I’ve got one of those senses of humor that leans toward the ironic, even at times the sarcastic, and even at its extremes the dark. So, it was enough to make me laugh out loud the other day when I thought about what I was doing by spreading cotton gin trash on our pasture.
You see, cotton gin trash, for those who didn’t have the good fortune to grow up in the Brazos bottom, or other cotton growing kingdoms, is the stuff that’s left over after the gin pulls the white cotton fiber and the fuzzy seeds out of the cotton boll. Time was, when a family dumped their hand picked sacks of cotton into a wagon, carrying about a thousand pounds, and drove it to the cotton gin. The “sucker” pulled out all the raw cotton from the wagon, and the gin went to work. In about 15 minutes a five hundred pound bale was plopped into the wagon. The seeds were saved for next year’s crop, and the rest, leaves, burrs, stems, and dirt, was blown into a pile out back of the gin. Gin trash. Some enterprising Dutchmen saved it and hauled it back home and dumped it in their fields, preserving some of the fertility otherwise pulled out of the soil by the needs of the cotton plant. “Lo! And beholes, them fields was more productive!”Our ranch was used to grow upland cotton from sometime in the 19th century till 1936 when it was turned out to cattle. All the fertility had been sucked out of the soil by cotton. So here I was in 2016, finally putting the gin trash back on the land it was robbed from. You could almost hear the heavy sigh of relief from the earth!
The other day I was riding a green colt, checking cows, fences, fillies, weeds etc. and a dry “norther” came through. Oh, I got maybe fifteen little raindrops on my old beat up straw hat, enough to make spots in the dust on the brim. The big dark cloud slowly sailed South, showing a clear blue sky, about two hours till sunset. The drop in temperature was noticeable, but not severe. But the slight cool breeze sure felt good. I stroked the colt’s sweaty neck, and stopped on a grassy hill to look to the east and there I saw a huge rainbow. It was vivid, and went from horizon to horizon. It even had a part of a double rainbow above it. Aside from the scientific part about rainbows being reflections of refracted light coming from behind you that causes this phenomenon in front of you, what came to my mind was a song. That’s right, my mind was filled with the voices of the past, the cowboy singing group with the most beautiful harmonies, the “Sons of the pioneers”. The song they were crooning was – “the Boss is hanging out a rainbow! “
Once you have mastered “the square,” with it’s 90° quarter turns, and your horse is “listening” to your seat bones, you can begin to transition to the “triangle.”Find a new set of distant targets, trees, fence posts, outbuildings, etc., and start making a triangle about 30 or 40 feet on a side. You will make a 60° turn, which is just a little “tighter” than the quarter turn. Look for your horse’s front foot to reach out a little toward the side of the turn at each step of the corners. The horse may eventually start to anticipate the turn and begin to turn-in early, before he gets to the spot you have in mind. Then you will need to hold him out of the turn with your inside supporting leg until you “get to the base.” Only let him turn at the spot that you have picked. When you open the inside leg and let gravity drop your inside seat bone into the saddle, (don’t lean!) the horse will make the turn more easily.
“Finally, you let me turn!”
This exercise, following the exercise on the Square, is done on both directions, until the turn requests are almost more mental than physical. Like Ruy Rosado, the Portuguese horse judge said,
“you think it, he does it!”
Back in the 90s my son was in attendance (sort of) at Texas A&M. He had grown up on the ranch, riding and driving horses, working cattle, and driving trucks (that’s another story) and tractors since he was knee-high to a grasshopper or at least since could reach the pedals. He was outfitted in ball cap, shorts and flip-flops one day, walking along the sidewalk when he came upon a group of students roping (at) a roping dummy, a sawhorse with a plastic calf head attached. They were clipping snuff, wearing big black hats and boots, dressed real “punchy”. As he swung by he asked one of them if he could feel the lariat he wielded. The young man chuckled at the “greenhorn” as he handed over the rope. Now, Bill had grown up around Charros, and had learned a pretty nice “floreo” or rope spinning trick, so he commenced to spin out a little figure-eight and a crinoline. He then recoiled the rope and handed it back to the “cowboy”, who’s mouth hung open! (en boca cerrado no entran moscas – flies don’t enter in a closed mouth). “Nice rope,” he says, and walked on down the sidewalk.
Not everybody who dresses like a cowboy is one; and not everybody who don’t dress like one ain’t. Clothes don’t make the man, the man makes the clothes.