There is a tv network that is always in search of “characters”. They should search no further and spend a few moments on a ranch – meet the one true character – the cowboy!!! Or cowgirl, as the case may be. They are each and every one different – from East Texas to West Texas – from Texas to Kansas – Kansas to Wyoming – or Wyoming to California. The different climates and terrain dictate their gear – hats, boots, chaps, spurs, saddles, ropes. This is not a fashion show – gear is protection from the elements – tools of the trade. Of course, the “pièce de résistance”is a great cow horse. I have the greatest admiration and respect for our cowboys.
Let’s talk about a typical day in East Texas. When we are working cows, we start at daylight. Sun-up ‘til sun-down is not a worn out cliché – it’s our work schedule. So we ride out in search of the cows – cow dogs in tow. When the cattle are spotted the dogs take the lead and circle the cattle – bringing them together – settling them. Then the cowboys ride up and move the cows out slowly. The dogs only move on commands (almost not audible to other riders) that the cowboy uses to send them after the cow that drifted, the bull with a planned escape, the surly calf, or just to take lead on the herd and slow it down. The herd is gathered and driven into the pens to be worked.
Of course, if the dog fails to bring in the dissident – GAME ON!! Cowboys are calm – collected – and confident. They know their horse will put them back on the cow – rope her if necessary – or simply change her mind about isolation from the herd with a few strategic moves. They rarely lose. As I told you earlier – we practice zero tolerance – no cow left behind. The whole herd has been moved back to pick up a sullen cow that needed an attitude adjustment. But the whole herd comes in.
East Texas is filled with trees – mostly pine – but then there are the thickets. Yep – nasty little thickets filled with short, little bushes – some with thorns – some with limbs just low enough to scrape you off or slap the rider following behind you in the face – if one is not paying attention. And these thickets have their own neighborhoods of spiders, ground hornets, snakes, wild hogs, and coyotes. There are the creeks to cross – the sloughs with quick-sand to stay away from – and the muddy draws you don’t attempt to cross unless that cow you are bringing in already navigated it successfully. No – we do not get hazard pay. It is all in a day’s work.
There is one line from the movies that works – “there is just nothing better than bringing in the herd.”
So there you have it – cows – cowboy – cow horse – cow dog!!