My editor, website designer, and the love of my life, have all encouraged me to share some stories with you. Somewhat reluctantly, I have finally agreed. My previous reluctance involved why anyone unfamiliar with our family history would be interested in what I will tell you are real family stories. I say that because some have been passed down, some I remember from early childhood, and all occurred many years ago.
My dad was born in 1910; and I was the third son, born in 1945. As a three year old, I was burned severely in a self-inflicted gasoline fire. The residual scarring was located on my left abdomen and left arm. That event had to have affected me in a variety of ways as I grew up. Of the few that I am aware would include intentionally using my left arm as much, if not more so, than my right. Not a pretty sight, but a blessing to have and with functionality. I rarely went without a shirt. Though I never knew a physical limitation of any kind, I can’t help but believe that it affected my self confidence, particularly with the opposite sex. High self esteem could have been a problem, except, I grew up in a family of cowboys.
My dad, his dad, and both uncles were literally in a class of the best of the best with regard to cowboys. In that lineage, I had great confidence that I, too, would become what they were. I thought I was pretty “hot shit” during my teenage years–a cowboy!
We were as poor as church mice, but that was only an inconvenience. It just seemed to come with the territory of being cowboys. Remember, too, that the time frame involving me, was the 1950’s and 1960’s. From my generation forward, the cowboy life changed significantly. I wouldn’t have known it then; but as it turned out, I was a remnant of the last of the great historic cowboys that created the beef industry. Men who had a saddle and little else.
It was a way of life that could be appreciated only from within. There was no accumulation of wealth. There was no “assistance” when one grew too old to cowboy. Heart attacks were common, and just may have been a blessing. Given the diet of most of these men, it was the most common cause of death. A lot of these cowboys were single their entire life. It was a significant economic challenge, particularly, for the families of these men who died prematurely.
Today, though I live a fairly healthy lifestyle, growing old, confined to any assisted living arrangement is out of the question for me. I tell my sons that if I have a heart attack, leave my ass alone for thirty minutes. Then, if I’m still alive, haul my ass to Scott & White (four hours away). No ambulances, no lifesaving methods that keep me breathing, without any of the quality of life issues that matter remaining. I am not afraid of death. I am afraid of the issues associated with an “assisted living” lifestyle. No thank you! I’ll gladly take the old traditional cowboy way out of this life and join my creator.
All of that simply sets the stage for the “Wild West Stories” to follow. They are real, small occurrences that have accumulated over time. Within the family, they were humorous. You may or may not find them so; but they are a reflection of times of the past. Just remember the background, the setting if you will, and the economic instability, and you, too, might find them at least modestly entertaining.