Monday, January 28, 2013

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Trading up –Dad to a drill sergeant 

by Julie Carter

Ranch raisin’ is the best way any kid can grow up. It teaches life's lessons in the most basic ways during all the formative years. Then one day the ranch kid wakes up and he is an adult with big-people dreams and plans that often don't include staying at the ranch.

And honestly, no one blames them. Cowboy life is not always awash in glamour. A good bit of it involves farm implements, a shovel, plumbing tools, fence stretchers and carpenter skills. It's that seedy side of the career than will send a young man looking for other excitement.

My younger brother was a good example of this natural migration. Being the last one left at home - his older brothers already gone, making the big bucks in the construction industry - he was the last cowboy standing. Well into that stage of maturity where Dad didn't know a thing about anything, ranch work was just another frontier of disagreement. To improve his circumstances, he joined the U.S. Army.

The irony was that after basic training, the Army sent him to live on an Army-owned ranch in Colorado to be in the cavalry regiment that performed in parades and Old West re-enactments. In this newfound career, he cleaned stalls, tended to horses and the usual ranch chores.

Eventually his tour was up and he moved back home. However, cowboy glamour at the ranch soon departed in the midst of moving sprinkler pipe in the hay fields and other such tedious chores.

The lad re-enlisted, but not without throwing in a tour of duty tending bar in a big city honky-tonk, teaching country dance lessons and landing a role in a beer commercial for the really big bucks. His cowboy expertise continued to come in quite handy.

Through the years, the armed forces have been the "great escape" for a number of cowboys.

In Texas, another cowboy reached adulthood while still living at home, helping his dad out with the family ranch, all the while considering his career opportunities. During a rainy spell, his dad decided that the house roof needed new shingles and his son came to mind for this job.

The young man soon found himself up on the ridge row with a shingling hatchet, a bundle of shingles and a nail apron firmly in place. After the first couple of rows of shingles, the summer sunshine was losing its appeal.

He managed to work the head off the hatchet and was climbing down when Dad, who was paying more attention than the lad realized, tossed him up a hammer. It took him a while to break the handle on the hammer, but he got it done. Dad had another one ready for him.

While nailing down a couple more rows of shingles, he decided that Dad was preoccupied. The hammer “slipped” out of his grasp and landed about 500 feet away in the stock tank. It just so happened this was the last hammer on the place, so Dad sent his son to the hardware store in town for more hammers to finish the job.

On the way to town, the boy noticed he had a couple of extra shirts and pairs of jeans in his truck so he headed directly to the Army recruiters office and joined up.

Three years went by before he returned stateside. When he got back to Texas and on his way home, he remembered what started it all.

He stopped by the hardware store, bought a couple of hammers and when he walked in the door at home told his Dad, "Here are your hammers. I got them just like you told me."

Julie can be reached at

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