H. Alan Day's Blog
Before the start of this crazy pandemic, my friend Russell True asked me if I would cohost a podcast with him. I wasn’t sure what a podcast was, and I’m not sure if I know what it is now. My background and heritage are all about dirt, sand, rocks, grass and livestock. Podcasting? That almost goes beyond where my imagination can stretch. But then again, so did the pandemic.
Russell suggested the podcast theme be about cowboy and western culture. Rightly so, as Russell is the owner and manager of White Stallion Dude Ranch. Like me, he was raised on the back of a horse. So, we started The Cowboy Up Podcast.
Two other people joined us for the ride. Stan Hustad, Russell’s longtime buddy, is a talented veteran of the radio business. He knows how to translate an idea into action. And like many other endeavors going from idea into action is the critical part. He also knows how to work a soundboard and which mics to use and how to get two cowboys acclimated to using them.
Lynn Wiese Sneyd, who designed our logo, books guests, handles our social media, and keeps our talk on track. You’ll hear her voice at the beginning and end of each episode. I’m thinking pretty soon, she’ll join Russell and me in the recording studio to talk about western books.
To date, we have recorded six episodes. As of the posting of this blog, five are live and ready for you to listen to at your leisure. You can find them on Apple, Spotify, Libsyn and also on the podcast page of my website. A special thanks to author, photographer and TV personality Mark Bedor and Randy Helm, supervisor of the Wild Horse Inmate Program at the Arizona State Prison for joining us. Soon to go live is an interview with Diana Madaras, artist, gallery and horse lover. Such a great conversation we had with her.
Pop some popcorn. Have a listen. Give a critique. Good ideas are always welcome. We live and learn, especially in this time of a virus gone wild.
Speaking of which, please stay safe. Or as we say for The Cowboy Up Podcast, “Stand tall and ride safe.”
Until next time.
We all need a chuckle these days. Here’s one that I hope at least brings a smile.
One of the first things I learned when ranching in the Midwest was to circle May 10 on the calendar. This was the day ranchers moved their livestock to summer pastures. My “livestock” happened to be 1500 wild horses. My crew and I had been preparing all winter, training the horses to follow a cowboy on horseback around corrals, through gates and alleys, and into open pasture. On May 10th we planned to move the entire herd from headquarters to Mud Lake, where summer grazing would begin. It was a 6-mile journey. Would the horses make it through all the gates and across all the pastures or would they bolt in every direction? Even the best cowboy never could have predicted the adventures in store for us. I shared the following story at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, renowned for its Equestrian Studies program.
During these days of COVID-19 quarantines, our animal friends are important in our lives. Just their presence can lighten the stress and anxiety so many of us feel. Even during less tumultuous times, pets have been important in my life.
One of the pets embedded in Day family history is Susie, the dog we had while I was growing up. She was a little, short-legged, barrel-chested dog, with short, white hair and a tail that curled over her back. I think she was a stray that Sandra found on the ranch. Susie was the only dog allowed in the house. This privilege was granted her when I was too young to know that not every dog received special treatment. When she looked at you, you could read the intelligence in her eyes. She fit in our family like a fourth child.
Susie loved all the family equally and would always come with a smile when called. Every morning she made it a point to visit each family member in bed and greet them with a smile. If you didn’t know better, you would think her smile was snarl. She pulled her lips back, stuck out her tongue and hissed.
Susie wasn’t spoiled and never was in the way, yet she was always part of any event in the house. One of her best traits was that she could hear cars coming up the ranch road when they still were several miles away. She’d give a couple of little barks. You could always tell whether it was a stranger or a ranch vehicle by her bark. If we heard a stranger bark, we would say company is coming, and my mother would make a fresh pot of fresh coffee and get ready to receive guests.
Susie only had one enemy—the pig we kept down in the corral. Once a day, the pig visited the back of the bunkhouse to eat the cowboys’ table scraps. When that pig took one step out of the corral, Susie jumped and had a barking tantrum even if she were napping soundly indoors.
I loved having Susie as a companion. I’d take her with me to check windmills or put out salt licks for the cattle. She loved to come along. I almost always took a 22 rifle to shoot jackrabbits. They ate a lot of grass that I wanted for the cows. Susie would spot the jackrabbits first and would tell me. I’d stop and shoot the rabbit. She’d then jump out of the jeep and land on her head because her legs were short. She’d pick herself up and run over to the jackrabbit, shake it to death, then strut back to the jeep so proud of herself for being such a great hunter. Sometimes, she would get a little blood on her chest or leg. She’d make sure to show me the badge of courage that she earned while shaking that mean rabbit.
Susie lived a long and healthy life. When she finally got old and passed, it was one of the saddest days we had on the ranch. I was a senior in high school. Of course, I missed her. Terribly. But when I think of her, I don’t think of the missing. I think of all the fun we had and feel grateful that she was a part of my life.
I’m an avid University of Arizona basketball fan and was at a game the other week with my friend Jimmy Patterson. At one point during the game, Jimmy pointed to a fellow walking on the floor. “There’s Bob Baffert,” he said.
I immediately took interest. I respect any master horseman and Baffert’s success in horse racing is unmatched, if not legendary. I knew Baffert had been raised in Arizona, but I was surprised to see him at a game.
Afterward, Jimmy and I went to a local burger joint to celebrate our victory. Who should walk in but Bob Baffert and his look-alike, who was presumably his brother. Jimmy, having never met a stranger in his life, got up and went over to talk to them. I’m a bit embarrassed about approaching strangers so stayed at our table. After smiles and talk, Jimmy waved me over. Introductions were made all around.
“Did you know Bob is one of our fraternity brothers?” Jimmy asked me. I had no idea that Baffert was an SAE. And, as it turned out, Baffert had no idea that I was from Duncan, Arizona. He volunteered that when he had been a jockey, he had ridden a couple of races in Duncan at the county fair. I was overwhelmed by that factoid. Bob is arguably at the top of his profession and Duncan County fair races are arguably at the bottom of horse racing. You have to admire someone who has risen from the bottom to the top of any profession.
Later as I ruminated on the surprising connections between Bob Baffert and myself, I realized that I knew someone else who had risen from the dusts of Duncan to the top of her profession. And then it struck me. Maybe we need more folks to pass through Duncan, Arizona, population 200.
My parents were readers and instilled a love of books in my sisters and me. I remember many a happy hour as child sitting next to my mother as she read and reread my favorite books. For years, my coffee table has had a healthy pile of books on it. Fiction. History. Mystery. Western. Biography. Memoir. You’ll find them there.
Following are some of my all-time favorites. If you’re looking for a good book to give that special someone this holiday season, maybe one of these will fit the bill.
LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. I could read this novel ten times over and maybe I have. McMurtry develops characters like few other authors can. Who can forget Captain W. F. Call and Augustus McCrae and their epic cattle drive north? Just thinking about them and their comrades makes me want to dig into those pages again.
BLOOD BROTHER by Elliot Arnold. Another classic, this historical novel tells the story of Cochise, the great Apache chief, and Tom Jeffords, the agent who tried to establish peace between the Indians and the U.S. government. Lots of frontier action in these pages. The movie “Broken Arrow” was based on the book.
C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett mysteries. Box’s series begins with OPEN SEASON published in 2001. But jump in wherever you can. Joe Pickett is a crime-solving, adventure-slinging Wyoming game warden, who keeps me turning the page. Rumor has it the Box is going to be at the Tucson Festival of Books March 14-15, 2020. Mark your calendars!
UNDAUNTED COURAGE: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose. I didn’t take many breaks reading this one. Ambrose is a heck of a storyteller and the Lewis and Clark expedition is a heck of a story. Worthy of the category “Required Reading for All.”
EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne. Being an avid reader of western history, I was surprised at what I didn’t know about the Comanches. Their influence on the West is astounding. Gwynne is a superb writer. His new book, HYMNS OF THE REPUBLIC: The Final Year of the Civil War, is on my Christmas list (in case anyone was wondering).
UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN: A Story of Violent Faith by John Krakauer. My wife’s grandmother, Lettie Bingham, grew up in and escaped from a fundamentalist Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. Krakauer brought me right into her world with this story about two Mormon brothers who receive a commandment from God to kill.
THE EMERALD MILE: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko. I’ve done some crazy things in my life, but navigating a wooden boat down a flooded and roaring Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead’s to break a record is not one of them. Nor would it ever be. But in 1983, it was Kenton Grau’s goal. Kevin Fedarko’s tale of Grau’s journey is riveting.
Happy shopping, Happy reading, Happy Holidays!