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