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Posted 9/22/15 (Tue)


In the fall ranchers spend a lot of time with each other. You work together vaccinating calves and getting ready for fall sales. You ride together gathering cattle off leases in various parts of the country. You help each other with weaning, pregnancy checking, and shipping calves, yearlings, or cows. It’s a great season.
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is the way some ranchers can express themselves. A unique language.
I remember telling Doug about some hay I was putting up that was of pretty poor quality. It had gotten a little rank before I cut it, and then was rained on a couple times before I could bale it. I was kind of whining about the hay when Doug explained, “It beats the hell out of rabbit tracks and a northwest wind!” And I tell you what, the cows ate it the next winter when the snow was whipping across the flat!
Yesterday I was helping some friends work some calves. I guess helping would be an exaggeration of what I was doing. As most old men should do, I was trying to stay out of the way.
And I was visiting with another old friend and we noticed these cowboys had one gate they were opening the wrong way. At least the way we figured. I mentioned maybe one of us should say something. You know, constructive criticism. He quickly summed it up by telling me he had given a neighbor advice one time and the neighbor replied, “Unless you have a crate full of monkeys, don’t tell us how to run this circus!”
Some of the cowboy sayings can pretty much relate to life as a whole. When Matt’s current wife or one of his kids complains that something is difficult to do, Matt often replies, “Don’t tell me how high the waves are, just bring the boat in!”
Or the suggestion that someone is being a little bossy is met with, “He was working us like rented mules!”
When it gets close to dinner time and you are holding herd and the chuckwagon isn’t in sight, someone may complain that their “belly button is rubbing on their backbone.” The chuckwagon most likely is a pickup or suburban nowadays but the hunger is still the same.
One of my favorites is “Never lie unless you have to, and if you don’t have a damn good lie, stick to the truth.”
Uncle Hugh always cooked for roundups, and the menu never varied. He would drive this old furnace grate that he had welded short legs on into the prairie. A few old ash posts would go underneath and the propane torch would roar to life and you could see the smoke rising for a couple miles. He would throw a couple of big scoops of lard on a big skillet and when that was smoking hot he would throw hamburgers on. We call them handy andy burgers because he never took his handy andy gloves off while making the patties. The burgers would be burnt on the outside and raw in the middle and I never tasted better meals! Because your belly button would be rubbing on your backbone. There would be a jar full of pickles, a kettle of pork and beans, and a box of candy bars for dessert. The coffee pot was never cleaned and never made a bad cup of coffee.
As the saying goes, “After weeks of taters and beans, even a switch to beans and taters is good!”
One old saying is “Good fences make good neighbors.” I never really believed in that one. You can ask my neighbors. I’d rather ride.
And one last bit of advice. “Never follow good whiskey with water, unless you are out of good whiskey.”