L’Amour, one of my favorite Western writers, once wrote: “When a man or woman
came West, their past became an unknown and the present became an open book. They
soon became known by their actions or lack of. No one cared who your father was
or what you had done. The only things that mattered were, that you were honest,
had courage and that you did your job.’’
The early Western population was
small and the towns few. In spite of the vast prairies, sooner or later everyone
knew personally or had heard of everyone else that mattered. There was literally
no place to hide and few secrets that could be kept. A historical writer once
“Although the vastness of the West was almost beyond imagination,
one fact kept it small. That was the number of water holes available. No matter
your color, ethnic origins, occupation or financial condition, you had to have
water. As a result, almost everyone in the Old West eventually knew personally
or had heard of everyone else.
bring the Old West into true focus, not many realize that Santa Fe, N.M., was
10 years old when people landed at Plymouth Rock. While the new folks back East
were trying to clear timber, plant crops and win their independence, the Old West
was being explored, being stocked with horses and cattle, learning to cope with
little water, vast prairies and the fact no one cared if they were independent
or not. If the truth were known, most had left civilization because of a dominating
wife, boss, banker, family, a judge or a cranky sheriff.
One of those
early settlers stated: “If you can shoot well, no one really paid attention to
how you signed your name.” Another said he did not agree with turning the other
cheek as he had found that hitting them in the chin and belly did a lot more good.
than a steam-powered train, the Old West existed in the ‘‘Horsepower Age.’’ Here
are a few quotes about the bovine population by cowboys.
“I got a grulla
horse that was born of a Missouri mule, sired by a catamount with a sore tooth.”
One cowboy stated:
“The horse the man was riding was so ugly you didn’t know whether to laugh at
the horse or pity the owner.”
Another sarcastic cowboy described the horse
his boss made him ride: “I can ride him in a run across a thick-holed prairie-dog
town without a fear. His feet are so big they won’t fit in a prairie dog hole.”
rough-trotting horse was once described thusly: “If you ride that old hoss at
a hard trot for four hours you will have to dismount and lie down to let your
innards sort themselves out and find their proper places.”
of a smooth-trotting horse went like this. “That old hoss is so smooth in a long
trot if you will listen carefully, you can hear your rear end chuckling with glee.”
A modern-day writer said the computer word “gigabyte” was not new. More than 100
years ago a cowboy warned about his outlaw mount: “If you gig him too hard with
your spurs he will turn his head and bite you.”
Trew - August
23, 2011 column
Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trewblue@centra media.net.
For books see delberttrew.com. His column appears weekly.