Thursday, August 17, 2023

Real Cowboy Tales: Bein’ A Cowboy

By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Historian 

For those of you who would like to hear what it's really like to be a Cowboy, I thought I would write down a few stories of my life.

This story relays to my time on one of the ranches back in the late '90s and early 2000s called the Cobra, which is a fairly small outfit of a little over 60,000 acres of mountainous very rough country that could kill you and your horse if you weren’t careful. 

The Cobra is located in an area called Klondike Arizona, not much there but a small general store with the post office located within it, and from what I hear it’s now gone.

This area only consisted of cattle ranches at that time which is located about 58 miles of dirt road from either Wilcox or Safford Arizona. Because of the distance on the old rocky dirt road we only went to town about every two weeks and sometimes only once a month to get supplies and maybe have a drink or two or three and sometimes more at one of the local beer joints. We took advantage of goin’ to town.

My pard Jeff whom I had worked with on other outfits took over the Cobra as ranch manager and he asked me to join him and being we were best of friends I never even gave it a second thought. This outfit had been only taken care of by an old couple who just watched over the place and it had been let go for quite a while with the state threatening to pull the leases.

Now the next thing to understand is this outfit was a purebred longhorn ranch and many of them hadn’t seen people in probably three years being up in the rough mountain pastures. These longhorns were wild, mean, and fast. We wore out two horses a day at times rounding these critters up and pushing them down to the ranch area. 

You had to push these cattle like buffalo, slow and easy only guiding them as best you could. when some would brake away you just let them go as not to lose the main body and came back later to gather them once more. You didn’t use your rope much on these critters but if you did you had to heal them because if you headed them you might not get your rope back for a while and sometimes they would turn and come up your rope a hooking with those double twist horns trying to gut your horse and you also.

I remember one time I was working with one-eyed Luke and yes he had only one eye. Jeff and Roddy roped this big cow by the head and heal, and sucked it to the ground while we had to brand it. 

This cow hadn’t seen people in lord knows how long and I guessed this cow to be about three years old. Well, when we finished I went to pull the head rope but hadn’t quite cleared the horns when Luke pulled the foot rope, this onery bitch came up before I could get out of the way and hit me, goring me slightly in the left leg and threw me what felt like ten feet in the air and maybe fifteen feet away before hitting the ground. I jumped up quick because that bitch was coming fast but I got to the side of the pen and clambered up to the top real quick. After that, I looked at old Luke and said “Next time look at me with your good eye”

There is much more to tell about when it came to a few of the guys getting hurt, and a few were hurt pretty badly but I do not wish to get into that part. Every day the dangers were there, if not because of the terrain, horse wrecks, or shale cliffs it was those wild ass longhorns themselves. 

Anyway, maybe this little insight I am giving you can give you a slight idea of what it’s like to be a working Cowboy.

Terry McGahey

1 comment:

  1. Now before I talk about what it means to be a cowboy, I'd like to make a special announcement. I plan on making a movie called, "Billy Austin" sometime in the near future which is based on Steve Earle's classic number one hit. I plan on doing it long after this outrageous Hollywood writers strike is over and done with. Hopefully, Hollywood will shut up and get back to making movies that we as Americans tend to enjoy. As for what it means to be a cowboy, it's all about loyalty, honesty, gratitude, and the willingness to survive any situation that may be considered life-threatening to some but not so much so to others. I grew up watching Westerns so this article DEFINITELY applies to me. One of my favorite actors, James Drury, the Virginian himself, believed in a sort of "Cowboy Code" that he was willing to share with Bob Terry of WesternsOnTheWeb on YouTube. Terry also owns "Wild West Toys" in Texas which specializes in making cap guns right here in the U.S.A. They have other cool Western-related toys too as well as Western books and movies. I've been to their website and they are awesome. Bob has exactly what you need to help you win back your nostalgia and make you feel like a kid again. Getting back to the Cowboy Code, the rules are pretty simple. 1)If it's not true, don't say it. 2)If it's not yours, don't take it. and number 3)If it's not right, don't do it. I can add one more rule in there. 4)If you love something, set it free. I believe in this code and apply it to my daily life. And being from Florida, I know that's odd but it's better than any other code I would wanna live by. And there is much more to being a cowboy than you think. Ya gotta be able to get up at the crack of dawn so you can feed the horses, the cows, and, most importantly, your family. Ya have to be willing to get the work done without having to complain. Sometimes you can afford to make a mistake but other times you can't. Shoot from the hip AND the heart if ya wanna say what's on your mind. Don't let a man or a woman crowd ya. Never beg another man or woman. Stay true to the ones ya love. Don't utter a bad word about the dead. (unless they were someone you hated or never knew LOL). Never take another man's belongings. He might need them whenever. Don't ever pet the rattlesnakes. They don't rattle for nothing, son. Pick your words carefully and wisely. Cuz once you've said it ya can't take it back. Never mouth off to authorities. Run yer mouth and they'll run ya in. Never fight a man bigger than you. Remember what Festus Haggen said on "Gunsmoke". If ya start trouble, somebody's gonna be on you like ugly on an ape. Never lie about nothing in your life. (Except for when ya gotta REALLY make something up or ya can't remember). Don't ever rob from the dead. They have theirs and you have YOURS. Never abuse a man, woman, or child. One is defenseless, one is mean, and one is deadly. Never question a man's authority. You've no right to test the law's patience. Always have respect for the law. Be nice to THEM, they'll be nice to YOU. Never talk politics if you can avoid it. Most people don't care anyway. And finally, always keep your word. Them that don't is a coward. So remember what I said. And if ya break ANY of these rules, Tom, Terry, and myself will be the first ones to know. From everyone here at the American Cowboy Chronicles AND my home base at the Lake House at Biltmore Drive on the Biltmore Ranch, we'll see ya soon if ever. And remember. Don't squat with yer spurs on. Yee Haw!


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