Four cowboys were sittin’ around a table. One of’em had lived in west Texas and punched cows there his whole life. One of’em grew up in west Texas but had punched cows in south Texas as well as Colorado. One of’em grew up in Colorado but had cowboy’d in Texas and other places. The fourth one grew up in Iowa, lived in Texas, but had worked on ranches from Montana to Texas.
Sounds like the beginning to a good joke, doesn’t it? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but this actually happened to me the other day. Some buddies and myself were doin’ one of the things cowboys do best…sittin’ around and discussing the finer points of life. As a lot of cowboy discussions do, this one turned to stories about workin’ cows. We talked about the usual things-outfits we’ve worked for, bosses we’ve had, characters we’ve known, wrecks we’ve seen happen and been a part of (I heard a real good story about ridin’ into a hornet’s nest and the wreck that came with it), etc. Eventually the talk turned to gear-the types of usin’ gear we preferred. For those of ya that ain’t privileged enough ‘ta know what usin’ gear is that means stuff like saddles, ropes, stirrups, bits, leggings, hobbles, tie ropes, etc.
Since a few of us had cowboy’d in different parts of the country, we got to discussin’ the different styles of using gear and the different ways things are done in certain parts of the country.
Up north, especially in the northwest part of the United States there is a large influence of the buckaroo culture. This subset of the cowboy culture uses traditional vaquero methods passed down through generations when it comes to horsemanship, roping and the handling of stock. They ride slick fork saddles (many are wade trees) that have beautiful tooling and silver, with bucking rolls attached to’em. They take many years to finish a horse, beginning with a snaffle or bosal, then the two rein and ending with a finished bridle horse that rides in a spade bit attached to romel reins and responds to a touch as light as a feather. They ride 5 inch or larger bell shaped stirrups, many times with long draping tapaderos attached to them. Their ropes are made of braided rawhide and are at least 50 foot and sometimes much longer. When it comes to horsemanship and working cattle, their motto is, “It takes as long as it takes.” Every move is slow and methodical, with no wasted movement. They use fancy rope shots with names like “Hoolihan” to catch the cattle. This method sometimes takes longer than others, but the general idea is that it’s easier on horses, cattle and buckaroos.
Down south, especially in the southwest part of the U.S., the influence is more of what’s come to be known as the Texas cowpuncher. This subset of the culture we all love also uses some traditional vaquero methods (as all cowboy stuff came from the vaquero), but they have put their own twist on things. They tend to ride swell fork saddles (like will james or modified association trees) that are usually rough out leather and may be lucky to have a single piece of silver on’em. They start horses in a snaffle rig and after a few rides are out in the big pasture, riding through cattle (sometimes roping them) and starting the horse in its line of work. They ride oxbow or roper type stirrups, sometimes covered by roughout monkey nose tapaderos. Their ropes are twisted nylon and/or polyester or a combination thereof and may be lucky to reach 35 feet in length. When it comes to horsemanship and working cattle, their motto is, “It took too long no matter how long it took.” They are more apt to use the “go and blow” method, which can be faster, but can also be a little tougher on horses, cattle and cowpunchers.
The theory behind these two methods of doing the same job really boils down to geography. I’ve been in huge open pastures in Montana where a guy had all the room and time in the world to shake out the biggest, fanciest loop he could think of, take his time setting it up and if he missed, he wasn’t gonna lose sight of that cow. I’ve also been in pastures in Texas so overrun with mesquite trees that a man is lucky to keep his hat and not get his eyes gouged out by thorns, so if you get close enough to that cow to rope it and have enough room to build a loop and throw it, you better get it done fast….and if you miss ya might not see that cow the rest of the day. Or week. Or month.
I’m not taking sides here. Both styles serve a purpose and get the job done. I tend to use a little of both. And that’s my point. There’s more than one way to do the same thing. Many times, the way a job is accomplished is dictated by the circumstances surrounding it.
Take Christianity, for example. For about 2,000 years Christians have all been trying to get the same job done-do what Jesus said to do in Mathew 28, which is to go and make other Christians, teach’em what Jesus taught and baptize’m in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, Christians have managed to come up with as many ways of gettin’ this simple job done as there are hairs on my horse’s butt.
And there’s nothin’ wrong with that. Matter of fact, I think it’s great. Matter of fact, I also think it’s needed….and here’s why. We (human beings) all come from different back grounds, we’ve all got a different story, different experiences that have shaped us into who we are. Consequently, we’re more apt to relate to something (like the message of Jesus Christ) if it’s presented to us in a way that we can relate to and understand.
True, the gospel can penetrate thru any man made barrier, but I also happen to know the latter is also true. I ran from God and His calling on my life for many years. Why you ask? Because due to the experiences in my life, the image I had of a Christian man was not something I longed to be. All I wanted to be was a cowboy. I didn’t know you could REALLY be both. It took guys that I respected first and foremost for their cowboy skills to get thru to me with the gospel. I ain’t sayin’ it never would have happened otherwise, but I do know it sure made it a lot easier to reach a hammerhead like me.
Because a couple of cowboys thought outside the box and instead of beatin’ me with the “Jesus stick”, approached me on my level, I’m a 100% sold out faithful follower of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My biggest desire and calling in life is to reach cowboys and anyone else that’ll listen with the gospel-in a way that they can relate to-in the way that God made me and called me to do it. And that way is different than a lot of other folks. But it still gets the job done. And I thank God that He brought other men into my life with the same calling and desire to reach folks the same way.
One of, if not the most, influential of these men is the owner of this website. His name is Kevin Weatherby. God caused our paths to intersect a year ago and the devil’s been stompin’ around in hell, cussin’ and screamin’ ever since. In case you didn’t know, we represent a group called Save the Cowboy (savethecowboy.com). We’re doin’ everything we can to reach out to fellas like us, their families and anyone else that’ll listen. Our methods are a little different than others, but they get the job done. If ya don’t like it, tough. You can go do the same job a different way. If ya do like it, great. Save The Cowboy can sure use and dang sure appreciates your support.
There’s a bunch of different ways to get the same job done. But I’m humbled and thankful every day that God called a couple’a guys to do it this way.
“Then Jesus walked up to’em and and said, “I’ve been made Boss over heaven’s Green Pastures and all the pastures of this world. Go now and recruit riders for my brand from all over the world, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teachin’ them to ride the cowboy way I have taught y’all. And remember this, I am always with you, even to the very end of every trail.” (Mathew 28:19-20) Simplified Cowboy Version
Jake Hershey 6/17/12