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Category Archives: Ranch Life

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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The Lessons I Learned from Jeff

The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.

I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.

Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. Jeff was a scary looking guy, well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.

Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there. Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!

I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.

I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff. 

I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

Try these:

“It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!”

Identity Theft

The Thing About Unconditional Love

Double Check Your “Invitation List”!!

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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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If He Can Fix My Life…..I Know He Can Fix Yours!

I’ve been blessed in my life to have a lot of good friends. Wasn’t long after my life had ‘made the turn’, so to speak, that a steady stream of my friends started coming to see me. That may not seem like a big deal to you but it really was. For one reason, where I lived at the time wasn’t on the way to anywhere! I mean it was way off the beaten path. So, it was no accident that they were coming to see me. In fact, looking back, it seems pretty obvious to me that the Lord, Himself, was somehow sending them across my path. 

I knew something was very different for me and that for once my life was ‘working’ but I had no idea how to communicate it or put it into words….especially to somebody else. These friends would pour out their hearts to me telling me their problems….all kinds of problems! I had no idea what to tell them….and to be honest some of their problems were pretty intimidating. But I knew one thing…..my life, just a short time before, was pretty messed up! In fact it was so messed up that no one but the Lord could fix it. And even though their problems looked extremely difficult,….and in some cases impossible, I had a profound sense of confidence that they were going to make it. I just knew that if God could fix my life…..He could fix their’s!

Now, more than 30 years later, I still get faced with people’s problems…and just like then, most of the time they look nearly impossible but I still have that same confidence. So, if you’re reading this and you’re in a jam….and maybe, just maybe, it looks as if there’s absolutely no possible solution, run to Him! ‘Cause….I‘m convinced that, “if He can fix my life….He can fix yours”!!

You’ll like this one too!*(click on highlighted link):

There’s Grace For That!

“God, If You’re Out There,  You Gotta Help Me!”WordpressSignature2015b

 

 

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What If I’d Said, No?

I didn’t….so it’s just theoretical. I’m not going to….so don’t get all uptight about it. But occasionally it does go through my mind…..mostly at times when I’m down or discouraged. Yeah, people like me have those times too. Most won’t admit it…fearing it to be a sign of weakness. And, without a doubt, there are those in every group that could start the ‘feeding frenzy’ when a spiritual leader admits he’s actually human, and vulnerable. And, from what I’ve seen by observing other leaders…church people can be some of the most vicious and mean-spirited of them all. Crazy huh?!

It was in 1986 that I heard the call of the Lord on my life. I remember the day well. I was training a horse in the big round pen at the ranch near Allison, Texas. I got off, tied him up and drove the 7 miles to town to talk to my Pastor, Ronnie Chadwick. *(click to read the account) As I remember, it was pretty clear from the Lord. And also, just as clear, was my response to Him that day. It was an easy, “Yes”! I had absolutely no idea what it all meant but I was ‘all-in’, whatever that was.

It was the same when we said “Yes” to the work in Sayre. I’d been asked a dozen times or more to take the little group (6-8) and be their leader. I hadn’t heard a single thing from the Lord that I should do it. But in one critical week the Lord spoke clearly to both Julie and me. We said, “Yes”, and the rest is history, so to speak.

I’m not sure what I’d be doing….or where I’d even be had I said “No”, on those two occasions. For me it’s kind of scary to think about. I doubt I’d be in Sayre, Oklahoma. I’d probably be doing something involving horses and cattle, or ranching. It’s what I knew best…and what I loved doing. On some of the really hard days that life, as hard as it can be too, looks pretty dang good.

But I think about the things that I’d be missing had I said, “No”. I’d have missed at least some of the amazing things the Lord has miraculously done in, through and around us in the last 30+ years. It’s almost embarrassing to admit the times down through the years that ‘quitting’ seemed the thing to do. But I’m not a quitter, never have been…it’s a family trait. I’ve noticed people down through the years who quit, knowing they shouldn’t have,…and it appears that they don’t like themselves much after that. Of course the call of the Lord is one very valid reason for not quitting. But the thing that’s kept me going all these years is my incredible family (best on the planet!)….and this amazing bunch of people at Trinity Fellowship that actually believe in what we’re doing…..and have bet their lives on making a difference!

So, yep…I’m human, and a pretty flawed one at that! But I’m on a pretty decent 30 year run of saying “Yes” to the Lord. My policy has always been to be ‘real’. I’m not of the, ‘fake it ’til you make it’, variety. I’m glad I said, “Yes”. And I still don’t know what it all means! But, I’m all-in for whatever He says!

If you like this one….You’ll like this one, too:

Thank You, Mother Teresa

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VIP’s #10 – Cliff & Charlene Taylor

Obviously my VIP Blogs are not listed in any order of importance. If they were these two would be right up there toward the top of the list. Cliff and Charlene….that’s my Mom & Dad. I wish you all knew them. They’re two of the most incredible people you could ever meet. They’re now in their 80’s and live only a few blocks from us. I like that. I’ll go there at least a few times a week and have coffee and visit with them. They amaze me in that they’re still telling me stories that I’ve never heard before….and they can do it with nearly total recall.

Now seems like a proper time to write them up as VIPs since just about three days ago they celebrated their 66th Anniversary! Pretty amazing when you think about it. That’s setting the bar up there pretty high for the rest of us Taylors’. Good job, Mom & Dad! There’s no way I could come close to telling all the good qualities they have…and the good qualities they’ve passed along to Mont and I. It’d take a good sized book to get that done. But for the sake of time and space, I’ll try to give you a little insight on ‘who’ they are.

They have been the hardest working pair I’ve ever seen. Dad has always been a cattleman so we learned at a very young age to handle cattle and horses with the best of ’em. Dad had Mont and I doing things that most men couldn’t do when we were just little kids. We learned how to do it right. When I was 12 I started riding colts for other people for pay. I did that successfully, at least at some level, for the next 25+ years. Most of our  lives were spent on a ranch. It was a great life. Besides handling every aspect of the cattle business (receiving, shipping, gathering, doctoring, buying and selling) we learned to build fence, repair windmills and water gaps and about every other thing you need to do to run a ranch the right way.

Mom was the best! I can remember as a little kid, her pulling broomcorn to help make ends meet. She’d come home tired, dirty and worn out but always managed to get us one heck of a supper cooked, without fail. Later on in our rodeo days there were many times we’d roll into the ranch in the middle of the night with a carload of buddies. She’d get up even if it was 2 am and cook us up some chicken fried steak, french fries and gravy. There are retired rodeo guys all over the United States and Canada who spent time at our house and who have the greatest amount of respect for my Mom & Dad. Oh, and incidentally, when we’d come in to the ranch in the middle of the night and have that great meal….Dad was always gracious to let us sleep in ’til 5:30 or 6 in the morning before we started whatever project he had planned for the day…….and there was always a project! Most serious ranchers work their cattle according to the Zodiac signs. Dad always said that when there were a couple of carloads of rodeo friends at the ranch……that the ‘signs’ were right!

They sacrificed, and went without, to haul us to junior rodeos all over Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. They gave us a ‘leg up’ that way and enabled us to have a successful career in professional rodeo. We were both inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2008. And in our acceptance speeches we made sure that they got the credit they deserved. In all actuality……they’re the ones who should’ve been inducted.

I could go on and on with those kinds of things but they gave us far more important things than teaching us cattle and ranch work. In my 62 years I haven’t seen them do one person wrong. I have seen them wronged plenty of times but they always handled it with class. They’ve lived their lives with the highest degree of integrity. Their ‘word’ has been their bond in the truest sense of the term. We didn’t go to church but they somehow instilled in us that God was ‘real’.…..and that He was good!

All those things are important but the most important thing of all is that we were loved……in word…..and in deed. We let them down plenty of times with some of the dumb stuff we did….but they hung in there with us, always having our back and always believing in us, and never, ever wavering in their love.

In the final analysis I’d say if, when it’s all over, if I’ve been half as good a person as they have been…..I’ll have done pretty decent.

Cliff & Charlene Taylor, VIP’s to anyone who’s had the good fortune of knowing them!

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It Was A “Test” of Epic Proportions!

Well that might be exaggerating just a little bit….but at the time, ……and considering my ‘new’ standing in the Lord, it really was quite the test. It was in 1985 and my good friend, Danny Mason, invited me to judge his annual bull riding in Mineral Wells, Texas. It was a big event; lots of money up, and some of the best riders in the world were competing there. The crowd was huge. I’m standing inside the arena and Cade, my 2nd son who was about 3 at the time, was sitting in a box seat where I could do my judging job and also keep a close eye on him.

The first section of about 12 riders was completed, there was a 10 minute break and we were about to start the second section.About that time I hear a loud voice coming from the grandstands griping and cussing about the judging. Well , immediately, I assumed that it’s someone that I know just kidding, and giving me a hard time. But I finally saw the guy coming up the walkway to where I was…..and I’d never seen this guy before! He swiftly walked my way and into the box seat section where Cade was sitting…..still yelling and cussing at me. By now he’d drawn the attention of everyone at the event. If not for his yelling voice, you could’ve heard a pin drop….and every eye in the place is on us!

I said to him, “If you want to talk to me, you need to get down here and talk to me!” But he just kept on! Now, I’ve never considered myself a ‘fighter’ but I’ve also always had a resolve to not let anyone push me around, either. In professional rodeo in those days I had to ‘stand my ground’ many a time. And what made this situation even more difficult was the fact that my life had, just less than a year before, been turned around…..and I was growing in my relationship with the Lord. So I knew, to handle things how we used to handle them,….would not be the ‘right’ thing to do.

Still yelling and cussing at me, I told him again, “If you want to talk to me, you get down here and talk to me!” He’s by now leaning over the top rail on the fence and I somehow resisted the opportunity to knock him plumb out, like I would’ve done only a few years before. And without thinking….I grabbed the hat off his head and just whipped him over the head with it! I then pitched it behind him in front of the grandstand and most of the 300-400 people were laughing uncontrollably…..and all my friends….well, they were laughing harder than that! When I did that, I said to him, “Now, I’ve told you about three times….if you want to talk to me, you need to get down here and talk to me! You got anything to say to me?!” He pressed his lips together….shook his head “No”, picked up his hat (amongst all the laughter) and made his way into the distance!

Now that probably ain’t the best way to handle a situation like that….and I doubt that Jesus would’ve whipped him over the head with his hat…..but considering the alternative….I think I did pass the test!

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*If you like Rodeo Stories, you’ll enjoy these: 

*(click on highlighted link to read)

VIP #1 Booger Bryant

VIP #2 Sarge Cook

VIP #8 Monty Taylor

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

First Trip To Calgary

August 12….A Day That Lives in Infamy…..*at  Least For Me!

Avoid the Vending Machine, Microwave, Green Chile Burritos in the Albuquerque Airport At All Costs!

 

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