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

July 5, 2010

Sharp knives and whittle wisdom

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 11:35 am

Sharp knives and whittle wisdom
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter

Long ago, the silver screen warped the image of the cowboy in the minds of the general public. Western wear catalogs and country music singers haven’t helped much with the real picture of the cowboy.
No, Virginia, cowboys don’t dress like Buffalo Bill.
In lives dictated by work, wind and weather, not necessarily in that order, function trumps fashion every time.

Cowboys and their female counterparts dress to get the work done and wear as many of the necessary tools of the trade as possible.
One of those necessary tools is a knife. These are used daily to cut hay strings, change the minds and attitudes of bulls, cut the rattles off a dead snake, perform tack repairs and traditionally, give the fingernails a trim.
For decades, the pocket knife, sleek in form, was transported by simply slipping it into a front jean pocket for safekeeping.
As it became more of a tool than just a blade for cutting, knives were worn in a scabbard or sheath in a surprising variety of places: attached to the belt, vertical above their back pocket, horizontally on the belt, in a cross draw position in the front or simply in the pocket of their leggings.

Scabbards can be a personal fashion statement. Often adept at leather work, rawhide stitching, knot tying and tooling, cowboys’ workday knives are usually cased in sturdy proof of their skill. Their Sunday-go-to-meeting knife scabbards may even have tooling to match their saddles and gear.
Knives come in a variety of personal choice brands. We’re not talking Swiss Army here – these knives are as practical as the cowboys who wear them.
You see everything from working knives to seasonal hunting knives to the finest Damascus steel, fancy inlaid-handled knife for church.
Special folding knives made popular by the ropers come with a clip to hold them in a back pocket for quick access in the case of a tangled endangerment. Sometimes it is necessary to cut a perfectly good rope to save the life of a roper or the leg of a horse.
Panhandle punchers who receive load after load of 400-weight steers and bulls swear that in Louisiana knives are used exclusively for peeling pecans because 99 percent of the male cattle that come from that area are still bulls.
“Steer” is apparently not a Cajun word.

Ranch cowboys are forever using their knives at cattle working time and a measure of pride is taken in just how sharp their knife is, frequently drawing blood just to prove the point as they lightly graze it across their forearm shaving a few hairs as it goes.However, clean and sanitary is optional.

It’s not unusual for cowboys to castrate calves all morning and use the same knife to cut their meat at the meal afterward. Careful ranch wives make sure there is a clean knife strategically placed by the cake plate.
Not often thought of but definitely one historical use of a knife is in horse trading.
Many traders whittle during the often lengthy discussions involved in the bartering.  I’m told that if the trade is going the trader’s way, his knife will pull the whittle toward him.  If the trade is going the other way, slivers are driven off the piece of wood toward the buyer.
That’s a good point to know. Probably Buffalo Bill was the first to establish that principle.

Ranch Rodeos — some of the best summer fun.

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 11:07 am


March 7, 2010

Nothing cuter than a big horse and a little girl:

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 3:04 pm

Meagan copy

The high price of ‘free’

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 3:00 pm

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter

An alarm went off in Jenna’s head. Not a ringing bell kind of alarm, but the one that starts out in your gut, crawls up your spine and sends involuntary shivers to your body.

It was the same alarm you might feel when you realize your mother-in-law is coming to spend a week and the main ranch well just conked out or the sewer backed up again for the third time in a month.

Jenna had just come home from her honest job in town where she made a valiant attempt to support her husband’s ranching habit.

On this day, his welcome home news was that their trusty insurance agent had come by and made him a deal he couldn’t refuse.

The agent had talked Rusty into “trying out” a $1 million accidental death policy with Jenna the insured and Rusty the beneficiary. Not quite sure how one would “try-out” a pay-on-death accident policy, Jenna mentally listed other options including cancellation of the policy in 60 days if it wasn’t used.

It was the “if not used” part that caused her the most concern. Her mind quickly went to all the times, when in the course of helping him on the ranch, her close calls with danger would warrant such a policy.

There were those days of helping him sort cattle in the alley afoot while he was horseback and the subsequent stampedes of cattle she was expected to stop, cut, turn or control.

And the days she had gone alone through brushy, snake-infested canyons riding colts that “needed the miles.” Or those long days in the branding pen when calves were drug to the fire and not infrequently over the top of her.

There was the tractor with the cranky clutch that she sometimes drove and the feed truck with no brakes that was hers to use in the pastures with steep hillsides.

She distinctly remembered helping at the chute by giving shots and thanks to a fighting cow, gave herself the vaccination instead.

The more she considered the insurance “try out” idea, the more her level of anxiety rose.

Jenna recalled the years of their marriage and working together. It was her belief that 99.4 percent of the time it had been good.

She allowed that a time or two – surely no more than that – she had inadvertently and innocently gotten something slightly wrong.

At the time she thought Rusty, with his normal good humor, had just let it slide. However, just to be safe, she decided that during this policy “try out” period, she needed to watch her back.

A week or so later, when the policy discussion had faded somewhat, she began to relax again. Then one day, coming into the house through the back door, Rusty jumped out, hollered and scared her.

She screamed as she fell away from him and into the closed door that led to the basement stairs. The impact caused the door to pop open and instantly her life and a $1-million check passed before her eyes.

She managed to catch herself (without his help) before she took the plunge into the depths. Quite contrite, Rusty apologized profusely and told her it was just a joke.

He helped her sit down to catch her breath, re-claim her composure and hopefully, not get a gun. Many times over the years, he pulled similar practical jokes and she laughed with him.

But this time Jenna began telling her friends about Rusty’s free $1-million policy on her and the subsequent “trying out” period. Collectively they began keeping an eye on Rusty and counting down the days. Several offered to hang Rusty should anything happen to her.

Rusty is typical of someone who had spent his life in cattle and ranching. His business sense simply would not let him pass up any good deal offered for free.

However, this time his reasonable intelligence overruled the monetary pressure. He called the insurance agent and gave him back 45 days of the “trying out” period.

He also requested written notification of the termination to be sent by registered mail, addressed to his wife. It was to be accompanied by a dozen roses.

Good neighbors

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 2:58 pm

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy by Julie Carter

He would let his neighbors fix the water gaps or the fence lines between them, never interfering or offering advice on the projects.

His neighborliness extended to letting his neighbors come get their bulls if they happened to get to his side of the fence and he always offered to let them stay just long enough to get his cows bred up.

One time a rogue bear tore up a good bit of the common fence line be-tween he and a neighbor. Neal told his neighbor it would be OK for him to come hunt the bear as soon as he, the neighbor, got the fences fixed. It’s the least he could offer in the way of gratefulness.

Neal never caused any problems when his cows would find a way over to the neighbor’s pasture. Frequently he would let them stay awhile, even after he’d been notified of their location. It was his way of not causing any problems.

One time he had a set of fairly waspy longhorn-cross heifers. One of them found her way to a neighbor’s herd and made it her job to lead off those cattle at a dead run when the cowboy tried to ride through them.

That got old fast and so the cowboy called Neal and asked if he’d consider putting “heifer retrieval” on his to-do list. Neal told him to put the heifer in the water lot, call him and he’d come with a trailer to get her.

The wild and crazy heifer was not at all impressed by a horse or a cowboy. If she spotted one, she’d take off like a bottle rocket and any cattle in the vicinity would scatter like quail. Heifers like that need to be grateful that not all cowboys are still wearing guns.

One day the cowboy arrived to find the longhorn entertaining herself by licking off her new calf. She was enough distracted that the cowboy got the water lot gate shut on her.

She was immediately on the hook but wouldn’t jump the fence and leave the calf.

Neal got his phone call with the suggestion that he really needed to come get that pair so the other cattle could get to water.

Way down in the afternoon he appeared with a trailer. He mentioned how happy he was that his heifer had fared so well on the good grass and was proud that she was such a good mother. The cowboy was proud to see her leave.

Another neighbor ran a few sheep. Sometimes he even ran sheep that had lambs. One year everybody around him had all their lambs worked, sheep sheared, everything counted and back to summer grass. Fred still didn’t have his first lamb.

Neighbors being neighbors, their community discussion centered on his bucks. They all were worried that perhaps Fred had a problem with bucks that shot blanks.

In the discussion, it finally occurred to Fred that he had forgotten to put the bucks out with the ewes that year. No more mystery.

Neighboring brings out the best in ranchers. One such rancher down Tucumcari way was known to be one of the tighter humans around. His ranch was fairly irregular in shape, garnering him quite a few neighbors with common fence lines.

One time he got a wedding invitation from one of those neighbors. He was just going to simply wish the guy well, but his wife insisted they had to give him something for a wedding present.

Troy offered that he would just give him that water gap between them. Use or lose.

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