March 25, 2015

No batteries required

By Julie Carter, Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

It can be argued over the hood of a pickup or while leaning on the gate waiting for the brand inspector, but the fact is, the world has become a complicated place to navigate from the ranch at the end of 40 miles of dirt road.

The cow business might possibly be the last bastion of commerce conducted on a man’s word. Cattlemen of good repute can still buy and sell cattle over the phone and the rancher will send the check with the trucker when the new cattle are delivered.

A generation has passed since the day of signature loans for large amounts of money for cattle, equipment, feed or whatever. Now you need to have a credit report from some place in the sky and a mortgage on whatever you were using the money for and sometimes even throw in the first-born male child for security.
And counter checks? Remember when you just walked into any place of business and filled out a blank check that was on the counter and then signed it? Now you have to have three photo ID’s, your home and cell phone numbers, your blood type and recent dental records to cash a $12 check in a business you frequent three times a week.

The concept of buying groceries on a tab still exists in a few tiny places off the beaten track. And some, not many, will let you pay when the fall check comes after the calves, lambs or wool are sold, even knowing it might not happen this year.

Along with the economic changes we have also lost an entire language that was common to rural living. If you hear it now, it is usually prefaced with “my grandmother used to say,” or “my dad used to call it that.”

What passes for words today is set of labels and directions directly related to electronic devices and make no sense to any cowboy old enough to remember black and white television and Bonanza. We live in a high-tech fast-paced world that swallows up time faster than we can get comfortable with each new thing.

“Store bought” was an indicator of a slight increase in financial status. Eating “light bread” as opposed to biscuits or cornbread was said when it came from the store.
“Store bought” indicated extra value and often came with braggin’ rights.

Getting big enough to reach the “foot feed” in the pickup so I could drive was a milestone. I remember my first “picture show,” and when my brothers got their “ears lowered.”

Does anyone get lumbago anymore or self-medicate with castor oil and prune juice? And remember Metholatum rub and that stinkin’ rag around your neck if you had a cough?

There was a time when the saddle was a workbench in the making of Western history and then became a throne of tradition that endures yet today. But just as fishing became a sport, so, also, did cowboying. Horses have gained recreational value and saddles are created specific to the job of cutting, steer roping, team roping, calf roping, barrel racing or reining. One saddle that does all is an endangered species.

And remember the horse racks that fit in the bed of the pickup? The fancier ones had a hood right over the top of the cab to protect the eyes and head of the horse. Somewhere in time horse trailers got popular and now they cost more than a house.

This is the standard “I remember when Hershey bars were a nickel and I walked five miles to school, up hill both directions” discussion. It doesn’t have an ending and doesn’t serve any purpose other than the warm fuzzies of reminiscing the “good old days.”

Anyone recall Big Chief tablets with pages of paper that had wood chips embedded in them so big that your pencil skipped when you wrote over one? But, no batteries were required.
Julie can be reached for comment at