By Dale Holt
This column discusses the necessary clothing, weapons, and accoutrements to the cowboy’s life and work.
Handguns, Long guns, Clothes, Tack, Games, Boots, Hats, Spurs, Chaps, Ropes,
I’ll think of other things — Dale
ROPIN” THE WIND
I grew up in west Texas in the days when ranching, cattle drives and cowboys were everyday life. My pa’s ranch wasn’t big but usually had 4 or 5 cowboys and at round up time sometimes 10 or 12. One that stayed for most of my growing up years was called Slim.
Slim was a forever 40 and had cowboyed his whole life. Slim taught me everything he could about life on the range and taught me to rope. Some where around my eight birthday he gave me his wore out lariat and I commenced to learn the particulars of ropin’
I must have looped the lariat around my head a million time those first years and got to be tolerable good at ropin’ fence post, tree limbs and almost every stationary thing in sight. The cowboys started calling me “rope the wind “cause I was always twirling that old rope. The summer I turned eleven I rode out with the boys for my first serious roundup. Hoping to prove myself, first thing I did was roped an old mossy horned longhorn and my trouble began. What I didn’t realize was that old cow didn’t mean to be roped no shape or fashion. Well, Me and my little cow pony just had to light out and out run that cow and surrender my prized lariat. Slim and the other cowpokes had a good laugh and recovered my lost treasure. They told me I should stick to my fence post and trees, which just naturally peeved me off..
Feeling pretty ornery I sought my revenge on them iron headed cowpokes . That night while they was eating supper in the line shack I roped the stove pipe…….now I didn’t study on this real good before and never realized how mad them smoked up cowpokes would be. I rode the drag the rest of that drive.
On my twelfth birthday the boys gave me my pride and joy, a sixty foot braided lariat from down old Mexico. Boy was I proud, of course there was a promise not to rope anymore stove pipes. Well I commenced to ropin’ with an even more enthusiasm. Before school on the way to school, after school……….of course the teacher didn’t care for me ropin’ those girls but the other guys my age thought I was pretty good.
That summer I was in hog heaven, riding with the other cowpokes, ropin’ horses, cows cowboys……and running like……………….Slim and I rode to town early in the fall and I roped one cowboy who didn’t really care for my tricks, you see this here cowboy was sitting in the street with his six shooter pointed at the banker and meant to have his money , Well I roped him and Slim got that peacemaker and we were just naturally heroes after that. From then on nobody seemed to mind my ropin’ atall
Not really a western story but offered for your comments………..
October 29, 1955
Construction workers on Crater Road made a grisly discovery while felling trees for a road-widening project. Workers cut a huge Oak, which they discovered, had a hollow most of its height. In this they found a small skeleton clutching a rusted antique musket. Authorities were called in and will perform an autopsy to attempt to identify the remains if possible. The Sheriff was hopeful he would have the results in a week or ten days.
1864……..I never liked this war, and I sure never meant to fight in it. When word come of my son Richard’s death at some place called Cold Harbor, I could stand it no more. Three sons I’ve lost and none of them had even started a family. I gathered the livestock and left them across the valley at the Shifflet place and took out for Virginia, the only thing on my mind to kill me some Yankees.
I crossed the Shenandoah Valley in the night, not wanting to believe the destruction the Yankees had left behind them. Chimney’s was all they left on some farms, ashes on others. Bridges burned, crops and fields ruint. I kept to myself and moved on east. My only thought was to git to where the fightin was and git in it.
Outside of Rectortown I come up on a dozen or so federal soldiers and findin myself in a good spot I commenced to droppin ‘em. By the time they realized what was happening I had downed two and they started scattering like quail into the woods. Shifting positions I had me two more when the dangdest racket you ever heard proceeded to roust them out and sent them hightailin’ it south along the railroad. In parting I knocked one more from his saddle for luck. Feeling good about my work I was fixin’ to smoke a pipe when a couple of dandies stepped up behind me and told me to hold still. Now I ain’t no pilgrim so I looked ‘em over and seeing they was Reb’s I figured I’d sit tight and let them do the moving around. Course them four Remington pistols had to git your attention some. So I lit my pipe.
Turns out them dandies were scouts for some fella named Mosby and if I’d sit tight he wished a word with the varmit that spoilt his ambush. Directly he come ridin up with about twenty of them Rebs and looked me over. Well, he slapped his gloves on his leg, laughed and wondered if the Yankees knowed they was runnin’ from somebodies grandpa . Told me if straight shootin was what I wanted just to follow him and I’d get a belly full. So I climbed up behind one of them officers and we hightailed out of there.
We camped that night in the woods east of Ashby’s gap and Mosby and his men fed me good. He asked if he could look at my rifle, a Colt revolving rifle my second son had left at home when he was on furlough early on in the war. Mosby said he had little use for long guns but reckoned that the way I shot he needed to send me to Richmond to put me where I could do some good. Seems they was havin a big fight down around Petersburg and they needed every sharpshooter they could find. Well, I rode with them fellas nigh on two weeks and had a couple more chances to go after them Yankees. First of June Mosby went to Richmond and I went with him. We had agreed I was a little long in the tooth to be traipsin’ around the country on the back of a horse.
When I was a youngun my granpa had rode me to Richmond on the wagon with him, but I never seen the sights that was a goin on. Why there was people sleepin in the streets, kids runnin all over like they didn’t have no ma and pa, well I was plumb skittish till some General had me put on a train headed south. Now I never rode no train car before and I’ll tell almighty, well a more smelly, dirty rough ridin trip I’ve ever took. The Rebs on that train didn’t seem too happy to be going but we all went to Petersburg that day.
Now I ain’t never lived no easy life, but things around Petersburg is shore slim. I heard some of these soldier boys say if a stray dog or cat come through they’d be havin’ a feast …Wormy bread and moldy meat ‘s all I’ve ever seen. Why if I was to home in the hills, well I ain’t tho. Most days some officer or Sargent finds me afor dawn and I’m in a ditch or up a tree, but by golly it’s like shootin turkey’s. Them Yankees just got to pop their head up and look and when they do I part their hair for them. Course they got rifles too and from time to time we’ll have us a shore enough squirrel shoot, why there was one the other day that was plumb crafty. He had him a tree and was all leafed up with cedar limbs, well I seen his smoke and he didn’t move as quick as a squirrel would have.
Sunup to sundown the last week I been in a lightnin struck Oak bout a hundred foot up. Nice and cozy, just gotta watch the wind so the smoke don’t sit around me. Some nights I just sleep where I am so as not to have to do all that climbing. Besides it’s funny to see them guys scatter from around their fires in the cold. Come the crack of dawn I’m wakin em up and makin them spill their coffee. Mm….. Cup of that would sure be good right now.
November 12, 1955
The results of the autopsy on the skeleton found on Crater road on the 29th of last month were completed yesterday.
A local antique dealer identified the rusted musket as a colt-revolving rifle manufactured around 1860.
The skeletal remains were believed to be of the same approximate age.
The coroner also stated that they appear to be the remains of a sixty to seventy-year-old woman.
D. HOLT 2004
No cowboy would be caught riding without them. Decorative and useful, the history of spurs goes back to the Roman Empire. The Roman legions developed spurs to guide their horses, leaving their hands free to fight.
Originally, spurs were made with a single protrusion. The Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan wore prick spurs around 1200 A. D. Spurs with moveable rowels were first seen in France in the early 1200’s. In the Middle Ages knights “earned” their spurs in battle or on the jousting field.
In the United States spurs have changed styles with the times. In colonial days riders wore spurs that were light and conservative with small rowels. Native Americans preferred a quirt to spurs. The U.S. cavalry had spurs for almost every occasion including ” Dancing” spurs that were purely decorative. Spurs are still an important item to a cowboy or cowgirl’s gear. They increase his or her ability to control a mount in any situation.
Almost any search engine will find amazing and informative results when you type in “spurs’, a lot of sorting through “uncowboy” articles, but very interesting……D.
A Tenderfoot Gets His Spurs
We was playin checkers, jess and me when the stage pulled in, and the tenderfoot got off. He was shore a looker, store bought suit, derby hat and them spat things on his shoes, ha! The two us bout busted a gut watchin him look over the street .Now me and jess got nothing against pilgrims you see ,but this here fella was green..green as a gourd ! Shore enough here he comes to talk……. well me and jess just had to give him all the pointers on how and what he needed to be a real cowboy… well that greenhorn took off to the mercantile like a mule headin home on Friday,,,,,,,,,
Directly here he come prancing like a rooster….now I had told him how a real cowboy didn’t do nothing with out his spurs……eatin, sleepin, ridin, well this yahoo had the dangedist pair of them California spurs you ever seen. Most of a foot long in the rowl and near big as a coffee saucer ….and here he come…..down the steps of the mercantile he tumbled when them rowls big as saucers caught on the top step and when he finally stopped a cartwheelin he was so tangled up that the town drunk old slim just moseyed over to help him, well now how them spurs cut that ear offin that pilgrim I don’t know but he was squallin like a Sioux squaw and cussin me and jess like you ain’t never heard……..good thing we didn’t tell him to buy no pistol…………
Dale Holt 5-07-03