Julie Carter

Welcome to the West as I see it

Within these pages, you will find the end result of a lot of living and laughing, finally put between book covers to share with the world. A laugh is never a better laugh than when it can be shared and shared again.

I hope you choose to own a copy of my book, Cowgirl Sass and Savvy. It is a selection of some of the first stories individually published in a syndicated column by the same name that I have written weekly since 2002. They offer you a peek into ranch and cowboy life that isn't what you see as you drive by or what you read in the glossy slick magazines selling cowboy clothes, furniture and adventures.

And most of all, I hope the stories bring you, at the very least, a smile and a good laugh. No better gift could I offer you.

I also offer you a glimpse of this rural area as I see it through my camera lens. Shop the Mercantile page for posters that I have combined my photography with words I have written. Also there are calendars showcasing some of my favorite photos from this year. A link to my landscape photography website will let you browse through what I see when I travel down the dirt roads of the West.

Julie's Weblog

December 5, 2009

While you slept …

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 8:50 am

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy Julie Carter

There is absolutely not anything funny about a grass or forest fire but often in the midst
of the firefight, humor arrives.

One night on the remote plains of the far side of the county, a lightning strike started a
fire in a ranch pasture.

Not anything much out there except miles of ranchland and what remained of a teensy
town that had retained only a few deserted buildings and a name.

It was also at least two hours by highway from any real fire-fighting agency.

The nearest rancher to this ghost-stop on the highway served as mayor and fire chief by
title and reputation. High desert ranching requires a great sense of humor and the
occasional ego boost that an elevated title can sometimes provide.

One of the items remaining in the long-deserted town of Ramon was an ancient fire
truck. The battery required constant charging, which didn’t happen, and the water tank
leaked so it was never full. Other than that, it was in fine shape.

The night of this specific grass fire, the phone calls went out to a few ranchers. Waking
up the chief of the Ramon Fire Department took some doing, but he finally answered the

Pulling on his britches and his hat, the usual rancher’s lid that needed an oil change
months ago, he hollered at his nearly adult son and out the door they went.

The process of charging the battery and finding a hose to fill the water truck began.
Meanwhile, over the hill back to the west, another cowboy who had always been a
addicted to farm sales, knew he had a cattle sprayer parked somewhere “over yonder on
the hill.”

The most recent endorsement of this piece of equipment had been at a cattle-spraying

A cowboy commented that he could pee further than the sprayer could spray, leaving its
validity as fire fighting equipment certainly at least questionable.

However, it did hold water, so after the tires were aired up, the cowboy hooked onto it
with the pickup and off he went over the hill to fight the fire.
By this time, the fire had gotten so big, that in the dark, it alone summoned folks from
near and far.

Back at the Ramon Fire Department, aka the chief’s house, the fire truck was revved up
and headed out to the fire. It was very dark and hard to see where exactly to drive as the
truck made its way through the pasture toward the flames.

The chief was at the wheel of the truck, barreling through the night to the rescue like a
caped crusader, while his eldest son was riding fireman-style on the truck fender
hollering “EEEE, HAAWWW,” at the top of his lungs.

About that time, the chief drove the truck off in a wash and it came to a sudden, solid
halt, nose down. The son on the fender was tossed through the air, landing somewhere in
the near vicinity. But he came up dusting himself off. No harm done. Nothing broke,
except the fire truck.

Nearly everyone in close proximity of the fire left what they were doing to go check out
the fire truck wreck.

Meanwhile the cowboy with the sprayer, coming to save the day, blew out a tire. So
when the chore of dragging the chief and his fire truck out of the wash was finished, the
crew all went to see what the problem was with the cowboy.

In the meantime, the rancher with the fire on his property had put his road grader into
operation and made a fire-line circle around the fire. The flames eventually died out on
their own.

It was still the wee hours of the morning, everyone was wide-awake and nobody wanted
to go back home. So they circled their rigs, drug out the food they’d brought (another
standard thing for country folk) and had a version of a block party.

The rancher thanked everyone for their help, and exhausted, headed off to tend to his
livestock and ranch chores.

All this while you slept.

Knowing when its time to quit

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 8:34 am

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy  By  Julie Carter

John Wayne taught about every cowboy I know how to be fearless. It’s the movies, but they believe it anyway.

They will fight to get on a horse that clearly has blood in his eye and rope wild cattle that would love nothing better than to run a horn through them or their horses.

They will climb windmill towers in a blizzard wind and track cougars through the snow, fly crop dusters like a wild man, and generally undertake most any dangerous activity they can dream up.
On occasion, they will even go so far as to order their wives around.

When not endangering themselves, they love nothing better than to help their pards out along those same lines.

Button was running a big working crew and had already put in a full day. With great concentration, sitting astride his cowpony, he was counting cattle out the gate.

“Button,” came a voice from behind him.

Button went on counting; ignoring the idiot that would dare interrupt.

“Button,” came the voice again and getting the same response as before.

This continued, but Button just kept counting.

When the last cow got through the gate, Button turned and said, “What do you want, Reese?”

Reese tossed a big rattlesnake onto Button’s lap and the wreck was on.

When the horse was back under control, the snake shaken off and his heart rate back below the critical stage, Button rode over to Reese.

He gave him a mean, squinty-eyed look and said, ” I might not could whup you, but I can surely hit you up side the head with this saddle gun.”

Reese took this statement under thoughtful consideration.

The next week Reese was horseback counting cattle while Button was slowly driving the feed truck along and putting out feed.

Reese tossed another big snake in the front seat of the truck.

Button bailed out the other side, the truck continued on, and Reese beat a cowboy-retreat for parts afar.

During the rather colorful discussion that followed somewhat later, it was determined that Reese would not give Button any more snakes, no matter the circumstances.

At the next cattle working, Button seemed to have misplaced his gloves.

Nobody would admit to anything, even with Button’s threats about what he’d do if he found out someone had assisted the gloves in going missing.

At the break, Reese brought out a Banty rooster he had brought from home and carefully put him in the large cardboard box full of ear tags.

When the cowboy crew started working again, he fessed up to Button about his gloves and told him they were in the ear tag box.

The flapping, squawking rooster moment when the box was opened was not nearly as good as the rattlesnake chaos, but it would do.

The next day Button told Reese to saddle up the new bay colt and put some miles on him. He specifically told him to ride across the tank dam and show the colt how to do that, get him used to it.

Reese rode the skittish, scared colt onto the dam – fence on one side, water on the other- when a big Canadian goose, whose nest was disturbed by this intruder, raised up, flapped her wings and hissed loudly at Reese.

You can break a colt to a lot of things, but a mad momma goose on the fight is not one of them.

It had taken awhile, but it was in this moment that Reese had an epiphany. He was thinking maybe it was time to give Button a break.

April 24, 2009

Cowboys gone fishing

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 5:50 am

By Julie Carter

I know many cowboys that, if close to a pond or other some such fish habitation, like to throw a line in from time to time.

Curly, Robby, Darrel and Jim slipped off to do little fishing one year. Curly and Robby opted to sit on the bank of the lake, casting lines and consuming adult beverages.

There were more beverages going down than there were fish coming up, but, after all, it was spring and you don’t have to clean the beverages.

Darrel and Jim were drifting along in a flat-bottom boat they’d brought along, casting lines and sometimes catching old tires and other like treasures. Once in a while, they’d even catch a fish.

One of them whipped back a perfect cast after catching a tree limb on the bank. He shook loose the lure, along with it came a snake he’d managed to pick up in the commotion.

The snake hit the bottom of the boat and both the anglers bailed over the side. When Curly and Robby, still bank-side, quit laughing, they had to go save the boat that was continuing to drift on the current.

Cowboys that live where there is a lot of water, specifically lakes, will tell you of a common phenomenon, a culture of people called the Lake Dwellers.

You know you are in the neighborhood of a clan of them by the number of catfish heads on the fence posts and the abundance of Heinz-crossed mutts in every yard. They seem to live off one another, trading belongings back and forth as available cash ebbs and flows.

Occasionally, the cowboys will attempt to mingle with the Lake Dwellers. Jim and Curly had been down to a beer-swilling, pool-playing joint and picked up a couple gals who invited them to a party down at the lake.

When they arrived, they immediately deducted they were overdressed. Having gone home and showered, put on their starched jeans and best boots, they were no match for the crew in Bermuda shorts with no shirts and rubber boots.

Immediately unpopular with the men of the Lake Dweller clan, it didn’t improve when Jim spotted a deer’s behind mounted over the fireplace, tail up.

He promptly stuck a cigarette in the deer’s south opening and things went downhill from there. It didn’t take them long to enjoy all of that party they needed as they were considerably outnumbered.

The recent event where the captain of a hijacked ship managed with the help of a few Navy Seals, to fend off some scruffy pirates, has the cowboys swapping “cowboys as boat captains” tales.

If cowboys are anything, they are storytellers and are the very best at it when it involves themselves. The running dialog speaks of leaky boats (poor folk always have leaky boats) and bailing water to the extent it drove them all to the time-honored sport of bank fishing.

Curly has rounded up a gal to fantasize about – his flavor of the week. He says she has a “just a touch of the Lake Dweller in her.” That means you don’t ever have to worry about what she’s thinking.

Over cold longnecks, they’ve had some relationship discussions about kids and child support. He pays through the nose for one but she announced she’d never birthed a baby (and she has three) from a guy that ever paid a dime.

While Curly was digesting this information, she, in her Lake Dweller directness said, “You wasn’t thinking about getting married again anytime soon was you?”

When this question came forth, Curly was just putting his beer bottle to his mouth. His hand started shaking so bad he was afraid he was going to chip a tooth, and it wasn’t the grammar that was appalling him.

Recalling a previous commitment, he managed to free himself from the immediate Lake Dweller danger, and of late, has limited his vices to full time team roping.

April 4, 2009

T-shirts and Diamonds

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 10:39 am

Some of my favorite people are Texans. In a world where we are not supposed to recognize color, creed, gender or nationality differences, the rules don’t apply for Texans.

Texans are not wealthy by chance. There was a fair amount of sweat involved in the early days – getting the somewhat unruly Indians shipped off to Oklahoma and New Mexico, the wild longhorns trailed to Kansas railheads and turned into money and, of course, getting the oil wells pumping at a steady rate.

Nevertheless, they have their own list of priorities when handling wealth. You won’t find it buried in fruit jars in the backyard. They put it in circulation in a conscientious manner and a good bit of it is still involved in the cattle business – pastures, feedlots and the roping arena.

Texas is home to 130 feed yards of 100,000 head or more and many more of them with a 50,000 carrying capacity. With more than five million Texas cattle marketed annually, the numbers represent more than 30 percent of the nation’s fed cattle.

Texas Cattle Feeders Association statistics document 14 million cattle in Texas.

Neighboring New Mexico, fifth-largest state in the nation and also a large cattle business state, reports between one and two million head.

These businesses have a trickle-down effect on the economy representing millions of dollars. The cowboys who take care of the cattle and the owners who profit from the enterprise are a vastly different economic group, but both are part and parcel of the industry.

Of the nation’s dedicated team ropers, about 25,000 are active in Texas. In the rodeo world, in the team roping event alone, ropers that call Texas home regularly capture 30 percent of the top 50 professional rodeo slots.

Bona fides established, a look at the day-to-day Texan reveals that he is loyal to his friends, his country and both kinds of Lone Star. You might find him in charge of a bank or managing a stock portfolio that represents a couple million dollars. This, right after he lines up his partners for the next weekend’s ropings.

Absolutely, a priority for him will be feeding the horses and taking care of the practice steers. Every afternoon, unless it’s raining right straight down, he will give the Corrientes a little exercise. In some cases, if it continues to rain a while, he might put a roof over the arena.

The rodeo rigs, pickups and trailers were designed with the Texas competitor in mind. When cost is not an issue, comfort and convenience is.

Top of the list? The close proximity of a bathroom facility, right where his horse is tied and his beer is cold.

The women of the roping arena are just dedicated as the men and, whether they admit it or not, the cowboys tend to get a little tense when some of them ride in the arena.

These women are not just beautiful, but always competent roping hands. They will be fashion trendsetters and are never without their customary jewelry.

Comfort is a priority and it has become stylish for them to wear T-shirts while roping. T- shirts and diamonds big enough to blind the competition.

Shy and understated are not terms normally applied to Texas women. They, like the men, figure if you get too much money you can just trade it for something you would like to have.


January 23, 2009

Cowboy wedding — from the Hope Chest to the gravy

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 11:42 am

By Julie Carter

Having secured a sort of left-handed proposal of marriage from her cowboy last Sadie Hawkins’ Day, the soon-to-be-bride began to work on her Hope Chest.

You don’t hear much about that tradition in this day and time, but pragmatic future brides of cowboys still know the wisdom of having a few essentials before the check book becomes his sole territory.

While shopping for linens at Big Lots, this prospective blushing bride found a fantastic world-beater bargain in paper towels. She had already decided that the reception menu would include barbeque ribs, beans and potato salad so paper towels would be a priority.

The ones on sale just happened to be decorated with orange and turquoise designs which inspired her to select those colors for here wedding theme.

As planning progressed, she found the perfect dress. It fit, was in her price range and was bright orange. Nobody was going to miss her at this fiesta.

The bridesmaids’ dresses arrived in a stunning shade of turquoise. There was a slight hitch as one of the bridesmaids ordered hers in a size smaller than actually required.

The bridesmaid’s Plan A involved a diet before the wedding. The bride’s Plan B was to line up a cousin who was the right size.

Her cowboy was not as totally committed to this project as she would have liked, and in an effort to get him involved, she decided they should each write their own vows.

Her vows were very lovely prose, mentioning hearts, flowers, lifelong commitment, a steady partner and love eternal. When his were finally, reluctantly, presented for inspection, she was somewhat taken aback.

The only thing he had planned on saying was “I do. Let’s party.”

Of course, they were going to be married outside on the hill overlooking the ranch. The setting would be beautiful. Concerned about her dress, the bride borrowed the long carpet used for the sidewalk at the Post Office to walk down the aisle.

The boom box was tested and required only an occasional slap on the side to keep it playing. Waylon and Willie would do fine.

Helpful neighbors had designated who was to carry the shotgun, who was to usher the guests away from the keg and to seating, who was to keep the dogs quiet during the ceremony and who was to dig the pit for the barbeque.

For quite some time the bride had been waiting for a ring to appear. On their next trip to a real town she borrowed her cowboy’s credit card and headed to the nearest wholesale jewelers. There she bought a ring that fit perfectly and looked almost authentic.

Only detail left was to line up a few married cowboy friends to watch her groom. That faraway look in his eyes was beginning to be worrisome. She knew that married males would be more dependable. Something about “if I can cowboy-up, so can he.”

After all, the bride-to-be was a good cook and these guys liked good food. They also knew they’d be eating regularly at the new couple’s outfit when they neighbored at cattle workings. Certainly, it was smart plan to make sure he married somebody that could cook.

Her good cooking won the heart of her cowboy and the loyalty of the neighbors. Never underestimate the power of a perfect chicken fried steak and good gravy.

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