Cowboys & city slickers, lend me your ears!
“Howdy pardner! This here’s the Trail Boss down at the Rockin’ R Ranch and beside me here’s Mama, she keeps this here place runnin’, servin’ up a lotta grits to me and the boys.”
This rugged cowboy has one thumb hitched in the back pocket of his worn and faded Wrangler jeans and in his other hand he holds a dusty white, sweat-stained hat. He addresses us from in front of a massive stone clad-fireplace in the main room of the lodge at his ranch.
Placing his hat under his arm, he pulls a toothpick out of his pocket and, while fumbling with it between his teeth, he continues thoughtfully, “Well, we kinda like to keep our ranch secret but if y’all are willin’ to promise that you won’t tell nobody no how, we’ll tell ya ’bout the Felts who were down to see us this summer.”
“Showed up here with over fifty people. Yup, fifty! Hard to believe. They started out jus the two of ’em in ’43 durin’ the War and now they came from all over, even Australia n’ Japan, to our little Ranch.”
he Trail Boss is a stout, sturdy man. Not rising above 5’8″, he stands firm in his boots, barrel chested with square shoulders and a steady look in his eyes that mixes with a gleam of pleasure at being a simple cowboy.
“Well now, here in Antimony (population of 75, no make that 76 as Jodine jus’ had number seven, towns really growin’!) it purt’ near never rains but when the Felts were here we had ourselves a good pourin’. Did they have enough sense ta stay indoors? Nope. Out they went to our bungee cord sling-shot swing. Got soakin’ wet, evra one of ’em!”
Mention of the swing brings a chuckle to his lips. “You shoulda seen the Forsyth lady! Expected ‘er to be mild mannered, one o’ them refined city type gals. Never will forget the look on ‘er face when she went sailin’ towards the trees!”
Then raising the pitch of his voice a bit he intones, “‘Now listen you guys, just a little pull!’ she says. ‘Did you hear me-e-e-e-e?’ Back the cord stretches. ‘No, no! That’s too far! Stop!’ she says. ‘Why did I ever trust you guys! Oh-h-h-h be nice to me!’ Why I never saw anyone repentin’ so fast in my life. Ha-ha! Those relations of ‘ers couldn’t hear a word she was sayin over all their laughin’.”
ust then Mrs. Trail Boss speaks up. She’s been sitting quietly beside her cowboy fidgeting with a dish cloth in her hand. “Don’t mean to dwell too long on Mrs. Forsyth but did I ever git a kick outta watchin’ her at the Talent Show. Wearin’ a pillowcase and dancin’ about! Oh my!”
“Oh, and speakin’ of the talent show,” says the Boss, poking the toothpick into the air, “the family has a real ham. Williams I believe it was. Not only a ham but a taco and burrito too! Strange though, some guy with his hat on sideways walks out holdin’ a stick up in the air. No one kin make out who it is. I heard someone on one side say, ‘Is that Lamar?’ and someone else said, ‘It shore looks like Lamar, but I cain’t xactly say.’ Tell ya what, that there boy o’ Lamar’s, just back from bein’ gone fer two years, said he weren’t able to recognize who it was wanderin’ about, cuttin’ up like that. No siree, he never seen the likes o’ that before from his pappy.”
“Well we got these Felts saddled up. Yeah, mosta ’em looked like they’d seen the back o’ horse before and we was off to the trails, fordin’ streams and hikin’ up steep trails to look out on our picturesque valley. Never fails, get ’em up there and they never wanna leave.”
“Tell ya one thing about these Felts, they love to sit round ‘n talk. Startin’ out after breakfast every mornin’ and every evenin’ they spoke such high minded things that we never heared tell saw ’round these parts before. Shakespeare, bible readin’ and poetry. We happened to take a likin’ to somethun what the Head Honcho of the whole gang said.” Then hitching up his pants and leaving the toothpick soundly lodged in the side of his mouth he says, “It went somethun like this:
A Family is a deeply rooted tree with branches of different strengths all receiving nourishment from an infinite source.
A Family is where character is formed, values are learned, ethics are created, and society is preserved.
A Family is where all members contribute and share, cooperate and work, and accept their responsibilities toward the good of the group.
A Family is where holidays are celebrated with feasting, birthdays acknowledged with gifts, and thoughts of days gone by kept alive with fond remembrances.
A Family is where each can find solace and comfort in grief, pleasure and laughter in joy, and kindness and encouragement in daily living.
A Family is a haven of rest, a sanctuary of peace, and most of all, a harbor of love.
(By Mary Feldman)
“Yup, that’s the Felts all right,” and concluding, the Trail Boss puts his foot up on the stonework in front of the fireplace and remains quiet, ponderously engaged with the toothpick again, studying his boots.
Mama, always looking like she’s about to get up and head back to her kitchen, reaches up to adjust her glasses and adds, “Once they got a ball game goin’ and we seen that some of ’em was wearin’ boots ‘stead of sneakers. Well if that didn’t make ’em look like real ranch hands! Didn’t take too many trips back n’ forth on the court before some of the boys–even some o’ the young bucks–were havin’ trouble stayin’ up. Don’t mean to be rude, but those city slickers need to spend more time on top of a horse and less behind a desk.”
ooking up again and leaning forward on his knee, the Boss continues, “We got an old cattle truck that we use to carry the dudes down to the river in. We ain’t never bothered to clean the truck up so it’s good fer gettin’ the city folks out n’ introduced to the smell and feel of the range. Well I heard they had a time goin’ down the river! Our city folks always have a time goin’ down the river don’t they Mama?”
Before he has finished she has taken hold of his elbow and, looking up, she quietly cautions him, “Don’t think we oughtna bring up the matter o’ the river dear.”
“Yeah, er, well I’m right sorry ’bout that. Anyway them children sure liked ridin’ round our little pond.” Then wrinkling his brow he said, “One of ’em found out exactly how deep it is in that there pond–near planted himself right in the bottom!”
“And speakin’ o’ the children, that Family’s got themselves some fine cowboys. We sent ’em out ta round up the cattle, then we put ’em up ta some rodeoin’ on some of our ornery steers. One of them boys from out California way whispered such nice things to one of our bulls that he jus strolled right outta the gate! I never seen nothun’ like it ’round these parts.”
“Yeah,” adds Mama, “and some of those grownups sure got themselves off the buckin’ steers quick. Weren’t gonna win no ridin’ contest that day, no-siree.”
hen reaching for his guitar, the Trail Boss sits down next to Mama and strums out a few chords. Harmonizing together they favor their listeners with an assortment of cowboy campfire songs.
There’s a pause after they finish. The music has brought a peaceful air to the room and the evening is growing quiet.
“When we talk ’bout the Felts we gotta talk about young children from many different families, sharin’ a distinct family resemblance, behavin’ like best friends all the day long. We gotta talk ’bout the little gatherings of the grownups where you hear them goin’ on about ideas that make ’em lean forward in their chairs. Their up at all hours of the night reminiscin’ and expostulatin’ together.”
“And see this blackboard here? On the last mornin’ they was here, they had this thing marked up with lines startin’ with themselves n’ then branchin’ back to Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma ‘n on back four steps. And ya know what? They talked over evra one o’ their progenitors tryin’ to imagine what each was like.”
Then Mama chimes in with a bright voice, “One o’ the boys, the one with a curly head o’ hair the likes o’ which we never seen out in these parts, he carried the family line right back to kings and queens. Imagine that, kings and queens right here at our Ranch!”
“Well, as I was sayin’, the Head Honcho of the gang had a couple o’ chances to speak to all of ’em. He kept talkin’ ’bout the family, about stayin’ close, ’bout bein’ willin’ to help one another and about playin’ together. I could see that everyone liked listenin’ to him.”
“Mama and me, we can’t figure why a family like that doesn’t just want to all settle down together in a little valley like ours. Whadda they want in goin’ off on aeroplanes in all different directions fer? Hoo-ee! We never kin figure them city folks out!”