning they saw the horses out ahead of them feeding on lush grass but quickly scattering as the men approached.
Pedro took in after them while Soledad marked the grazing spot with a long pole with a red flag on the end.
In the distance, "The Ghost" dashed over the plains, his white mane and tail blowing in the breeze.
Pedro was away all day and said he must have chased the horses 70 miles. They made a huge circle, eventually returning to their home range. The following day, one of the cowboys chased them all day, returning late to say the band was now near Spring Lake.
The cowboys, Trujillo brothers, two other vaqueros and a half-blood Apache with a reputation for his ability to rope, headed out the next day.
When they spotted the horses, they didn't crowd them, but struck a long lope and followed behind.
They ran by the old buffalo hunter's camp near Running Water and headed north. By noon, they had reached Tule Draw, the south prong of the Red River, and headed west. Sometimes they'd slacken down to a trot and then return to a lope or a run. The mares began to fall out as they tired, but The Ghost never weakened.
By sundown, all but 10 mares had dropped out, soon to be only three and then none. The Ghost was headed south to Yellow House Lake and just when they thought they had him headed off, he turned south.
Yellow House Lake is a big alkali sink on the Llano Estacado. Its water, not fit for man or beast, covered a bottomless bog by a bare few inches. A large animal could never conquer the horror that loomed below the deceivingly tranquil surface.
For four days, The Ghost had been running in the lead, but when he headed down the backbone of the ridge that lead to the lake, cold chills ran up the spines of his pursuers.
They turned back from the chase, hoping that perhaps then the stallion would turn as well.
The animal's free, intelligent, noble spirit preferred death to capture, and the stallion knew as well as his men, that death lay in Yellow House Lake.
He floundered briefly as the bog sucked him under. The bitter water filled his nostrils and oozed into his mouth. A few bubbles was all that was left on the surface and The Ghost of Llano Estacado was no more.
A tragic end to a free spirit, but even ghosts should have their freedom.
This story in it's original telling appears in Frank Collinson's "Life in the Saddle."
Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

COWBOY PURCHASING AGENT

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

Sometimes the only required items for cowboys to fix anything are baling wire, duct tape and some old-fashioned sweat.
Occasionally, specialty items are required and that means assuming the role that in corporate America is labeled "Purchasing Agent."
In a corporate situation, that title would get you a corner office, but in the cowboy world, that gets you a pickup seat on the way to town.
One particular morning, Jess was faced with the 4-wheeler being out of commission. This vehicle was critical to his ranching operation because it was used daily to gather the roping cattle.
He dropped everything and headed to the NAPA store for a new battery.
There, he was told by the knowledgeable parts man that the exact battery he needed would be $75, but kindly added that they were cheaper over at Walmart.
Ever frugal, Jess took his advice and headed that way.
At the Walmart battery department, located at the very back of the store, he was faced with a lady clerk.
She told Jess that in order to buy a new battery, it was store policy that he must trade in an old one.
Jess was parked out by the place in the parking lot where they sell the puppies and park the big rigs, but he dutifully walked all the way out of the store and the five miles to the back of the parking lot, making the return trip with his old battery in hand.
The lady clerk promptly uncrated a new battery, showed Jess the instructions in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French and finally American. Together they tried to decipher them.
As it turned out, in order to activate this battery they needed a vial of acid, something to pour it in the battery with and a trickle charger.
Faced with this complicated problem, Jess asked what the charge would be for all this equipment. The total with tax was $119.
Quick with the math, Jess lugged his old battery back out past the "puppies for sale" and returned to the parts store.
There he discovered the NAPA man had forgotten to mention all the extra equipment that would also be needed for the NAPA battery, although he did not require an old one be turned in.
All said and done, the register rang up about $20 more than the total Walmart price. Jess added that to the price of six-pack it would take to help him recover from the entire experience.
One would think that if one were at work, minding one's own business, trouble wouldn't be any closer than one's plans for the weekend.
And then there is Dan
As per the aforementioned minding one's own business at work, Dan was tending his at the implement dealership that pays him to fix and sell things along with providing him with respectable employment.
High marks for a cowboy.
One day the Fastenal rep stopped by, as sales reps tend to do. This company peddles nuts, bolts and small, seemingly useless but somebody buys it, hardware. The dealership is a regular stop for the Fastenal guy.
However, likely in a plot to create an income stimulus, they sent a blonde.
As Dan reported it, "Her waist was this big (thumbs together, hands spread out about 10 inches), and her chest was about this big (hands spread out at arms length and Dan has very long arms).
His eyes grew along with the description of the measurements.
With that, he admitted that he bought a couple hundred dollars worth of bolts.
Carol, his secretary and buddy came by and said, "Dan you know we never sell bolts."
Dan replied easily, "We're fixing to start."
He reported that the shapely blonde rep went into the parts room with him, looked everything over, dusted off some of the things that had never in this lifetime been moved, and then told him the store looked to her to be pretty low on inventory. He ordered them all.
Now every time somebody comes into the store and up to the parts counter to get something, the store employees are required to ask the customer if they need any bolts with that.
Stop by the store and tell Dan you need some bolts, but only if the Fastenal rep this there to preview them.
Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net

Saturday, October 10, 2009

CHANGING OF THE SEASONS- COWBOY STYLE

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

For most people, fall is the season of turning leaves, cooler weather, and the last bloom of summer flowers. For the cowboy, like Monday starts a new week, fall begins a new year.
It is the time of year for gathering the cattle and turning sassy calves into weanlings. The long days in the saddle, the billowing dust of corrals full of cattle, the long lines of cattle trucks all mean one thing. Pay day. That reward for a year of work that started this time last year.
For one more year, they have watched a cow buyer drive off down the dusty road, knowing that they probably won't see him again for a year. One more time, they heave a sigh of relief as the last cattle truck rolled over the cattle guard headed for feedlots and wheat pastures.
Yearling cattle operators have shipped the summer cattle and are looking to get the fall stockers received and tucked away in winter pastures.
Fall is when you get out all the jackets, down vests, wild rags and leggings. You make every effort to find the winter gloves, all of them, including the right and left one of each pair. It's commonly known that while empty cardboard boxes multiply in captivity, winter gloves in matching pairs are an endangered species.
My first concession to the season is giving up my sandals in trade for full-cover footwear. It usually doesn't happen before I've been seen in public a number of times wearing a turtleneck sweater and the aforementioned shoes with no tops.
The horses begin to grow furry coats and spend more time at the feed bunk. They have little interest in working, socializing or doing anything but soaking up the afternoon sun.
Fall is when you start breaking the two-year-old colts and hope they retain just a little of it before you turn them out for winter. It is hard to maintain any cowboy athletic prowess with a bucking colt when you are dressed with enough layers to resemble the Michelin man.
Preferred menu changes move from sandwiches and salads to pots of chili and a complete assortment of crock-pot ready-to-eat cuisine options.
Pumpkins are everywhere. Pumpkin cake and pumpkin bread are a favorite whether it is for the taste of cinnamon and clove or simply a good reason for the cream cheese frosting. While I happen to think pumpkin comes in a can, the real thing does look pretty sitting around next to Indian corn or bundled corn stocks.
It is not yet calving season and there is not yet any ice to break on the water tanks. The feed pickups stand by ready for work. However, the season is too short to start any major fencing, pipelining or corral building.
It is not that winter is an idle season but it has a specific list of jobs that, for the most part, leave no time for special projects.
Fall is the time to review what has been accomplished during the year - you can't get it back but you can always hope to improve on it.
Ranching is like that. A rancher is always looking forward to getting this year over with so he can start on the next one. He simply is able to start a little earlier with his New Year resolutions.
And those almost always begin with a prayer for full water tanks, good grass and decent cattle prices.
Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net.

Friday, October 2, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY COWBOY SON!

By Julie Carter

He was only 6 years old when he first hit newsprint; a hazard of having a mother who is a writer. The story titled "Life doesn't get any better than this" told of the country-boy things that filled his days.
Like most ranch kids, this young cowboy's days (when not in kindergarten) were peppered with activities involving dogs, horses, cattle and miles in a feed pickup or in the shop learning guy stuff like welding and fixing broken vehicles.
The remoteness of the ranch sheltered him from the cutting edge of the "normal" '90s kid-life.
Power Rangers and Nintendo were the rage and he nothing of either.
His TV viewing left him thinking that the Lone Ranger and Scooby Doo were suitable heroes; no matter that they'd already been heroes to four decades of kids.
He was 7 before he ever saw a movie in a theater (Star Wars) and not far into it, he asked if he could change the channel and watch Scooby Doo.
He entertained himself daily by hooking up his red wagon to his bicycle with some well-engineered baling wire and loading up a hound pup to teach the pup to "trailer."
He would ride at breakneck bicycle speeds, the pup's ears flapping Snoopy-style, from the upper side of ranch headquarters to the bottom where the road curved to the barn.
It was here he'd make a hard turn-around, usually rolling the wagon and launching the puppy, but without missing a beat, he'd set everything back aright and get rolling again.
He began riding in the pasture during cattle workings at the age of 3 and by the time he was 6 his lack of fear kept my teeth clenched.
He learned to weld and use the cutting torch by first cutting his name, "LANE," in a metal plate and then wanted it mounted on the ranch entrance gate.
One day he leaned on his elbows on my desk as I was writing, hands under his chin, and very seriously said, "Mom, do you think it's time for a raise in my alangance?"
"Alangance?" I asked. "What is that?"
"You know," he said gesturing with his hand. "Money."
Ah, he meant allowance. However, he didn't get an allowance so I wasn't sure why he thought he needed a raise.
I quickly listed for him the work required for him to receive an allowance, and he just as quickly lost interest.
He wore only "snap shirts" (his name for Western shirts) and was al-ways geared up for play with toy guns, a worn out straw hat, gloves and usually a bugle and an American flag. Those old Westerns on TV will show a guy how to dress.
His favorite was the one I made for him out of flag-printed fabric that he selected. He called it his United States of America shirt.
A few things have changed but as many have not.
He's much larger now as he turns that magic age of teenage drivers, standing 6 foot 3 inches and weighing in like a line-backer.
He owns and operates most of the teen gadgets from iPods to cell phones and can text while he talks and runs a Google search on his laptop computer.
He still loves the American flag and still loves "snap shirts."
The old Westerns on TV are still his favorites and his excitement is in hunting, riding, roping and dinner.
Girls have hit his radar and his dreams are now of bigger toys, like a pickup to call his own and giving a worthy name to his new horse.
He can make a hand on the flanking crew at the brandings and isn't afraid to spend countless hours on his own at the ranch doing whatever needs done.
I hope the next 10 years of his life find him as grounded in the reality of what is important as he is now. My work is almost done.
Happy 16th, son.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

COWBOY STORAGE

By Cowgirl Sass & Savvy ..By Julie Carter

If you have ever crawled into a cowboy's pickup, you know that the passenger seat is obviously considered the "storage place on the right side of the cab."
A cowboy's wife related her woes to me.
"Any time I go anywhere with my hero, he has to have the console down so he can set his beverage there, plus the phone, any important papers, his hat and any other junk he is toting around.
"Excess necessary equipment, such as rope bag, gloves, over reach and skid boots, saddle pads, water bottle, coolers for burritos, drinks, slicker, extra boots, spurs and anything else he happens to own, all end up in the passenger seat and floorboard.
"I'm not all that wide but still I do require some place to park my butt and my feet. I clearly remember back before full time roping bum days, when all the necessary working equipment, leggings, extra coats, vests, wild rags, etc., were parked there, too. He does own a two-seater truck. The single cab truck does have a bed that could possibly be considered to haul some of this junk and there is a storage space in the trailer.
"What I carry, fits in my pocket - the entry fees. What on earth would happen if I had to take a ton of make-up, books, clothes and possibly a watermelon or two for snacks?"
Traditionally, cowboys also fully utilize the storage space under the pickup seat. One can find almost anything ranging from empty medicine bottles serving as reminders to buy more, to the excess adult beverage cans consumed during the course of a business week. Usually a number of unidentifiable items suggest forgotten food from times gone by.
Storage priorities for cowboys are very easily established. They start and end with "his."
The kitchen table is a repository for all things that are of immediate importance in the Western Hemisphere. This would include the syringes, balling guns, ear tag pliers, any part of the knife sharpening equipment to include whet rocks and an assortment of things they simply don't want to put away.
In the filing process, but still on the table, are receipts for anything from a hamburger to a new piece of land. In addition, there are endless lists of things to be accomplished, checked on or fixed, projects for the future and anything that might be put on any other list. A list of list, of sorts.
Buried in this cowboy's mound of important things, which will almost preclude serving any meal on the kitchen table, is the insurance bill dated two months ago that has now guaranteed cancellation of coverage and the BLM lease with the same results.
In the barn, there are entire rooms devoted to storage of left over pieces of leather that are too small to use, ropes which have lost their vitality or had a miss in them. There is the kid saddle he had from 50 years ago and several pair of old leggings that are too heavy, too stiff and too patched to be worn.
Hanging are jackets fringed in tatters from wear along with a pile of old hats that are "too good to throw away," but obviously not good enough to wear. Under dust is the packsaddle that came with plans for a camping trip "one of these days."
And certainly, there are those sealed boxes of mystery content holding treasures of some great value. "I might need these some day," he will say.
At least one other room is devoted to storage of "spare" parts from the various pieces of equipment, furniture, watches, tools and toys. Parts that were left over after assembling.
"Some assembly required," are three very dangerous words for a cowboy, ranking right up there with, "I want you to meet my mother."
Julie can be reached for comment at www.julie-carter.com

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

THE LEGEND OF 20 TRICKS

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

The story has been told around campfires, roping arenas, beer coolers and white tablecloth restaurants with an ongoing hilarity that is enhanced only by knowing the players personally.
It was the early '90s, California and a cowboy and his bride had been to a high-fallutin' paint horse sale. Conversation, a barbeque and alcohol energized the crowd and encouraged hand raising and check writing.
Paul had been drinking some, but not a lot, and his wife Ineta had only a beer before they left the party and headed home. Paul was driving when they were pulled over by the flashing blue and red lights, with a second patrol car behind the first.
The police officer told Paul he was speeding and also noted the open container of beer between his legs. He told him to get out of the pickup and proceeded to take him around to the squad car to begin the field sobriety test.
From her side of the pickup, Ineta could see Paul performing the clap, clap, clap, followed by a ballerina pose, a walk the line and touch his nose performance.
Passing the field test, Paul stayed with the officer while Ineta remained in their vehicle on the orders of the two patrolmen "guarding her," one a "buffed-up blonde cop" as she described him.
She watched as they put Paul in the other patrol car and then she saw one of the officers hit him with his flashlight. It lit a fire in the cowgirl.
As Ineta attempted to leave the pickup, a cop slammed her back and told her to keep her backside (expletive down played) in the vehicle.
Ineta's cowgirl-tough instincts came to life. With her knee, she rammed the cop and took him to the ground. This tiny 5'4" cowgirl, was on the fight and had lost any of her good sense in the fray.
The other cop, standing by, jumped in and even with two, they couldn't take the kicking wildcat down.
They called for back up and the other two cops attending Paul joined in. It took all four of them, but they finally had her in cuffs on her legs and her hands and then threw her in the back seat of the squad car.
Her only question was, "What are you doing?"
The officers ignored her, talking on the radio and the words "assault on an officer" were heard.
She and Paul were separated and she wouldn't see him again until the next day.
Ineta was put in an isolation cell for booking and fingerprinting. Later she was taken to the cell where she'd spend the night.
With the slamming of the cell door, Ineta looked around, now smarter than she'd been a few hours before.
She could see she was in a cell full of prostitutes that had been in the night's roundup. There was a bench on the wall and a toilet in the middle of the room.
The urge to pee that had seemed an emergency earlier, left her as fear moved in.
Giving her an appraising eye, the tattooed, dressed-up "ladies of the night" resumed their conversation about the events of the evening and the tricks they'd turned.
This was business as usual for them.
Ineta's hair, clothes and general appearance looked like, well, like she'd been wrestling with cops. At some point, one of the girls turned to her and asked, "What about you, what did you bring in tonight?"
Ineta, once again in possession of her full mental faculties that had escaped her earlier, stuttered briefly, recognizing that for her safety, she needed to fit in. This was a very intimidating, mean-looking bunch of women.
"Hmmmm," she thought, "what's a good number, one they'll believe."
"Twenty," she said. "I did 20."
It seemed to satisfy the group of chippies and they accepted her as one of them for the night.
As the story was told and retold in cowboy gatherings across four states, both to the entertainment and embarrassment of the couple who did best in laughing at themselves, Ineta was forever tagged with the nickname, "20 Tricks."
Almost two decades later, her debut as 20 Tricks remains legendary.
Julie can be reached through her website at www.julie-carter.com.

THE 89 CENT PIZZA

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

Cooking has always been a challenge for our boy Dan the Team Roper. He seems to focus on the shortcuts and then wonders why he has a 99-percent failure rate, that he still has to eat.
Dan has established a running record of blowing up tator tot casseroles in the microwave and a subsequent serious failure with his attempt at cornbread in the Crockpot.
His latest venture has been the acquisition of a brand new "deeeluxe" toaster oven and last week's attempt to make a nice supper for himself when he got in from the roping arena.
"They looked real good in the picture on the box," he said his slow Texas cowboy drawl accented with a touch of his happy-hick personna.
"I bought a couple of them 89-cent frozen pizzas and thought they would make a right good supper for me and Mary Margaret."
Mary Margaret is Dan's newest dog who is the replacement for a few "good'uns" that went on to their great reward. She's one of those little dogs that is half a dog high and three dogs long - a black, tan and white Corgi who quickly established her adoration of Dan.
They all - the dog, cat, horses and cowboy - live happily at Dan's place in the woods. The smaller critters 7share the comfort of his trailer house where he has put the bed in the kitchen "where it belongs," he said. I was afraid to ask the logic on that one.
Mary Margaret has her own recliner that she occasionally shares with the cat named Gato. She is not allowed in Dan's recliner and he isn't allowed in her's. It's an understanding they reached early on and it keeps the household orderly.
To give Dan his due, he hasn't always been school-ed in the finer points of dining. One time he and some of his kin headed over to Joe Allen's barbeque joint in Abilene - world famous, at least in those parts.
The waitress that appeared, had on a very low-cut shirt, and was showing an ample amount of cleavage. One of the male kinfolk zoomed right in and was quickly lost in the staring. The waitress gave her spiel of the day's specials and as she wrote the orders, this mesmerized cowboy, still staring, said, "I'll have one."
They waited awhile and lunch appeared. He looked at whatever it was they brought him, unable to identify it, and tells his wife, "Mama, next time we go somewhere and the waitress has more cleavage than I do butt crack, you do the ordering."
Dan's nearly a celebrity now. His following of fans down at the tractor store gathers on Fridays to read the latest of the Dan stories.
When the last cooking adventure showed up in print, they began offering their treasured bachelor cooking recipes, although not all are single. The best one involved tuna, jalapenos and mustard on tortillas and for breakfast, stale Fritos with beer to moisten them.
That particular guy had been rodeoing for a week or so, came home to a Mother Hubbard pantry, woke up hungry and remembered a bag of Fritos in the truck from the last road trip. And, of course, he had beer.
Dan hasn't quite figured out what happened inside the toaster oven but related that the pizzas came out tough enough "to use for new soles on his boots."
"They just didn't look like the picture on the box," he lamented.
He offered them to Mary Margaret and the last he saw, she was tossing one around like a plastic Frisbee and wasn't quite sure it was something she should eat.
Dan said soon after he was headed out to find some pliers to try to get the cheese off that "thing" in the bottom of the toaster oven.
I hope he remembered to unplug it first.
I'd say it might be a real hair-curling event, but with Dan, there would be no evidence of that.
Visit Julie's Web site at www.julie-carter.com. Her books are available there..

Friday, August 28, 2009

SOMETIMES EVEN COWGIRLS BITE THE DIRT

By Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

The business of being a cowgirl is not for sissies. Doesn't matter if you are thinking cowgirl in the rodeo arena or on the ranch.
Both require a measure of grit and tough that one either has, or not. You can't buy it at the store.
Tenacity is a mindset that gets a cowgirl through a life of measurably tough times. Some folks call it hard-headedness but it goes beyond that, goes beyond stubborn or even just gutsy.
Frankly, it's the same inborn "cowboy-up" gene that puts a cowboy back on his horse right after a wreck, that lets them think getting bucked off over a prank is funny and that allows them to endure long days, short nights and working in weather that stops the rest the of world.
There was a time when I thought "cowgirl" was a choice. While the word is both a noun and a verb, it is also a chemical, biological explanation for why you can take the cowgirl to town but you can't ever get the "cowgirl" out of her.
I think back and recall the places in my life where I tried to graduate from the country-kid cowgirl I was raised and attempt to become more cosmopolitan and worldly.
There was the disco-phase in the '70s.
Donna Summer and I were constant musical companions and I had the moves down pat, which were no more than a country jitter-bug morphed into a classical kind of dancing.
Then, the flash-dance phase.
Torn, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, rolled bandanna headbands and lots of curls, flounce and bounce in the hair-do.
Although during this phase, I did own a horse and trailer and spent my summers rodeoing, making me a mixed message.
There have been periods of my adult life where I lived in big cities (Denver, LA and Phoenix).
I lived in apartments and condos and spent my free time on a beach with the Pacific Ocean serving as my "home on the range and wide open spaces."
I got over that. "Cow-girl" always called me back. That inner yearning, an emptiness that was never filled with fast lanes and fast living.
Somewhere along the way, I figured it out. I am what I was in the beginning.
I wasn't supposed to go anywhere to be someone different, I was only to be me wherever I was.
Now I look at the young'uns, as we older people call them.
Tough young cowgirls with a life ahead of them to experience and the youth to be the best they can be.
I hope they can find the understanding that who they are now is who they are going to be, and their job is only to improve on it.
Photos (see below) of a young cowgirl in a progressive wreck at a rodeo where her horse was falling, reminded me of the tough involved in being a cowgirl.
I was in that same kind of wreck so many times - I got up and brushed myself off as I watched my horse run back to the arena gate. I'd lived to do it again another day, and did.
Life is kind of like that. You fall fast and fall hard.
All in the course of living. Without giving it a second thought, you just get up, dust yourself off, and walk on out the gate knowing you'll be back to run another day.
When I get to Heaven, I'm pretty sure I'll be wearing boots under my white robes.
They'll be a large crowd of us, those that were blessed enough to be born cowgirls.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CASH FOR CLUNKERS - NO THANKS!

By Tracy Dowson

Yes, I'm a car dealer's wife and I would like to tell you what it'sreally like to be the wife of a businessman. First of all, he likes plaid. Really! And as a bachelor he had chrome end tables with aparking meter lamp in his parlour.
As of this writing (August 25, 2009) we still haven't received any reimbursement from the "Cash for Clunkers" program. We know of some who've received a payment or two; and we believe we will be paid ultimately. But - the money isn't here yet. However, we still have to make payroll, for sixty five employees and their families depend on us. Plus, there are the regular overhead payments to make.
Do you realize the federal government is forcing us to borrow from our future...and our children's and great grandchildren's futures...again!
People who would normally be ready to buy a car in a year or two will take this opportunity to buy now. We are preparing for those lean months.The Cash for Clunkers program is taking cars out of service before their time. It could be for 50 thousand miles or so, but it's still changing the natural course of cars going out of service and cars being sold. A car that may only need new tires or a new windshield is being smashed into bits. Businesses that service the related auto business are not going to get any business from this government interference.
We now have an emerging driver; our son is 16 with a learner's permit. For his own safety, I would like to keep him in an older, heavier car.
Understand too, that most auto dealers are strong members in their community.Look at Time Magazine for the detailed list of Time Quality Dealers who give their time, money and talent to their neighbors.These men and women are cutting edge business people who do not want government interference!
I have noticed that with hard-work and intelligence, people in the carindustry can excel. They can make a good living for their families.
The term working "bell to bell' means, from nine in the morning until nine p.m. - or until the last customer leaves.
About the only times my plaid loving car salesman and I ever had a fight,was when he missed dinner because of working late to help a customer.
Building your own business through long days and honest hard work has always been, and remains, the American dream. This is in stark contrast to today's system that rewards those with a degreed education, instead of those who have given years of their trade skills and loyal hands on service.
Fantasy, as opposed to reality learning, is where you have a teacher teaching business courses without ever having run a business. Then they become bureaucrats who make laws that resemble their fantasy.
No wonder it's all an up-side-down mess.
I for one, will be working hard to reinstate our American work ethic. Will you please join me?
The Cash for Clunker program was a program propelled by the human greed-factor that some people just couldn't resist!
Others smartly made the dash from this skunker!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

STOP SIGN FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA

By Tracy Dowson
Aug. 15, 2009

Dear President Obama,

1. Stop - health care reform. If you want to do something, clean-up the fraud that is currently in Medicare and Medicade.
2. Stop - stimulus, TARP, and bailouts using taxpayer’s money. Let businesses fail or succeed on their own. It was never the intention for our government to get into private businesses. Hold those who profit from their dishonest business practices accountable through the court systems, maybe some form of class action suit against the following:
a. Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal - $161 million
b. Citygroup CEO Charles Prince - $68 million
c. Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo $100 million
Do not borrow from countries like China to leave our children in this debt!
3. Stop - hurting our country by giving government contracts to businesses outside our country i.e. Airbus.
4. Stop - killing our troops by releasing prisoners of war to fight and kill again. You need to win a war before you can leave.
5. Stop - all aid to illegals, no health care, no anchor babies. Get them out of our country and build a fence!
6. Stop - monopoly on education. The voucher system would make our schools more competitive a nd be in the best interest of our future.
7. Stop - cap and trade. Many of the current government policies already cripple business in America.
8. Stop - use of Czars. Unless you are making a moving about Russian history! You need to be accountable to the people who put you into office.
Remember the meaning of our constitution and how important freedom is to the people of the United States of America.

Friday, August 21, 2009

LOST AND FOUND

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

John Rex believed himself to be, and therefore claimed he was a lover, fighter and a wild horse rider. Not an uncommon thought process for cowboys.
In real life, he was very much married and had a couple tow-head kids that would run into his back pockets if he suddenly stopped in his tracks.
There was the possibility that he might have accidentally become involved in a bar fight a time or two in the distant past. Considerable distant.
As far as riding the wild horses, his current job entailed starting the colts born of very gentle mares on the See Nothing Ranch (branded C 0 ) where he was currently employed. "Wild" was a relative term as far as these horses went.
For the most part, John Rex stayed at the ranch. Only when caught in his "unawares" was he enticed to travel with his wife to town. And at that, it absolutely never involved Walmart. That just wasn't tolerable for him.
Somehow, on this occasion, his bride had successfully pulled a fast one on him. Before he realized it, he was walking along in a building that, to his notion, would work pretty good for an indoor roping arena. Except of course it was filled with clothes, groceries and everything else from power tools to tennis shoes.
The little woman had told him she needed to pick up just a few things, so in resignation, he followed along.
Not paying any serious attention, he suddenly lost mama. He wandered up and down aisles until he encountered a sudden obstruction.
He found himself hemmed in behind a corn-fed lady in millennium yellow spandex pants. Since there wasn't any clearance on either side of this glow-in-the-dark object in the aisle, he stood there with many thoughts running through his cowboy brain.
The first of which was "How many folks had it taken to get her into those britches?" Surely, it involved all four of her kids that were milling around and her husband, and probably a neighbor or two had helped out with the project.
John Rex needed rescuing in the worst way and his bride was lost to him somewhere in the endless vista of dry goods.
Finally escaping when he and this yellow aberration reached the end of the aisle, he turned down the next one, still on the lookout for his wife.
It was in this runway that he circled up on another wonder of the world, also wearing yellow spandex. However, this time the model was blonde, every bit of six-feet-tall and built like the proverbial well-shaped brick outhouse.
John Rex, like any other lover, fighter and wild horse rider, appreciated well-made clothes so he decided that since he was lost anyway, he would just stand there and visually inspect this lovely and her fine yellow garments.
Predictably, this was close to the same time his bride located him. In an instant, John Rex was catapulted into validating the "fighter" part of his legend. Yellow never was a good color for him.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

YOU CAIN'T MISS IT!

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter
Whether its dark or light, day or night, cowboys have an unerring sense of direction.
Seldom to walk, their inner GPS serves them well as they navigate by horse or by pickup.
Not long ago, one cowboy was set to go to a roping in a town about 400 miles from home.
He called a friend in that same town to get directions to the arena.
"No problem," was the response, "You just take one of them roads out of town, go down couple miles, and it's right there. You cain't miss it."
There is no telling how many miles, for decades, have been traveled on just such reliable information.
The topography of the land is always figured into the information given and is clearly thought to be helpful.
In the Texas Panhandle, where there are miles and miles of flat country and endless wheat pasture, the driving instruction will almost always include: "You just go down to that wheat field, turn west, and it's right there. You cain't miss it."
In that same part of the world, directions could include, "You go down past the elevator, down to where that feller was changing a tire last time I went by that way, and then take a hard left. You cain't miss it."
Rodeo cowboys are no exception to this phenomenon.
One set of ropers had a plan to go to the million-dollar roping in Las Vegas. Their directions were to head to El Paso and take a right, with the guarantee of their arrival in Vegas. "You cain't miss it."
Then there was the time Jess and Dan went to a roping down the road a ways.
They had gotten safely to the correct town, but they had no clue as to the whereabouts of the arena.
They, collectively, as it took both of them to form a reasonably intelligent thought if it involved anything except roping, hit on an idea.
Their simple plan was to find a pickup and horse trailer on the move in town and follow it to the arena where the roping was to take place.
It didn't take long until a suspiciously authentic-looking rig with just the right specifications came by. The semi-lost duo pulled out from the local Dairy Queen parking lot and fell in behind the suspiciously authentic-looking cowboy that was driving.
The targeted rig stopped at the Quik Stop, stopped at the tire store, stopped at the feed store, the bank, the Co-op, and then finally headed out of town.
The trailing ropers were quite relieved at this progress because it was nearing time for the roping to start. They followed him along until he pulled into a ranch gate.
When they walked up to his truck and asked him if he was headed to the roping, the man advised them he had just taken his horse to the vet and was now on his way home.
However, he did give them directions to the arena. "You just go on back up this here road a ways, take that left by that big oak tree, and go on down a couple miles. You cain't miss it."
Do you think the fellas at NASA in Houston tell the astronauts something similar?
"You just strap this rocket to the backside of your spacecraft, and just point that sucker toward Mars. It's right up there a ways. You cain't miss it."
Julie cain't be missed with a note at www.julie-carter.com

Friday, August 7, 2009

FRESH FACES OF TOMORROW

By Julie Carter

Where did they all come from? Dozens of new, (to me) young, fresh faces with big smiles, easy laughter and energy without end.
The county fair has been in forward motion all week starting with the arrival of the kids and their animals for the junior livestock shows. Squealing pigs, bleating lambs and goats, crowing roosters and the sounds of laughing children fill the barns as the activity of the annual event moves in a blur through each day.
This beehive of activity from daylight until well past sundown is accented with the faces of families. Everywhere there are babies in strollers and toddlers exploring their freedom to be able to wander to the ring fence, under the bleachers or to the nearby goat pens to point and touch the animals inside.
Tweens and teens in groups can be found everywhere practicing their social skills of looking cool and the age-old art of looking but pretending not to look at the opposite sex.
Grandmas and grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins line the bleachers cheering on their favorite show contestant. Businessmen, teachers, doctors, lawyers, judges and young adults who have moved beyond their county fair days all drop by to inhale a dose of show ring ambience and visit with people they sometimes see only at the fair each year.
Like Christmas, the county fair comes every year, and like Christmas, in brings different gifts to each one involved.
For me, it's the delight in watching people, mostly the kids. I love the dynamics of county fair families - from the diehard, dedicated competition-driven to the timid first-timers who seem a little overwhelmed but are eager to become a long-term part of something that highlights the last month of summer every year.
For every bit of sadness there is in not seeing those "favorite kids" that became the cream of the crop in the show ring after 9-10 years of showing before they went off to college, there is a renewed energy that comes in watching the first-year kids so full of hope and enthusiasm.
This year there seems to be an influx of faces I haven't seen around the fairgrounds before. And I love it. New "fair moms" and dads line the show ring, stand in the wings dressed in the usual style of fair families - rubber boots, wet jeans from time on the wash rack and hands full of brushes, rags, a spray bottle, a bucket and the occasional lead strap or bottle of fly spray.
The indoctrination process to reach full-fledged fair parent status takes only one day. The day their child is to show his or her animal.
Today's fresh faces of the fair are tomorrow's hope. Raised on values involving, honesty, fairness, thoughtfulness for others and
hard work before reward, these 9- and 10-year-olds experiencing their first fair will one day be managing the world. I'm very glad that behind them is a legion of hard-working people who are willing to volunteer hundreds of hours of their time to make this event happen.
Thank you families for being there. Thank you fair board and volunteers for making it the place to be in August.
See you at the fair.
Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net.

Friday, July 31, 2009

KHOWING WHEN ITS TIME TO QUIT

By Julie Carter


John Wayne taught about every cowboy I know how to be fearless. It's the movies, but they believe it anyway.
They will fight to get on a horse that clearly has blood in his eye and rope wild cattle that would love nothing better than to run a horn through them or their horses.
They will climb windmill towers in a blizzard wind and track cougars through the snow, fly crop dusters like a wild man, and generally undertake most any dangerous activity they can dream up.
On occasion, they will even go so far as to order their wives around.
When not endangering themselves, they love nothing better than to help their pards out along those same lines.
Button was running a big working crew and had already put in a full day. With great concentration, sitting astride his cowpony, he was counting cattle out the gate.
"Button," came a voice from behind him.
Button went on counting; ignoring the idiot that would dare interrupt.
"Button," came the voice again and getting the same response as before.
This continued, but Button just kept counting.
When the last cow got through the gate, Button turned and said, "What do you want, Reese?"
Reese tossed a big rattlesnake onto Button's lap and the wreck was on.
When the horse was back under control, the snake shaken off and his heart rate back below the critical stage, Button rode over to Reese.
He gave him a mean, squinty-eyed look and said, " I might not could whup you, but I can surely hit you up side the head with this saddle gun."
Reese took this statement under thoughtful consideration.
The next week Reese was horseback counting cattle while Button was slowly driving the feed truck along and putting out feed.
Reese tossed another big snake in the front seat of the truck.
Button bailed out the other side, the truck continued on, and Reese beat a cowboy-retreat for parts afar.
During the rather colorful discussion that followed somewhat later, it was determined that Reese would not give Button any more snakes, no matter the circumstances.
At the next cattle working, Button seemed to have misplaced his gloves.
Nobody would admit to anything, even with Button's threats about what he'd do if he found out someone had assisted the gloves in going missing.
At the break, Reese brought out a Banty rooster he had brought from home and carefully put him in the large cardboard box full of ear tags.
When the cowboy crew started working again, he fessed up to Button about his gloves and told him they were in the ear tag box.
The flapping, squawking rooster moment when the box was opened was not nearly as good as the rattlesnake chaos, but it would do.
The next day Button told Reese to saddle up the new bay colt and put some miles on him. He specifically told him to ride across the tank dam and show the colt how to do that, get him used to it.
Reese rode the skittish, scared colt onto the dam - fence on one side, water on the other- when a big Canadian goose, whose nest was disturbed by this intruder, raised up, flapped her wings and hissed loudly at Reese.
You can break a colt to a lot of things, but a mad momma goose on the fight is not one of them.
It had taken awhile, but it was in this moment that Reese had an epiphany. He was thinking maybe it was time to give Button a break.
Julie can be reached for comment at www.julie-carter.com

Friday, July 24, 2009

GOD BLESS THE COUNTRY FOLK

By Julie Carter

Is dancing on a dirt floor and laughing in the rain a sign that, maybe, perhaps, we the people are headed back to some basics in life?
Through my job, I've paid pretty close attention to rural trends and traditions for the past decade, hot on the trail of fun with a camera and keyboard. I recorded, documented, cussed, discussed and inquired myself through event after event throughout the years.
In the beginning, the families that had young children they watched and worried over, have now seen them off on their first date followed too soon, by seeing them off to college.
Those who had toddlers that crawled in the dirt under the bleachers at the 4th of July rodeo and dug in the sand pile at the county fair are now waiting late for them at the rodeo dance.
Year after year, it was the same, sometimes a few new faces, but life moved through its paces like a filmstrip on a steadily turning reel.
Country folk have always been able to find a way to enjoy life using what was at hand. All it took was family and friends with a dose of food and some music. Ingredients for happy moments.
None of that has changed much. Even this far into the age of high-tech living where those same kids own iPods, cell phones and laptop computers, the basics of rural family entertainment still remain.
Those boot-scootin' teens will happily show up at a country dance - hats on, belt buckles shining and smiles that light up a barn.
It started when they were barely big enough to walk. Momma or Daddy took them out on the dance floor and danced with them.
By the time they were in the fourth grade, they were finding their own dancing partners, usually someone they had played with in the mud under the bleachers when they were toddlers.
A huge part of this country is living in situations and circumstances that are far from entertaining or uplifting. Fear and worry feed the stress they wear on their faces.
I believe the majority of people in those places have forgotten how to have fun. They have no way to fight it except with what ends up as addictions and a boiling rage at life in general.
I know people have been dancing in barns on dirt floors since they invented barns.
They've laughed and smiled in the rain since the beginning of rain, except for, maybe, those folks stuck on the shore while the ark floated off over the horizon.
However, what I see now, and I could just be all dusty and/or wet, is a new levity of spirit as folks gather to celebrate something worthwhile, something simple.
It seems to me the smiles come easier, folks laugh more readily and there is an elevated appreciation for friendships and the freedom to be happy.
A joyful spirit is a generous spirit and when there is a need, even the poor will pull out their pockets and empty them for a cause. That fuels even more joy. Pie auctions and passing the hat are two of the original bailout plans.
Is this the upside of a disastrous economy and uncertainty for tomorrow? Are we, the people, finally realizing that what we have right here in front of us is precious and that simple things can bring great pleasure?
I'm just saying, I'm convinced those folks dancing in the barn and smiling in the rain have something figured out.
The recipe isn't new, but the enthusiasm is renewed.
I'm all for passing a little more of that around.
Julie, who never did learn the Cotton-eyed Joe, can be reached for comment at www.julie-carter.com

Friday, July 17, 2009

WHILE YOU SLEPT

By Julie Carter

There is absolutely not anything funny about a grass or forest fire but often in the midst of the firefight, humor arrives.
One night on the remote plains of the far side of the county, a lightning strike started a fire in a ranch pasture.
Not anything much out there except miles of ranchland and what remained of a teensy town that had retained only a few deserted buildings and a name.
It was also at least two hours by highway from any real fire-fighting agency.
The nearest rancher to this ghost-stop on the highway served as mayor and fire chief by title and reputation. High desert ranching requires a great sense of humor and the occasional ego boost that an elevated title can sometimes provide.
One of the items remaining in the long-deserted town of Ramon was an ancient fire truck. The battery required constant charging, which didn't happen, and the water tank leaked so it was never full. Other than that, it was in fine shape.
The night of this specific grass fire, the phone calls went out to a few ranchers. Waking up the chief of the Ramon Fire Department took some doing, but he finally answered the phone.
Pulling on his britches and his hat, the usual rancher's lid that needed an oil change months ago, he hollered at his nearly adult son and out the door they went.
The process of charging the battery and finding a hose to fill the water truck began.
Meanwhile, over the hill back to the west, another cowboy who had always been a addicted to farm sales, knew he had a cattle sprayer parked somewhere "over yonder on the hill."
The most recent endorsement of this piece of equipment had been at a cattle-spraying event.
A cowboy commented that he could pee further than the sprayer could spray, leaving its validity as fire fighting equipment certainly at least questionable.
However, it did hold water, so after the tires were aired up, the cowboy hooked onto it with the pickup and off he went over the hill to fight the fire.
By this time, the fire had gotten so big, that in the dark, it alone summoned folks from near and far.
Back at the Ramon Fire Department, aka the chief's house, the fire truck was revved up and headed out to the fire. It was very dark and hard to see where exactly to drive as the truck made its way through the pasture toward the flames.
The chief was at the wheel of the truck, barreling through the night to the rescue like a caped crusader, while his eldest son was riding fireman-style on the truck fender hollering "EEEE, HAAWWW," at the top of his lungs.
About that time, the chief drove the truck off in a wash and it came to a sudden, solid halt, nose down. The son on the fender was tossed through the air, landing somewhere in the near vicinity. But he came up dusting himself off. No harm done. Nothing broke, except the fire truck.
Nearly everyone in close proximity of the fire left what they were doing to go check out the fire truck wreck.
Meanwhile the cowboy with the sprayer, coming to save the day, blew out a tire. So when the chore of dragging the chief and his fire truck out of the wash was finished, the crew all went to see what the problem was with the cowboy.
In the meantime, the rancher with the fire on his property had put his road grader into operation and made a fire-line circle around the fire. The flames eventually died out on their own.
It was still the wee hours of the morning, everyone was wide-awake and nobody wanted to go back home. So they circled their rigs, drug out the food they'd brought (another standard thing for country folk) and had a version of a block party.
The rancher thanked everyone for their help, and exhausted, headed off to tend to his livestock and ranch chores.
All this while you slept.

Friday, July 10, 2009

SWAPPIN' RECIPES

By Julie Carter
Common cowboy cooking is widely acclaimed to be the very best, spiciest, most original and filling of all cuisines of the world. At least that's what the cowboys will tell you.
For the rest of us mere mortals, skepticism is a healthy recommendation.
However, in the spirit of fun, I want to share with you a couple of cowboy recipes provided by the already famous for his cooking, Dan the Team Roper and his roping partner Jess.
Speed in preparation is the first priority for Dan, a confirmed bachelor. Second on the list of importance would be a meal that can be shared with his trusty cow dog, who also helps him cook.
Dan and his dog had been on a steady diet of burritos made of Spam, Velveeta and mayo.
His preferred delicacy had always been pig-lip baloney, but he had not been able to find the delicacy anywhere this side of the Mississippi. He was heartbroke about that.
Learning by experience, Dan recommended using the genuine Velveeta because in his vast experience with cheeses, the cheap substitutes would not work.
After roping practice, he and Jess were comparing notes from the long-ago time when Jess had also been a bachelor.
Chili and eggs was Jess's masterpiece, but both agreed that only Wolf Brand Chili would qualify for the main ingredient.
The number of eggs to be added was dictated by the number currently in the icebox. Optional ingredients would include ranch style beans, pork and beans, potatoes, if any were cooked, onions, the occasional stray sock or whatever else got in the way.
It was especially critical that the chili be put in an iron skillet, thoroughly cooked down to the burrito-fold stage before adding the eggs. This would result in a scrambled look. If added too soon, the eggs would vanish.
Several likely pointers of this nature were passed on.
The next evening Dan reported that both he and the dog gave this meal a five-star rating.
Encouraged that Dan appreciated his culinary achievements, Jess imparted his recipe for fried deer meat, instant mashed potatoes and gravy thick enough to make everything stick together.
It was understood that it, also, would all be wrapped in a flour tortilla.
As the roping practice progressed, the cooking lessons kept pace, and then the subject of milk came up.
Dan had tried powdered milk with no luck. The dog was pretty picky, and so was he. Once again, he was adamant it was necessary to buy the good brand and possibly, even necessary, to mix it according to the directions. That depended on the available time.
On those days when it was a good idea to start out with actual food for breakfast instead of an adult beverage, milk was a essential.
Jess was a planner and a logical, organized man. Willingly, he shared his secret time-saving breakfast method with Dan.
It was necessary that perhaps some female had left behind a collection of small Tupperware dishes for this efficiency. Then one could put a measured portion of Grape-Nuts, powdered milk and sugar in each of the containers, seal them and stack. Then the only additional ingredient would be water.
The major drawback to this gourmet meal was it was not one to eat while driving, and the dog didn't like Grape-Nuts.
However, it was noted by Jess's wife that he had somehow quickly overcome his bachelorhood eating habits and adapted quite nicely to her cooking.
Although on stressful days, he still preferred Wolf Brand chili and eggs.
Julie can be reached for comment at www.julie-carter.com.
She suggests sticking with canned peaches.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

RED WHITE AND COWBOY!

by Julie Carter

Old Glory will wave majestically in rodeo arenas across America this holiday. It's the Fourth of July and cowboys, if they are anything, they are patriotic and optimistically greedy.
This particular holiday is his "Cowboy Christmas," the most lucrative run of rodeos of the year.
Don't misunderstand. It doesn't take a holiday for the cowboy to bring out the flag. It's there at every rodeo. Honor to the stars and stripes happens first, before anything else.
Even the rodeo livestock seems to know the routine. Watch as the cowboys stand at the chutes, hats held over their hearts while colors are posted and the national anthem is played.
The bucking horses in the chute will snort and kick the gate behind them adding to the music's percussion.
For the rodeo contestants, it's a sound that echoes in the recesses of their rodeo memories long after they no longer compete. Like the ringing of Pavlov's bell, it invokes a hunger for the competition about to begin.
Add that to the smell of the fresh-worked arena dirt, the banging of the gates as bucking horses and bulls are moved around, the rattle of arriving trailers as they ease across the parking lot and the sound of hoof beats as a horse lopes across the hard surface to the arena.
I want to believe that almost all of us honor America, our freedoms and the price paid for both. This weekend, I also honor the cowboy for keeping tradition year after year and in economic times that boggle the mind.
Rodeo rigs are progressively bigger, fancier, and technology has kicked rodeoing up a notch from the days of standing at a pay phone along the highway to enter a rodeo or find out when you drew up.
As much as there is that is different, there is still so much the same.
It still requires the basics. First, the cowboy has to get there, and second, he has to have brought his cowboy skills with him.
Fourth of July rodeoing is defined by road-weary cowboys, tired horses, pickups filled with dirty clothes, fast-food wrappers and muddy boots.
The pickup dashboard is full of rumpled programs, Copenhagen cans, empty coffee cups, dust-covered sunglasses, gas receipts, a ball cap or two and a road map. But in every rig, there rides great hope, unlimited optimism and a belief that this time, this rodeo, things will get better.
For me, it wouldn't be the Fourth of July if I wasn't standing in the hot sun, beating rain or dusty wind waiting for the next event to move the entertainment along.
Years past paying entry fees and waiting for them to call my name, now I carry a camera and put what I know of rodeo into print.
I don't suppose I'll ever be anywhere else but at a rodeo grounds somewhere on the Fourth of July. In a mental check of the past 40 years, there have been no more times than I can count on one hand that I haven't been at a rodeo somewhere, in some capacity. Not likely it'll change anytime soon.
Join me at a rodeo for a look into the heart of the rodeo cowboy at his best. Today would be a good day to start.
Julie can be reached for comment at www.julie-carter.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

HONEYBEES AND THE COWBOY

By Julie Carter

Fighting honeybees. Not something that would immediately come to mind when you think about cowboys, but then, there is a long list of things that cowboys do because it needs doing.
Doesn't mean they are good at it, or that they ought to, they just do.
It takes a lot to back down a cowboy because his very nature is to fight things until the bitter end. Wisdom is rarely involved.
So, when a cowboy finally throws up his hands and says, "Call for help," you know he's reached the end of it.
Our hero had been fighting uninvited honeybees for most of the spring. He managed to convince them to relocate a number of times.
The last had been from the front porch where he used a guaranteed bee-removal spray that had a range of 27 feet.
If you hit them square in the eye, they would get only mildly ill on their way to find a new nest.
Decimation was minimal.
After feeling somewhat confident that visitors were now safe at the front door, the cowboy realized his opponents had taken up residence in the horse pasture.
Using height as a human deterrent, they were busy buzzing in a huge oak tree, about 25 feet from the ground.
Not wanting to be on a ladder with hundreds of angry, buzzing, stinging bees on attack, the cowboy wisely called in a professional.
Everyone, in theory, finds his or her specialty in life and in the geographical area of this bee infestation, there is a man known as the "bee guy."
When telephoned, he promised to come that very morning and ended the phone call with some bee knowledge.
"The bees are just like the English. Kill the queen and the whole colony will fold up."
He promised his mission would be the assassination of the queen.
The bee guy arrived and offered his business card that read, "Beez-R-Us, If you've got'em, we'll come swat'em."
He said his fee would be $150 but he guaranteed his work.
Upon arrival, the bee guy donned a rather spectacular suit similar to those used for moon walks, along with a fetching hat reminiscent of a cross between "Dr. Livingston, I presume" head covering and a diving helmet.
The cowboy felt this was one project he did not particularly need to supervise personally, which in itself, was a rare occurrence.
The only other time in recent memory was when the rattlesnake hunters arrived at the New Mexico ranch.
The goofy snake hunter insisted on showing the cowboy his biggest catch of the day.
He scooped him out of the snake box and laid him on the ground at the cowboy's feet. Didn't take the cowboy long to look at him.
Meanwhile back at the beehive, it was only a day after the bee guy's attack on the oak tree bees that the lady of house was startled to find bees swarming in her master bath.
The queen-less colony of bees apparently had a Lady Camilla bee-in-waiting.
They had migrated to the eaves over the bathroom window, set up housekeeping and were coming through the attic, down the light fixture and into the bathroom.
The little lady's effort to discourage them from joining her bath was to fog them with an entire can of spray, aimed at their general vicinity.
The bee guy was promptly requested to return, based on the guarantee of his work.
When the cowboy called, he explained that the bees had migrated back to the house.
With a wily tone to his voice, the bee guy asked the cowboy how was it he recognized them to be the same bees?
Warranty coverage may prove difficult with that looming question.
Stay tuned. Bee season is just now in full swing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

IT HAPPENED WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

By Marita K Noon

Polls out today show an increasing dissatisfaction with Obama's policy's with Gallup speculating that the administration's deficit spending; public concerns about the cost of Obama's healthcare reform plan; and his cautious response to the election protests in Iran have caused the plunge. Despite this sudden turn of opinion, Obama has been able to rush through his personal trove of policies that are contradictory to basic American ideology-leaving many to scratch their heads and ask, "How can they do this?"
Regarding conservatives, I've repeatedly been asked the question above and, "Why are we always on the defense? Why are we not more offensive?"
After Tracking New Mexico's battle for Mount Taylor for 17 months--while private property rights, free-market principles, energy freedom have been trampled, I've come up with an answer to all of the aforementioned questions. While most of the new legislation being rushed through is not in the publics' best interest-the public has not been interested. Read on to find out why! (Attached and pasted-in-below.)
While the example I use is from New Mexico, please know the bigger issue the story illustrates is national!
If you have an avenue such as a website, blog or e-zine to distribute this piece, please feel free to use it, post it or pass it on. I'd appreciate knowing when you publish this.
If you prefer that I not send you any future commentaries, just let me know. I'd rather remove you from my distribution list than irritate you. J
Thanks!
Opinion Editorial by Marita K. Noon
Executive Director, CARE: Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy
marita@responsiblenergy.org


Public's Best Interest, Disinterested Public

June 5, 2009 was the culmination of a seventeen-month battle for Mount Taylor where the decision to make the temporary Traditional Cultural Property designation (TCP) permanent was announced--New Mexico's 1 million acre land grab.
An opponent to the decision said, "I could hear the jobs, stability, and growth in our community suck right out of our town as the vote was cast. Corporate dollars will be spent in other communities where progress is encouraged and growth is a way of life."
The television news cameras were all there to record the contentious decision. While I gave my comments to ABC news, locals stood behind the cameras and mouthed "thank you." A documentary news crew, who sought out my thoughts following the meeting, asked if I'd been out to the reservation to talk to the people. "No, I have not because this is not about reservation land. This is about a mix of state, federal and private land." They were surprised with this information. They'd not done research and just believed what they'd heard.
Others have questioned, "How can this happen?" or "How is this in the best interest of the public?"
The sad truth is the decision is not in the public's best interest as the jobs and uranium would have been a major asset to both New Mexico and America. It can happen because the public wasn't interested. Few general citizens even know what took place and most who do know, found out about it through reporting after the fact. Most of us sat it out while the proponents pushed hard to get it through. The local citizens in Grants, the attorneys representing the locals and small mining companies, and a couple special interest groups (like CARE) were not enough to stop the wave of political correctness.
Why should the public be interested? Why would people not in Grants and not in mining even care?
The Mount Taylor TCP decision has far-reaching ramifications. The nomination had many technical and procedural flaws as noted by New Mexico's Secretary of Cultural Affairs Stuart Ashman in his presentation to the committee on May 15--but it was unanimously passed. While it was repeatedly stated throughout the multi-month process that private property was "non-contributing," at the eleventh hour, the Historic Preservation Officer, Katherine Slick, did acknowledge that it will impact private property owners. And, it will hurt the economy and take money out of America. An international partner in a mining project is now expected to pull out. Potential mining projects will be delayed and have increased costs. Many will never happen. Some companies have already given up and pulled out-giving environmental extremists another victory.
These consequences are troubling, but at first-glance, they do not seem to have a "far-reaching" impact. Yet, this was not just about the five nominating tribes. Environmental groups have participated in the TCP nomination. You can be sure that they have been watching this battle closely. As the largest TCP in the Continental United States by far, it sets precedent and gives courage to mineral resource development opponents to repeat the process throughout the country. There are already rumors of beginning a similar land grab over the Zuni Mountains.
They can do this because those of us who value free-market principles, believe in private property rights, and support energy freedom were sleeping-and we've been asleep a long time. Meanwhile, those who prefer government control and who think America should be more socialist have been working hard to push their agenda. They have been on the offense because they wanted change. We have the world we like, so we have been happily going about our business, oblivious to what is going on around us with only a few defensive efforts.
We can make a difference. We can wake up and get involved. The release from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division stated that they'd received approximately 2,000 letters and e-mails addressing the Mount Taylor nomination that supported the TCP by a 4-1 ratio. I believe the ratio could have been reversed, but those of us who have what we want have been asleep while those who want a different life have been busy.
Choose free-market principles, private property rights, and energy freedom by waking up and getting involved. If you do not, don't complain when you wake up one day and find the world you thought you lived in no longer exists. Don't ask, "How could they do this?" It happened while you were sleeping.
Marita Noon is the executive director of CARE, the nonprofit organization that is advocating for your right to use energy as you see fit and as you can afford. CARE is working on your behalf to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. Find out more at www.responsiblenergy.org.

Friday, June 19, 2009

KIDS AND HORSES

By Savvy Julie Carter

I was a kid once and yes, I had a horse. Only for a very few, and very short, periods in my life have I been without a horse. There is nothing like that kid-with-a-horse experience.
Loving horses isn't something you are afflicted with by choice. You don't just wake up one day and think, "Today I'm going to love horses."
Somewhere in the human genetic makeup is a signal switch that gives us a heart for animals and one more click of the switch focuses our love toward dogs and horses.
That's not scientific you understand, just my theory based on experience.
I hosted a 4-H Horse Show Clinic last week, and to my delight, a dozen kids on horses that showed up to learn.
Most of them had never seen a horse show, let alone been in one. A number of them were relatively new to riding and those that weren't, were new to show ring disciplines.
By the end of the day, thanks to the steady instruction of a great "coach," the entire bunch morphed into riders with a plan and horses with the same goal.
Kids are very adaptable and horses teach them as much as kids teach a horse. Put a kid on a horse and there is basic communication that rivals anything the high-tech world can provide.
There is an understanding between the horse and the child that defies description but with the naked eye, one can see the horse evaluating his rider while the rider thinks he is the one in charge.
As with people, the personalities of horses either jive with their rider or have no connection whatsoever.
A horse may, quite obviously, like his kid immensely, but won't be anything but a brat for an adult. It is a common personality grind that keeps mothers gritting their teeth and fathers determined to outlast it.
I'm not sure exactly what makes my heart swell more - a tiny girl on a big horse determined to do anything and everything the "big kids do," or a young boy who lopes off to meet the challenges of the day, riding his new best friend in the whole world.
In my distant youth, living very remotely from any real civilization, horses were my best and only friends. My only alternative was brothers. I whiled away long summer days, always with a horse as my company.
I'd sit on the top rail of the fence and tell my horse the burdens of my heart.
I'd often slip a bridle on him, slide onto his back and take off in a lope up through the meadows toward the looming mountain range with no particular destination in mind.
This four-legged best friend and I explored the world around us and watched Mother Nature in her rawest form. It was freedom at its finest.
It wasn't until many years later that I fully understood how much having horses in my life had taught me. Love, trust, forgiveness, patience, understanding, happiness, loss, confidence are all part of owning a horse ... and living a fulfilled life.
As I watched the horse clinic kids riding around the arena, my heart smiled. I knew something they didn't. I knew that this day, and every day, with their horses, mattered in their lives in ways they had no idea.
Mattered more than the fun they were having, mattered more than the lessons they were learning that day.
In all that, they were shaping their hearts for living and I was privileged to watch it unfold.
Julie can be reached for comment at www.julie-carter.com.

Friday, June 12, 2009

IT COSTS A LOT OF MONEY TO BE BROKE

By Julie Carter


Superstition suggests bad luck comes in threes and for Rob, the third had just hit. Actually, it was the fourth, but the rules say after three, quit counting.
Rob and his wife had been subsidizing their cattle ranching in the usual sweaty, working ways. Lately, those hadn't been too successful. Perpetually looking for a way to keep the wolf from the door, Rob had a plan.
The cutting horse reject colt he had bought to make a heeling horse to sell was working out fairly well. That is, until a steer came out of the roping chute, cut hard to the right and the colt, true to his training, did the same.
Rob had not cleared the end of the roping box when everybody went "hard right" and his boot caught on the corner. The sickening sound told the story before anyone had to look. The bone was broke and the shin was split. This didn't bode well for any money-making activity in the near future.
Later, with a walking cast in place, Rob decided he would cut a few cedar stays out of the brush pastures to sell, but his chainsaw was on the blink.
His wife Sue recalled an ad in the paper where a chainsaw was offered at a weekend garage sale.
When Rob returned with his treasure, his plan was to show it off to his bride. He pulled the rope and got the usual chainsaw resistance to starting.
He pulled it again. Nothing. After about a dozen tries with no luck, Sue remembered something she had to do in the house, knowing it was a good time to remove herself from the premises.
When she went back a couple hours later, Rob was nowhere around. The bar and chain were lying to one side and a thousand pieces of orange plastic were scattered throughout the area.
The sledgehammer was leaning up against the barn door.
Next, Rob decided that since their ranch had some good coastal Bermuda, he'd sell some of the upcoming hay crop. He laid down a good-sized field of it in anticipation of the income that it would bring.
Of course, it had not rained in that part of the world in anybody's distant memory, but that night it poured down three inches.
He also had some farm ground and decided a crop of peanuts would be just the thing. He worked the ground, planted his peanuts, and went to bed that night counting his millions.
The next morning he found that every peanut had been rooted up. Feral hogs had never been a problem on his place, that is, until the peanuts were in the ground. He did reflect with some gratitude that the pigs hadn't helped themselves to his beer stash in the barn to wash down the peanuts.
As soon as he could find someone to tell him what pigs wouldn't eat, he'd consider replanting.
The next accounting issue came when Sue announced that their son needed braces.
Rob asked how many sets of teeth the kid had because they'd just put him in braces a year or so ago. Sue informed him there were a couple of kids and this was a different one.
Rob was a good hand at roping but had put the sport on hold while he married, had a family and set up his ranching enterprise to seek his fortune.
However, there was a big team roping coming to town. He had many bills to pay, but uncannily, he had just enough money to pay entry fees. He called a former roping buddy and they entered up.
It worked out better than anything had so far. They won the roping, got their names called, new trophy buckles and a big payout.
On the way home, Rob bought new tires for Sue's pickup and an extra case of ropers' aiming fluid (beer).
The logic was clearly before him. He could ride in a cast and had proven he could still catch his share at the ropings. Subsidizing the ranch in this manner was going to be a whole lot more fun than riding colts, chainsaws, hay or peanuts.
Some cowboys have to work a little harder to get to the same result; heeding the call of the roping arena.
Julie can be reached for comment at www.julie-carter.com

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

GRANDMA'S KITCHEN

By Julie Carter


It had been more than 35 years since I first saw it and yet when I looked through the doorway, I could see that nothing of consequence had changed.
The kitchen, lit by a single window over the old single basin sink, stood exactly as it had when I took my first baby girl to spend the day with her grandma.
The same as when, a couple of decades later, that baby girl took her baby to spend the day with his great-grandma.
Look around your life and see what, if anything, has not changed in appearance in 35 years and you can honestly say, "It looks exactly the same."
I absolutely cannot look in the mirror and say that. Sure can't point to the pickup and say that. I have owned about, oh, six or seven since then.
The house - I can't even begin there because I've moved at least a dozen times. Good horses and dogs have come and gone. So have the bad ones.
Fresh paint, a new curtain and new floor tile. That was all that was different in her kitchen. Except, in the interim, they invented microwaves so there was one of those and the old wall rotary dial phone was gone.
The table sat where it always was and the center of it, as before, was filled with napkins, condiments, a silverware holder and an assortment of other things deemed important enough to just stay there.
The old bright white wood cabinets filled the east wall broken only by the sink in the middle. The sink with it's signature Rubbermaid dishpan inside and no cabinet below it, so a curtain covered up those things you put under a sink.
The cabinets went up the wall all the way to meet the 10-foot ceiling and the top row of cupboards could be accessed only by standing on a stool. The very limited counter space was always full of canisters, a bread box, dish drainer, percolator coffee pot and assorted packages of cookies and crackers.
Knick knacks, a corkboard full of keys, a big calendar and grandma-kind of decorations filled the walls.
In any kitchen except Grandma's, it would have been clutter. In her's, it was personality, warmth and comfort.
It was her favorite room and she liked it the very best when it was filled full with family members of all ages and generations laughing, talking and telling stories. Stories like the one about how the refrigerator got a bullet hole in it.
As each generation of grandmas passes on, the matriarchal crown moves a little closer to home.
My mom is a wonderful grandma who has many special things she has shared with her grandchildren. They will each have a little different piece of her in their hearts forever.
When the rolling pin passes, it makes us all put on life's brakes, look around and reflect.
We take just a moment to ponder what legacy we are leaving for those coming behind in our tracks.
Aprons, cookies, hugs and plenty of sympathy. Good smells from the stovetop, bushels of apples to be made into jam, jars of canned fruits and vegetables.
Perhaps mine, or yours, may not look and smell the same as the generations before us.
However, there is something about grandmas that makes each one special to those who love them.
Thank God for grandmas. They keep us grounded in what really counts. Pass the cookies, please.
Julie can be reached for comment at www.julie-carter.com

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