Monthly Archives: February 2018

Baling Rattlesnakes

I was about fifteen when my summer job between years in high school was to work at the dairy. It was in a little valley were Hope’s Creek Bottom joins the Brazos River, across from the historic Chance Farm. My particular part of the job was NOT milking cows. When I got to work at 5 AM my boss had already been milking since 4 AM. At that point I scraped down the walkways and shoveled bovine digestive by-product for an hour before heading out to crank, and I do mean “crank” by hand, an old orange tractor to put out feed for the “troops”. Later in the day after the boss went to bed, I’d do various other jobs including cutting, raking, and baling a field of Johnson grass hay. (That was before we even knew there was such a thing as coastal Bermuda grass). For once I was the tractor driver, so I couldn’t be the bale hauler because we had to get those bales up as quickly as possible so they wouldn’t get rained on (there actually was occasionally a chance of that). I hired four of my African-American friends from the edge of town to come with their pick-up truck and flatbed trailer to haul and stack the bales for me.

I was cycling along, jerking back-and-forth with the rhythm of the baler, almost asleep, but trying to be sure all the equipment was functioning, when I happened to look back and see all four of my friends splitting out across the field in five different directions. I pulled the tractor and baler out of gear, idled down, jumped off and ran back to the truck. “What’s the matter?“ I called to them. They waved and pointed to the bale from twenty yards away. I looked down then jumped away myself. I’d baled a rattlesnake into the wires of the bale. He was beyond pissed off! We left that bale in the field. But they turned over every bale they picked up after that!

Later the boss needed me to drive the bobtail truck along as he cut silage and augered it into the bed of the truck. He said “close up the driver side window.“ Well, it was a typical Brazos County summer day: 101°F in the shade with 99% humidity, so I elected not to close the window. I was matching the speed of the silage cutter just fine until I hit a pothole in the pasture and stomped the clutch, which slowed me down. Immediately I got an earful of silage and about two bushels of green chopped cane in the cab of the truck. Heat or no heat, I cranked up the window! Needless to say, I crossed dairyman off my career list!

The Fabled Sourdough Flapjack

On a cold winter morning, a pile of sourdough flapjacks, along with some crisp bacon, and strong black coffee is the perfect thing to chase away the blues. It’ll drive the cold from your bones! This is especially true if you have some good sorghum molasses heated up to pour over them. It gives you something to do with your sourdough starter other than throw it out when you feed it.

If you have a griddle, that’s the best thing to fry pancakes on. Otherwise, a good, big ol’ cast iron skillet will work. I’d fry up the bacon first to get the drippin’s to lubricate the griddle. Then fry’em, pile’em, and ring that “triangle thingy.”

2 cups sourdough starter (best if it’s alive and bubbly)

One egg, whisked

1-3 tsp sugar (depends on your sweet tooth)

2 Tbsp oil (or bacon drippin’s)

1 tsp baking soda ( saleratus)

2-4 Tbsp milk, water, or buttermilk

Mix the ingredients. When the griddle is hot enough for a water droplet to dance, lightly grease it, pour a puddle of thick batter about four inches across on it, and cook for several seconds. When it bubbles up, flip it over, it should be golden brown. Fry it on the other side a few seconds, then scoop it out onto a plate. Provide butter, syrup, and “eaten irons”, and let them “ranny‘s” get their own bacon and coffee (or if they’re little ranny‘s, hot chocolate).

Drive’n to Estes Park

Once upon a time, we two almost newlyweds lived in northern Colorado for a spell. We lived near the banks of the South Platte River, on the edge of the Great Plains. We could see Long’s Peak from our house on a clear day. A friend who was somehow connected with a dude ranch in Estes Park invited us to come along and help drive a herd of horses up to the park for the summer camp season.

The day of the horse drive came. We met the head wrangler and the trucks coming in from Briggsdale at the base of the foothills near Loveland. They unloaded about sixty-six head of horses, and a bobtail truck load of work horses for us to use herding. One of the wranglers asked if I’d be willing to ride a three-year-old hackamore colt. “Of course!“ I said, allowing my ego to overload my brain. Sallie, of course, opted for an older, more settled horse. There were six or eight of us to handle the herd. Without fanfare we were off! At first there was a lot of back-and-forth to keep the herd together and lined out up the foothills. However after an hour they were becoming pretty sedate as we climbed in altitude. My hackamore  colt was even settled down by then. We passed through some of the prettiest swales and valleys I’ve ever seen. Most of the drive was through trackless foothill and mountain country with no roads or fences. We cruised along on a beautiful Colorado early summer day with cerulean blue sky and fluffy clouds, spruce and fir trees, columbines and green grass. It was like we’d ridden into a postcard. In the late afternoon we poured onto the highway into Estes, I think it was Colorado 36. It was a long down-slope in a narrow valley lined with pine and spruce, so the horses had to go right down the asphalt. Traffic had to come to a halt for us. Kids were leaning out of car windows “Look mommy, cowboys!” People were taking pictures and waving at us as eight pretty “punchy” looking vaqueros paraded the enormous herd of cayuses down the road toward Fish Creek camp.

One motorist was not so taken by our picturesqueness. He was expressing how peeved he was that we were holding up traffic. Standing beside a late-model expensive looking sports car he was shaking his fist and cursing us roundly. I happened to be near when one of the horses with a wicked sense of humor must of had enough of him. The old pony kicked out one of his headlights and trotted on with the herd. We all found somewhere else to look and rode off with the herd as he screamed about “who in the… do you think you people are?! I’m going to…”

Our fearless leader cracked us up as we turned the horses in to Fish Creek camp. “Sure am sorry about that Fellers headlight!” He grinned.

How Many Friends Do You Have?

“I’ve known Albert for sixty years but when I met him on the road today he “didn’t speak”!“ This was said by my old neighbor Andrew Davis. What he referred to was the old Texas custom of the “one finger wave“. As two motorists pass going in opposite directions, they signal recognition of one another by lifting an index finger off the steering wheel. Evidently Albert hadn’t done his duty.

Andrew was a real character as well as a locally known artist of the primitive school. Many are the stories of his exploits. But the one I guess that gave me the biggest chuckle was the time he ran for sheriff against Reed Phelps.

There was the usual campaigning going in to the election for several weeks. Then the day finally came and the ballots were cast. Phelps won by a landslide. In fact one version of the story was that Andrew only got one vote, presumably his own. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but what happened the next day was told for true. Andrew showed up at the Surrey Inn carrying a colt .45 in a holster on his belt. Someone called out to him “Andrew, why are you carrying? You didn’t get elected Sheriff!”

His answer was a classic, “Hell, anyone who hasn’t got any more friends than I have damn well better carry a gun!“