UP AND RUNNING (SORT OF)


I am attached to a seven year old computer who has given as much as taken through the years. It has suffered from hiccups on occasion, as we too have suffered. It has awakened in a black mood now and then, and haven’t we all? It has even decided I was on its hate list and refused to listen to wiser heads. But through it all, it has performed graciously.

Ingrate that I am however, I parked him in a rear closet and bought a new and unfamiliar model. Things were perking along famously for a week or so, though certain programs were gone forever or drastically misplaced. Suddenly without warning, it refused to open, and once opened, it refused to close.

My homesick button craved the return of the old silent computer, so the new one went back to the store with regrets. Thinking it might be beneficial to diagnose the old fellow, he paid a visit to the computer doctor where everything checked out fine.

Settling down to work, I discovered the diagnosis had removed my browser. Now a car cannot operate without gas, and a computer performs better with a browser. It has been a week trying to get the old one back with no success.

I’ll keep you posted.

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BIRTH OF THE AMERICAN COWBOY


“RUSS ANDERSEN, Cattleman ” Watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

“CORRALLED” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

In the mid to late 1800s, some 10 million cattle would be driven north out of Texas, in the greatest forced migration of animals in human history. It was the birth of the American cowboy.

Though romanticized in book and movie, the life of the men and boys who drove cattle was dirty and hard, sweating in the heat of the day and freezing at night. The miserable conditions in rainstorms bear no description, and certainly take the romance out of the working cowboy.

Cattle had been trailed from Texas to Missouri as early as 1842, and to California as early as 1854. Although the maps depicting these routes suggesting an orderly branch of roads, on the ground the paths taken were often circuitous as the drovers needed to provide water and grass for the herd along the way. This meant following rivers and creeks and tracing the routes of old Indian and buffalo trails.The earliest endpoints were the railheads of the Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific railroads, which were gradually extending their tentacles of track westward now that the Civil War was over and capital was available for their expansion.

But nothing about this trail driving scheme turned out to be quite as easy as it looked on paper. The first challenge: a cattle drive required horses, but freely roaming mustangs needed to be roped, corralled and broken by a skilled broncobuster.It typically took five to six days to properly break a wild mustang. And to trail cattle north, a journey that could take three to six months, drovers needed four to six months, drovers needed four or five horses per cowboy.

Cattle drive

The second challenge: the behavior and temperament of the wild Texas Longhorn itself. It was a challenge for cowboys to round up these wild cattle. Texas Longhorns hid in the brush during the day and did most of their foraging during the night. Only briefly in the summer, when the tormenting mosquitoes were out in force, did they spend the daylight hours in open areas, where they hoped to find a breeze. Most of the time the cowboys were compelled to ride into the thorny brush to flush the cattle out. But a cow with a young calf was prepared to gore a horse to protect her offspring and the Longhorn bull was notoriously ornery, sullen, morose, solitary and pugnacious, as one cattleman put it; “The longer he lived the meaner he became.”

“HOME ON THE RANGE” oil painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Once a herd was assembled, the profit-seeking Texan faced his most grueling challenge: the trail drive itself, since railroads throughout the south had been badly damaged during the Civil War and had never ventured far into Texasl It required a minimum of eight men to drive a thousand head of cattle. The trail boss usually rode a few miles ahead, scouting out water holes and good places to graze the herd. The cook followed on the mess, or chuck wagon. Two cowboys were positioned at the point of the herd, and two along each swing, or flank. The two most junior cowboys brought up the rear and were known as drag riders. Their job was to keep the slow and lame cattle moving along. They were constantly subjected to dust and spatterings of the herd’s manure. They took the full brunt of its noxious odors. One staple of the diet was known as son-of-a-bitch stew, concocted from leftover cattle parts.

On a good day, a trail drive would cover fourteen or fifteen miles, usually with a break at midday for lunch. The greatest threat facing the drovers was a stampede. It didn’t take much to spook the jumpy Longhorns: lightning, the appearance of a wolf, the snap of a towel.

In the spring of 1867, some 35,000 headed up the trails,the next year, 75,000, the year after that 350,000, and in 1871, some 600,000. The great migration of Texas Longhorns, the largest forced migration of animals in human history, had begun in earnest. In all, some ten million cattle would be driven north out of Texas, accompanied by half a million horses and some 50,000 cowboys.

Exerts from “Cattle Kingdom” by Christopher Knowleton

WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD


We live in what I like to think of as an average upper middle class neighborhood. Most houses sport green lawns, and carefully trimmed trees and bushes. Therefore it is somewhat of an anomaly to see a large horse trailer setting up shop in the middle of a lawn around the corner. less than half a block away.

Dr. A came in from his walk in the rain yesterday asking me to come see our new “neighbor.”

We were faced by a large attentive Border Collie dog sitting in the open garage. The large horse trailer. with bits of hay protruding under the door, sat in the middle of the rain soaked lawn, which would never look the same again.

The owner, a young man who lived in the house, and whose family had farmed the hills above us in Niles for many years, came out with a friendly smile. “We came to meet the new neighbor”, said Dr. A.

The handyman, an elderly fellow named “Okie”, and owner of the dog, emerged from the garage. Seeing my cane, he commented that he had a better solution, as he raised his pant leg to reveal an artificial prosthesis.

Meanwhile, Pete opened the door in the trailer and we looked in on two adorable baby calves, one of whom was one day old and pure white in color. Their sweet faces quietly surveyed these new friends without any sense of alarm.

We learned that the white bull calf was a Charolais breed who would remain the white color, would become large and was a fine meat bull. The mothers of the calves had died and they were brought here to be fed by bottle, and kept for about 2 months until they could rejoin their herd.

Though turning a neighborhood front yard into a farm scene may not be ideal, people make do when they can, and saving the lives of two charming baby bulls seems worthwhile.

NOT EVEN A WEEK


Not even a week into the new year and I find myself already running behind. I haven’t figured out why old people are so busy with their lives. Viewing the old people in my life from the past, I seem to remember them having a lot more time than we have. Was there a different time bank in those days? What we do is really not all that important, but it certainly seems to take more time. We move slower of course, and do a lot of talking at each stop along the way.

We have accumulated all kinds of tech devices which seem to need expert advice occasionally to run properly. Those are things our forebears never dreamed of. Dr. A’s iPad never seems to pop back into his library with a tiny tap of his finger. We both sit and pound away while it sneers at us and remains where it is. When we take it into the expert, he waves his finger over the top of it and it magically shows all the books in his library. Dr. A has become an inveterate reader so there are many more books in his cloud. If only he could reach them!

Christmas brought me an incredibly large monitor which has allowed me to see some things I haven’t seen for ages. Along with it I graduated to a Windows 10 computer which needed a bit of advice today. All of these trips to the expert take time.

I remember My grandparents and/or parents taking a lot of scenic drives, and having dinner out. We don’t do either. Though we eat out at lunch time, driving after dark is dangerous to failing eyesight. The traffic in our area is so bad any time of day it sometimes is more satisfying to simply stay home.

All in all, having a lack of time is not bad. It keeps the grey cells active, and whatever you don’t have time for today, can be accomplished tomorrow. I find that being an old person is quite comfortable.