Sunday, February 07, 2016

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Axe handle respect

by Julie Carter

She stood in the corral looking into the storm as the wind blasted the falling snow across the pens. Her husband was carrying a bale of hay to the feed bunk. This classic Jerry Palen cartoon was accompanied by this timeless line from the ranch wife: "Tell me again how we're going to think of this as the good old days."

Across the country where the weather has plummeted into cold, snow and blizzard conditions, this scenario is played out repeatedly. Al Gore more than once declared every severe blast of winter weather we endured is a "consequence of man-made global warming."

I can't even begin to use the expletives I hear when the term "global warming" comes up right now, only surpassed by those used while taking Al Gore's name in vain. With every day of arctic weather in Kansas, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, etc., the fact is this -- no farms or ranches will be closed due to inclement weather. 

Subzero temps are no excuse for staying inside by the fire.

Livestock has priority. Plunging mercury on thermometers predicts frozen water lines and iced-over drinking troughs. The drifting snow adds an extra challenge to mobility, making hauling water not always a second option.

Cold winter stories are endless, depicting the misery with humor or agony.

One old timer tells that when he was a kid, they put their food in the icebox to keep it from freezing. Ironically, I'm paying for electricity to keep things frozen in the freezer and to keep things from freezing outside of the freezer.

Then there are those half dozen newborn baby calves, unfortunate enough to have been born on a subzero night, thawing out on the back porch. Space heaters, heat lamps and blow dryers become premium tools in the lifesaving efforts.

Chopping ice and splitting firewood are a few basics in this world that remain timeless in nature and require the ever-handy axe. The cowboy's bride made her circle which was an all-day event involving many miles to get to and ride through more than a dozen pastures -- breaking ice in the trough in each one.

Dog-tired and with just one more pasture to go, she stepped out to unload her equally tired roan horse. He decided in his weariness to not be in a particular hurry to leave the trailer, or move at all as it were.

Standing on the fender of the trailer and reaching through the slats, she used the handle-end of her ice-breaking ax to snare the reins and encourage the roan to back out. Just as she was coaxing the horse's exit, a local farmer happened by. She had the business end of the ax in her gloved hands, but all the farmer could see was the ax handle stuck through the slats of the trailer.

He briefly viewed the action and then quickly sped away. Not giving it a thought, she got the horse unloaded and went about her business. The next morning she stopped by the grain elevator to get a cup of hot coffee and thaw out by the stove. As she came through the door, she got a standing ovation from the crew already there.

Ordinarily a nod and a hello was the extent of their acknowledgment of her arrival. She had to ask, "What's up?"

"Lyndon was by here yesterday and said he saw you hit your good horse in the head with an ax because he wouldn't unload," said one of them. 

"Everybody knows how much you love that roan horse. We figured if you are that tough, we better come to attention when you walk in."

Ah yes, living the good life and getting a little respect along the way.

Julie can be reached for comment at

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