And then just out of the blue, as they say, comes a long letter from one of our so many (about 60) kids that lived and worked with us during our busy dude ranch/cattle ranch operation. What a happy time to reminisce about life, the life and times of an important era in these many teenagers’ history.
Summers with us obviously made a big dent in Chris’ life. His father was a professor at Oklahoma University, and their family was a part of several O.U. faculty that vacationed here every summer. Chris first came when he was barely old enough to ride a horse, but by the time he finished high school he had had many summers full of our very old fashioned style education, thanks to big boss Jim, who loved to teach any kid who would listen how to do things sensibly in this real world they were a part of.
I’m sure Chris won’t mind my repeating a part of his letter. This is his description of Jim: “Jim taught me just about everything I know about machines, tools, welders, tractors, weasels (a small amphibious tank we had), hay bailers, bulldozers, and the such, including a curious phenomenon of the ill fitting nut, bolt or other mechanical piece, known by its adjective form, “irreverent.” This adjective could be used to refer to any particular situation in which the relative pieces did not fit together appropriately. This odd word pertained to, substituted for a cuss word, obviously.
He also taught me about horses, cows, fences, gates and silver paint. In my senior high school picture I’m wearing my black horn rim glasses speckled with silver paint, my glasses being the mute evidence of the gallons of silver paint I applied to various gates, fences, and cattle guards.
I also learned how to turn a sardine can into a protective boot after Coyote (the ranch’s kid horse) stepped on Jim’s foot. I watched him cut out the toe of a hunting boot, then carefully trim a sardine can (large size) to fit the top, and secure the whole thing with duct tape. It truly protected his broken toes until he caught it on the base of the concrete mixer. He went straight to his knees, and didn’t say a word, but he didn’t have to; the tears streaming down his cheeks said it all.” I knew Jim so well and I know it took a lot of pain to render him speechless!
Chris was here when one of our best horses, Bill, rolled over an irrigation ditch and ended up up-side-down, unable to get up. Jim rigged up a rope and he and the boys up-righted Bill. The horse surely would have died if left alone. Chris also helped Jim put down one of our best horses after she broke her leg. “I didn’t realize how tough it would be. I can still see it in my mind.” Chris writes.
Jim and I never dreamed we’d made any kind of an impression on our “surrogate kids” as Chris calls them. Chris is now a busy attorney and has two boys just starting college. I suspect they heard Chris expand on the school of hard ranch knocks he was exposed to every summer long ago. Not all of that was fun, but hey! Isn’t that what growing up is all about? And, Chris — the feelings are mutual — we learned just as much from you kids as you did from us!
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.