Wednesday, April 3, 2013


 Day 3 of A to ZChallenge, which means the letter C, and one of my favorite topics: Cowboys.

 I have a soft spot for everything cowboy. Could have something to do with the fact I grew up country. Or the mystique that surrounds the lean, hard men that seem impervious to dust and cold, happy to ride lonely trails with only a horse and the man above for company, sleeping on the ground under the stars, up before the sun, a thick wad of chew tucked in one cheek, boots worn and creased, jeans faded, and jaws rough with stubble. Except for the chew, I described my stepdad, the one I remember from my childhood.

He was raised on a cattle ranch. Tall and lean, with a mustache, and twinkle in his brown eyes, he epitomized the cowboy. Up early every morning, even on weekends, coffee black and real butter on his toast, he drank his whiskey pressed. The only time I remember him in shorts and sandals was a family trip to Mexico, otherwise he wore wrangler jeans, boots—cowboy, and thick-soled work boots (he's a lineman)—button shirts, and occasionally—very occasionally—a cowboy hat. Never without a pocketknife, he often whittled whistles for my brother and I; he bought me my first horse and taught me to ride.

I was a slow-learner. When my dad handed me a brush and told me to apply elbow grease to my new pony and clean him up, I blinked. "Elbow grease?" Dad blinked too; obviously surprised I had no idea to what he inferred. And then he explained. I applied a lot of elbow grease over the years to keeping my succession of horses brushed and shiny.

When that first horse refused to be caught, and instead charged me so I'd drop the bucket of oats and run, leaving him to nosh at his leisure, dad came down to the horse pen with his bullwhip. He never touched the recalcitrant "knot-head", but snapped the whip left and right, working that horse into a corner and then keeping him there, hissing the whip at his nose when he attempted to run, at his heels each time he presented his rump. When Knot-head faced dad squarely, the whip fell silent. The instant that stubborn pony attempted to deke left, right, or run, the whip sang. Eventually the horse caught on. Huffing and puffing, nostrils flaring and ears tipped forward, he stood there on trembling legs while dad slipped his halter on. I never had a problem catching my horse again—all I had to do was crack the lunge-whip (I was too small to master the bullwhip) and he'd face me square, ears forward, and submit to the halter.

Those idyllic years ended when I was a teen and mom and dad separated, but by then the damage was done; I was country. And despite living most of my adult years in suburbia I still love everything cowboy, and in my heart I ride dusty trails on spirited ponies, under clear blue skies.
Copyright Deborah Anderson 2013

It is the heart which experiences God, not the reason. ~Blaise Pascal






Linda G. said...

I have a soft spot for cowboys, too. Your dad sounds like quite a man. :)

Deborah said...

Thank you Linda; he is. :)

Cowboys are easy to go soft on, which is probably why one features as the hero in my novel. *g*

Take care!

Lara said...

What a great memory of your dad! :)