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A Cowboy's Job

Posted by Ben Beckendorf on

A Texas rancher was asked, "What would you do if someone were to give you several million dollars tax free?" The rancher thought for a moment and answered, "Well l don't rightly know but I guess I'd just keep on ranching till the money ran out." As John Erickson put it: "Maybe people go into the cattle business for sound economic reasons. But what keeps them there is something else. Call it romance, adventure, excitement, whatever. It becomes a way of life, and over the years Texans have been inclined to stay with it long after the bottom line said it was time to get out. They will stay with it because survival has become a habit, and because fooling around with cattle has always been more than a business. It's a game, a gamble, and a way of life."

The Tom O'Connor Ranch in South Texas occupies both sides of two highways and several times a year cattle must be rotated from one pasture to another on the opposite side of a highway. A cowboy's job has to be learned through experience, and moving cattle across a highway takes a lot of coordination to prevent serious problems. Unlike the beer commercials, real cowboys work with little thanks for very long hours. As an old cowhand once told me, "When we head out in the morning, it's still dark, and by the time we quit, it's dark again. It sure don't take long to spend the night on this ranch."

I did several drawings on the Tom O'Connor Ranch twenty years ago when "Mr. Tom" was alive. Many "hired" cowboys spend their entire lives on one ranch, owning little more than their personal clothing. When the cattle are all in the new pasture the cowboys will hold them in a rather tight group until they settle down and the calves all "Mama-up" before letting them wander off in their new unfamiliar surroundings.

-Excerpt from Charles Beckendorf Texas

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