The Greasy Cowboy
The cowboy has been lauded as a artist with a rope, with a horse, or with a story. No one has ever accused him of being handy with a wrench, a submersible pump or a backhoe.
The phrase "mechanical cowboy" is an oxymoron... unless, of course, you are talking about the Tin Man in a Stetson. Even that would be a disaster. Remember the oil can?
In the days of the trail drives and big cow outfits, cowboys didn't have to be able to weld, or fence, or carpenter, or plumb. They didn't have to grease windmills or drive pickups. They never had to build a set of pens out of pipe or install a fiberglass tub. They might have possessed some specialized skills like a steady hand with a team of mules or a particularly creative way with leather. But, the cowboys of the olden days were never had to get greasy. They were happiest on horseback.
Not much has changed over the years as far as the breed of men who hire out to punch cows. Unfortunately, the manner in which they have to punch cows has changed. Mechanical progress has altered the face of the cowboy's job. Of course, the horse and the cow are still major parts of the modern day cowboy's life, but so is the feeder, the welder, the chain-saw, the sprayer, the windmill, and...oh, no... here comes that dreaded word... the TRACTOR. Yes, the modern day cowboy, though he is happier without it, must get greasy.
I have never met a cowboy whose personal or ranch pickup didn't make some mysterious noise. He treats it like a horse. As long as it has gas and air in the tires, it should trot right along without complaint! Right?
I have never met a cowboy who liked tractors. I have known a couple who furtively drove one for a few days so that they could keep otherwise good jobs, but you would have to go into the Witness Protection Program if I told you their names.
I have never met a cowboy who could mess with electricity without breaking into a cold sweat. The words "breaker box" scare him more than "rattle snake."
I have never met a cowboy who would call on a job if the ad said anything about "welding skills necessary," even though he might possess those dubious skills. It is the principle of the matter. You can't weld from aboard a horse.
I have met many a cowboy who wouldn't hesitate to climb a windmill tower to see if he could find the cows who didn't show up on the feed grounds. But, I have also met a few who would rather eat gravel than climb up that same tower to grease it. Some are willing but have to grease it with their teeth, because both hands are occupied with holding on.
And that brings up a rather slippery subject. Grease. Have you ever seen a greasy cowboy? Muddy? Maybe. Sweaty? Yes. Covered in unmentionable bovine excrement or sporting a cow patty patch on the seat of his jeans? Every spring. But greasy? Hardly ever. They do get greasy. Oh, yes. In fact, most cowboys can't come within five yards of an engine, a wheel bearing, or a can of windmill grease without coming away looking like they rolled in it. The secret? Pride. The modern day cowboy may not be good at it, but he does turn a wrench or build a new gate or pull a windmill now and then. Some even drive heavy equipment, though many ranches have discouraged this type of behavior due to overwhelming equipment failure. But, you won't see the marks of his labor on the cowboy. He'd rather take a beating than admit to being a closet mechanic.
The modern day cowboy's tool box is light and easy to assemble. All he needs to fix anything is a roll of silver duct tape, some rubber inner tube, some baling wire, and a pocket knife. In my mind, I have a permanent picture of my dad, leaning back from the muddy edge of a ditch, wiping sweat from his eyes, and muttering, "Hule y alambre"... which in southwest Texas means that he's gonna need lots of rubber and wire to fix that leak. And, some cowboys become artists with those simple tools. By the time they are finished with any repair job, they have cut numerous strips out of an old inner tube, wrapped miles of baling wire, and adorned the finished product with yards of duct tape. Now, I didn't say it always worked! But the cowboy, whether he is wearing the guise of mechanic, plumber, or windmiller, does know how to build a work of art.
By Amy Auker
Read about cowboy kids,
a kid's horse,
when a cowboy is away,
Best exercise in the world,
Poems by Oscar Auker.
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