Tales from the O-NO Ranch 2-15-10
I recall my short time on the old historic L X Ranch north of Amarillo, Texas, long ago and far away. It was really my first opportunity to be around a crew of cowboys and learn some “cowboy etiquette.”
As I have written before, I was “greener” than ol’ Owl Gore as far as my skills as a seasoned puncher. If you recall, I quit a good job with Proctor and Gamble to punch cows for a living. The cowboy crew had a hard time believing that I would give up such a job to become one of them. As I recall, ol’ Lester just didn’t have the time to help me learn how to become a “cowboy” and he had been one most of his 80-something years. He was old, tough as a dried out old saddle, and he didn’t figure that part of his job was to take on a “greenhorn” and make a cowboy out of him.
As time went by I would be given the chance to work alone with ol’ Lester and he had such pride, as well he should have, in being what he was, he couldn’t help but help me from time to time. His bark was far worse than his bite. I recollect that one hot summer afternoon when Lester and I rode up to that water tank. It was a big round steel trough about 10-feet across and brimming with cool windmill water. Our horses were hot and thirsty as were Lester and I, but before we got off to retrieve that tomato can off the side of the windmill to get ourselves a drink, we let our ponies drink.
We had ridden for miles just prowling that vast section of the ranch looking for any bovine problems that might arise. I bet we hadn’t spoken 10 words all morning and if we did, I most likely did the speakin’. As I recall, we were sitting very relaxed on our mounts and just lost in our own thoughts when a big ol’ yeller steer ambled out of the nearby Mesquite brush to get himself a cool drink. Lester perked up and I watched as he undid his rope string to take down his rope. I looked the steer over closely to see what might be ailing him. I couldn’t see a single thing out of whack, so I didn’t understand why Lester was putting a coil in his rope. I knew not to ask, “just be quite Jack, don’t say a thing,” I told myself. I watched in amazement as ol’ Lester’s rope sailed across the tank and settled around the neck of that big ol’ startled steer. Our ropes were always tied to the saddle horn as we wanted to keep what we caught! The steer jumped back and Lester let out a war whoop, “Whopee, heel ’em son, heel ’em!” He drug the steer out in the open and I fumbled around trying to get my rope down so I could heel him.
I finally did and the whole incident took place because Lester was bored and Lester needed to check out his ropin’ arm just to be sure it still worked like it should. I recollect that that particular day was my first look at what cowboys are all about, and I was proud as punch to have shared it with such a feller as ol’ Lester. If there is a place set aside in heaven for cowboys, ol’ Lester is checkin’ out that ropin’ arm.
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and I’ll c. ya.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.