Home on the Range

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Last week, I helped my son-in-law get started in the oil business by spinning my rolodex. Whether or not he will succeed will be on him. But getting started and establishing a direction with a mentor (not me) looking over his shoulder will help.

The man in the oil business who helped me with my son-in-law goes back to my roots and is many years younger than I. His father, now deceased, and I were good friends. One of the questions he asked about my son-in-law was “does he know how to work”? That set me thinking. I replied that both my friend and I were ‘country boys’ who knew how to haul hay and work all day long for what amounted to essentially no money worth discussing, but my son-in-law is a city boy. And city children grow up differently.

I remember having a bad fall on a horse and shaving roughly half of my skin off on gravel and brush. The horse came off hurt too. Picking sagebrush and rocks out of my torn flesh hurt. I can still remember it. There was no ObamaCare, there was no ambulance, there was a little mercurochrome that hurt like the very blazes of hell. And liniment for both me and Little Red, my horse. I packed a bandage with honey that helped the curing wound to heal.

If you think that this is turning out to be a story about how “I drank water from a muddy hoof print”, you’re not far off, so you can quit now if you want to.

My son-in-law has had a checkered youth and was a ranked Mixed Martial Arts fighter (and was on a Showtime broadcast), so he might be able to survive the oil business long enough to move from roughneck into something where he uses his mind more than his back. However, to use your mind effectively, I make the case that you also have to know how to use your back — and understand those people who do.

City people don’t often learn self-reliance. And that’s a shame. It’s why 50,000,000 Americans are receiving food stamps.

I spend my formative years in the country. During summer months I hauled hay (back before they had machines to do it), and sometimes scammed softer jobs herding cattle or sheep. There’s not much money in that sort of work but being on your own with adult responsibilities when you’re 14 years old (junior high and high school years) isn’t all that bad. City people would equate being a cattle herder to being an idiot, but that is not the case. It’s an independent life for a young man. Rifle, handgun, horse, rope, jerky, canteen and tack. The border collie did all of the difficult herding. Much of one summer, I patrolled the banks of the Green River (San Raphael Swell and east), pulling cattle out of quicksand. There’s a lot of quicksand in the Green River. Much of what I learned about life, I figured out while living rough under the stars, sometimes killing supper and other times opening a can. I can’t help but think that there wouldn’t be much delinquency if more children did that. I had no time to be delinquent. By the time I thought about what I might have missed out on, I was too old to be a delinquent and had moved on to snapping necks (and cashing checks) in the military.

City kids have lots of time on their hands. Today the “new normal” is to surf the net for porn, play video games and get high. People who learn to do that, won’t ever make it anywhere that counts (unless they learn to fly a drone for USGOV, shooting missiles at people in Yemen or Pakistan while slurping down a big gulp and eating Ho Ho’s while sitting in a trailer in Virginia).

Living out THERE helped me with my military work because I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable being on my own in the middle of BF Egypt, and still don’t. Even though they had been trained, the city guys  always found it unnatural. Truth be told, many more people have been (historically) entertained by the stars and the camp fire than they have by computers, television, etc.

There was no heavy beat of rap music and chants about raping women and shooting people who offended me. The beat of hooves on native soil has a very different sound. Out on a horse on the range in high summer there are no girls to impregnate, no underage drinking bouts and none of the problems facing at-risk youth. Drugs were something that hippies did back then, and I wasn’t one of those. The biggest concern was having the horse throw you or kick you when you were 80 miles from help. 

With the move in America to push adults into part-time work (side effect of socialized healthcare), I fear that the losers will be the young men and women who won’t have the dignity of work at the time in their young lives when they need it most.
I chose not to be a professional cowboy. I never had the land to be a rancher. I never had the guts to be a diary farmer. I know and knew a LOT of genuine cowboys and none of them are like the people that you see in the movies. At least half were Mexicans. Most of them ended up pretty busted up by the time they were forty. Whiskey for the pain, a hard life in the elements, poor pay and the generally lonely life didn’t appeal as a life’s career.

One could say that I lived the bulk of my life about as far from being “that kind of” cowboy as one could. But I’ve always been a cowboy at heart. And I’m glad for the exposure that I had to that life.

Today, in my fifties, I’m one of those consultants who drives up in a fancy car, wearing a fancy suit and charges what seems to be way too much. One of the biggest criticisms of me is that I charge way too little, but part of me is still the high school kid, pulling cows out of quicksand in the Green River. I know how hard people work for very little money. So the duality is not lost on me.

16 thoughts on “Home on the Range

  1. Well said, and you're right! Grow up in the country and you WILL learn a work ethic, no choice in the matter! And good luck to the boy!

  2. I pray for your daughter and son-in-law's future success and happiness.

    Great story and totally true about the dignity that work conveys on young people and people of all ages. Too bad Hussein Obama attacks the private sector so viciously, pushing food stamps on America.

  3. Country people have a different take on life. And most have a respect for that slab of beef in the store — they know that it once was a cow. That's lost on most city people.

  4. It's odd that somebody who identifies himself with his negro half so completely — and screamed about dignity in his younger years — would deny it to so many black people by denying them the dignity of work by instituting programs that make so many low-end jobs part time and throw out food stamps like they were 'snow'.

  5. I'm working on it. If Tom Purdue was still alive, and I was hanging out with him, I would have aged a lot faster… I'd look like Bill.

  6. LL wrote: I never had the guts to be a diary farmer.

    Yet you've milked your experiences and written about them…

  7. Instead of bucking them up onto the trailer and then having them bucked up to the top of the stack by hand, they have conveyor belts that spin along side the trailer. Hauling is typically done by hand, but they simply place them on the trailer. Not as difficult.

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