The Most Important Things...

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them--words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to where your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear.

~Stephen King~

Cowboys R (not) Us

When people first find out that I’m from Texas, a question that I often get is something about being a cowboy. “Are you a real cowboy?”, “Do you have cows?”, "Where's your hat?" or some other goofy question.

Having grown up deep in the heart of Texas, it is somewhat surprising to me that my yearning to be a Texas cowboy never really found its way to the forefront of my adolescent thoughts.

As I’ve grown older though, I watch movies like “Lonesome Dove,” John Wayne’s “The Cowboys” and others and feel the romantic tuggings of the cowboy life. Living out on the range, sleeping under the stars, riding a fine horse across vast lands under impossibly big and wide skies, eating grub from the chuck wagon, growing my mustache longer than the trail and wider than the skies… who wouldn’t want that life?

Look at that guy. Does he look happy to you?

Here’s how things were for cowboys back in the day.

Roundups were held in the spring and in the fall. During a roundup, cowboys from different ranches worked together to gather cattle in a central location. The purpose of the roundup was to give each owner the opportunity to inventory his herd and have cattle separated to send to market.

New calves were branded during the roundups. Calves were branded with the same brand as their mother. Several cowboys worked together to brand each cow. Usually one roped the calf, two held it on its side on the ground, and another placed the brand on the hide of the cow using a branding iron heated in a fire. Even today, it takes several cowboys to brand a calf.

During the roundups cowboys from several neighboring ranches worked together. They often spent their time in the evenings together telling stories and having contests. Cowboys competed to see who could rope a calf the quickest or who could ride a wild horse the longest.

Cattle separated for sale in the spring were moved in herds from Texas through Oklahoma to Kansas. Cattle were moved during the spring and summer because there was plenty of grass and the weather was warm.

During the late 1800s, the closest railways were in Kansas. Once the herds reached Kansas, they would be sold and transported by rail to Eastern cities. Because the cattle moved 10 – 15 miles per day over the open plain, it might take 2 – 3 months to reach their destination. The routes they chose were determined by the type of terrain and the location of water. Some of the difficulties cowboys faced included deep rivers, lack of adequate water and stampedes. The route of one of the most popular trails in Oklahoma, the Chisholm Trail, was marked with 400 concrete markers in 1997.

Cowboys on cattle drives spent much of their day alone. They rode from sunrise to sunset, except for a break for lunch when the cattle were given time to graze and rest. The evening meal at the chuck wagon was the social event of the day. Cowboys gathered around the fire to visit and tell stories.

At night each cowboy took a 2 hour shift to watch the cattle. During that time, the cowboy watched to see that no cattle strayed. Cowboys often sang to the cattle to help calm them. If something frightened the cattle, such as a loud noise, there was a danger they would stampede.

Cowboys faced many dangers on cattle drives, including being trampled in a stampede, struck by lightening or bitten by a rattlesnake. Being dragged by his horse, after falling off the horse with his foot still in the stirrups, was a common cause of death for many cowboys.

It’s not like I haven’t had my opportunities to be a cowboy either. We were big time cattle ranchers back in Texas. It wasn’t always easy taking care of a herd, but the adventure and experience was unforgettable. My family’s foray into big time cattle ranching back on the Seven Oaks Ranch consisted of two cows, and two calves sired by our neighbor’s bull. Yep… big time cattle ranching at its finest.

Remember that movie with Billy Crystal called “City Slickers”? “Yesterday They Were Businessmen. Today they’re Cowboys. Tomorrow They'll Be Walking Funny.”

Synopsis: Three male friends, facing their 40th birthdays and experiencing midlife crises, decide they need time away from their "soft" city lives. Fans of old Western films, particularly John Wayne's RED RIVER, they decide to vacation at a dude ranch, where they will be responsible for a two-week-long cattle drive through the Colorado hills. Along the way the urban cowboys encounter bad weather; macho, gun-wielding ranchers; and pregnant cattle, but they finish the drive with their lives back on track.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Well guys, here’s the awful truth about me.

I would’ve been like the ice cream guys. I would’ve quit right next to them. On the surface it sounds like an adventure that would be fun and exciting. Out under the open sky, eating food cooked on the chuck wagon, sleeping peacefully under the stars. Working hard to accomplish a goal. Yeah, that sounds like fun except for one thing.

Cows. I don’t like them. I don’t like rustling them. I have no interest in roping one. I’m not all that fond of the way they smell. They have a way of messing up a perfectly good field. They’re prone to stampeding. I do not now, nor have I ever, had the yearning to sing to a cow. They make that hideous bellowing noise. They are as stubborn as mules. I just don’t like being around them. For any reason!

Some Texan I am, right? Oh sure… I might dress the part sometimes. I have my cowboy hats and boots. I might even wear a large belt buckle someday if I find the right one. I have some button down shirts, but that’s as close as I’m willing to get to being a real cowboy.

I’m also not crazy about riding horses either. I’ve been on a horse two times in my life that I can recall. The first was when I was a small boy growing up in Austin, Texas. The second was in 1996 just before I was to meet some friends I had met on AOL. I was the only one of the group from Texas and I was a little shy about admitting that I don’t really ride horses. Someone I worked with had horses and she volunteered to take me out and teach me how to ride. She put me on the biggest horse out there and I was more than a little intimidated by the beast. But I climbed aboard and even got some pictures of the rare occurrence. Man, I wish I still had those pictures. Wouldn’t they be a hoot? I rode for about an hour, and that was enough. My hind parts let me know that one hour was MORE than enough.

So today my interests in cows are limited to good Bar-B-Que. OK, maybe the occasional leather item will spark a little interest. Other than that, I am perfectly happy letting someone else be the rugged John Wayne / Marlboro Man hero of the wild west.

Just not my cup of tea.

Until next time…

Something is Missing

Every home has its own distinct style of decor... and ours is no different. There are things that are designed for comfort, things that are necessary, and things that are just fun. Our little home in the country has some of each of these categories, but something is missing. Something that falls under the "necessity" umbrella.

Our home is out in the country. It sits on highway "O" so we can hear the occasional car or truck or tractor or horse go by. We really don't hear the horses, but Jazz the beagle lets us know when one is out there. This is how the front of our house looks from the road.

When one enters our little home in the country through the front door, they find themselves in the living room, entertainment center and piano to the left, red sofa and my grandfather's rocking chair to the right. Behind the red sofa is our "Jesus wall." Pictures of the Savior, President Hinckley's six B's, The Home Rules (Always be honest, Count your blessings, etc...), The Family Proclamation, The Living Christ Statement, and a few other things to remind us how we want our home to be.

Through the living room is the dining room. Not as big as the one in Richmond, but our table fits nicely. Also in the dining room is the big wood burning stove that we use to heat our home in the winter. Not all that effective for heating the entire house, but the living room and dining room sure get toasty when the fire is raging. Sometimes we can boil water on top of it, even though it's not really a cook stove. Good for simmering gumbo however.

I like the heat from a fire like that. To me it's much more comfortable than heat pumps of other forced air heat. It's a dry heat so we have to keep a sauce pan with water on top to keep us from drying out too much. We add a little potpourri to the water and it works just fine.

Also in the dining room is a piece of artwork that I bought for Sheri a couple of Christmas' ago, made by our good friend Melinda. A wonderful addition to our home and a perfect match to the red dining room that Sheri wants.

This painting is also in the dining room. This was painted by my grandfather some 24 years ago.

Off to the right of the dining room is the kitchen. Refrigerator,
stove, sink, cabinets, an old potato bin, and a telephone.

This telephone was hanging in my grandparent's kitchen for as long as I can remember. I used to have to climb up on a chair or stool to turn the crank and make the chimes ring. I never tired of that ringing action. It now hangs in our kitchen, and will go with me wherever I live. I still turn the crank from time to time. I think that it should be the dinner bell, alerting everyone in the house when dinner is ready.

There's a sign in our kitchen that reads "Real men wear aprons." Who can argue with that? That little decorative item came from our friends Rudy and Bonnie back in Richmond.

Behind the kitchen is the laundry / cat's room / pantry. Behind that is another room that's used for storage. I really need to get back there and clean it out someday.

Off the kitchen heading back towards the front of the house is a bathroom, and through that bathroom is a bedroom... the guest bedroom. Sheri painted it baby blue a few months ago, bought some blue bed coverings and it really looks nice now.

Through that room and we're back in the living room.

Upstairs is one big room that could be divided into two rooms, and another bathroom.

Behind the dining room is where I sit right now, in the office. Not much more than a cluttered, multi use room with a desk and the computer.

So that's it, the written and slightly pictorial tour of our quaint county home.

What in the world could be missing? Well it's quite simple really. Remember that picture of the refrigerator? Well, that was only the freezer part of the appliance. Here's a picture of the whole thing.
Notice anything? No pictures on the big door. Would you like to know why? Because I have been on the hunt all over Ava, Missouri looking for suitable magnets and have thus far come up empty handed.

Simple magnets, that's all I ask for. I don't want the ones with butterflies or grasshoppers or Volkswagen Beetles. I'm not interested in magnets shaped like states or airplanes or Hawaiian shirts (although I would put those shirt magnets elsewhere.) I just want simple, small, round, strong magnets to hold up the pictures of my family and friends for my own viewing pleasure. Is that really too much to ask?

I have many more pictures printed and ready to add to the door, but when I put them where I want them they just fall to the floor.

I have some great pics too. Some pics I took from blogs, (McEvoys, Andersons, Anantats, Woolleys, Roberts, Skinroods, etc...) Some were sent to us via e-mail. Some were given to us by friends visiting, and this one of my niece, Megan and my nephew, Jake was taken by yours truly a couple of weeks ago at the end of a pier on Lake Michigan at sunset.

So that's it. My world has temporarily been reduced to a need for magnets. All of my friends have a place on my fridge. And as long as there's room, there will be a need for more magnets.

When I run out of room on the fridge, I have a large box freezer that's looking rather naked.

Until next time...