Monday, September 17, 2007


There will be a - hopefully - short hiatus in The Westerner.

Those who are long time readers know I have multiple sclerosis. On Tuesday I will have surgery to implant a baclofen pump to help with the spasticity and clonus in my legs.

The surgery will be in El Paso, and then I will spend an undetermined amount of time at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico. I've been there before, I will have my laptop, and they do have WiFi. The kicker is though, the farther you are from the nurses station the slower the connection. So we will see how lucky I am in the room I draw.

I'm fairly confident I'll be back posting next week and possibly before, so check back in.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Adios Wayne, save us a seat up yonder
Cowgirl Sass And Savvy

By Julie Carter

Recently, I was told the way to recognize a cowboy funeral is when you pull up to the church or funeral home, the parking lot is full of pickup trucks.

If times are good, they'll be muddy, some will have hay loaded in the back and others will have a patient cowdog waiting for the return of his cowboy.

Most of the folks are dressed in Wranglers, boots and hats. A branding iron is likely to be standing by the door where they branded the casket - a final brand for the old cowboy.

All the talk, when folks are talking, is about grass and rain and this time of year, mention will be made of calf prices and shipping dates.

In circles over a meal served to family and friends, wonderful stories will be told about the cowboy they'd come to honor and lay to rest.

This week, we lost an icon of the true West - cowboy, rancher, husband, father, grandfather and pioneer.

Wayne Withers proved just how tough he was right to the end, against all odds.

He was 95 when he made the crossover to the big corral up yonder, and for 73 of those years, he'd been teasing and loving his bride, Annie.

I sat with the couple just before their 70th anniversary, and the love between them could have swallowed me up.

They verbally sparred over the stories they told me about an era of hard times that forged their grit and character.

"Do you want to know about the girls I danced with or the broncs I rode?" he would say with a twinkle in his eyes.

Their life's tale exposed the heartbreak of living in a country where the government took not one, but two ranches from them to create what we know today as the White Sands Missile Range.

Wayne was 5 years old when his dad left him and his brothers alone, ages 7 and 10, to tend 700 head of cattle and a herd of horses while he went in search of a new ranch.

By the time he was 11, Wayne had already hired out on a couple of different wagons and worked cattle for other people.

He recalled during one of his $1-a-day jobs down by Three Rivers, he got drug by a horse. He was so skinned up and sore, the only place he could sit that didn't hurt was in the kitchen sink. He took his meals there.

Wayne was in a small plane crash in 1955 and scored a broken leg that laid him up for a year.

His dad, who had a legendary streak of orneriness, was good about putting the boys on horses that would buck. "We'd be leaving out at three in the morning and I'll tell ya, it's a trick to ride a bucking horse you can't see in the dark," Wayne recalled.

And then there was dancing. Next to riding bucking horses, Wayne loved to dance.

He and Annie danced for 60 years. They met at a dance and country dances were their passion for all of those years.

To them, dancing made all the hard times worth living.

When we catch up with Wayne in Heaven, he will, no doubt, be telling stories about horses that bucked, pretty girls that danced and "it was darn sure worth a 9-mile ride to a dance, stay until 2 a.m. and then ride back home, ready to work."

Adios Wayne. When your tales are retold, it will always be with the memory of you with that big grin that just never did hide how ornery you were.

And Wayne, you left the world a better place having been in it.

Visit Julie’s website at

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And there are many more...but you get the picture.