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Category Archives: Cowboys

The ‘Bar Mitzvah’ for Ranch Kids

The Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish ceremony for boys reaching the age of 13 and is kinda regarded as a coming of age from boyhood to manhood. Well, the Jews do it a little different than we did it out on the ranch. OK, …..quite a bit different, as a matter of fact!

All our water on the ranch was made by windmills, not just for the cattle and horses. They even provided the water for our houses. If the wind didn’t blow for a few days (usually not a problem in the Texas Panhandle!) we would have no water, which did happen a couple of times in the 30 years we lived there. As a kid growing up on the ranch one of the things you learned early on was how to fix a windmill. Sometimes it was just to replace worn ‘leathers’. Other times the bottom cylinder might have a hole in it which required pulling all the pipe out of the well and replacing it. Not fun! But we could do it, and did many a time.

One of the routine jobs in keeping windmills operating is to keep them oiled good. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, ….it ain’t! Here’s how it goes. OK, looking up it doesn’t look too high up there but up top where you have to put the oil in, and lookin’ down, it’s scary high! So, what you have to do is get a big ‘ol can of oil (about 2-3 gallons) with a long spout on it, climb up the hand and foot rails of the windmill. Remember now, you’re also carrying roughly 20 lbs of oil in one hand and climbing with the other. So, I’m makin’ my way up the windmill, my Dad coaching me every step. Now I”m gettin’ closer to the top where there’s a little foot and a half platform to stand on. Getting up on that tiny thing is a real trick…..with only one usable hand. Now, you’re up on top of the tiny platform. The fan or blades of the windmill are 6-8 feet in diameter. The windmill is turned off so the blades are not turning. But in the Texas Panhandle, there’s hardly a day where there ain’t at least a nice little breeze. This day was a day such as that. And when it’s breezy like that the fan and blades, while they’re not spinning, still move around some causing you to picture yourself getting knocked off there and hittin’ the ground to certain death. All this is going through my mind while my Dad’s still coaching me along from the ground. Now, lookin’ down it appears to be about 90 feet (actually only about 25 ft) to the ground! It’s not…..but it dang sure looks it! As if that wasn’t enough, ….here’s the tricky part. The part of the windmill that has the gear mechanism in it is enclosed and covered by a big (foot and a half) hood, kinda cone shaped. You gotta stand on your tippy toes, reach as high as you possibly can and remove the nut off the top of that hood! Now, I’ve got oil in one hand, a nut and the hood in another….all the while trying to hold on for dear life. The entire 13-14 years of my life was running like a movie through my mind. Is it gonna just kill me on impact or will I be mangled and a vegetable the rest of my life? I’m way too young to die. My Dad still calmly coaching me along, ……almost like he doesn’t even realize I’m about to fall to my death. Now, I gotta hoist the big oil can up over my head and start to pour it in the gear casing. Oh, did I mention your hands are super greasy from handling the oil can complicating the whole process?! I’m trying to do all that and listen to the instructions my Dad’s giving me and I couldn’t help but to desperately ask, “What if I fall?” And, you know he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. He just calmly, confidently and simply said, ………..”You won’t”.

He was right! I didn’t!

You can’t imagine how relieved I was to get back on solid ground!

So, that’s how we do the ‘ol Bar Mitzvah on the ranch! It’s the rite of passage from being a kid into full-fledged manhood!

There’s a lot of things I miss about the ranch life,     ………that ain’t one of ’em!

PS-I’ll bet money if you climbed up that same windmill today you could find my claw marks dented in that galvanized iron!

…….makes me miss my Dad……

Addendum: Every person who has climbed up a windmill tower and stood on that little platform has experienced the sensation of looking up and seeing the clouds slowly drifting overhead. It gives one the feeling that the windmill is tipping over. It’s pretty frightening the first time you experience it. So much so that I heard a story of one man who was up there, saw the clouds, thought the windmill was tipping over……..and jumped! I’m not sure if that’s true………but it could be!

 

Here’s another one you might like:

Labor Day Out on the ‘Ol ‘Lazy J’

 

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You Oughta See Us When We Ain’t Winnin’!

It was back in the late ’70s, during my rodeo days.  We had driven all night the night before from Montgomery, Alabama with very little sleep. Only what little you could get in the back, or front, seat of a car with four others packed in there too. We had finished riding on this particular night in the rodeo in San Angelo, Texas. It was around midnight and we pulled into an all-night convenience store to get stocked up for another all-nighter to Phoenix. We dropped off one guy so there’d only be four of us for this trip. One less driver….but more room to sleep!

We made our trip around the c-store and brought all our stuff and put it on the counter to check out. Out there on the counter were big bags of potato chips, Doritos, pork skins, Cheetos, Louisiana Hot Sauce, Slim-Jims, Fritos, bean dip, beef jerky, peanuts, a few candy bars………oh, and a case of beer. The night manager, a gentleman in his 40’s, looked over all the items we put on the counter, shook his head back and forth a few times, ….looked me square in the eye and said, in an extremely serious tone, “How in the hell do you guys live??!!” …..To which I quickly replied, “Heck, that ain’t nothin’, you oughta see us when we ain’t winnin’!”

True Story!

 

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“Head ’em Up,……. Move ’em Out!”

I’d guess you’d need to be somewhere in the 50+ age group to remember that term. I remember as a kid hearing it every single week at least once. I’m talking about the TV show “Rawhide”. (click for Wikipedia info) It was a weekly series about a bunch of cowboys who were always moving a big herd of cattle from one place to another…..and the dilemmas they ran into along the way. They encountered everything from thunderstorms, tornadoes, and all kinds of inclement weather to stampedes, wolves, bandits, cattle rustlers, gamblers, gunfighters, no water….. and just about every other thing you can possibly imagine. We couldn’t wait each week to tune in to see what was going to happen next. Rawhide was the first big acting job for a young up and comer by the name of Clint Eastwood. You’ve heard of him, right?! Yep, he played the part of Rowdy Yates, the ramrod….and kinda the second in command to Gil Favor, the trail boss.

As a little ranch kid it was even more interesting to me and my brother. We could relate to the problems that the cattlemen were having because in our household we were experiencing a little bit of the same calamities…..most often to a much smaller degree, nearly always with cattle,…but it seemed real, and believable to us. We dreamed of being on those big cattle drives with those cowboys. Even as little kids we knew how to handle cattle. It’s just what we did, day in…and day out. And it was kinda funny when we watched Rawhide….we’d see some of those Hollywood cowboys do something that we learned to do, or not to do, years before. And we’d wonder….“Why did they do that?!” We knew a lot more about cowboy’n than they did! We never missed Rawhide.

At the end of the show each week, after the bad guys had been adequately dealt with, the herd was gathered back up, the storm had eased up,….and the cowboys were all accounted for Mr. Favor,….the trail boss, would give a holler, “Head ’em up, move ’em out!”. ……and off they’d go, again, with the big herd toward their destination.

2016 is behind us….it’s history. And 2017 is staring us square in the face. We’ve made it through some major trials. We’ve learned some lessons; we’re smarter than we were a year ago. We’ve, somehow, lived through the things that we thought were going to ‘take us out’! We have a greater understanding of the rescuing power of God. We have a brand new resolve to get the herd to it’s destination. We’ve learned that we can’t do it without the help of the Lord. There are some major challenges ahead, for sure, ….but we know we can do it!

“Head ’em up, move ’em out!”

More good reading:

Why I Think Cowboys Make Good ‘Hands’ For the Lord!

Heads Up!

Reflect – Refocus #1

Adios ’15

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Turns Out They Were a Lot Smarter Than We Thought They Were!

Had a text conversation with a pastor friend yesterday who had just been through a pretty serious neck surgery (shoutout to Brad!) and is well on the road to recovery. Like myself, he’s an ex rodeo competitor and the neck surgery is just a little lingering reminder of the glory days gone by, so to speak. His Mom, referring to his rodeo career, told him when he was a young man, “You’re gonna pay for that when you’re older.” But, seriously, what could she possibly know about that?!

I remember vividly when I was about 22. I was rodeoing professionally and had came back home to the ranch after a pretty devastating injury. I had gotten bucked off a bull in Mineral Wells, Texas and landed kinda spraddle legged on my knees. Just about the time I hit the ground the bull kicked me with both feed right in the butt. It hyper-extended my pelvis and I knew I was seriously hurt. Got in my car and drove the 4 hours home; stopped to fill up with gas an hour or so into the trip home. I managed to get out of the car and filled my car up through the excruciating pain. But, there was no way I could make the 60 foot trip to the cashier so I honked my horn until they came out and took my money. Got home about 2 a.m. and sat down on the horn again until Dad came out and carried me into the house. I spent most of the next two weeks just going from the bed to the shower, to the table and to the recliner. I never went to the doctor, obviously should have! Three weeks later I was back on the rodeo trail but my hips and pelvis were never the same again. ….and even after a hip replacement (results of that injury) a few years ago, they’re still not!

I remember somewhere during that time my Dad saying to me, “All these wrecks you’re having are gonna show back up when you get about 40”. As a brilliant 22 year old I dismissed that as just another thing he wasn’t very smart about. You know how we were, at least most of us; mid to late teens we started noticing how dumb our parents were. We were obviously smarter and wiser than they were. But when you get out there in the ‘ol game of life you begin to get a little glimpse of insight into how wise they actually were. 

Looking back, it is amazing how full of wisdom they really were...and not just about a rodeo injury, which…in the long haul is blatantly inconsequential; but wise about other, and much more important things like relationships, money, business, attitudes, marriage, parenting, dealing with controversy or criticism, and a hundred other things. Most of all they were just wise about life, in general. 

Heads up young ‘uns, the phenomenon repeats itself!

I told someone awhile back, “I love being a Grandpa ’cause my grandkids think I’m smart; ….my kids still think I’m stupid!” Our little ‘crew’ is up and gone now and living out their own lives. I’m bettin’, by now, they’re learning what some of the rest of us have learned. And, Hopefully with them, I’m past the, “you ain’t very smart stage”!

Now, at age 63, not a day goes by that I don’t think about….and draw from the incredible wisdom that my Mom & Dad communicated, and ‘lived out’ in front of us! To say, “I’m extremely grateful”, would be to cut it monumentally short!

Turns Out They Were a Lot Smarter Than We Thought They Were!

Here’s a few you’ll like; don’t forget to share ’em with your friends!

Resistance Training

A Long Ways From the Lord

VIP’s #10 – Cliff & Charlene Taylor

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Labor Day Out on the ‘Ol ‘Lazy J’

Labor Day was instituted to honor the American Labor movement. Oregon was the first state to officially observe it in 1887 and by 1894, when it became a national holiday, thirty other states had adopted it. Not sure what comes to mind for you when Labor Day rolls around but for me, it reminds me of how we observed it on the ranch almost every year without fail.

Most people, if not nearly all, get Labor day off….but not us! Nope, we did “labor” on Labor Day! Cliff Taylor, my Dad, loooooved workin’! And he loved it, even more, when everyone else was working too! A lifelong rancher and cattleman, Dad, made sure that we had something significant (at least from his perspective!) to do on Labor Day. We’ve been gone from the ranch since ’88 but I’m pretty sure we got up earlier and worked harder,…and longer on Labor Day than most every other day! It’s how he celebrated it if you know what I mean!

It seemed that he’d save one of those jobs that you really just ‘didn’t want to do’ for that particular Monday every year. One such example would be when we cleaned out the scales that were used for weighing cattle. The scales were an extremely important fixture on the ranch, in that we sold thousands of head of cattle every year and just about every one of those cattle had to be weighed, coming in….and going out.

For starters, the floor of the scales was lined with bridge timbers; boards about 4 inches thick, a foot and a half wide and about 14 feet long and weighing a couple hundred pounds. We’d remove a couple of them just so we could squeeze down underneath the floor and clean out the ‘knives’ of the scales (a part of the scales that were in each of the four corners, which when they were caked up with dirt and manure didn’t work like they were supposed to and would cause an inerrant weight on the cattle). Keep in mind that Labor Day being the first Monday in September…the weather in the Texas Panhandle can still be scorching hot. Pretend just for a minute that you’re the one doing this. It’s probably about 120 degrees underneath those scales, not one single breath of air to be had. You squeeze down underneath the floor of the scales and head toward one of the four corners with your wire brush to start your work. You’re crawling through thick spider webs….with spiders attached…..some of which I seriously doubt their species has even been discovered yet….and all poisonous, you’re thinkin’! Oh, and did I say you’re using a flashlight to see because it’s pitch black under there?! It’s not a rare thing to encounter centipedes,  a pack-rat or two and even though I never ran headlong into a snake….you just know in the back of your mind, they’re there!

It’s not a quick job by any means, it takes the better part of a half-hour to get the job knocked out, all the while in an uncomfortable position crawling on your belly in powdery dust and dried cow manure. Now, Dad, never bein’ one to half-ass do a job, would coach me from the upside. “Where you goin’?” “I’m going to the other side.” “You ain’t been there long enough ….brush ’em some more.” Finally, when you come up out of there you’re mad,  soakin’ wet, covered in dust, dry manure, and cobwebs and coughing like you have TB! You immediately do a thorough check for spiders that might have ‘hitched’ a ride on you from down under. The last thing to do is to put the boards back on the floor of the scales and they’re good to go for another few years.

That’s just one little example of how we ‘celebrated’ Labor Day out on the ‘ol Lazy J….but, hey, the day’s still young. There’s bound to be some hay to haul, a windmill or some fence that needs fixin’! Happy Labor Day to ‘ya! 

PS – As unpleasant as that job was…I’d give anything if I could get back under there one more time just to hear him coach me from the topside!

 

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The Parable of Pedro Flores Pt 2

It would sure help if you’ve seen Lonesome Dove. I joke about Lonesome Dove all the time, telling people that they’re not ’rounded out’ spiritually until they’ve seen it several times. But, seriously, it’s a great movie. Larry McMurtry’s a great writer any way you look at it. But, even hardcore Lonesome Dove fans may not know there are actually four books in the Lonesome Dove series. The first, Dead Man’s Walk (1996), chronicles the lives of the young Texas Rangers, Augustus McRae and Woodrow Call. Comanche Moon (1998)  covers the ranger’s middle aged years. Lonesome Dove (1985), the later…almost over the hill years. And Streets of Laredo (2000), the sequel and last in the series. I highly recommend them all if you liked Lonesome Dove. Interestingly enough….I’ve read those…. but never actually read Lonesome Dove. (I have, however, watched it 9 times!)

I recently wrote “The Parable of Pedro Flores”. *(Click on link to read) It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie. But there’s another little part of the scene that I was reminded of that just kinda ‘tops it off’. The person who reminded me is a good friend and a ‘lawman’ cut from much the same cloth as Gus and Woodrow. (You know who you are, DM) But, the culmination of that whole scene happened when Gus & Woodrow stole the herd of horses back from Mexican bandito, Pedro Flores, in the middle of the night. Flores was as surprised as he could possibly be at all the commotion taking place when there in the darkness Gus appeared horseback and the two made unmistakable eye contact. It was then in the midst of the chaos that Gus, not fifteen feet away from Flores, tipped his hat in true Texas fashion, …..and in doing so implied to Pedro….“Got you again!!”  And, as good as Pedro Flores was at stealing and pilfering…..the Rangers were better!

Again, I see parallels with our spiritual life. Our adversary, the devil, is a formidable foe, indeed. But armed and equipped as you are he’s just no match for you. We’ve been given ‘authority’ over all the power of the enemy. He knows that….but sometimes we don’t know it, or act like it. I agree that it’s nothing to be arrogant about, that would surely guarantee our defeat. But maybe you should, when things seem the darkest, remind yourself of just ‘who’ you are and, with a profound confidence (in Him!), tip your hat to the enemy like Gus did Pedro and make your way on back home with your ‘stuff’!!

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“Cowboy Christmas”

It’s the term that professional rodeo cowboys call the week of the 4th of July. From this time through the end of August is about the busiest time for rodeo pros traveling all over the USA garnering points and dollars in their quest to move into the top fifteen in their particular events so they can compete for the BIG money at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. Cowboys can compete in 2 rodeos a day if everything works right and there’s even an opportunity to make 3 in the same day. Those 3  would be Cody, Wyoming, Red Lodge and Livingston, Montana. I made those 3 a time or two back in the ’70’s, and early ’80’s. Many cowboys in those days, and probably today as well, include the use of an airplane to make the rigorous travel schedule even more feasible. I also did that myself, being licensed private pilot, for a few years. There’s lots of money to be awarded through July and August. I always won good money over the 4th but never really had the kind of run that a guy dreams of. There’s alway a myriad of variables to deal with when you’re rodeoing at that pace; the draw, travel restrictions, the weather, injuries, scheduling conflicts, etc. But, in my 20’s, looking back I don’t guess I minded any of those things that much.

It’s been 35 years since that was my life but I still think about it often, and especially over the 4th of July holidays. I think about the travel, the rodeos, the challenges but most of all I think of the camaraderie amongst all my rodeo friends. It was, and still is, something very special! So, if you’re out there as a spectator at St. Paul, Prescott, Greeley, Pecos, Cody, Red Lodge, Livingston or any of the other dozen or so rodeos happening simultaneously, enjoy the show….and try to appreciate the truly, last individual professional sport in America!

Here’s a couple of ‘Cowboy Christmas’ memories: One from Pecos, Texas, one of the oldest rodeos in America. The big, black bull at Pecos, FH of Steiner’s, threw me off so hard there’s probably still a dent in the arena dirt where I landed. The other pic is from Springdale, Arkansas. Sure doesn’t seem like 35 years ago!

Andy024

Andy008

If you like rodeo stories, check these out:

8378 Zulu ….. and the Flight That Was Almost the Last One!

First Trip to Calgary!

“The Best Straw Hat I Ever Had!”

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