Sunday, August 05, 2018

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy (revisited)

The new face of ranching

By Julie Carter

So ya wanna be a cowboy. The reality of genuine cowboying in today's world it isn't a pretty picture and the future of it is changing fast.

Ranches that actually need hired cowboys are dropping in numbers faster than the temperatures in January.

Pressures of government regulation, environmental restrictions, high costs of doing business and high dollar opportunity from land developers are just a few of the factors working against the longevity of the ranching industry.

Cowboy dreams

Still, almost every little boy at one time or another had cowboy dreams. Memories of their favorite stick horse, a set of plastic six-shooters and a hat trimmed in red with a stampede string on it are planted firmly in the imaginations that pinned on a badge, chased the bad guys until sunset and roped wild cows until suppertime.

And those little boys? Many of them grew up to be big boys who still want to be cowboys. They've gotten college degrees, work in big business, hold down suit-and-tie jobs and manage a portfolio that may or may not let them afford to be cowboys in one form or another.

New owners of the West

It is those "cowboys" that are buying up the West and fantasizing over their new-found careers.

While they are warm and safe in their southern climates waiting to sign the papers on their dream in the West, they have no idea it is taking snowmobiles to reach their new ranch headquarters.

Their mental image is the same as they day they looked at the place on a summer day - green pastures, summer Aspens and trickling brooks full of trout.

Their first move will be to buy some cows to stock their ranchette. Observation will see them overstocking with cows that forgot what it was to chew with teeth or young heifers new to the business of birthing babies.

And of course to have calves, you need bulls. Even a pilgrim knows that.

So they will buy the biggest one they can find because he's "so pretty" and partner him up with a fence-jumping longhorn bull to do the job.

They have no idea the hell they have just put into the business of cattle reproduction - for them and their neighbors.

When the grass is "sheeped-off" and the cows go back to the sale barn, the ranchette will be fully stocked with one paint mule and an emu.

In addition, of course, is the ranch remuda consisting of an ill-tempered Tennessee Walker, a very old, very fat mare and one idiot Appaloosa, all with plaited tails and fancy horse blankets.

A wide assortment of hats will be seen along with boots of every nature from mukluks to combat types.

The new "guys" will have a cowboy vocabulary no one ever heard but can be traced to old Randolph Scott films.

The end of an era

For many, ranching through the generations is coming to an end that sounds much like a slamming door on an empty tin building.

The echo resonates over the land with a hollow ring to it and fades on the horizon.

The ache in the heart and the grip in the gut make no noise as the last generation pulls down his hat and walks away from the land that wore his name for a hundred years.

That, sadly, is the new face of ranching.

© Julie Carter 2007

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