It’s that time of year. Well, in normal times, it would be that time of year. Things are changed up this year. But there are memories of past holidays that still bring a smile to my face.
One that recently popped into my mind was from Lazy B days. My fraternity brother, John, and his wife Candy and their two kids used to visit us for the holidays. In fact, we saw them twice a year. Over Thanksgiving or Christmas, they’d come to Arizona, and in the summer, we’d escape the dry, hot high desert and visit them in Huntington Beach, California.
John and Candy were always enthusiastic when they came to the ranch. They wanted to experience everything. Especially Candy. She had never shot a gun but was determined to give quail hunting a try. So, I got her partnered with a gun and out we all went, away from headquarters to where the quail liked to congregate. John was holding his own, so I helped Candy. I showed her how to shoulder the gun and pointed out the quail running around in the distance.
At first, she didn’t see them. When she did, she wanted to know which ones to shoot. I pointed, advised, instructed, but Candy never got a shot off. Finally, I picked up her up and ran up on those birds. I set her down and pointed. “Shoot ‘em or kick ‘em!” I said. “You’re close enough to kick’em.” She took the shot and hit the target.
Candy also wanted to try rounding up cattle. As ranch host, I always felt responsible for my guests, so I picked a horse for her that happened to be named Candy. I’ve had two horses named Candy. The first one bucked like crazy. (If you’ve read The Horse Lover or Cowboy Up, you might remember that Candy and the cowboy walk of shame.) The second Candy was a delightful little mare who was bred to work cattle. That horse knew what to do. I figured Candy would be safe on Candy.
Our group rode out to the Z-L pasture. When we started rounding up, I kept one eye on team Candy. When rider and horse are in synch, they work together. A rider can anticipate when a horse will turn and can turn with it. A rider who doesn’t understand that will be off balance. I could see Candy the horse doing its job working the cattle. All was going smoothly until a cow took off and raced past team Candy. Right on cue, Candy the horse took off running after it. Suddenly, the cow turned. Candy the horse turned to stay with it, which caught Candy the rider unaware. The four-legged Candy went left, and the two-legged Candy rocketed forward. She went flying through the air and landed spread-eagled, face down, skid marks behind her. She looked like a snow angel in the sand.
I raced over. She had taken a pretty good thumping. “How many fingers do you have?” I asked her. “How many toes?” After a five-minute reorganization, with Candy being brave and trying not to cry, and me catching her horse, Candy got back in the saddle just like a cowgirl. And we all went on our merry way.
Wherever you are holiday season, I hope you see some snow angels. We all need a few of those sightings these days. And even if you don’t see one, have a very happy holiday. Be safe, stay healthy, and don’t let go of the reins.
Check out a new episode of The Cowboy Up Podcast, “Holiday Traditions, Celebrations & Libations in the Old West” with guest Sherry Monahan. Click here to listen.
Thanks for keeping alive a part of a ranch life well lived. Love to hear all about it. A life at a working ranch sounds exhausting. Something people of today can hardly believe. A true American grit was necessary. The comfortable lives we lead today pale in comparison.