What a pleasure it is to receive a response to an item I posted on my blog. Paul Hayes recently sent a lengthy and thoughtful piece. A second part of his piece will follow. The satisfaction of impacting others is the most fulfilling aspect of having a blog. I hope reading my posts will prompt others to glance backward at their lives and recall similar fun episodes. If so, let me know. Thank you Paul for sending this piece.
Paul Hayes wrote the following:
It is always a joy to read about life at Medicine Spirit Ranch. Undoubtedly, during all those years working in the medical community, you secretly harbored the desire to be a real-life cowboy. Now, after retirement from the city life, you get your chance to experience the cowboy life first hand.
Like you, I knew early on that I, too, wanted to be a cowboy someday. After all, what’s to know about horses, cows and guns? What follows are true accounts from my youth about my training to be a cowboy.
Take my first experience ridin’ a horse. When I was near about six years old, my friends and I gathered at Ricky Robinson’s house for an afternoon of whatever we could find to do on a Summer’s day in our tiny little town. Randy Brewer, who lived a rock’s throw down the ol’ dirt road from Ricky, was the imaginative one in our gang. When he would enlighten us with one of his stories of famous relatives and such, we would tell him that he was just imaginin’ thangs. However, on this occasion, he was the one who imagined that we ought to go saddle up their old mare and go horseback ridin’ around their backyard – much of which also served as Mrs. Brewer’s veg’table garden. Now tell me, what group of young boys wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity like that. Each of us, decked out in out white Sears tee shirts and blue jeans, high tailed it over to Randy’s house to begin our cowboy experience.
Anytime we went from one place to another, it was always a race. We never walked a single place. If it weren’t worth runnin’ to, then it weren’t worth doin’.
The Brewer’s mare was quite old and very docile around us kids (we can thank the Lord for that little favor). Randy, we would come to learn, knew as much about horses as I knew about girls of the opposite sex at the age of six. Ne’ertheless, he managed to get one of those metal chompin’ thingies into the horse’s mouth so that we would have something to hang on to once we got on top. That, my friend, would prove to be the easiest part of this adventure into the world of cowboys.
Next came the saddle. I distinctly remember askin’ if we REALLY needed a saddle at all. “After all, I’ve seen injuns ride bareback on all the TV westerns”, I would proclaim. Wantin’ the real cowboy experience, by buddies quashed that idea quicker’n Paladin drawin’ his six shooter on a stage coach bandit. Ok, so herein lies the problem. We have five boys, each of which measures about 4 foot nuthin’, and a full grown horse whose back, though swayed, is taller’n all of us. But don’t you think for a New York second that such a small challenge would deter this group of would-be rustlers. No siree, Bob. With Randy holdin’ that leather strap thang and the other four of us standin’ on a rickety ol’ table that we found in the garage, we hoisted that saddle up onto that ol’ horses back – on about the fourth attempt, that is. We actually achieved the feat on the third attempt, only to discover that the saddle was on back’ards.
Now, not havin’ lots of deposits in my vast horse-knowledge bank, my misguided mind thought we was through. Some brilliant mind came up with the sayin’ “hold your horses” just for occasions like this one here. “Oh, no”, explained Randy. At this point, we were all willin’ to learn a thang or two from our friend, Randy. He instructed Tommy Wilson to grab aholt of the rope that was attached to the saddle and walk under the horse to the other side. Without hesitation, Tommy grasped that rope in his hand, ducked his head only slightly (he was shorter‘n the rest of us) and proceeded to traverse that horse’s belly. Well, as dumb luck would have it, just at that time, that ol’ horse decided to buck an’ come down on Tommy’s head like a big ol’ hay bale. We rushed to see the damage, but it was nuthin’ more than a couple of tears. Although Tommy recovered quickly and wiped the tears as if they weren’t never there, I feel certain that he had screws in his neck by the age of 30. He jumped up, grabbed the rope and handed it to Randy. Randy, again bein’ the horseman of our gang, ran the rope through a silver ring and pulled it about as tight as a six-year-old could pull. It was only a few minutes later that we would come to realize that the strength of a six-year-old may not have been sufficient for the job.
Well, the only thang left to decide was who would be the first of us to ride that day. Country boys are just born with the innate wisdom of the democratic process, and we understood that the only fair way to decide that question was to draw straws. Randy grabbed his maw’s broom that was leanin’ ag’inst the garage door and he picked off five straws. He then pulled a pocket knife from his pocket (where else would one keep a pocket knife?) and he commenced to cuttin’ those straws so that one would be shorter than the others.
Now, we hadn’t yet got to the point in our cowboy development where bravery was fully developed. While nobody dared say, none of us was hopin’ to draw the short straw that day. As I recollect, Joey Andrews was the first to draw. His was a long one. Next was Tommy, and he too smiled as he slide a long straw from Randy’s now sweaty hand. As if written for a big screen suspense thriller, Rickey likewise tugged on a straw, revealin’ a third long one. Only Randy and I remained. As I reached for the straw on the left, Randy jerked his hand as if to say “not that one”. But, bein’ the brainy one in this group, I now knew exactly what I had to do. I reached for the straw on the right and tugged quickly. Randy laughed with delight as he exposed the remainin’ long straw, still in his hand.
Right at that moment, to my mind came another sayin’ that someone had made up just for such an occasion – “Never let ‘em see you sweat”. So as to demonstrate my bravery, the development of which took a small leap forward that day, I jumped up on that table and grabbed aholt of that saddle. “Now what”, I asked Randy. “Th’ow your leg up over the saddle and slide on top” he explained. Sizin’ up the feat, I explained in a semi-calm voice that “I need a boost”. Ricky joined me on that table and, cuppin’ his hands together, I placed my foot, and my life it seemed, in his hands. I then pushed my way up and onto the saddle. That ol’ horse, she barely moved at all. With a whole new level of accomplishment and confidence, I smiled and declared “I’m ready”.
As Ricky and Joey moved the table aside, Randy handed me that leather strap that, as I recalled from watchin’ westerns on TV, worked like a steerin’ wheel for a horse. Problem was, at six years of age, I had no idea how a steerin’ wheel worked. But, that didn’t matter, not one bit. This gentle ol’ mare took one step forward and the saddle and I began what seemed like a slow motion slide. With my eyes closed tighter’n a skeeter’s ass, I held on for dear life. When the motion had stopped, I was still holdin’ on to that handle-like knob on the front of the saddle, my feet now draggin’ the ground. The ol’ horse didn’t take nary another step, which was amazin’ considerin’ the roar of the laughter that had erupted from my gang of buddies.
It was, indeed, an inauspicious beginnin’, but I vowed to remain fearless in my quest for cowboydom.