My Heroes have Always Been Cowboys

Lopin’ along the trail
Lopin’ along the dusty trail
I’m a rollin’ stone that gathers no moss
Lopin’ along the trail, and my feet are getting’ weary
Cause I’m lopin’ along without a hoss

That sentimental old cowboy classic by Abe Burrows came to me yesterday as I was driving our cattle to pasture. It was a stormy day, the kind of day that can spook the herd and send them stampeding like a tsunami of horns and hooves, and woe betide anybody or anything that gets in their way. Many a brave cowboy has been buried on the lone prairie sent to his maker by a crazed herd thundering out of control.

I watched the cattle warily for signs they were ready to bolt, hoping I could head them. That’s the only way to stop a stampede, circle the leaders and make the herd start milling among themselves until they come to their senses. It’s dangerous business, and one stumble can turn a man into human hamburger beneath those plunging hooves.

The clouds hovered dark and ominous, but they spared me the sheet lightening and rolling thunder that can ignite the herd and trigger a cowboy’s last roundup. Fortunately the cattle mulled about and stomped, but stopped short of erupting. Fortunately for me too, the herd I was driving only had two cows in it, and they were technically calves, but big for their age.

Like Willy Nelson, “my heroes have always been cowboys.” I love to sing that song. I cleaned up the lyrics for my use. The cowboys Willy sings about were not my heroes. I was a Roy Rogers fan. Never fight if you can sing instead. But if you are backed into a corner, come out swinging with both fists, and then edit the film footage so that the good guys always win over the black hats.

I drove my parents bonkers growing up asking to have a horse. On our city lot it wasn’t a practical idea but when you are a kid, practical is way second place to idea.

The fates have a sense of humor. Several decades later two of our sons came to me with a proposal. “We want to raise grass fed cattle on the Salem land.” The Salem land is a five acre piece we bought when the children were young. It took us years to scrape together the coins, but we felt it was worth the sacrifice to help our family learn good work habits, and the lessons that the law of the harvest can teach; as ye sow so shall ye reap (so long as you water, weed, control the insects, fertilize, and fence out the varmints.)

On one acre we have a fruit cocktail orchard, and a big garden. On the other four acres we have raised horse and goat feed over the years. Our spread is big enough to keep us off the street and out of trouble, but not practical for grazing a herd of cattle. But our sons’ idea trumped my practicality, and we are now cattlemen. I got to wear my cowboy hat to the auction two days ago, and we went up against the big boys from the packing houses and ranches. Some of them were actually wearing black hats, but I don’t think they were the Hollywood variety. Seemed like nice fellers. Well, just like a Roy Rogers movie the underdogs come out on top sometimes. We won a couple of the bidding contests, and ended up with two fine looking yearlings.

We turned them out to pasture that night, and they immediately found a hole in the fence. The boys rounded them up, and I tended them yesterday while we watered the garden.
We gave away our Arabian horse when Sharon and I left to serve a mission for our Church five years ago so I was on foot, but four acres isn’t exactly the Old Chisholm Trail, and I kept up with the herd.

I have to tell you being a cowboy is even better than I thought. I like being with the cows, but even more I like being with the boys.

My heroes have always been cowboys
And they still are it seems
Sadly in search of, and one step in back of
Themselves and their slow movin’ dreams.