Friday, May 29, 2009


By Julie Carter

Gainful employment for ranch kids is not usually much of an option since ranch dads have had them working since they could.
Getting a paycheck wasn't part of the plan. It's always been the original "will work for food" plan.
Every now and then, a kid can find someone needing a strong back and weak mind and a 15-year-old boy fits the bill on both counts.
Clearing the details of filling out a resume and a job application, the boy picked up his report card on Friday and started his summer job at a neighboring ranch on Monday.
The resume said "I don't know anything but I'm willing to listen and learn." The job application said, "Will work for lunch and a little money."
Off he went with the patrĂ³n to make the rounds and learn the routine.
The world is round and life is a circle - if you hang with it long enough to make the curve.
He drove off from the home ranch in my old red pickup, 21 years old and still running. It was like sitting him on that solid old saddle horse when he was 2. Somehow passing on this vehicle is as comforting.
The ranch he went to work on was one he's known since birth. His grandfather ran it for 25 years until he passed away, so it, too, was another bend in life's circle.
The enthusiasm in his voice was fun to hear. I tried to remember what it felt like to be headed out to that first paycheck job.
Surely, I was older and more mature. Well maybe not, for like him, I was also just 15.My first paying job was at the ranch that I called home. Dad was the boss and my sidekicks were my younger brother and an Australian shepherd we called Sally.
Dad found himself shorthanded that summer and needed help with the 4,000 yearlings fresh off the cattle trucks to settle in summer pastures.
I was hired on at $5.50 a day and my brother made $5. Age had a 50-cent privilege. It was a veritable fortune for us.
This same brother, just days ago, was spouting some marvelous (he thought) sage wisdom and babble as I sat across the dinner table from him, just looking and listening.
He stopped what he was saying and laughed.
"That look," he said pointing to my face. "That look is the same look you used to give me when we were riding pastures looking for sick yearlings," he said.
I laughed and said, "Then you'll know what the next question is. How many?"
He got the same sheepish look on his face that he did all those years ago. You see, he always forgot to count.
It was our job to give Dad daily headcounts in each pasture while we looked for any cattle that might be sick or getting sick.
He was always busy playing with his rope. Roping sagebrush, fence posts, jackrabbits or anything he could throw a loop at. Catching wasn't the point.
Then finally somewhere in the moment, and knowing he might need to answer Dad if asked, he'd say. "How many?"
When I quit telling him, it got ugly. I was the meanest, worst, sorriest sister in the world and if he could catch me he'd ... fortunately he never did catch me, at least not while he was red hot with anger. Not for lack of trying, mind you.
He'd go back to roping and I'd go back to counting. Our days and the summer faded away in that manner.
The next generation boy that left at daylight in the red truck? I wonder if he'll remember to check the oil in Ol' Red, close the gates and, of course, count the cattle when he should.
Julie can be reached for comment at her NOT first job at

Thursday, May 28, 2009


By Julie Carter
Cowgirl Sass and Savvy

Noticing things and thinking about them are sure signs of trouble for me. But, here I was, thinking again.
Four of my good cowgirl friends and I can tally up seven daughters between us. They are all beautiful, grown up, educated and living lives of their own. All but one of them are married and have families.
And ya know, not a darn one of them is married to a cowboy. Is it me, or does that make a very loud statement?
Could it be that when they were small children, we drug them across most of the Wes-tern states every summer, all summer, to hot, dirty rodeos? We hid them from the elements under playpens turned upside down on a blanket next to the rodeo rig.
If they had a summer birthday, it was always marked by a melting birthday cake at a rodeo somewhere. My eldest thought Buena Vista, Colo., celebrated her birthday with her annually.
She sometimes laments that when her friends were old enough to cruise Main, she was still cruising I-25 in the rodeo rig with her sister, the blue heeler dog, a cooler of cold Cokes, lemon pepper chicken and potato salad tucked in the camper.
"Mom, could I sit this one out?" she'd ask. "Like, could the neighbors watch me this weekend?"
Perhaps the warning was in watching their mother pack 80-pound chilled-down baby calves up and down the stairs to the basement where the "infirmary for frozen calves" was set up next to the heat that looked not so fun or rewarding.
On the other hand, maybe it was the gentle way (sarcasm here) their father spoke to their mother when they were cutting cattle in the alley.
Expletives deleted, the gist of the conversation would infer that if there was a blind man around, he'd do a better job of running the cutting gate.
Explaining to him that yelling at her didn't make her a better hand never seemed to stop the flow of useful suggestions offered in the heat of a runaway herd situation.
The delightful irony was when, in his anger, he sent her back to the house but forgot they only had one pickup on that side of the pasture. He had an 8-mile walk home. I'm sure it gave him time to reflect on the error of his ways.
Perhaps the daughters heeded the warning when observing the long hours of on-demand assistance that began benignly in courtship.
It was then he explained that the ring on her hand bought him a gate opener for life. He just made sure she was out opening the gate when he discussed that part of the contract.
These bright girls watched their mothers haul water, chop ice, change tires and feed cowboy crews after, before, and during the cattle work. They followed in her tracks on long days of gathering cattle in the brush during a drizzling rain that fell from the sky and off the trees, too.
They helped nurse wire cuts on horses, feed dogie calves, clean stalls and an assortment of other places that required hauling manure.
They learned to ride and could punch cows with the best of them. They knew when to get out of the way and how to recognize a wreck in the making, usually involving their dad.
They learned a work ethic that no school could teach and daily saw the best and the worst of life, death and hardship.
Smart girls who didn't marry cowboys. Now what was the question?
ulie can be reached for comment at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


By Julie Carter

Memorial Day is all about remembering the fallen, the honored, those gone on to their great rewards, traditionally in the service of our country.
However, before life became complicated and I understood all those things, it was simply "Decoration Day" to me and we decorated all the graves of all the kinfolk, military or not.
Decoration Day was delightfully fun for my siblings and me. It was a much less organized family reunion of sorts. But, instead of meeting at some park or at a relative's house, we met at the cemetery.
My dad's side of the family was quite extensive. My grandmother was one of 12 children of a German homesteader and my grandfather was one of seven born and raised there.
Apparently, at the time, there was a large number of them still alive and living within a day's drive to the Colorado high mountain valley where it all began. There, where the roots of the family tree were first planted on homesteads, farms and ranches.
The cars and pickups of every age, size and color would pull up the hillside in the old pine tree-shaded cemetery where our clan had claimed resting ground since the 1870s.
Kids would roll out of the vehicles first and begin running up and down the pathways, seeking familiar faces and space to blow off the hot crowded car ride.
Trunk lids would raise and as chattering voices carried on the late May breezes, shovels, rakes and buckets and buckets of flowers would appear.
There were fresh-cut pine and spruce boughs, irises by the dozens and lilacs with a strong fragrance that wafted through the piney woods.
I don't know just how or who got it all done, but shortly, every grave would be clean, orderly and with a fresh bouquet. My grandmother would, as she did every year, explain to us who this person was or that name and how they were related.
She would laugh with me at the given names of the time - Hulda and George Washington Baker was just the funniest, I thought.
As we wandered through the many tiny tombstones that told a story, she told me about the flu epidemic that took so many children in 1880-82. Each marker bore the tale of the horrible loss of one, two and more children in the same family that died, sometimes within days of each other.
With history reviewed and duty done, we'd all pile back in the vehicles and travel off to have a huge picnic lunch; somewhere that allowed us to leave the propriety and reverence behind us while got reacquainted with kin folk that we might not see again until the next May.
Today, all I can do is recapture those moments in memories. Families have scattered far and wide and that tradition, at least for my immediate family, got lost in the miles and with my generation. Those same graves are now tended by an enduring uncle who faithfully looks after our history.
Quietly every year, I gather my son and we stop to pay our respects to his grandfather here in New Mexico. Along a little-traveled road in a quiet country cemetery, we chop back the weeds, reshape the dirt and place a new bouquet of bright flowers in remembrance.
His tradition is different but in keeping with mine, the reverence is the same - honoring those that came first, from a world they never could have imagined.
Julie can be reached for comment at

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Offered by Marc Morano

Ralph Nader on climate bill: 'It's not going to work. It's too complex. It's too easily manipulated politically' - May 11, 2009
Excerpt: Question: So what's your reaction to the Waxman-Markey climate bill now on the table, which calls for cap-and-trade? - Nader: I'm really astonished, because I would have thought they would have gone for a carbon tax. I mean, it's not going to work. It's too complex. It's too easily manipulated politically. Right now, they're having a battle over whether they can even auction the credits off for money. The industry doesn't want auctions for money. So, they're already having a battle right from the takeoff. I have to call Markey and see why did he ever buy into that.
Small sampling of current headlines on
Rasmussen Reports: Congress Pushes Cap and Trade, But Just 24% Know What It Is
End is Nigh?! Paper: 'Human race likely to be wiped out in about two centuries' by warming -- Need to select 'suitable planet for settlement'
Update: Watered down climate bill's temp impact: 'How Small Can Small Get?' - 'next-to-nothing impacts even less (if that is possible)'
Delayers: U.S. climate bill unlikely to pass this year
Democrats jumping ship on Congressional global warming bill!
Climatologist: 'Are we really sure that ALL of the atmospheric increase in CO2 is from humanity's emissions?'
Spiders 'getting bigger...due to global warming?'
Scientist ridicules attempt to discredit cosmic ray-climate link using computer mode.
Scientist rips media for 'regurgitating the typical fear-mongering hysteria that the Gore-IPCC-Hansen clique promulgate'
Nobel Prize Chemistry winner Kary Mullis: UN IPCC doesn't 'always tell you the truth' NOAA predicts 'new active period of Earth-threatening solar storms will be weakest since 1928 and its peak is still four years away'
Marc Morano

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Friends of the Rodeo celebrate the sport, answering questions about the treatment of rodeo animals.
Imagine Fresno, April 2009
By Lisa Houk Special to Imagine Fresno

Bob Ragsdale considers his horses his best friends.

The 72-year-old Chowchilla cowboy points to the proof in his pasture. His horse Rocky is pushing 36 years old and Ragsdale's grandsons still get a kick out of him. Another one of his favorite horses, Jayhawker, lived to be 36 and helped Ragsdale gain glory as a top tiedown (calf) roper, team roper and steer wrestler at the Clovis Rodeo and on the pro rodeo circuit.
"That Jayhawker was a special athletic horse and he never broke down and was still active at age 25," said Ragsdale, who never won a world title but qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 15 times in tie down roping, five times in steer wrestling and two times in team roping. "For a horse to live into his late 20s is pretty old, so we took real good care of our horses. They always get fed first and they get plenty of exercise."
Folks can still find Ragsdale team roping at the weekend rodeos, but an even better place to catch him is at the Friends of Rodeo information booth at the 95th Annual Clovis Rodeo April 23 to 26 at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds. Ragsdale's passion for rodeo and his love of horses and animals spurred him to take action 17 years ago as one of the founders of Friends of Rodeo.
He was the first president of the nonprofit group that formed in Texas in 1992 to help preserve and protect the sport of rodeo.
"We knew there was a need for our voice to be heard," he says. "There was a bill working its way through the federal court, and if it had passed, it would've eliminated the sport of rodeo. So I got on board real quick." The federal bill, H.R. 3252, was an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act that was introduced in August 1991. If passed, the bill would've caused so much red tape, restriction and regulation on rodeo, it would have given the sport little chance to survive.
Protesters started showing up at rodeo gates, as members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) got involved to voice their opposition. Educating people and answering questions and concerns about the treatment of rodeo animals is and always has been the main goal of Friends of Rodeo.
Clovis Rodeo arena director Vince Genco says FoR should be called Friends of Western Tradition. "We're trying to preserve our Western heritage and it's so important," says Genco, 58, who's been involved with the Clovis Rodeo for 24 years. "There's a difference between animal rights and animal welfare. I don't want to see any mistreatment of animals. People want to give animals rights like humans and that's not right. They want to stop the use of animals for sport and entertainment."
"Most of the animals in rodeo work 8 seconds per week, and some horses at the NFR [National Finals Rodeo] are still bucking at age 32. They're part of the family and you learn their personalities and quirks. They are born to buck."
The bulls and horses used for competition in the rough stock rodeo events (bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding) are bred for their sport and treated similar to a pro athlete in terms of high-quality food, care and exercise. The barrel racing horses are conditioned for agility and speed and are worth more than $100,000. The injury rates to these animals are documented at 1% or less, and the average bucking horse or bull works less than 5 minutes per year in the arena, according to the Friends of Rodeo Web site.
"If you want to call it animal cruelty, what do you call what happens to the riders when they get tossed by a bull or bronc?" Genco says.
Linda Burdick, executive director of Friends of Rodeo, has spent the past 16 years informing people new to rodeo and clearing up any misconceptions about the equipment used with the animals in the arena. She travels to more than 30 rodeos per year, including Clovis, to set up the FoR booth and answer questions.
She lets people see the flank straps, which are fleece-lined and pulled around the flank or "waist" of the animal to make it buck. The straps do not cover genitalia or cause pain, which is a major misconception.
"I like to answer this one, especially to men," Burdick says. "I ask, 'If somebody reached up and pinched you in that area, would you buck or run?' The answer is, 'No, you would lay there and whimper.' If pain is inflicted, the animal won't move. Just watch the bulls, as nine out of 10 throw the rider, they know their job is done and they stop and still have the flank strap on."
She also explains the tiedown roping event and its effect on calves. The weight stipulation for a calf to be first roped is 225 to 250 pounds (more than triple its weight), and its hairy, thick hide prevents harm. In the timed roping event, after the calf is secure, the rope is immediately removed and the calf jogs out of the arena unharmed, she says.
Burdick, who grew up on a ranch in Mariposa and currently lives in Merced, saw first-hand how the education gap affected the protesters at the Clovis Rodeo in 1993. About 20 to 25 protesters showed up and Burdick, Ragsdale, Genco, and some rodeo committee members invited them on a private tour of the Clovis Rodeo to see the animals and explain and answer any questions. The protesters were given the option to come watch the rodeo.
"We gave them tickets and all of them came back to the rodeo and it opened their eyes," Burdick says.
"There are over 60 rules dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. Our goal is creating better-educated fans and spurring interest in young people. Fifteen years ago, protesters were at every rodeo. Last year, there weren't any protesters at the rodeos."
The Clovis Rodeo involves about 1,000 animals, Genco says. "I remember two ladies who protested and then we gave them a tour," he says. "Their biggest complaint was there were too many flies on the bulls."
Clovis Rodeo Association president Mark Thompson cuts through all the dirt. "Bottom line is we're all animal lovers," says Thompson, who's the vice president of FoR. "These rodeo events were formed from everyday ranch work. Why would someone who makes a living with animals ever mistreat them? The better you treat the animals, the better they perform."
Friends of Rodeo Quick Facts...
The nonprofit organization is funded strictly by memberships and donations. It costs $25 per year to join FoR, which consists of nearly 1,000 members nationwide. Over the years, the group grew to include 3,500 members, but it varies, says Burdick.
PETA operates on more than $70 million per year as opposed to FoR's annual operating budget of less than $100,000, she says.
Details: Friends of Rodeo National Office at (209) 726-0261 or or e-mail:

Friday, May 8, 2009


By Julie Carter

Saving everything is a guaranteed trait among rural folk. Cowboys have to and farmers, because that's what they do.
If you are married, related or a neighbor to one, you have frequently heard them say, "Well, I have to be a saver, we grew up poor. We had clean clothes, even if they were patched, and enough to eat, even though it was mostly beans." Add the "walk five miles to school every day, uphill both ways" and you have it all.
Get the violin.
Not long ago, a cowboy and his wife set out to add a drinker (water tank) for the roping cattle.
The very fact he was going to do this for his wife was a mark of love. She had been putting out the cattle every day, sometimes twice a day, and bringing them in, sometimes twice a day, through four sets of gates that had to be set coming and going.
This feeding rotation was an effort to save that high priced hay and let them pick their own groceries to stay strong enough to be roped. They also had to come in at night. There was no drinker in that trap either.
The head cowboy actually bought a new drinking tub. In preparation for installation, the couple went through the supply of short pieces of water hose, float housings, floats, valve connections, all things saved from the past decades of repairing countless drinkers. The supply was somewhat depleted, but saved just the same.
There was good supply of hose assemblies for replacements because of the frozen winters, where it was easier to change out a frozen hose than try to thaw it. The cowboy would bring the frozen hoses in and put them in the bathtub to thaw overnight to keep the rotation supply steady.
That didn't always make the frozen wife happy since the only thing that would thaw her out after a long, cold day was a hot bath.
Gathering up an armload of the hoses in lengths of one to 10 feet long, they headed out to get the new drinker connected to water.
First job was to make up a float from several old ones. And, it seems all the hoses had one end or the other that was nonfunctional and needed new connections. This required hose clamps which he cannibalized off various other components.
He finally got the valve replaced, built a hose, built a float, got a housing that almost fit over the float and soon there was water in the drinker.
This major project took the better part of the afternoon. The wife was there mostly in an advisory capacity, but did manage to hand him the pipe wrench that takes two hands to pick up, the vise grip pliers, the pipe dope and, of course, generally contribute to the fellowship.
They had been married more than 30 years, worked together daily for most of that time, and as a rule, she did not keep secrets from him.
However, she distinctly remembered being in Walmart and seeing a brand new 50-foot hose for $5.39 and new float that would add about $2 to the bill.
She thought about telling him that, but after serious consideration, decided that all afternoon for two cowboys for a $7.39 savings, was about the usual rate of pay.
Henhouse ways have saved fortunes for the cowboy world. That's why there are so many rich cowboys and why baling wire, twine and tape (electrical and duct) are such commodities.
Julie can be reached for comment at

Friday, May 1, 2009


Cowgirl Sass and Savvy Julie Carter

Sometimes the day just starts out in such a way, you know it's going to be uphill all the way.
Doesn't matter if you are a cowboy or a white collar worker in a high rise, there are days when you face a challenge at every turn of the clock.
Jess was always ready for a rodeo. However, when it was time for the fine details of leaving the ranch, he began doubling up on a few things so he could take the day off.
Up early and excited at the prospect of some fun, he was first greeted by a flat tire on the horse trailer. That fixed, he went to feed the roping horses.
The skunk that sometimes visited the barn had apparently had a run in with his cowdog and the encounter provided some exotic atmosphere in the tack room. Determined, he decided a saddle that had a little smell to it wouldn't stop him from catching his calf at the rodeo with the fastest time.
Of the "take pride in your ride" philosophy, Jess brushed his trusty rope horse Flint, braided the part of his mane that could get caught in the rope and deemed him ready for the public.
Horse loaded, Jess headed out through the pasture, down the 11 miles of dirt that would take him to the highway leading to town.
When he got to the first pasture, the cattle that seemed to live in the middle of the road full time were, as expected, in their usual places.
He looked them over as they slowly gave way to the truck and trailer and let him pass.
Then he spotted the cow with the tight bag. Her calf was standing as close as she would let him with his nose full of porcupine quills.
That was a Murphy thing, and while not life threatening yet, had to be taken care of pronto.
Flint had long since become too important for pasture work. In his mind, and usually in Jess', he was the fast-time rodeo-roping star. He was noticeably quite offended when he was unloaded and the cinches pulled up. After all, he was washed, polished, full of high-octane feed and had a rodeo to tend to.
Nevertheless, they gave chase, caught the calf, pulled the porcupine quills with the needle-nose pliers, and were rewarded with a generous dose of the calf's bodily fluids for their trouble.
Even though Jess was wearing his lucky fast-time shirt, there was always the emergency shirt. His contestant number would cover that faded spot from hanging in the truck. Changed, ready to roll again, off they went.
Once at the rodeo grounds, Jess was greeted by friends who obviously had suspicious motives.
They told stories of how he used to ride broncs instead of just roping. After a while, he was inspired and found himself on a saddle bronc.
The next thing he knew he was dusting off his britches and heard the announcer telling the crowd: "Put your hands together and give this cowboy a good round of applause. That's all he's going to take home today."
Since his original intent was to rope, in spite of his minor difficulties throughout the day, he was still determined to do so.
He and Flint backed in the box, drew the fastest-running calf in rodeo history but were able to make a credible run. Jess chalked it up to the mental stress of Murphy's presence throughout the morning.
Those same "friends" that encouraged the bronc ride were feeling slightly responsible for previous transgressions, so they invited Jess to go to the rodeo dance with them.
With thoughts of pretty girls and buckle-polishing music, Jess pondered the possibilities. Maybe even Murphy would find a pretty girl and leave him the heck alone.
Julie can be reached for comment at