Tales from the O-NO Ranch 6-21-10 | TheFencePost.com

Tales from the O-NO Ranch 6-21-10

Mad Jack Hanks
Wellington, Colo.

As far as Jim went, gentle readers, he was your typical drifting cowboy. I’ve touched on Jim before in earlier columns and I beg your forgiveness if I repeat too much in this offering.

I looked up to Jim because I was just starting a serious cowboy career. Yep, I wanted to put on my income tax return where it ask for your type of employment “cowboy.” I had been employed by Procter and Gamble, Sears, had worked in the oil patch and none of it seemed to fill a void deep within.

Being a cowboy would do the trick, I just knew it. I was already employed on this big historic ranch when we noticed the dust boiling up off the main road coming into the headquarters. I was a’horseback up on a sagebrush-covered hill checkin’ cattle when Jim’s old pickup came flying by. The thing I will never forget is that big ol’ wagon wheel coffee table in the back. It took up most of the room in the truck bed and what was left over was the pitiful possessions for this family of three and one on the way. Later in the day I heard that Jim had been hired as the ranch needed a solid hand. I was green and there was the one other kid that was greener than me and the cowboss was an ex truck driver who had limited skills unless you count his drinking and fighting.

Jim was a big guy in his early 30s with a couple of front teeth missing, several tattoos, a gift of gab and a “don’t tread on me attitude” that nobody could mistake. Jim had been a cowboy all his life and he understood what makes a cow, a good pony and the best ways to avoid the hard work unless it was on the back of a horse. After spending one full day with Jim it was obvious to me that I was the better man. By that I mean that I obviously was a better father, husband, more morally correct by my standards and at some point and time I would be a better “hand” because I had a good attitude and would not hide from any hard task given to me. I believe that today’s cowboys are not only better horsemen, cowmen, but better educated than we were back in the ’60s when it came to having knowledge available to us about ranch economics.

I have told this story in the past and I will repeat it because it is so honestly “cowboy.” After a long hard day Jim and I were sitting under a big cottonwood tree having a cold beer with two other cowboys. Jim had been scopin’ me out when he up and asked, “Jack, what exactly did you do for Procter and Gamble?”

I replied, “Jimbo, I was a toothpaste drummer. I sold toothpaste, mouthwash and such as that!”

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“Jack, do ya ever think you’ll make a ‘cowboy?’ ”

“Jim, I think I got a better chance of makin’ a ‘cowboy’ than you would have makin’ a toothpaste drummer.”

He blinked twice and then let out a big hardy laff. “I reckon ya might have somethin’ there.”

Jim moved on in a few months to work on one of the larger New Mexico ranches. I moved down the road a ways to operate a small cow ranch and then within a year to manage a large diversified cattle ranch. You get out of life what you put into it, at least that’s the way it’s worked for me all my life, good or bad.

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and I’ll c. ya.