About This Blog

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I have loved things Country and Western all of my life. I have loved the ranches and farms, the work, the fields, the barns, livestock, and the food. I was born and raised in Kentucky where I learned to ride and care for horses. Most of my family lived on farms and/or were livestock producers. I have raised various livestock and poultry over the years.I have sold livestock feed and minerals in two states. My big hats and boots are only an outward manifestation of the country life I hold dear to my heart. With the help of rhyme or short story, in recipes or photos, I make an effort in this blog to put into words my day to day observations of all things rural; the things that I see and hear, from under my hat. All poems and short stories, unless noted otherwise, are authored by me. I hope you enjoy following along.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Keep It Simple Cowboy

This old world keeps us hoppin like a frog on asphalt. People scurryin off to work to get more money to pay the bills, and then to buy more things that, of course, requires more money, generates more bills and…well, you get it. And  all at the speed of sound. Many of us spend our lives runnin after material things in the misguided belief that material, finite things can supply true happiness. For instance, our car has to make a statement, our trucks too. Has to be new and  impressive, even though a new vehicle is just about the worst investment a man can make. It depreciates in value the instant our name goes on the title.

The house we live in has to have “success” written all over it. Whatever ‘Success” is. Used to be a person could buy a house and be reasonably certain to make a profit, even if you sold it after one year. Not the case any more. The real estate crash changed all that.

 Some folks have found themselves buying beautiful houses, thinking they would be beautiful homes. Only to find that, well, fine houses are only fine homes if fine people live in them. Good families can make fine homes out of any old house.

Sometimes, I think God must look down and see a world full of people lookin like ants at a picnic. Hurriedly coming and going, running into each other just long enough to say “Hi”, carrying more weight than we need to, from daylight to dark, and just to gather up all we can in this life. And then we’re too exhausted or frustrated to enjoy our gains much of the time anyway. Oh, I’ve been there and done that, but one day I said whoa, drew up the reigns, and wondered ...why? It may have started me thinking when I went to a nursing home one day many years ago. Patty and I visit a nearby nursing home often to check on some old friends, and to help get one of them to church. It is there that I am often struck by what life can wind up being for some of us.

“See that man there? That’s Mr. so and so, he was a bank president for years. Over there is Mrs. somebody, she owned a chain of hardware stores. That man there owned 6000 acres and was a political big shot”. The nursing homes are full of rich people, successful people, once powerful people, and poor people, who all together stare at old black and white reruns or out the window, and wait for the highlight of their day... the next meal. All their material possessions in this life have come down to their favorite chair, and maybe a television set. And memories, for those who can member. Once they were separated as the 'haves and have nots'. Today they were all the same. A shell of a person with nothing but their memories for companionship. It was a lesson in what matters to me.

I want good memories. Our life is, after all, the sum of the memories we've made. And I want to be remembered fondly, for good things, not for my material acquisitions or any place in society that I may have attained.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t provide for ourselves and others in the best way that we can. It is our duty and responsibility to do so. We must work to keep food on the table and provide for ourselves. But, where is the line that separates necessity from vanity? When does good enough finally become good enough? For some of us, I'm afraid,good enough doesn’t come until all that glittered gold has cost us all that really mattered.

 I appreciate a photo my daughter gave me. It is a picture of an old man and a small child fishin on a dock. The caption reads,"Your grandchildren will not remember you by the material things you gave them, but by the memory that you cherished them”. Amen. Love, kindness, compassion, those things stay behind after we've long gone. Simple things are lasting things. Spiritual things are eternal things. I want to dwell more on lasting and eternal things.

At the feed store one recent morning, I found a mixture of folks standing around the counter, eating popcorn, and drinkin coffee. Big hats, ball caps and Carhart hoods. Farmers, ranchers and hired hands.  When I walked in the door, the snow blew in behind me. As I closed the door and dusted off my cowboy hat, one of my friends’ ranch bosses asked ,“ Did you bring this snow with you cowboy?” “Nah, if I had that kind of power I’d a brought 2 more feet and dumped it behind your truck, Buck” I answered. Everyone chuckled and we talked about snows past, present, and predicted.

The girl behind the counter finally asked if I needed the usual supplies and named them. I answered yes. One of the men good naturedly asked my neighbor what he thought of “borderin up to a chicken rancher”. We all laughed, and I joked with them and the shop clerk that I needed to order rubber boots for my chickens, since the snow was gonna hang on all winter. After that, I said “see ya” and headed out to the storage building to start loading feed. Before I went through the door though, one man looked up from his coffee cup and said of me, "That ‘chicken rancher’ is a good neighbor.” Now, in Midwest rural America, being a good neighbor is a grand way to be remembered. That’s why the State Farm company slogan became such a success. Good neighbors mean something here. Simple statement, powerful meaning.

As I guided my old rusty red pickup through the snow to the feed barrels, I thought about the simple things. I tightened my bandanna around my neck, and appreciated its warmth against the 25 degree chill. Pushed my Stetson down on my head a little tighter, and unloaded the bags of feed. I looked over the fences at the multi- colored hens against the white snow, and enjoyed the picture of contentment it presented. Hershey, my dog, placed his big ole head on my leg for a rub. I patted him on the head and he scurried off to run in the snow. As I finished my chores, I felt a cup of coffee coming, and a piece of homemade pecan pie.

I stood for a minute and looked at the snow on the trees. I marveled once again at Gods ability to paint such glorious pictures as that of the Blue Jays and Cardinals against the green and white of the snowy pines. I thought of the owl outside our window at night that often hoots me to sleep, and the sound of the coyotes as they sing through their hunting. I thought of the music of the wind in the cedars, that I hear from my back porch. The smell of cookin in the kitchen when I come through the back door. The dance of flames over split logs, and the feel of warmth as I stand with my back to the fireplace. Sweet memories to add to my mental store house, there to draw from when I need them. Simple pleasures all.

As I climbed back into the truck, it appealed to me that simple things, all poured into a tin cup and mixed together, add up to a powerful drink of happiness. ‘Keep it simple cowboy”, I often think to myself.
It’s gonna be my mission this next new year to be less carnal and material minded. To dwell on the eternal things, on lasting things. I don’t want to be consumed by the rat race or caught up in the dizzy unending spiral of great material gain. No, I want take pleasure in simple things, and be a simple man.
I’d like to leave a head stone behind someday that says “ He was a good neighbor.” Yes, that's it. Plain and simple.