My mom told me often as a lazy teen: “…just because it hard doesn’t make it bad.” Now that l am the one with a lot of life experiences in my past, I see the issue from the other side of life. But relating that to the next generation is often a reality learned over time
Still I am confident that it needs to be said often, for there more to this motto “than just pushing through… and getten er done”. Of course there is a feeling of satisfaction in getting a hard job done right.
Once several years back whilst ranching in the southwest, I headed out a horseback on a warm late fall day, to gather the last of the strays out of a pasture along a sometimes little river. I know some winter weather was fixing to come in the next day and this could be the last day to get them out.
That big piece of country was rimed by steep rock walls and small rocky trails and cattle can get snowed and iced in down there. They got a fifty/fifty chance of making it through without looking after.
Or even worse, being looked after by someone else. In the big country someone may finding your lost stock and will just push them up a cannon pasture and start raisen calves off of you cows. I’d hunted for the runaways a few time with no luck,and had a feeling this could be my last chance for a while.
I was lightly dressed, just flees lined denim jacket, a neck rag… (which I alway put on the first of October and don’t take of till the last of April. If l got that silks neck rag on l can stay reasonably comfortable in most weather, but if not it doesn’t matter how many layers l got on.) …my regular high top leather riding boots, and of course my black wide brim hat. (A good black hat is good cool weather riding gear, cause it catches the sun and warms your head and keeps that same sun out of your eyes, kinda a win win piece of equipment. Honestly I have no idea how anyone can walk around bareheaded outside. Even with a ball cap it doesn’t keep the sun off your neck and ears in the summer and dang sure don’t help at all in the cold. And my leather leggings to keep perfectly good jeans from being tore up.
Well that’s enough of being stuck in a conversational gopher hole. In any case things didn’t go well, like they often don’t, and l found myself in a bit of a jackpot. I got to tracking those cows, that lead me through a down water gap (fence going over the river) and into an abandoned bit of range that went up river for about ten miles of no fences, covered in tall push narrow cannons and quick sand on the boggy place. You can trust me on this one cause it cost a good bit of blood and sweet a time or two.
Fortunately for me, my stud horse Drifty (awesome horse) and border collie Daisy (greatest dog in southwest), those cows hadn’t gone to far up river. But they had found themselves a bit of a honey hole, to wait out the pending weather. Wasn’t that cold yet, but thick dark clouds were rolling in and you could smell a hint of moisture. It became clear those cows weren’t much interested in going anywhere and we had several miles of tough country to get through.
We went to work and got them pushed through that down water gap and that’s when we started working up a sweet. Those dang cows (and I was calling them worse names than that at this point. ) would go up the river some distance cross over the river, back to the down to the other side into the river, through missing water gap, and travel back toward their honey hole. There was no way to cut them off and they just ran right over the top of Daisy getting to the river.
It was mid afternoon, and I had no desire to fixing that water gap till spring. But unless I did fixed it and put them through a wire gate half mile up the fence line, (which would add another half hour to getting these cows home) this little game of theirs would go on to eternity.
I did my best to get those wires pull across a horseback against a pretty strong current, and Drifty did his best to keep me dry, but there were some deeper spots that he needed to skirt around and it made for a tough pull. Let me just add that there are not a lot of horses in this world that will drag four strands of barbed wire across running water and hold it tight on a saddle rope, while I work at getting it tied off.
Getting it tied off to a big post set in behind a even bigger flat rock was hard hard work. And in the process of pulling the last two wires out of the current, I slide off the rock and went waist deep in real cold water. And that made me made .
I dang sure wasn’t given in now. In another 10 minutes I had that gap tight and out of the water. I loosened the cinch a couple holes on the best horse, God put life into, swung in the saddle and headed for where my dog had got them four leged demon stopped, few hundred yards off.
I slipped in behind, hissed to the dog, gave out yelp, and we hit them hard and set them running to the river. They came to that water gap, looked back knowing they been beat and head up the fence line at a fast trot, stopped at the gate, and waited for me to open it. Daisy worked the back, whilst I turned them toward shortest trail to winter camp.
Now as you can imagine, the “mad was ware off”, and I was starting to feel the influence of that little swim I’d took. So I began take stock as to the situation l was in.
It was less than an hour till dark, best l could figure. The wind had shifted to the northeast, and pushing straight against us, I was soaked to the shirt pockets, and sweat through my hat. Which was now starting to freeze up, and felt like a metal helmets, rattled cold in the wind, on my head. My thin leather cloves were freezing to my hands, and my boots were frozen solid to my nume feet. I’dthought of getting down and walking to warm up but sure if I could walk any more.
I had to smile to myself a bit, because I didn’t know to many cowboys that had got themselves in a pickle like this and lived.I had heard a real story or two about cowboys that died of hypothermia, while trying to build a fire, and l didn’t even have any matches. I wasn’t really thinking about dying, I was thinking about how great of a story this was going to be when I made it through.
Normally it doesn’t take longer than an hour to break out on top, but luck was against us, and it started sleeting hard, and making the rocks icey,. About halfway up it was rough going. Where the rocky trail got narrow cattle were slipping and stopping. And the higher up the trail we went the harder that northeast wind pushed on all of us. The warmer air that was trapped in the valley, was far behind us.
Did l mention that l was getting pretty cold, and the only thing that kept any feeling in my bare hands, was that stinging icey sleet, my soggy leather gloves had frozen to my jacket pocket some time back, and all I could do was put one hand at a time between my saddle pad and my horse. I sure was glad my neck rag was dry, if it had not been for warm silk, I would have just fallen off my horse and died.
We were kinda at the “all in or done” spot on the trail, with those poor cattle slipping and crawling their way. We couldn’t stay there and wait it out. We all just keep moving forward. Every now then when thing got to slow, I’d give a whistle or daisy a bark, and off we’d go another hundred yards.
By the time we topped out, it was snowing so much, it seemed to be one huge snowflake going sideways. Normally when those cattle get out on the flat, they tend to just trail on out to the pens. But with hard snow and wind in our faces, those cattle just wanted to spread out and find a place to hide. It was like pushing rope and herding chickens, all at the same. And about now a desperate frustration set in me.
I didn’t blame much and thought about leaving them, knowing I was getting to cold, but with no real shelter for these wayward words of the ranch, that had wasted good time, and energy trying to stay ungathered. And now they were trying to kill me. I know l couldn’t leave them, they would need better shelter and water and rest from the days activities.
There is something a bit different about us cowboys that have truly chosen this life. For whatever reason we tend not have any “give up” in us. There is a weird sense of confidence about ourselves that gets us in some pretty tough places, but it’s that same confidence that gets us through too.
What is amazing, is that it becomes a part of those who work with us. Because that young stud and dog of mine, just keep work those “suldup” old cows, like it was a warm summer day.
So with the reality that it could be done, I let out a whistle and a howell, we hit them hard for a final push. Swinging the knotted end of my saddle rope to put a little sting in their cold hides. Drifty with ears back went to biting tales, Daisy hit another gear working the flanks.
As you can tell from the fact that I am writing this, we all did live, though it did take two days to get back to normal.
I wondered often about that time and many others when it was hard. It seems sometimes the harder you try, the harder it get, and when you’re sure it can’t get worse… it does. Sometimes life just seems to be against you, and it stays that way for a long long time.
I’m sure we all heard the phase “when life knocks you down…”,and in some of my darkest hours of depression, I’ve had some of the most well educated professionals say that to me. And I would just think, “you have no idea what has knocked me down”.
After much thought on why that phase makes me unsettled, I’ve found this bit of insight over the years.
Life doesn’t knock anything down, Life is the one thing that raises us up. We tend to blame the very thing that well get us back up. We have been created by divine design, with His life breathed into our spiritual humanity. Losing the influence of this reality, exchanges our best to become our worst.
What knocks us down is simply the rhythm of our existence, it is a designed resistance that brings great worth to Life. We are often influenced by social and physical notions of speculations. We habitually label a circumstance with a moral value.
Hard is not bad or wrong. We are created to be in hard and tough places. One of the greatest trip ups for me was a notion, that pushed me to the edge, was thinking: “at my age it should be easier now! “At some many years of marriage l shouldn’t be having a divorce.” “after all my hard work and experience, I shouldn’t lose my business, and be in debt”. And this was the greatest one of all, “l don’t belong here”! “I dont deserve this!”
Almost all of our religious and professional council is directed at a superficial concept of choice. If you choose to change the physical action, the “bad” feeling will go away. And that somehow you responsible for the for the spiritual realm of influence.
We avoid sadness, and loneliness, those dark and anxious places, but they are The reality of true life. Our greatest troubles comes from trying to escape, it is my personal adherence that all addiction are rooted in the effort of escaping something. Instead of feeling the reality of life, we run faster and faster for a peace that can only come when we are overwhelmed by that which is unwelcome to the superficial view of life.
We in the realm of being human, think we need to choose our feeling, if it doesn’t feel right, it is wrong and I must choose to change it. We can change what emotions we have, but the feelings are a part of our created spiritual nature. They are not meant to be changed, they are designed to be lived in.
There isn’t always someone there for us, or the one that always was, is gone. And as I’ve experienced there isn’t all a reason or answer. But as I sat on the porch of a little cabin as a stay in the journey, in a place of great saddness, loneliness and sorrow. I once heard in still small voice, “if I left you just as you are now, would you love. If this were all I had give, would want me”. I said no at time…
The peace of life is not for getting through or above the sorrows that surrounds our existence, but realize that our created spiritual nature is our first reality, when we feel the experience of our existence as we where created to. We are alive.