Getter Done Gals


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The cowboy went to war

The cowboy went to war
Julie Carter Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

They all dressed alike once they got there. Field and combat olive-drab uniforms, laced-up military-issue combat boots and a rifle just for starters. 

In a sea of soldier faces, you can't tell the cowboys from the accountants. Not in any of the previous wars and not now. But there have always been plenty of men of all ages that left the ranch and headed to war.

Sadly, it took me until I was well into adulthood before I realized the dangers these "boys" and most were just boys, put themselves in when they proudly went to defend their country. 

There's something built into the male that moves him to do just about anything to become a soldier and fight for what he has known as home, family and freedom.

New Mexico's Claude Hobbs, the oldest of 10 children, was drafted in 1942 in the Army Automatic Weapon Battalion and away from his $1-a-day job driving mules to build dirt tanks with a fresno and breaking horses for $5 a head.

His first stop was the beaches of Normandy. Before he was able to come home, he saw five major conflicts and earned bronze and silver stars as well as two good conduct medals.

My dad, George Baker, and his two brothers, all Colorado cowboys, did their stints with the army. Dad, one brother and a cousin were all in Korea during and just after that war that no one really won and where conflicts remain still today.

My brother left the "glamour" of ranching, haying and working for Dad to join the Army and make a career of it. His expertise ultimately landed him at the end of his career serving for three years as a drill instructor and training waves of troops during the Desert Storm conflict.

Today we are sending our cowboys to the Middle East to fight a war like no other. And even then, you can take the cowboy off the ranch, but you can't keep him afoot. If there is a horse around, which is actually a tactical warfare method in Afghanistan, he'll find it even if it's not "Army issue."

Northern New Mexico cowboy Frank van Buskirk spent four years fighting government red tape to be allowed into the service. His burning desire to fight for his country set him on a journey that ultimately landed him with the Rangers in southern Afghanistan on a fire base. 

There in the remoteness of the country was an Afghan horse that was about to meet a New Mexico cowboy. Frank soon became friends with Achmed (his name for his new steed) who learned there was more to life than being petted and standing around.

Frank found an old saddle in a shed that was covered in decades of dust and had extremely dry leather --crumbling and brittle with age.
Making do with what was at hand, he soaked it in motor oil to soften the leather so he could make repairs. He found a snaffle bit and made a head stall for it out of the parachute cord that came tied around the Army supply packages.

Frank's dedication and sacrifice were highlighted, along with the horrors of war, with good moments with Achmed. The other notable to his story is the fact that he turned 60 years old shortly after returning home to New Mexico.

As Claude Hobbs put it in recalling his war years 65-plus years ago, "You see a lot of things you forget, and a lot of things you don't forget."

And for that reason, thanking a veteran isn't just a "holiday" action. It's something that should be done every day for every one of them that have ever served, whether they wear a cowboy hat or not.

Julie can be reached for comment

The Blackberry -- Not just for pie anymore

The Blackberry -- Not just for pie anymore

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter
There is no argument that the face of cowboying has changed. While the basics of the job still require some of the same skills and tools, technology has made great strides in sneaking into the world of the cowboy.

Fifteen years ago, there were only a few cell phones in the pockets of the range riders and every now and then, you could find one with a computer and the ability to send an email.
Five years ago it was rare to see a cowboy under the age of 40 without a cell phone and today, it's a whole new game.

In talking to one technology-adept cowpuncher, I found that not only was his new Blackberry phone functional for the usual communication, but he used it as a tool for his multi-tasking way of making a living.

"I use the calendar all the time," he said. "It separates the scheduling for hunting, ranching, day work, and my horse shoeing appointments so I don't book one thing on top of another. Then it backs it up through the home computer in case I should lose my phone."

He laughed and said he was sitting in the pickup sending me the email telling me about his phone while he was filling up a water tank for some pasture cattle.

He called it a "fancy gadget" and admitted it took some time to learn how to use it. "They aren't for the old timers," he said, "but for me, it has been a money-maker."

Taking the Blackberry phone with him everywhere, he was able to book $6,000 in hunts in a week and didn't have to be stuck in the house waiting for replies.

That's more than he paid for the phone, he pointed out.

This cowboy uses it to take pictures of parts -hydraulic fittings to saw blades-and then sends the picture to the store clerk to make sure he gets the right one the first time.

He watches the cattle market reports for all the sale barns in the country and if the auction barn has an internet camera, he can even make a bid if he sees a good deal.

The weather channel sends him alerts and he can watch the weather maps which he deems pretty handy during calving season.

"I even had a cow with a weird tumor on her leg," he said. "So I took a picture of it, emailed it to the vet and saved a client the 100-mile trip that it would have taken to haul her to the vet. The vet later told me it was a great idea and now he has clients send a picture of 'emergency' calls. You know, just in case it is something that might be able to wait until later. You know, from those hypochondriac horse and dog owners."

And because he guides hunts through various seasons, his ringtone is a turkey gobble sound. "It doesn't spook the game or the livestock," he laughed. "But if I put it on vibrate, it will absolutely cause a bronc to blow up. And, it's best to not get bucked off in water. That does kind of mess up the phone."

He laughs about the not always having service but says he can usually send a text. Or if the phone at home is busy, email still goes through. "If I'm in a big wreck, maybe the wind knocked out of me where I can't talk, I can just take a picture and send it. A picture worth a thousand words. They'll get the point."

While he was doctoring a sick calf that he had roped and tied down, a call came in requesting that he select one of two styles of feed bunks to be delivered to him. Since he happened to be near some feed bunks at the time, he simply took a photo of them and texted the photo to the dealer. The matter settled, he let the calf up, mounted his horse and rode off,

"I never forget how to wire up the pressure switch on the well house," he said. "I take a picture of the old one on my Blackberry and use it as a pattern to wire up the new one. I can also have people video their horses that need special shoeing and send it my phone so I can get an idea what is wrong before I get there to shoe."

The cell phone - a tool for the new age of cowboying, ranching and rural living. Much like the Leatherman or the Plammer fencing pliers, you should never leave home without it.

What's next? Bluetooth built into the saddle horns?

Julie can be reached for comment at

Friday, October 29, 2010

The cowboy and the skinwalker

The cowboy and the skinwalker
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter

It happened on a high desert ranch in Navajo country. 

The mesa lands surrounded the canyons and the cedar-covered hillsides and all were painted in layers of bold colors. 

The day wore a hushed stillness broken by the occasional flapping sound of a crow on the wing.

A lone cowboy was checking cattle, riding along at a slow trot when a movement caught his eye. 

Across the canyon, very deep and wide, he could see a man walking. He pulled his horse to a stop, squinting to make sure of what he was seeing.

In the distance, he could see what he knew to be an Indian dressed in the traditional animal-hide apparel of a century ago. 

The fact that the Indian was afoot so far from civilization raised a curiosity in the cowboy. 

He navigated his way across the canyon in one of the few places that it could be crossed. There he found some old cliff dwellings and "picture rocks," bringing him to the thought that perhaps the Indian had been praying there in an ancient place of worship.

The cowboy looked around but the man seemed to have disappeared. He rode to the spot where he saw him from across the canyon and found not the man, but where he had been sitting, along with another curious sight.

Hanging on a large cedar, like ornaments on a Christmas tree, were little figurines made of grass and bound with string. One of them, swaying only slightly in a non-existent breeze, was quite clearly a man on a horse. 

A cold shiver went down his spine. He shook it off and began to look around for signs of the man he'd seen.

He found the Indian's tracks and followed them for a short distance. They all but disappeared in the rocks so he circled the area looking for more tracks.

All he could find were the tracks of several coyotes.

"I figured he was hiding in the huge cracks in the rocks so as not to be bothered," the cowboy related in telling the tale "So I rode away respectfully, crossed back over the canyon and went on to finish my day's work."

The next night, the cowboy was joined in camp by a Navajo friend of his named Bobby. They sat by the fire and over coffee, the cowboy told Bobby about what he had seen the day before.

Even in the dim firelight, the cowboy could see Bobby's deep brown skin turn very pale.
He was visibly spooked when he asked the cowboy if he believed in witches and demons or devils.
The cowboy, without hesitation, replied a simple, "No."

Bobby, his voice shaking, began to tell the cowboy about skinwalkers. Although they are most frequently seen as a coyote, wolf, owl, fox, or crow, the yee naaldlooshii is said to have the power to assume the form of any animal they choose, depending on what kind of abilities they need.

Some Navajo also believe that skinwalkers have the ability to steal the "skin" or body of a person. 
The Navajo believe that if you lock eyes with a skinwalker they can absorb themselves into your body.

Bobby told the cowboy that his lack of belief in bad spirits made his soul too strong for the skinwalker. 
"The little doll on the horse that was hanging in the tree was the tool he made to call you over to his side of the canyon," Bobby told him. "When you lost his tracks, then found several sets of coyote tracks, it was him and his clan leaving when he couldn't enter your body.

"Only one of them will change shape and be seen," said Bobby. "That's why you only saw one man. They didn't want you to feel outnumbered. Stay away from them, and they'll move on."

The legend of skinwalkers comes with many stories and warnings, all common with their elements of evil and elusiveness that are magnified by the dark of night. 

But there is one cowboy that knows what he saw in broad daylight. 

Never again did he ride the desert canyon lands without feeling there were many eyes upon him.

Julie can be reached for comment at or at her website at

Cowgirls don't cry

Cowgirls don't cry
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter

Little girls are not all born "cowgirl" tough. They also don't have to be a cowgirl to have the trait. 

However, many of those lessons are taught in the dust of a corral or at the end of a day so long that her saddle becomes a torture chamber and the dark has overtaken everything.

Daughters and their daddies have a special relationship that is an unpredictable mixture of tenderness and toughness. 

With a soft heart he will give in to her natural wiles that turn him to putty with the sound of her voice and the batting of her eyelashes. 

With an iron-tough determination, he will go beyond the bounds of good sense to protect her, even when it means evoking her anger and forcing a daughterly pout directed at his resolve.

With a soft voice reserved only for her, he will tell her that life will let her down and like the falls she has taken from her saddle horse, it'll hurt, but only for a little while.

"Honey," he'll say, "cowgirls don't cry."

In his guidance, he'll tell her, "When you fall off, you get right back on and ride. Don't wait, don't think about. Just do it. And honey, cowgirls don't cry."

Those life lessons will always serve her well. 

The taste of dirt in her mouth, the pain of a hard-ground landing and the sting of the tears as she fights them back are physical memories that translate to that "grown-up living" everybody talked about.

True to her training, she never let the world see her heart break; she was determined there would be no of a "fall apart." In the recesses of her mind, those words echoed like down a long canyon, "Honey, cowgirls don't cry."

Life gives no quarter to those in boots and jeans. It batters and buffets, tosses and slams. Whether natural or man-made, the storms in life keep coming. 

There have been times in my life when, in spite of that stainless-steel badge of courage I was handed as a very young girl, I cried.

I cried when my first horse, Ranger, died. I was 5 years old, he was 20-something and in a running fit of his last breaths of life, he raced the length of a meadow and then lay down as his heart stopped beating. I lost my first best friend that day.

I cried when my best buddy, our blue-eyed Australian shepherd, Sally, was no longer at my bedroom window every night to be let back into the house after my dad had put her out. 

The loss surpassed all the usual teenage heartbreak brought by peers, boys and the drama of growing up.

I cried when my dad sat before me and told me that we were moving from the ranch I'd known as home all my life. 

I was 16 and recall the moment still with a sharp pain in my heart and tears waiting to fall, not because of his words, but because it made him cry too.

Until that moment, I'd never seen my dad cry.

Through the years, there have been other occasions for tears. Happy tears and heart break tears. 

Sometimes I let them fall, but more often, I did not. "Honey, cowgirls don't cry."

When my dad lay dying at the age of 50, cheated of the life he worked to create, I cried every tear I hadn't cried up until then. 

It seemed as if they'd been stored for that moment when the pain of the loss far surpassed the indoctrination of "cowgirls don't cry."

And when it was over, so were the tears of that magnitude. I knew the lesson was not in the "not crying." It was in the determination to get back on and ride again. 

I finally understood that he wasn't telling me not to cry, not really. He was telling me to not quit and not stop trying.

What he was really saying was, "Cowgirls never give up."

Julie can be reach for comment at

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bits and peices from the boot box

Bits and pieces from the boot box
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter

As short, funny stories fly through my life, I latch on to them and save them in a boot box to be shared with the world at some point. Boot boxes are the perfect place to store about everything.

Destination weddings
Missy and Randy planned to get married just as soon as she finished her Finance final at college. They had a "destination wedding" planned. Their destination was the local courthouse.

As they were leaving the courthouse, the deed done, signed and sealed, Randy told Missy she needed to drive, he was tired. New-wife dutiful, she obliged. 

About a block away from the courthouse he said to her, "You know, I don't have a big old money tree like your daddy."

Missy slammed on the brakes bringing the pickup to an abrupt halt. "My God Randy, couldn't we have had this conversation about 10 minutes ago? I'm already married to you now."

Women get the last word in every argument. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument. Missy has proved that to Randy for 38 years now. 

Happily ever after
Not long ago a Southern Belle barrel racer was given her Senior Association Gold Card for being 75-plus years old and still competing.
She thanked the committee for their recognition and told them how much she appreciated the gesture. 

The association president assured her it was their pleasure. He mentioned how much they enjoyed seeing her and wished they could catch up with her a little more often. 

She replied, "Hopefully I'm going to be able to go to more rodeos now, because last week I put my husband in a rest home."

The president nodded and thought, "This lady makes team ropers look human."

Turning blue
Cleverness abounds when it comes to cowboys. Team ropers, contrary to common misconception, are no exception.

Tim had "had it." Every time he went to a roping, someone stole his roping gloves out of the back of his pickup. 

Standing before his washing machine, he dumped an entire bundle of new white cotton gloves into the tub along with a box of blue Rit dye.

Quite pleased with himself and this grand idea, he said, "Now I'll know immediately who's stealing my gloves."

Soon after, he called his girlfriend up and asked if she'd like to come along to a roping. He suggested she could sit in the grandstands where she could easily spot those who were wearing blue roping gloves. He'd appreciate her help and the information. 

Situating herself with a good viewpoint, it wasn't long before she was nearly rolling off the bleacher seats with uncontrollable laughter. Everybody that rode in the arena was wearing blue roping gloves.

No one would admit to stealing his gloves, even when Tim waved around the empty box and pointed out everyone had on blue gloves. 

Nope, no siree, didn't steal them, they told him with conviction. Bought them at the feed store right there locally. Didn't he know? Blue was the new fashion color.

Tim rode away muttering something about "I swear to Jesus, next time I'm dying them pink!"

The blue story wasn't over. Soon after the blue-glove roping, Tim called up his girlfriend in some distress. He didn't know that the blue dye would stay in his washer and he now had all blue shirts, all blue socks and all blue underwear.

In complete sympathy, sort of, she laughed and asked if there was any chance he thought someone was stealing his underwear? She suggested a Saturday night at the local honky tonk, checking to see who else might have blue underwear.

He was not as amused at the idea as she thought he should be.

Reminiscing about his rodeo career, a handsome 40ish cowboy stated, "I started riding bareback horses and bulls when I was 15. I rode both until I turned 22. Quit the bulls because I was a little better at the horses. And besides, I didn't like waiting around after the bareback riding to ride a bull at 10 p.m. I had to get to the dance!"

Julie can be reached for comment at

Whispers of the cottonwoods
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter

A single cottonwood tree, gone bright yellow in the season, its leaves and branches framing a deep blue sky, looms above gently waving prairie grass wearing muted shades of beige and rust.

The scene is timeless both in reality and symbolically. The cottonwood tree is woven into the fabric of our lives, our history and better yet, our memories.

Whether you played in a schoolyard lined with them like sentries, or as a youth you lay in your bed on a summer night and listened to rustle of the leaves in the breeze through an open window, for most of us the cottonwood trees serve as reminder of the distant past.

And so it is with our country. 

In 1718, Franciscan monks and Indian converts built San Antonio de Valero, later to be named the "Alamo," the Spanish word for cottonwood, and referring to the stand of cottonwoods that line the nearby river.

Lewis and Clark stopped along the Yellowstone River on their return trip in the summer of 1806, "to make two canoes" out of cottonwood trees. A reference in their journal to the towering cottonwoods later gave name to the town of Big Timber, Montana.

Historically, travelers making their way across the vast and deserted plains scanned the horizon for the sight of cottonwoods, indicating a water source and possibly civilization.

The virgin forest of cottonwoods that once formed a rounded grove, the Bosque Redondo, was cut in the 1860s to build Fort Sumner, New Mexico. They served as fuel for the fires for hundreds soldiers and civilians who lived at the fort, as well as the 9,000 nomadic Native Americans who were forced to live on the surrounding reservation.

In three years, the groves were completely harvested causing a fuel shortage and severe soil erosion in the surrounding farm grounds. A year later the fort commander ordered 5,000 trees to be planted on the ditch banks and lining all bordering roadways.

America has a dozen or so towns named after the tree including Cottonwood, Arizona, a town birthed in 1874 and famous for bootlegging, feeding the miners and later, filming movies.

New Mexico had at least 12 towns named Cottonwood, none of which exist today.

Southeast of Abilene is Cottonwood, Texas, founded about 1875 by J.W. Love, who didn't think his name lent itself to town-naming, so the local abundance of cottonwood trees directed a second choice.

A reported rash of shootings with fatal results during the town's embryo period provided for a brief but colorful history. However, Cottonwood, Texas came only close to a real claim to fame in the Wild West. The Newton Brothers, train and bank robbers from Uvalde, Texas, used to live near Cottonwood. 

In 1937, Kansas officials adopted the cottonwood as the official state tree, most of which were planted by early pioneers.

My own history with cottonwoods is that of those friendly giants in our yard on the ranch in Colorado as well as the endless number of them lining miles of creek banks and hay meadows. 

In the fall, as children we played in the leaves, and in the spring, we endured the beaded strings of "cotton" that brought a season of sneezing. That perhaps was offset by the right-of-passage in learning how to fold a cottonwood leaf and make a whistle. 

They provided shade in the summer, wore a tire swing in perpetual motion, endured makeshift ladder rungs nailed to a trunk, and gave way to endless hours for countless years of boys climbing up and down and around.

They canopied a magical playground limited only by our imaginations as we built forts and had secret hideouts in the groves of the living as well as the dead trees. 

As a teen, my daydreams were brought to life when I became Velvet Brown, the girl who rode her horse to victory in the Grand National steeplechase. 

I would select a path through the fallen trees that allowed my horse to gather enough speed and momentum to jump over the larger deadfall. I soared in my dreams as I soared in the saddle.

I still love to lean against the trunk of a grand old cottonwood, slide my back down the rough bark to sit very still and quiet on the ground. And then listen.

Shhhhh, you can hear the leaves as they whisper secrets from the past.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Friday, October 1, 2010

The ultimate farmer

The ultimate farmer
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter

The realtor’s invention of the 40-acre ranch brought agriculture holdings to town, so to speak. Those that dreamed of being landowners, ranchers and yes, even farmers, gained a way to fulfill that fantasy.

On a recent trip, I learned the dream is alive and well.

A well-heeled couple walked through the door of the Southern Colorado tractor store and explained to the man at the counter that they were setting up a big farm and needed to buy some equipment.

Dutifully he walked them through all the sizes and styles of tractors available as well as the assorted attachments. The missus emphasized their requirement for the “heavy duty” stuff so it would hold up to the hard use they planned to give it.

The tractor she picked out had nine steps to get up in the cab -- one of those really big monsters.

They also bought discs, hay rakes, balers, blades, plows, harrows and everything else that the dealership offered, taking advantage of the ongoing special -- “Buy one, get 3 percent off the next one.” Can't be too cash conscious when you're going into farming.

The next day the couple invited the implement dealer down to see their farm and for him to bring the papers to sign for all the equipment.  Jake arrived at what he assumed to be only the headquarters of the farming operation, not knowing for sure just how far toward the horizon the borders of this “big farm” went.

He looked around and the lady came out of the house, saying, “Come on, I'll show you around the farm.”

He walked with her to a brand new (still with the paper license plate) Grand Cherokee which had a trailer attached. He noticed the trailer had one 12-inch tire and one 18-inch tire on it. 

She complained that the trailer was not pulling very well at all. Kindly, he explained what he thought the problem to be. But just as if she didn’t hear him, in her next sentence she declared that since she is obviously going to have to buy a new trailer, she might as well get a new pick-up too.

Rather than unhook the trailer, she suggested they just walk around the farm. The tractor dealer was a little taken aback in that he really didn’t plan on spending all day hiking to look at a farm. It was then he found out the farm was 58.2 acres.

So as not to discourage the sale he was making, he indeed walked around the farm, even managing to keep a straight face.

During this stroll around the farm, the lady asked, "What do you think we should raise on our farm?"

Jake’s thoughts were, "You couldn't raise hell with a jug of whiskey. This is nothing but a rock pile."

But he said nothing, just shrugged and maintained a blank look.

Before he departed, the couple set up a time with him to get some tractor driving lessons, since neither of them had ever been close to a tractor except the day they were at the implement dealership.

He secured permission from a guy he knew to use a vacant 80 acres for the tractor driving lessons. His plan was to put the tractor and driver square in the middle of it and let them practice. He also promised to replace any fences that might get torn up.

Later that same day, he the missus driving a new Ford King Ranch pickup. He assumed that she is now also a rancher. 

Read on The Ultimate Farmer this Green Acres duo put more money into circulation faster than a Wall Street bailout plan. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Julie can be reached for comment at