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

March 7, 2010

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.

January 13, 2010

Winter in New Mexico

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 3:21 pm

The Carrizos

The Carrizos

Freezing fog

more frost

January 11, 2010

Taco the border horse

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 11:51 am

By Julie Carter/Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Hola, amigos. Mi llama es Taco. That’s my new name. I had another name before, but when I got a new home, I got a new name and a new profession.

I am in training to be an ace speed-demon team roping horse on the heels end of the roping steer. In order for you to understand who I have become, please allow me to establish my credentials from previous employment and adventures.

When I was a colt, starting out in my working life, I was known as Chapo Bueno. In the language spoken in Mexico, where I lived, that was a quite a compliment. It means “good pony.” I was born of Hidalgo bloodlines, purebred Spanish grandee horses.

This is evident in my beautiful light gray coat accented by a black mane and tail. It is even more evident in my kind, intelligent eyes.

At an early age, I was partnered to Jose Maria, the top vaquero on a large cattle ranch. Jose Maria loved me, taught me patiently the ways of cattle and how to work them.

We worked hard, made mucho dinero for the patron, and I became known as a top mount. As it was in ranching everywhere at the time, grass became short in Mexico. The patron asked Jose Maria to do a little night riding, taking wet cattle across the river to Texas to sell.

Of course, Jose took me, his top horse, to help get the cattle from the ranch across the river. We pushed them hard by moonlight, laid them up by day, and in the seven days it took to get across the river, we had no trouble. In this fashion, we shipped all the cattle belonging to the patron.

At the end of the cattle drives, the patron thought that since Jose and I were so good at being border bravos, we should continue our night riding with a little different contraband. Jose was reluctant to be on the other side of the law, and I was insulted to be asked to carry a packsaddle, but it was work and we needed work.

Our good luck deserted us on our first run with the contraband. La Migra gathered us in at the border.

Jose patted me, told me goodbye, and slipped off into the night. The other horses and I were taken into possession, the drugs taken to the police station, and we were taken to auction.

When I was arrested, I was wearing a packsaddle so no one knew of my history as a top cow horse. For this reason, I was sold for a pittance to a kind man who could see only my plight.

This man had a good friend in Texas, and soon after, I was sent to Dan the Team Roper. Fortunately, Dan speaks Spanish and has taught me the basics of English. We are getting along fine.

When I first arrived, I made a few mistakes. One of those was that I ate all the briars along his fence line. He explained that in Texas, it was customary that would feed me hay and grain.

Another time I encountered an armadillo and spooked until Dan explained that it was just a hard-shelled possum.

Dan has been teaching me to be his team roping horse. He is beginning to understand that my cow horse athletic abilities and training are an advantage for us both. My royal heritage has afforded me the perfect conformation to be outstanding in this new profession.

I am beginning to understand my job and am considering this sport to be great fun. We will win the world someday, and as you follow my career in upcoming year, I wanted you to know my story.

I send Happy New Year greetings to everyone on both sides of the border, but I’m glad to have a home on this side.

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.

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