Who Are the People in your Neighborhood: Ranch Hand
As a North-Eastern city girl, I can honestly say I have known few people who can include Ranch Hand on their resume. That was before I got talking to Pete.
Pete says things like feedlots and cowboss. He uses the terms draw and nob to describe parts of a terrain. In short, his language is authentic and also poetic. And here I've been calling Hank Williams my Cowboy Poet for years. Probably because I never thought I'd get to interview one for real.
What is the best thing about being a Ranch Hand?
Pete points out that there are distinctions to be made first, categories of cowboying that include Texans vs. Everyone Else in the World and Open Range vs. working cattle in fenced pastures and feedlots (see there's one of those fancy words). Pete hails from the "everyone else in the world" camp and work on the Open Range. So what is the answer for that kind of cowboying?
Pete's answer: "Scenery, scenery, scenery."
Now here comes the poetry.
He says, "I remember riding ridgetops in Eastern California and seeing the sunrise over Utah, spending hours in canyons few people have ever seen. Blended with that, living in wild country you develop a relationship with the wildlife that's about what a quiet person would wish for with humans. You learn to understand the coyote's language a little and to not be minded by deer and other prey. One time, at the top of a draw I climbed up a nob and there was a fawn just standing there. He didn't bother me and I didn't bother him as I rode by. Then I thought, How often do you get the chance? and reached out an slapped him on the butt. He ran off and I'm sure hated humanity and probably built a highway as revenge."
The coyote's language -- how cool is that? And apparently that wide open space also allows the perfect audience for cowboy singing. So I had to ask.
What do you sing while in the saddle?
Pete's top four include "Night Rider's Lament," "Utah Carrol," "That's The Way Love Goes" by Merle Haggard and Van Morrison's "Joey Boy."
What is the worst thing about being a Ranch Hand?
Contradicting every John Wayne Western I've ever seen, a life in the saddle does not get you a lot of dates. "Your dating pool mainly lives in your imagination," Pete says, but adds, "Of course, those ladies were some of the quietest and most adoring I've known."
But get ready, there are some more Duke Myth-Busters.
What might folks not know about being a Ranch Hand?
"That a whole day in the saddle is longer than a two-hour Western and doesn't require a pistol. Oh, and your average ranch hand spends half of his time fixing fences."
Geez, no dates, lots of barbed wire. I hope there is something to lighten up the work.
Anything funny ever happen?
Pete answers, "All the time." But then goes on to explain how it involves mean animals.
"A ranch hand lives in a world of malicious humor. Horses, cows, hogs, goats, chickens and other two-legged ranchlife, him or herself, every creature plots to be entertained at a cost to another. Among all the creatures that walk or creep or fly on the ranch, only the sheep isn't funny."
Pete reports that he had the chance to work with and befriend a comical hoarse named "Smokey." During a trip across a creek chasing the cattle in front of them, Pete braced to go up the bank one way while Smokey went another. The fact that Pete landed out of the saddle is easy to imagine, but he goes on to say that the horse did it on purpose and qualifies this claim by asserting that all who new the creature agreed.
Maybe the livestock need dates too.