A British Intern Reflects on His Summer at the JA

Adam Dexter worked as an intern on the JA in 2013 and wrote this beautiful letter about his experience:

Adam on PilgrimAdam and Pilgrim

It's been a little while since I was lost on the JA ranch, but you have not been forgotten.    The Christmas Season makes a good time to reflect on memories of the year and I thought I might take some time to write you all a thank you for the summer just passed.   It might seem a little late to write this letter, but the truth is I didn't want to write to you until I thought I had some accomplishments to show you that my time in Texas was more than just a summer.

I learned many skills during my stay: how to ride, how to shoot, how to weld, how to push cattle, but I also picked up a few pointers about life.   I learned that cowboys don't give up; that cowboys don't have fear; that cowboys have heart.

I remember the day I arrived.  I waltzed into Amarillo airport with a bad haircut and an ill-fitting cowboy hat without a clue what was in store for me.   I'm pretty sure its fair to say at that point, I didn't know what a cowboy really was.   Just about the moment I shook hands with my foreman, Randal, I realized that there was no messing around here.

Before I knew it, I was saddled up before dawn, riding in formation with a dozen cowboys, pushing a herd of cattle in scorching Texas heat.   Randal was at the back to keep an eye on me and told me the first two rules of cowboying: "Always keep your eye on the cows and never ride in front of a cowboy."   My very first day I was running cattle into the pens, working the chain on the chute gate.   I witnessed cowboys negotiate with restless horses, stampeding cattle, steers that jumped out of the chute and even deadly rattlesnakes.   This was the real deal.   I must have been a real spectacle to everybody.   I know I didn't look like John Wayne.   I climbed onto Jigsaw like an old granny, my hat was tucked into my T-Shirt to stop the wind carrying it off and I was thrown around as I rode like I was on a bumper cart.

To be honest with you, I did expect to be a slightly unwelcome presence.   I mean, the way I saw it, you had all been doing this your whole lives--this was your livelihood--and here I show up, some fresh faced college kid who had never even rode before, who knew nothing about horses, cattle, machinery, terrain or trucks, tagging along, telling bad jokes and slowing operations down.

But I was wrong.   From that very first day, you didn't treat me any different from anyone else.   You treated me with respect and as a member of the team.   I was working with you side by side at every moment, never being left on the sidelines.   You were always vigilant of my safety even when I wasn't and made every effort to teach me new skills.

I know it wasn't always easy working with me day-in and day-out.  "G..damnit Adam!" must have been one of the defining phrases of my stay.   Sometimes I was slow and sometimes I wasn't strong enough.   The heat made me go read and occasionally green.   I broke reins and gates, lost gloves, ran cattle in the wrong direction, and up the chute to fast and could get tied up in knots just trying to roll up the air hose.   I lost count of how many times I got the mower stuck in that ditch on the Lane and more than once Taylor had to remind me that attempting to pull it out with the brakes still engaged wasn't going to work. 

Crash after six daysCrash earns his name

It took me only six days to earn my handle--"Crash"--I must have set the record with that one.  To top it all off, I may have come from the land that invented the English Language, but I might as well have been from China as no-one could understand about half of what I said.

In a lot of places, people would have sent me packing, but even after all that, you didn't give up on me and eventually your patience did pay off.   Every so often, I had a success whether it be cutting a herd or stopping a bull from running off.   I'd get a "nice job" for working the windmill  well or getting the cement sacks laid out.   In the beginning, I was always the last one to have saddled and loaded my horse on the trailer.   Taylor gave me a challenge to be first one out of the horse pen in the morning and, by the end, I'd be waiting by the trailer with my horse ready to go.   I got to the state where I could mount up , ride and turn the horse not to bad.   I moved from the old grey horse Jigsaw to Deuce Bigalow up to Pilgrim.   You taught me everything I know about horsemanship--everything from how to approach a horse without scaring it to trotting, loping and turning--although I never could quite get my head around the difference between Bay and Brown.  

Your good will extended beyond the bounds of work.  You also welcomed me into your homes and family life.   Every morning, noon and night, Marissa made sure I was well fed with her home cooking, which could be a task sometimes, considering my appetite.   Not once was I ever made to feel unwelcome at the Brock table (though no-one was able to do much about Lane staring into my soul every meal time).  I can remember dining on shrimp with the whole Brock family drinking Coors at the Senior Graves home on the 4th of July Weekend (I felt the heat of the cattle prod more than the cool of the Rockies!) and enjoying Bud-Light by the Barbeque on the Gates' front porch.

There were lots of heart warming moments, Julie telling me I had heart while cooking some of my first real Mexican food and being invited to Church on Sundays--even being announced by the Pastor.

One big boar Crash's boar weighed much more than he did.

There were some fun times, too: shooting guns, watching the Rodeo, going on my first proper hunt and taking down one big wild pig and just cracking jokes and drinking beer by the saddle house.

My 21st birthday was a day to remember.   After a full day of work, I got to enjoy Krista's homemade peanut butter cookies baked especially for me.   On the birthday beer-run, Cody gave em some words that meant a lot to me, "Adam, you're getting a lot better, we may yell at you a lot, but that's just the way it was done when we were young."

When we got back, we sat on the porch for hours drinking beer.   Taylor kept shouting at me to hide every time a pair of headlights appeared in teh distance and I'd jump underneath the tractor.  Randal got back and I couldn't believe it when I laid eyes on a brand new set of spurs to find out they were mine.

The later part of the night gets a little hazy, probably due to my English drinking pace.   What I do remember is falling for Randal's handshake gesture and being thrown about twenty feet off the porch.  Things got a little rowdy, I had to show you all what happens when three Texans try to bring down an Englishman.  Well, that's the way I tell the story back home, anyway.

Adam, Cody Taylor Adam and Randal
Cody Graves, Taylor Brock and Adam Dexter Adam Dexter with Randal Gates

I woke up the next morning to a full day of work.  I had a sore back, a hell of a hangover and a half-shaved head.   But, I was so pre-occupied listening to the clink of my new spurs as I walked, I barely noticed.

I couldn't possibly list all the memorable moments from my stay or this letter would turn into an essay (some might say it already is).   I may have seemed a little reserved at times but don't take that as unfriendliness.   The truth is I felt like I didn't have much to offer.   I looked back on my life and recalled times when I could have done better, pushed myself harder or stood my ground firmer.   You brought out some of the best in me and made me realize I've got a little more character than I thought.  

It felt like I had been there so long that when the time came for me to leave, I couldn't quite believe it.  Outside the airport doors, I shook Taylor's hand and then off I went.   I remember on the way into Texas, I was a little self conscious walking through the airport with my cowboy hat on.  I could see other travellers stare and giggle.   But on the way back to England, I strutted through DFW, hat on, chest puffed out and the buckle Cody gave me, something I wear nearly every day, gleaming.   I paid no mind to any sniggering travellers because tucked into my wallet was an official paycheck stuff "JA Ranch Contract Labor" written on it along with my name.

I was inspired in Texas and I've felt a big change in me since I've been back.   For the first time in my life, I feel a sense of direction.   I'm back at college, just finished my first semester working to get my degree.   It's been a good one.   I've tried to carry the torch on from summer.   I work part-time on a dairy farm not far from college.   It's not quite cowboying but it teaches me about cattle, machinery and farming.   At a quarter to five in teh morning, I start the first round of milking and after tractor work, feeding another round of milking and scraping out the yard, finish up in the evening.   As I work, I got Taylor's words ringing through my mind, "Use every ounce of muscle."   I've seen another side to my country I never experienced before--the West Country, Somerset, big farming territory.   Around here, folks don't make moonshine, they make cider.   You should know there are some tougher Englishmen than me over here.

I've taken up boxing--one fight so far and a win.  I figured a man has got to learn how to fight at some point in his life.  Progress can be painful.  I must have left almost every session with a bleeding nose.   Every now and then, I find myself reminiscing on Texas memories that go down well with a pint and not too bad with the ladies around here either!

Well, we finally reached the end of the letter.   I don't know when exactly this letter will reach you, but I hope it finds you and finds you well.   This letter may have been a little sappy, but it was something I felt I had to write--don't go thinking I'm some nancy boy.

One day in the future, we'll meet again.   God Bless from all the Dexter family

Your friend,

Adam (Crash)