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Cowboy Culture

I’ve been watching Clinton Anderson’s Outback Adventure on YouTube. One of the things that I enjoyed the most, aside from the really first rate horse training of a wild brumby stallion, is his inclusion of the local aboriginal cowboys in his video.

I grew up in central Texas working with cowboys of Scotch-Irish, German, Sicilian, African American, and Mexican origins. I even unknowingly worked with descendants of Cherokee and Blackfoot indians. How ‘bout that “He’s a cowboy and an Indian , a little bit of both!” And don’t forget Czech descendants! That mixture of languages and cultures made for a rich experience in my teens!

A year ago I found myself standing on top of Medicine Mound, near Quanah,Texas. It is the Comanche equivalent of the Vatican, in the Texas Outback. As I heard and felt the drum, and the chants, not understanding a word of Numunuh, the Comanche language, I felt the same as when hearing the Australian Aborigines speech and their didgeridoo.

There were scenes of them working with, and riding, horses, catching wild bulls, and roping camels. Similarities with the Comanche horsemanship came to mind. Seemingly primitive tribal people becoming adept at equestrian art, which is thought to be a Eurasian invention brings something exotic and mystical to the table. I’m curious to know more of their ways and their skills and knowledge.

Knowledge is power, and the Comanche’s knowledge of horsemanship, and well as the geography, botany, and of the water supply in west Texas, gave them the power to resist the invasion of a technologically advanced European society for seventy five years. Quite a feat for primitive stone age tribes!

Then my weirdly wired mind goes to the cartoons of Stan Lynde, “Rick O’Shay” where the indian chief had a TV in his Tipi, and a cadillac convertible parked beside it. Now Mr. Lynde would have to add a Mac computer and internet connection. I Wouldn’t be surprised to see Aborigines with electric guitars run by solar batteries!

Texas dressing up

As I drive south and east on Texas state highway 36, through Washington and Austin counties, I’m treated to that annual phenomenon of Texas putting on her Easter dress.

The bodacious bluebonnets compete with the intrepid Indian paintbrush along the roadside and in the uncultivated fields

Wisteria and dogwoods peek out from the pines in the sandy country. Fresh lime green leaves are popping out on oaks, elms, and hickory.

The freshly turned earth if the Brazos bottom carries the wonderful deep aroma of fertility, as the corn and cotton are bedded down for yet one more try at profitable production.

The ballpark is now populated with youngsters doing batting practice, as our neighbor works his roping horses out tracking calves on his now not so muddy arena.

Best of all the shiny deep green of grass that looks like it belongs in and Easter basket veritably squirts up out of the moist ground! Happy cows and horses! Central Texas springs back to life, and the birds sing praises to spring. Time to hit the road and enjoy one of the most delightful seasons of central Texas !

Aggie Trail Ride

I am starting to make plans for trail rides on our place this spring. We have lots to do. The winter storms and floods made a few of our trails impassable. Some are still under water. Then, there is the brush problem, as branches and vines have grown across trails and will need Sallie’s talents with her patient ‘ol pony and her loppers.

A few gates need to be rehung, lest they remind riders of the Yorkshire gates described in “All Creatures Great and Small.” Of course the main variable over which we have no control is the weather.

Trail riding in Texas is a big deal. Some are highly organized, like the Saltgrass. Most are far less so, and consist of groups of friends, their horses—and beer. Usually things go well, if you consider going well a minimum of falling off horses, refusals to cross streams, and horses sticking feet in gopher holes.

The reward at the end of the ride is usually barbecue, and if your group enlists one of the many “low and slow” cooks, really good and juicy barbecue. Like Carl says, every country road crossing has a barbecue pit, and not just a few churches also have permanent pits. But, I digress!

I remember my dad telling about a trail ride he hosted in Welborn ( Webern). It was a bunch of A&M profs, including Nat Keefer, and B F Yates among others. It was probably in the late sixties. They were all saddling up at the barn. Dad was just “viztin’“ with B.F., and while Yates was tightening his cinch his stirrup sweat leather was flipped up over the saddle. Not knowing Yates very well, dad asked if he had been riding long. At first BF didn’t answer, then when he flipped the stirrup leather down, dad read the inscription carved into the leather, “Champion Calf Roper 1956”!


Sitting on the porch watching the Mexican cliff swallows zoom in and out as they refurnish their mud nest in the southwest corner of the porch roof, we realized that in a day or two we will pass through the Vernal Equinox.

The old Celtic grandfathers in Northwest Europe called it Ishtar. That sounds a lot like Easter doesn’t it? So, we get that it’s a time of rebirth. It’s a time of rebirth of spiritual strength. It’s also a time of planting, and rebirth of green crops. Birds and cattle are starting the new cycle of nesting and calving to produce a new crop of younguns.

It’s kinda cool and mystical for those of us who mostly live outdoors that this equinox comes with a full moon. Now we get longer days and even a night light! These warmer days will get the grass growing and our horses will start to shed winter hair and fatten up again.

Of course my mind goes to having trail rides. The Spanish plums and wildflowers are already perfuming the soft spring air, and bright green leaves are starting to dress up the oaks, ash, and elms. I guess what’s being reborn in a cowboy’s heart is all the natural world around him. Winter is over and we can get back to the business of living outdoors, sitting on a good horse at sunset. “Thanks, Boss!”