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

January 6, 2009

The tally book – cowboy records for all times

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 6:00 pm

Julie Carter
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Most folks think that if a cowboy has a brain, he wears it under his hat.
Truth of the matter is everything of importance that he might know is
written in a little book carried in his shirt pocket. In fact, it’s been
said that was very reason for inventing pockets for shirts – that and a
place to carry cigarette papers and a bag of Bull Durham.

The tally book usually sports an embossed name on the cover endorsing the
company that provided it to the cowboy. This is typically a bank that has
a vested interest in the cowboy keeping track of his business.

It’s his little black book, often red or green, but has little if
anything to do with collecting phone numbers of girls, albeit there is
occasionally a need to jot one of those down.

Preprinted dates and categories in the book mean nothing. The cowboy
keeps his own style of books and may mark the spot he needs to turn to
often with a folded dollar bill or a toothpick.

The data that may set the course for risk management, purchases, hedging,
selling or retained ownership could ultimately end up on some computer
run by a guy in high-water britches and a pocket full of mechanical
pencils. However, the origin of all cattle information is recorded first
in the cowboy’s tally book.

Similarities to methods and information end there. The detailed cowboy
will record the exact date cattle were purchased, their weight and price
per pound. He’ll record when they were moved from one place to the other
and give an estimated weight based in prior knowledge of gain per day in
a specific pasture.

Death loss will be noted and counts corrected. Medicine given is
accounted for, as are dates, amounts and types of feed and

Dates are noted when the bulls are turned in with cows, how many, where
and when they were pulled back out of the pastures.

At branding time, numbers of new baby heifers and steers calves are
recorded from each pasture and how many are left as bull calves. Those
same calves’ weaning weights and price per pound will be recorded in the
fall, giving historical value to the tally books that end up in a desk or
dresser drawer to be found by the generations to come.

A few pages may be dedicated to phone numbers for the feed salesman,
parts house, veterinarian and fuel dealer. Others will detail well
information, pump jacks and windmills, including when it was last pulled,
if new leathers were put in place and when pipe or sucker rod was

The personal nature of the business showed up when the cowboy recorded
information about a particular cow, one of a thousand, like it was
someone he knew personally. The notation would read, “White-faced cow,
short in the hind quarters, 3 years old, late to breed, check next year.”
Or “motley-faced cow, horn cut, open last spring, light bred

All this critical information in one little book that, in theory, is
close at hand and available, always.

But things happen. If he bends over a drinker to fix a broken float and
the pocket flap wasn’t snapped, the book falls in the water and it’s a
cussing-fit accident.If the little woman snags up his dirty shirt off the
floor at the end of the day and loads it in the washing machine without
first checking the pockets, it’s the end of the free world.

There’s no question, there are now computer cowboys who ride a variety of
noisy,expensive motorized “horses,” but even so, they still have a little
tally book in their shirt pocket. Likely, right next to their BlackBerry
smart phones.

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