Back in 1968 we were in a coffeehouse in Houston, Texas, listening to folk singers. The place was called “Sand Mountain”. A percentage of the songs were sure enough folk songs, but occasionally a more recently minted piece of work was presented. Among our favorites was one called “The Man in the Big Hat is Buying”. It began, “In a bar in Arizona, on a sultry summer day, a cowboy came in off the road just to pass the time away”. It was written, and sung by Texas singer/songwriter Stephen Fromholz ( affectionately known as Frummox ) from Clifton, Texas. It went on; “His shirt was brown and faded, and his hat was wide and black, his pants that once were blue were gray, and had a pocket gone in back.” He led into the song saying that he’d been to Arizona and stopped in at a bar called Harold’s Cave Creek Corral, when this rancher had come in, and told stories of old cowboy days. “He had a finger missing from the hand that rolled a smoke, but when he smiled and talked of cowboys, you knew it weren’t no joke!” The chorus was, “The man with the big hat is buyin’ , drink up while the drinking is free… Drink to my compadres and me!” It’s a good song, with a good tune. We’ve sung it for years, never thinking that it might be a real place.
So last week when I went to Arizona for a weeklong intensive training course in French classical horsemanship, I had to make a pilgrimage. I drove up the road to Cave Creek, and there in all it’s glory, still standing, still very busy (mostly with “snowbirds”),was Harold’s Cave Creek Corral!
I grew up raising Quarter Horses. My dad’s family had bred and ridden Morgans. That was before there was an American Quarter Horse Association. From 1962 to the present we have continued to breed raise and ride quarter horses. Yeah, you knew there was a ‘but’ coming didn’t you, You clever thing, you. OK, here it is. In the 1980s my dear wife became fascinated with sidesaddle (since she had discovered that she wasn’t actually going to grow up and be the black stallion she figured she wanted to do something exciting with horses) We met a young woman who had Peruvian horses. The combination of sidesaddle and Peruvian horses took off, and in a few years, the Texas Ladies Aside, became the official drill team of the state of Texas. Their costumes were largely based on historical themes, so we found ourselves delving into history. Whereupon we encountered The horses of the Iberian Peninsula. There, in what was to become Spain and Portugal, were war horses, stock horses and gaited traveling horses, as it was a time before adequate roads, and carriages had come into use. We discovered that as early as Columbus’ Second voyage all three types of horses began to be imported in small ships across the Atlantic to be involved in the exploration of the Western Hemisphere, a previously unknown land. From those horses came the rootstock in part or in whole for Paso Fino, Peruvian, quarter horse, and even the Morgan. Tune in again next week for the rest of the story
As we have traveled across the North American continent working at horse shows and visiting kinfolks I’ve noticed that in the culinary world Mexican food is now totally ubiquitous – and, it can also be found everywhere. This, in turn has caused many Spanish words to become a part part of our otherwise mostly Germanic English language. Here in Texas we sometimes referred to it as Spanglish, and it is certainly a large part of the cowboy vocabulary.
It starts in the mañana with taquitos for breakfast. Then for lunch enchiladas, frijoles, and tortillas. The kids get Leche and tacos. As you put on your sombrero and walk out the door you might say buenos días to someone you meet, and invite them to join you for a cerveza later. In the evening you could go to see the rodeo, and see the vaquero get bucked off his caballo and land on his cabeza. Then afterwards you go to the baile that’s part of the fiesta, and have some more cerveza and possibly eat some fajitas. On the way home driving through the Arroyo and up onto the Mesa you see vacas and the lights of the motel on the edge of town called La Quinta, which means in English – next to Denny’s.
“If you eat, you’re involved with agriculture” –bumper sticker
This week Sally and I were “riding circle” checking the pastures, and “the girls”, our corriente cows. Our dogs were trailing along with us, Wolf the big white Akbash, Carl, the Heinz 57, who is our singing, talking dog who looks for all the world like a mini Rottweiler, Tia, the professional cow dog (leopard/black mouth Cur), and the pups Lucy and Buckshot. We had pretty much finished when I heard the “pack” bay up something. When they finally worked out of the woods, they had a young black feral boar hog on the run. Pandemonium reigned. We watched in awe as four dogs stopped the pig, which I guess at around two hundred pounds or a little less. He spun and fought as they jumped out of the way, then they went back to work on his hide. Finally after about 10 minutes he got away, but not before he tusked little Carl pretty badly on one leg.Animal rights folks may have a problem with hunting feral hogs, but let me share a few facts with you. This is an animal that does an excess of fifty million dollars of agricultural damage a year in Texas alone. The sow is sexually mature at age six months, and can produce two to three litters of from four to eight pigs per year (or as my friend says, “litter of eight and all 10 of them live!!”) Estimates by wildlife specialists are that it would require harvesting over sixty percent per year to maintain a stable population (every county in Texas has them,) and we are only succeeding in taking out twenty eight percent!