When my kids were little, they used to travel with me when I went to nearby ranches to purchase cattle for the feed yard.
One of the ranches that they visited was AL Ranch. I’ll never forgot riding around in Al’s pickup truck looking at cattle that were about to ship to the feed yard, and my middle daughter (Megan—she was probably about 3) looking at Al and announcing, “You aren’t a REAL cowboy, you don’t have on the right hat…”. (Al was wearing a baseball style hat, instead of a cowboy hat). I waffled between wanting to laugh and being embarrassed, but I was proud of Al—he took it right in stride like any good grandpa. He looked at Megan and said,
“You know, it’s not the hat that makes the cowboy”.
So, what makes a real cowboy?
Webster defines the word ‘cowboy’ as, “one who tends cattle or horses”. I define it as a responsible and knowledgeable caregiver for cattle. At the heart of any good cowboy is a love for both his animals and the land. He (or she) puts the needs of his animals before his own needs.
I remember another time that I was up at Al’s place. It was April and a spring snow storm had brought cold temperatures and bad weather conditions. Al was in the middle of “calving” which means that his mama cows were having their babies. The gestation period for a bovine (calf) is roughly the same as for a human, and a mama cow has a calf once per year. Most calves in Nebraska are born in the springtime as the grass greens up and winter goes away.
Springtime in Nebraska is notorious for being inconsistent, and this particular year we had very cold temperatures and snow even though it was April. Al and his son-in-law were busy taking newly born calves into the “heat box” in the barn so that they would survive the weather. They worked diligently for several long days until the weather cleared up.
Al is a good cowboy, no matter what type of hat he wears…
Calf #718 was born March 17th on a grass pasture close to Al’s house and corrals. He spent the first couple months of his life in a place where Al could check on him frequently. His mama took good care of him, and so did his “cowboy”…