One of the hazards of being a colorful duck in the flock is that you are an easy target!
In my travels, my “cowboyness” is routinely tested. If I’m speaking at a rodeo they will graciously invite me to ride in the grand entry. It’s always a good bet that I better check the cinch myself and be ready. I spoke in the auction barn at Ft. Pierre. They asked if I’d ride into the sale ring and furnished me a horse. On entering I had to duck under a door that just cleared the saddle horn. As I appeared in the ring the crowd cheered and the horse spooked! As we raced around the ring I had the horse’s head pulled clear back to my crotch! On the third pass I bailed out into the auctioneer’s box and you could hear the wood splinter as the horse shot under the door!
I’ve ridden horses in parades, through crowds, on stage, through branding fires and into hotel dining rooms! In one forced exhibition of my roping skills at a ranch rodeo, I had to chase the steer around the arena four times before he finally stopped, exhausted in a corner where I caught him. I explained to my critics that this is representative of how we do it in real life!
When I’m doing a program I usually wear a colorful shirt and scarf with a braided scarf slide. Some might suggest that in real life “real cowboys” just tie their scarf but I wear my scarf slide in self defense. You see, often after a show my hosts take me out for late night breakfast or a beer at the local watering hole. Occasionally a belligerent, loud-mouth, had-one-too-many, troublemaker insists on physically critiquing my attire. As he approaches I can quickly jerk the scarf slide off and prevent being strangled!
Recently a well-meaning lady perused my website and e-mailed me calling attention to my lack of cowboy correctness. She pointed out that in one picture I was wearing bat wing chaps without tapaderas, that the picture negative was reversed because it made me look left handed! AND, if I WAS left-handed, God forbid, that I had my rope coiled up and hung on the right side of my swells! Then she quoted Walt Woodward, famous team roper, who said that left-handed heelers should take a week off and then quit! Her criticism was well meant, she said, and only given to help save my reputation. In defiance I wrote her that I was wearing leggins, not batwings and that the mesquite had worn the wings off my tapaderas!
Then, alas, I realized as I took up my pencil to write the column… with my left hand, that cowboy cartoon characters like Jake, Elmo, Earl and me aren’t supposed to win.
I’d give my write arm to be ambidextrous.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News