Tales from the O-NO Ranch | TheFencePost.com

Tales from the O-NO Ranch

Mad Jack Hanks
Wellington, Colo.

As I sit here at the computer, it is July 11. It is hot, has been hot and will be hotter according to the weather gal. I was reminded of a time in the past as I cleaned out the water tub for the horses. It was getting a little nasty with scum, bugs and whatever the hot sun does to a water trough or pond. At the early part of my cowboyin’ career, I was backgrounding 500 steers for a feller that had just leased a large ranch down on the Texas, Mexican border. He ask if I would go down to the ranch for a few weeks and help them gather and inventory the cattle that were on the ranch.

He was buying the current cattle and leasing the ranch and his banker wanted a good count on the cattle that were there. This was in late April and early May and gentle readers, it was hot, and hotter down on the border. The country was haired over in big ole Mesquite trees as thick as Carrot Top’s hair. Those big ole Mesquites offered up no breeze and to me, a cowboy from the panhandle of Texas, I thought it was just a terrible place to live and work, especially cow work.

The Mexican cowboys were all from across the border and they had very little in the way of equipment. Some even wore ole tire treds for sandals. They eyed me constantly because of my red tops on my high top boots and my good “leggins.” I had a purty fair lookin’ saddle and was proud of all that I had and came to realize just how lucky I was to have what I did.

These Mexican cowboys were tough. They took chances that I wouldn’t take in that thick Mesquite, mainly because I was riding my own hoss and they were using company broncs and most of the horses were just knotheads. I carried a canteen on my saddle because I had gotten so thirsty the day before. This ole ranch covered 88,000 acres and a feller put a lot of miles on his mount every day. There were no streams, just scummy bug-covered ponds every now and then and if you got lucky, you worked a pasture that had a windmill in it and even then the water had a lot of minerals in it. The Mexican cowboys were pokin’ fun at me because of the canteen. I didn’t have to understand border Spanish to know what they were talkin’ about. On that particular day we rode up to a pond in late afternoon and the “boys” rode their ponies out into the pond and leaned over and scooped up handfuls of that nasty water and drank it like it was sweet tea. The next day I left the canteen at headquarters and drank from the scummy ponds during the day. I, at least took my hat and moved the bugs and scum away before I drank. It tasted like scummy dirty water, but it was wet.

That night my gut hurt all night. I realized that I didn’t have to prove how tough I was to these Mexican cowboys. I roped my share of wild cows in their brushy country and ate their greasy goat meat every night for supper without complaint. They didn’t know any better. They grew up drinking out of the Rio Grande and anywhere else they could find water. They weren’t all that tough after all, they were conditioned to their natural surroundings since they were babies.

I left after three weeks a wiser man and thankful for who I was and where I had come from .

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