Getter Done Gals


Saturday, July 30, 2011


Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter
It was about now, in the middle of a long hot summer, that I would start to miss school. Not school for the education, but school for the friends and the activities.
Rural living for us as kids was defined by isolation at the ranch in the southern Colorado Mountains.
No one "went to town" once school was out in May, except maybe Mom who made her once a month trek to the grocery store. Our return to civilization didn't happen until after Labor Day when the school bell rang once again.
The decade of the '60s took me from 8 to 18 and was jammed with life lessons and foundational principles. All the things I had but didn't know were important would not become apparent to me until I was old enough to mourn their loss, value their existence, and understand the lessons that came with them.
It was before we knew sugar wasn't good for us and Kool-Aid was our year-round beverage of choice either in the liquid form or frozen into popsicles in the summer. The alternative was the gallons of fresh raw milk that completely filled the top shelf of our refrigerator.
Summer days ran together in an endless manner that changed only in the way I changed. As a pre-teen, I began each day with figuring out what to do to keep me busy so the chore list from my mom wasn't increased. Saying "I'm bored" was a sure way to win half a day of weeding the gigantic garden, cleaning stalls or some like sentence.
Hay meadows and a nearby cold, mountain creek provided an enchanted play world for all of us -- three brothers, two summer resident kids and the occasional visiting cousin or two.
When I reached the age that I knew boys didn't really have cooties and that being a teenager made everyone else so very hard to communicate with, I was still in isolation.
I found solace in spending the days wandering the hills on my horse, talking to my faithful Australian-shepherd sidekick and daydreaming of a more romantic world that had no real definition. I spent hours reading books and writing long letters, both of which took me to an outside world I didn't really know.
I'd only heard about the "hippies" and all that went with what most people recall of that decade. Vietnam was on the news and a world away. A stamp was five cents and so was a Hershey bar. I am vague on where I was when the Beatles hit the scene, but I remember where I was when JFK was shot.
Civilization in the form of the nearest town of a few hundred people offered lessons in what it was to be draggin' main and the finer details of a Chinese Fire Drill. An icy Coca-Cola and a basket of French fries in town was the height of delight.
Duck tail haircuts, beehive hair, hip-hugger pants and mini-skirts were about as "with it" as any of us at school got. Go-go boots and shoulder-length hair with that perfect flip made you "cool." The way-out kids wore Nero-collared shirts and sported peace sign necklaces.
"Gunsmoke and Rawhide", (yes, in black and white) were favorites but we didn't get that channel and had to settle for "Wagon Train" and "Bonanza" on the one we did receive. "Big Valley" made its debut mid-decade, as did "Days of our Lives", back when a half-hour sufficed for soap opera drama.
There isn't a '60s memory that doesn't include late night radio from Oklahoma City. KOMA brought the latest and greatest in the world of Rock and Roll to every country kid in several states between there and the Rocky Mountains. The Beach Boys, Righteous Brothers, Mamas and Papas, the Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel and so many more. And, of course a few slow dances with Bobby Vinton.
The window to a world I was yet to know was as simple as a nine-volt battery in a transistor radio.
Julie can be reached for comment at

Monday, July 18, 2011


Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter
“Riding for the brand” and “making a hand” are two expressions that are short on words but big on meaning, which seems appropriate for the Western genre they represent. Much like the word “cowboy,” there is a lifetime of components built into it.
Every cowboy kid grows up hearing these phrases - knowing it is part of what and who he is destined to be. How he gets there is just part of everyday living.
Ranch kids are given big responsibilities at a young age. It might start with simple chores like daily taking out the ashes from the wood stove, filling the wood box, bringing in the milk cow every evening, and gathering the eggs from the chicken house which includes eluding the rooster that is always waiting to attack.
Right around that same age, the youngster will unassumingly be given some responsibilities in the pasture beyond the usual seemingly permanent position of riding drag behind the herd.
As his dad rides off one direction, he’ll tell the young button to ride down a long draw as he points to it, bring along any cattle he finds and meet the cowboys at the gate at the end of the canyon.
With some pride filling his heart, the button will sit a little taller in the saddle as he rides off.
As his horse picks his way through the quakies, a few head of cattle lift their heads from their grazing and start moving down the draw ahead of him.
The lad pulls off a small branch from a sapling as he rides by it and pops it on his leather chaps in a rhythm that matches the gait of the trotting cattle. He doesn’t know it yet, but those moments will be remembered by him as some of his happiest.
He keeps an eye on the ridge above him, hoping he’s not ahead of the rider coming that way or not too far behind the ones he is to meet. A few times a little worry eases its way into his gut. What if he wasn’t in the right canyon or not going the right way?
When he rode out of the end of the draw and no one was at the gate, he again gave thought to the possibility he wasn’t where he was supposed to be or maybe they’d forgotten about him.
The few head of cattle he’d pushed out hit the fence line. He trotted ahead of them, got them stopped and then sat quietly while they settled down.
He knew he should just wait. At least he had some cattle to show for his efforts.
He slouched in the saddle and began, one by one, stripping the leaves off the branch he’d brought along. He chewed on one and tossed the rest at a make-believe target a few feet away. Then he began peeling off the bark, keeping one eye on the cattle, and keeping his hands busy and mind occupied. Killing time he wasn’t sure he had to kill.
He stood in his saddle and looked in every direction for signs of anyone, anything.
He listened for the sounds of cracking branches and horse shoes striking rocks, or the sounds of cattle moving through the trees. Still nothing. Knowing he needed to trust his raising and for sure better be where his dad told him to be, he waited it out.
Finally, in a far distance he could hear an occasional “whoop” and “h’yah” as the cowboys moved a big herd down the fence line from the backside of the pasture. The button grinned, again sitting tall in the saddle, looking every bit the cowboy he wanted to be.
His dad rode by him and gave him a nod. It said all he needed to “hear.” In that gesture was “Good job son. You made a hand.”
Those times are the confidence builders that build a foundation for a life and it plants seeds for loyalty and pride in a job well done.
"It was probably a step in the making of a cowhand when he learned that what would pass for heroics in a softer world was only chores around here." Wallace Stegner, Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier
Julie can be reached for comment at