Sunday, September 24, 2023

Chapter 15: A Real Honest To Goodness Cowboy.


The Old Man was an honest to goodness Ole' fashioned cowboy.  He was born somewhere in the neighborhood of 1880 in an area that eventually became Texarkana, the city that sits right in the middle of the Texas Arkansas border.  Oh sure it pretends to be two different communities, but those in the know, know.  

He claimed to be from the Texas side of the border, but The Grandma always disputed him  saying he was Arkansas through and through.  

As the story was told by The Old Man, when he was a boy about the age of The Boy he and some friends drove some horses and a few cows directly north from Texas all the way to Montana without running into any roads, fences, or other drives.  On the way he and his friends managed to collect some US Cavalry tach, a couple bridals, old fashioned horse bits, a hackamore, and saddle straps, all with a circled US seal that were eventually given to The Boy when he became older. 

When The Old Man arrived in Montana he was hired on as a ranch hand for a big spread outside Boulder Montana.  He eventually became the foreman of that Ranch, The Mom was born in the back of an old Desoto going to the hospital from that ranch in about 1932.  That was not as uncommon as it sounds back in the day.  

The Property in Northern Montana was referred to as The Heart Bar O Ranch.  The name The Mom chose to call it based on the Brand that was used for the horses, cows, and all other four legged critters that needed ownership markings.  The modern brand is actually laser tattooed on the inside of the upper or lower lip of the animal depending on thickness.  The foremanship of the Ranch was split between The Old Man, and The Mom.  The Dad taught at the local high school, and the Grandma had responsibilities with the elderly.  

The Old Man was an old fashioned cowboy and decided to ride the fence line of the property on horse back to give it a good check, and as The Grandma said, "A few days to himself."  That was adult code for, "Vacation."  

He saddled up a neurotic quarter horse that The Boy name Pacos.  He always considered Pacos his horse, but The Old Man rode him fairly consistently.  He claimed he was always in need of training, but The Boy thought The Old Man just liked Pacos better then any of the other horses.  Pacos was the best cow pony the Ranch had.  The Old Man called him neurotic because the horse was afraid of his own shadow and had the habit of  running back to the barn on a whim.  The Old Man was trying to break him of those bad habits.   After loading up some saddle bags and filling a canteen The Old Man was off down the fence line, "I'll be back in a week." he said. 

During the first week The Dad had The Boy doing the chores mostly on his own.  He would feed and comb the horses, He would clean all stalls, and milk and feed Bessy.  The Boy did these chores as The Dad rebuilt part of the front stall area for The Mom.  The Grandma was spending time with some of the Elderly folks on her circuit.   She saw to the needs of many of the Elders of The People.  

It's been a week and The Old Man hadn't returned yet.  The Dad reminded The Boy that this wasn't the first time that The Old Man said he'd be back in a week, but was gone longer, so he continued working the Ranch with The Dad and The Mom.  He was learning more about horses, and that the goat liked butting him in the rear on a regular basis.  Why The Grandma had to have a goat no one will know, but it was a terrible annoyance for The Boy.  Every time he tried working in the yard, in a stall, on the fence, or with the water, that Goat would show up and Butt him in the rear.  The war was on.   That darn goat.

Two weeks went by and still no Old Man.  Then the second day Pacos showed up without The Old Man.  The horse had a large cut across his front right leg and chest.  The Mom took him into a stall and began cleaning the horse up and put some salve on his wound.  The Dad saddled and took another horse out the back gate to look for The Old Man.  He met him half way up the back fence line walking home with a pack over his back.  

The Old Man walked into the yard with a slight limp on his right side.  His pants were torn and it looked like he had some dried blood staining his leg and boot.  He sat in a chair on the porch of Winston, took off his left boot and told The Dad to get a sharp knife.  He took the knife and cut slowly from the top of the boot down and around the back, cutting the boot off of his foot.  When his foot was revealed The Boy got the uncontrollable urge to throw up and ran to the back of the trailer and let it go.  When he came back The Dad and The Grandma were both looking The Old Man's foot over.  The Boy saw an incredible sight.  There were maggots' crawling all over the foot and wound.   The Old Man said that He and Pacos had found a break in the back fence about 10 miles up.  The barbed wire was hidden in some tall grass and He did not see it until they were on top of it.  The horse fell and the wire got wrapped around his foot and leg and cut Pacos' chest.  Pacos ran back home leaving The Old Man in a pile in the dust.  

The Old Man found a carcass and dug some of the maggots out of it with his knife and put them into his boot on purpose.  He told The Boy that it was an old trick to keep from getting an infection.  The maggots would eat the dying flesh and keep the wound clean and the blood flowing.  This is what would keep his foot attached. 

The Mom called the Horse Doctor who came quickly.  He lived down the road a bit and was there about 30 minutes later.  We called the Horse Doctor with any serious emergencies.  It was better than taking a long ride to the Northern Montana Hospital in Havre.  The Horse Doctor told The Old Man that he was smart, and very, very lucky.  He cleaned up the wound with iodine, stitched him up, gave him a jar of antibiotics, and told him to stay off his feet for a couple weeks.  Then he looked at The Grandma who knew what to do, and The Dad looked at The Old Man who just smiled and looked at The Boy, "More Jerry Reed?"  The Boy asked, "Are we going somewhere?"  and they just laughed.  The rest of the family were clueless...  The Old Man was a real honest to goodness Ole' Fashioned Cowboy...

Peace and Balance,


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