H. Alan Day's Blog
I had never been to Puget Sound, so when my good friend Dave invited me to visit this past July, I jumped at the chance. Dave’s house is perched on a hill overlooking the water and offers the most magnificent view of the waterway and the Olympic Mountains. His little outboard motorboat is tied in the harbor three hundred feet below, and the crab grounds are about a half a mile out to sea.
Every day after golf, into the boat and out to the crab grounds we went. Skipping over the tiny waves in the small boat, icy saltwater spraying us, was nothing like riding a horse while gathering cattle in the hot, dusty desert. I’ve rafted down the Grand Canyon, lounged on a houseboat in Lake Powell, elbowed others on a “cattle” cruise boat in the Mexican Riviera. Not even those compared to the sensation of whizzing over the waters of Puget Sound.
We pulled up the crab traps never knowing the contents. But Dave’s an expert and we never came up empty. Anywhere from two to eight Dungeness crabs surfaced, along with a few smaller crabs and starfish that were immediately jettisoned to their watery grazing grounds.
We took the crabs straight back to the dock where we cleaned and prepped them for cooking. Within a half hour, they were steaming in a crab cooker.
I was raised on beef, but I have no complaints about crab. The sweet meat is hard to stop eating. We didn’t even dip it in butter. It didn’t need it. Fresh crabmeat, a salad, some white wine, and a Pacific Northwest sunset is as good as it gets. I love Arizona, but I sure don’t mine falling in love with new places and spaces.
Aired June 16, 2018
Author H. Alan Day joins the Voices of the West program at the 27:00 mark. In this interview Alan shares some of his experiences and talks about his latest book “Cowboy Up!”, a collection of short stories about growing up on a ranch in southeast Arizona.
Voices of the West
However, Duncan has an All School parade. Past graduating classes from Duncan High School—home of the Duncan Wildcats when I attended—have the opportunity to build a float. Local farmers haul their flatbeds to town with tractors. Classmates hang streamers on those flatbeds and load folding chairs. Then all the classmates take a seat and ride the four blocks through downtown Duncan .
About five years ago, I rode in the parade. The reunion with old friends was a ton of fun. But that day I also learned something. I learned the definition of “small town.”
Small town (N): When you’re in the parade and waving and waving, but no one is waving back because everyone is the darn parade!
Wishing you a happy 4th of July. Hope you get to wave at somebody.
A Tour of Downtown Duncan March 2017
In the desert, June is hotter than July or August. When I lived on Lazy B, we always started looking for clouds and rain around July 4th, and we were eager to have some by then after living through the heat of June.
There was one day that I recall being the hottest. We had a new BLM range conservationist, Frank Hayes, who worked out of the Safford office. Young and cocky, Frank didn’t have much experience, but loved the process of understanding grazing, grass, and land and was anxious to make a name for himself as a good range con.
One day Frank called. “Alan, I want you to round up the cattle and move them to High Lonesome Pasture,” he said. “We’ll rest the East Pasture for six months.”
I agreed the pasture needed resting. “But the calves are quite young,” I countered, “and still recovering from the shock of branding. They don’t have much energy right now. And it’s too hot. If we wait until rain starts, it’ll be a better time. “
“No, we have to do it now,” said Frank, flexing his authority.
I knew in theory he was correct; in practicality, however, it was the wrong time to make the move. But you only learn things like that through years of experience out on the range, not in your chair in the BLM office. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade Frank to postpone the move, I said, “Okay, I’ll move the cattle one condition. You need to come out and help.”
On the given day, we set out at 3:30 am. We had about eight cowboys including Jay O’Connor, my nephew and Sandra’s youngest son, who was quite interested in the ranch but had a pretty smart mouth. The East Pasture was quite large, so we spread out and started rounding up the cattle. By 11 am, we began the drive toward High Lonesome.
The temperature topped one hundred degrees. No clouds floated above us, no shade spread below us. The cattle plodded along, their pace growing slower and slower until finally they just quit. We could maybe prod a cow to move ten steps, but then she’d stop. We had reached Horseshoe Tank, which was bone dry. At least the cook had arrived in the pick up with our lunch.
We got off our horses and let them stand. They had no interest in moving. There wasn’t a tree in sight. After we guzzled some cold water, the eight of us crawled underneath the pickup. We were too hot to eat. For about an hour, everybody laid in any small scrap of shade they could claim. At least the sun wasn’t beating down on our faces. Had the pickup been parked there all day, the ground would’ve been cool, but it wasn’t. It was hot. We were hot. We just laid there as still as the cows, unable to move or speak.
Finally, Jay turned to Frank and said, “How does this feel, Frank? Do you feel pretty smart now?”
I was mortified. Was Jay repeating what I had said? Probably. At the same time, I was proud of Jay for saying the obvious.
Frank didn’t reply.
After an hour, I rallied the group to finish the last mile and half. We got the cows and calves moving and drove them to High Lonesome. They appreciated the fresh water and fresh feed.
It was one helluva a hot day to teach a lesson. Then again, the lesson couldn’t have been taught without the hot day.
When you grow up on ranch riding horses almost every day, you’re no stranger to rodeos, by they in your own backyard or on the official circuit.
When I was a junior in high school, the local Duncan rodeo was coming up. I decided that I was going to enter the bareback bronc riding. It would cost ten bucks.
I shared my plans with our foreman, Leroy.
“Oh boy, that’s a good idea,” said Leroy. “But I might have a better idea for you.”
“What would that be?” I asked.
Leroy said, “Well, we have six young horses at High Lonesome. If you want, I’ll go over there with you, and we’ll catch one or two or three or four. I’ll put you on as many as you want. They’ll all buck you off. It’ll be ten dollars cheaper and there won’t be anyone to laugh at you.”
For a day or two, I thought about Leroy’s offer and finally concluded that it was a good one. From that point on, I restricted my getting bucked off to ranch horses.
That was Leroy. He’d never come out and say something was a dumb idea. But whatever he told you, made you think, “That’s a dumb idea.”
I suspect we all need a Leroy in our life now and then.