Friday, June 22, 2012
By Julie Carter Summers mark a myriad of events in people's lives, ranging from Disneyland vacations to weekend boating and fishing at the lake. Family reunions fit in there somewhere and any of the sane ones that attend leave wondering, "What was I thinking?" Family reunions are where a whole bunch of kinfolk, many of whom never liked each other much, get together for a day or two and try to act like they are happy to be in the family. Then they spend most of that time avoiding the ones they didn't like in the first place. Every family has its own "special people," and usually they can be described with the phrase -- "Somebody needs to get the net after that entire bunch." Family reunions can be fodder for a sitcom script and I use an actual reunion for an example. The family clan runs the gamut of all kinds of crazy. The cousin that is a politician mistook the rest of the kinfolk for voters. He told stories and jokes nonstop as part of his campaign contribution plot. His motto -- "Any story worth telling is worth adding a little something to." The family dictator, also known as the one who organized the event in a resort town one state over from where they all lived, instructed a cousin that he was in charge of the Sunday morning breakfast. Her list was for him to get 80 eggs, 5 pounds of sausage and 5 pounds of bacon. When two family members didn’t show at the event, she cut the number to four dozen eggs with the same sausage and bacon. No one was quite sure who it was that didn’t make it, but they knew they must be egg-eating dudes. The fact that the organizer was a schoolteacher made this math somewhat concerning but then someone recalled she was allowed to teach only special-ed students. Uncle Mike was a big winner at the horse races and told the clan he would treat them all to a drink at the casino. "You know, when you hit it big at the races, a feller can do a lot of things," he said. "How much did you win, Mike?" "Twenty-three dollars," he answered. The old uncle, who is 84, has a young steady girlfriend of Latin descent, and he spent the weekend giving tango lessons on a spontaneous basis. A whispered warning passed from cousin to cousin advising them to not ask the old guy about his love life unless you were prepared to hear more than you wanted about sex at 84. A Friday night trip to the casino buffet was highlighted by one cowboy landing passed out on a stack of clean glasses in the pantry while a security guard babysat him until his wife was located. Although classified pretty much as hillbillies through and through, there were a few that made every attempt at being civilized, even just for the weekend. One woman proudly spent $62 on a pedicure, foot massage, had little daisies painted on her toes and her skin twinkled from the sparkles in the lotion that was applied. Another lost 11 cents playing the penny slots and whined about it for two days. The cousin who also peddled trinkets worked throughout the event using the family connections to lighten his inventory. Another group hit the high-dollar t-shirt stores and tourist bauble vendors for some name recognition braggin’- rights knick knacks. By the end of the weekend, the kinfolk were sufficiently reacquainted. It was quietly suggested that the next reunion might be held somewhere exotic enough that it would force a financial sorting of the attendees. There is a hard and fast rule for any event. You can invite your friends, but your relatives just show up.
Posted by Editor at 5:38 AM
Sunday, June 17, 2012
By Julie Carter The era has arrived where only an aging few cowboys haven’t figured out how to hunt and peck around on a computer keyboard. They fought the trend valiantly but in spite of those efforts, their rural isolated world became boxed up on the internet. Feed programs, breeding programs, market watch and cattle sales are just a few on a long list of things in the cow business that have gone computerized. It is a fact that there are just some things a computer can’t do, will never do, and a cowboy who knows nothing about a computer will quickly tell you exactly what those things are. However, technology has persevered even in the pasture. Implanted computer chips with the animal’s complete data imbedded in them are in use and making themselves handy in controlled situations. As a need to track cattle origins from the pasture to the meat counter tops a priority list, “data based cowboying” is on the rise. In all this, what happens to the everyday run-of-the mill, denim-garbed leather-shod, felt hat-wearing, colt-riding cowboy? A few years ago Dan Roberts, a Texas cowboy, singer and song writer wrote and released an album and song called Cowhand.Com. The title cut takes a humorous look at the adventures of a cowboy who hires onto an outfit that is basically run by computers, not seasoned cowboys. The misadventures of this technologically challenged cowboy who longs for the old days tell a story that was perhaps more prophetic than Roberts ever dreamed it would be. His intention was a witty take on the concept but the result was an outline of the real dilemma of crossing a cowboy with a computer. The lyrics point out that no machine ever shod a horse, pulled a calf or broke a bronc to ride. The laptop in his saddle bags got dusty riding drag and all that talk about menus, a mouse and booting up had the cowboy telling his boss to stick that Pentium right in his AOL and pointing out that the megabyte-ram-thing sounded inbred. Book learnin’, as they would call it, isn’t foreign to cowboys, it just comes from books and takes place after dark when the work is done. My cowboy dad was a fiend for learning and was an easy mark for the encyclopedia salesman that somehow found us at the head of Muddy Creek where not many strangers trod. We had not one, but several sets of encyclopedias just in case we four children needed to look something up. He also bought every update published for years after and several sets of assorted “how to” encyclopedias. He learned taxidermy, beer making, electronics, mechanics, veterinary skills and many other useful things from his “how to” books. I often wonder what he would have done with the wealth of knowledge offered in today’s world with the touch of keyboard. Computerizing the cowboy way will only go so far. Technology has extended to providing data for the genetic, nutritional and medicinal history of a cow as well as her history of residence for her lifetime. The good news for the cowboy is it still takes man to bring the cows to the corral. The statistical information can be downloaded from computer to computer, from hard drive to cd or even sent to the printer. But the paper trail through the office will never completely replace the cow trail through the pasture. And that cow? She is going to download her own nutritional history into the same green pile she always did.
Posted by Editor at 6:23 AM
Sunday, June 3, 2012
By Julie Carter When C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe became a movie, it brought a wonderful old story to a new generation. It even rekindled the imaginations of the generations that had read the story in its printed version. I know my dad would have found it hard to believe, but there was a time I rode winged horses high over tree tops and brandished a sword to fight off the evil invaders of my kingdom while waiting for a prince to come fight by my side. Although my horses never talked, they did plenty of listening. Every morning just after daylight but before the school bus arrives; a boy whistles up the saddle horses and feeds them their token of grain. That simple chore puts a smile on his face and a spring in his step that sets the tone for the day ahead. Smart old saddle horses know when it’s feeding time and who is going to feed them. At the sight of the boy and the sound of his whistle, they came at a high lope, offering up a couple nickers and head tosses, and even the occasional obligatory buck as they ducked through the gate to the feed bunk. There was a time that the act of a morning chore tending to horses was the norm, not the exception. This chore captivated the magnetism that is created when a child and horse are put together in a partnership. Lewis’s third book in The Chronicles of Narnia series, A Horse and His Boy, captivated imaginations of many youngsters because they could take the story into their own life and relate to it. The mythical elements of the story are quickly transposed forward in time and place to a stocking-legged bald-faced sorrel horse with the finely honed ability to beg for grain and look good while doing it. Most ranch kids experience that special relationship with the horses they own while growing up. Long before a horse is simply functional equipment for the business, he is a friend, a confidant, and absolutely the best thing a kid could own. I don’t have the exact equation, but I believe that relationship builds something into the character of the child--a foundation of love and trust that makes some sort of difference in his adult world. No matter where life takes him, those hours, days and years of having that unconditional love from a horse (well okay, unconditional except for oats) seals something in his heart that no one can take away. And my own personal winged horse? He was one of several very regular ranch horses I rode during my formative years. My sword? Read that “branch” -- torn from the nearest tree. And the evil invaders of my kingdom? Those, of course were my younger brothers. They were so very gullible. The secret to my kingdom was to always ride faster horses and learn to duck flying objects. Those evil invaders were also not so very forgiving when they found out they had been duped by the princess on the flying horse. Julie can be reached just inside the border of Narnia at email@example.com
Posted by Editor at 10:04 AM