Category Archives: Cowboy Stuff

Sagebrush Telegraph #1

The Sagebrush Telegraph
News from where the FM stations are static-y and nobody knows how to swim

 Elko County residents removed their wild rags and tentatively stored their down jackets just in time for the glorious Fourth. Cattle are turned out for the summer, cowboys are taking their ropes down every time the boss goes to town, and lock ‘er up if she’s young and pretty when the TS crew hits Elko on Saturday night.

The YP Ranch threw a big party last weekend to celebrate the completion of branding. Rumor has it a live band entertained the guests, who partied like the cows were never coming home. You know what they say: Be there or be sober.

Just down the road from the YP, Michael and Madison Mori welcomed a baby boy, Pete Robert, on June 4. He joins big sister Marinna (Marenna? Marynna? Marena? Eh, close) and attended his first branding at 8 days old. He did not rope.

For the older kids, school’s out, and young Anna Van Norman made her first honest-to-goodness, bring-your-own-cattle circle last week. She may not be old or stout enough yet to stop the whole herd in a run-back, but she doesn’t miss any cattle and she’s one heck of a drag-bringer-upper.

Anna’s aunt, Tilly Van Norman will become Mrs. Freeman next month when she weds longtime Elko resident Jason Freeman (no relation to Asher and Barak). The beautiful bride-to-be currently spends all of her waking (and probably half of her sleeping) moments planning for her dress, her bridesmaids’ dresses, flower girls’ dresses, flowers, the reception, food, music, invitations, groomsmen’s attire, the cake, the guest book, should the ring bearer remain standing with the wedding party or sit down with his mother during the ceremony?, the honeymoon trip, and how to decorate her new home. She spends approximately 6 ½ hours each day on the phone, not including time spent dialing. Luckily, she has an understanding roommate who doesn’t consider communication with members of the outside world a personal necessity.

For members of the outside world looking for a big break, the historic Reed Station division of the JP Bar Ranch is currently accepting applications for a full-time cook and housekeeper. The position is unpaid and housing is sketchy, but mismatched pots and pans are supplied. BYOS (bring your own spatula). Applicants must hold a two-year degree from a US accredited culinary institute or have at least 3 weeks’ experience waiting tables at Denny’s. Call the Telegraph for more additional information; serious inquiries only.

Larry Goicoechea has taken over owner/manager/chef responsibilities at Lone Mountain Station once again, and Jim Young was spotted dining there on Saturday night with a redheaded gal. They both enjoyed Larry’s famous prime rib while she sipped red wine and he drank Coors Light. Mr. Young was unavailable for comments, but word around the sagebrush is she’s a writer of some sort.

For upcoming events, the ever-lovely Denise Moody will be making a special guest appearance at this year’s Elko County Fair. She looks forward to watching the novice snaffle bit class, where her daughter may or may not fall off going down the fence. Ms. Moody is excited to trade in her duties of teaching horsemanship to troubled children in Southern Arizona and buckaroo for a couple days. A quick heads up: she will take in the afternoon horse races, so clear the way to the betting windows and hang onto your money. Mama knows how to pick ’em.

Enjoy the summer; both weeks should be great.  Take a deep seat and a faraway look in your eye 🙂


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Horseback Again

Well, I made it through Week #1 at Van Norman Quarter Horses.  My second day of work consisted of fixing fence in a snowstorm.  If that isn’t fun, I don’t know what is.  Despite my optimistic daily predictions of “It’s supposed to be 65 and sunny today” throughout the week, the weather didn’t improve much, but the workload did. 

I helped Ty start some three-year-old colts, an activity that always improves this girl’s disposition.  Colts are so fun; trot around with no steering wheel, strike a lope, then trot around behind another colt, which scares the lead colt, which makes him grab another gear and take off, so the second colt accelerates to catch up, it’s fun. 

Colts are so expressive.  I ask for a right turn with my halter rope, and sometimes they lean against it and shake their heads, like saying “I don’t wanna!”  They perk their ears up and trot across the pen to sniff the fence, as in “Hey, guys, check it out – a red gate!”  The barn cat jumps out of a tire feeder, and the colt whirls sideways and arches his neck.  “Holy s@#!&!  What was that?!”  Then the dog walks in front of the colt and he puts his head down, points his ears, and follows it. 

I realize I’m very fortunate to ride JP Bar horses at work every day.  The scariest thing these colts do is put their heads down and lick their lips.  I acquired another bridle horse in my string (his name’s Owhyee – guess where he’s from?) and 3 gentle, friendly little colts.  Riding these suckers is worth suffering through blowing snowstorms and a windburned face.

A windburn looks and feels much like a sunburn, except it’s not nearly as much fun.  With a sunburn, at least you get to remember the fun time you had lying on a beach/swimming in the lake/barbequeing in your backyard.  With a windburn, all you can tell yourself is “Gee, how can there possibly be any dirt left in this desert?  I’m pretty sure every particle of it blew directly into my eyes today.”  It’s like a hangover without the party.

Wind or no wind, it’s nice to be horseback again.  Now I can start wearin’ out my boots from the top down once more 🙂

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A Rodeo Survival Story

We all survived the Spring Creek Ranch Rodeo, and I don’t mind saying just barely.  Luckily, there were no wrecks requiring an ambulance or vet, and the only incident to note involved a cowboy’s right rein breaking during the branding contest.  I won’t mention any names, but he works at the YP, was riding a big Paint horse, and answers to Tim Kershner.  Not too sure what exactly happened, but he finished the event with only half his steering ability and did just fine.

I got “voluntold” to help with the calcutta prior to Saturday evening’s performance.  I’d never helped with a calcutta before, and it turned out that  “helping” meant running a footrace with myself carrying receipt books up and down bleachers and collecting checks from large, menacing women who said they owed $195 while my calculations said $205.  I barely survived.

After my public service stint, I sipped a gin and tonic and mingled.  Katie and I had prettied ourselves up at her house before the rodeo, and between the pre-event cocktails and giggling, I ended up with an Oscars-worthy updo.  I wore smoky eyeshadow, black eyeliner, and a  you-can’t-tell-it’s-not-real-leather biker jacket.  Seven-year-old Anna said “You look like you should be on a motorcyle!”  I felt like a bad a$$.  It was fun 🙂

During the rodeo, I finalized the details of my next job, lined up interviews for articles, conducted an interview, ate some French fries, cuddled the world’s cutest six-month-old (he belongs to you, Becky!), and pinky-swore a high school junior that I’d substitute teach school one day on the rez next year.  I hope I survive.

After the rodeo, we enjoyed smoke-free ambiance and conversation at the Star, then headed to Stockmen’s to dance.  The band was good and the drinks were weak, but due to the chain smokers we were all guaranteed to feel ill the next morning.  We somehow survived.

I decided partway through the night that I would be sober driver, but my change of plans was thwarted when I realized I didn’t have my pickup.  After the band quit, I drank big cups of water and listened to the guys tell stories about getting frapped harder into the dirt by the pickup man’s run-off horse than the actual bronc, starting colts in Kentucky last fall, and drinking in Nashville (“There are twenty-six bars in that town, and we went to all of ’em in one night!  I don’t remember most of them, though.”  Really?  Weird.)  They barely survived.

Finally, Christina and I took the boys to their motel at 4 AM.  One of them offered me a ride home, and I told him Christina was taking me.  He offered again, and I told him if he needed a place to stay, we had two extra rooms.

He looked at me with a level gaze and said, “But, I wouldn’t want to stay in one of those rooms.”

“Well, that’s where you’d be stayin’,” I replied.

“You mean, we can’t just make out for a little while?”

“Um, no,” I said and (because I laugh at everything), I laughed. 

He shrugged and laughed, too.  “Well, don’t be mad at me for trying.”

“Oh, no, I’m flattered, thank you.  But that’s just not going to happen,” I said as I grabbed my purse and headed for Christina’s pickup.

Whew!  I went to bed early Sunday night and I’m teaching third grade today, which is a survival story in itself.  Can’t wait ’till Jordan Valley Big Loop….hope I survive 🙂


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Hit The Road, Jack

I took a cue from Dave Barry (motto: “I love mottoes”) and compiled this fictitious (please don’t sue me, city of Newport) travel guide.

Elko, Nevada: Motto “Our streets are more rutted than yours.”  Come experience the real Wild West, as it applies to eating at one of the many delicious and smoke-filled casino restaurants, playing the slots while grocery shopping, and hanging out with pipe line workers at the laundromat.  Local buckaroo sightings available in town every payday.

Montague, California: Motto “Weed has the college, Yreka has the Wal-Mart, but we have the roping club.”  In this quaint rural town, you can buy fuel (including diesel!), eat at one of the one downtown restaurants, or mail a letter.  Make a day of it and do all three.

Bozeman, Montana: Motto “We hate Californians.”  In this beautifully built college town, you can eat some truly terrible Mexican food, some truly delicious sushi (fried chicken rolls available) and fly fish within miles of the city limits.  Budget tourist packages consist of driving around local communities and taking pictures of multi-million dollar vacation homes.  Bison burger lunches provided; bring your own camera.

Newport, Oregon: Motto “Where the ocean meets the sky, and the sun never shines.”   Enjoy fresh-caught seafood in one of the many locally-owned restaurants, hike in the lush hills, watch surfers brave 2-foot waves in wetsuits (hypothermia optional; additional fee required), or count raindrops.  Annual temperatures fluctuate from 56-59 degrees Farenheit.  Rain expected 312 days a year, with special emphasis on July 4th.

Tombstone, Arizona: Motto “Wyatt Earp lives!  He’s just on meth with the rest of the population.”  A mere 15 miles from Mexico (as the crow flies.  As the crow drives, it’s about 40 miles down the interstate and through the Border Patrol checkpoint), T-stone offers visitors the unique opportunity to stroll down wooden sidewalks, buy a t-shirt that reads “I’ll Be Your Huckleberry,” and eat an ice cream cone while watching a gunfight.  Editor’s note: the $2 margaritas are mixed 50/50 and significantly raise the ratings for the entire town.

If this doesn’t inspire you to grab a change of underwear and your toothbrush, crank over the diesel engine and hit the interstate, you can always settle for the at-home cowboy vacation: buy a jug of Carlo Rossi and watch Lonesome Dove. Both discs.

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Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo

The best stories are always unprintable, but here’s one slightly censored version of last weekend’s Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo.

I drove over on Saturday morning with Tilly and her boyfriend Jason.  Tilly was in the rodeo, so we left Elko at 5:15 AM in the morning.  It seems Rule #1 of Winnemucca is “All road trips must begin before 5:30 AM.”  Whether people drove from neighboring states, the Owyhee Reservation or ten miles south of the fairgrounds, everybody left in the dark.  It was good conditioning for a weekend of sleep deprivation. 

First stop for everyone seemed to be the Maverik gas station, where rodeo attendees bought diesel, coffee, and potato chips.  Once at the fairgrounds, the contestants loped their horses around and we spectators sipped bloody marys with plenty of pickled vegetables and ate chili fries. 

First point of interest: the horses from the rez.  I gotta say, I like those long, tall, rangy-lookin’ horses!  Such an improvement from riding Texas cutters, where you can actually help your horse travel by setting your feet on and pushing off the taller rocks. 

Horseflesh aside, I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the trade show.  Looking at all the hand-engraved silver, tooled saddles, Millie Hunt-Porter books, and jewlery with no spending money was kind of masochistic.  I took two-year-old Maggie walking around with me, and she would stop, point, and let out a loud gasp of delight every time she saw a dog or another child her size.  Good reminder that the best things in life still are free.

After the rodeo and during the horse sale, I made a great discovery.  If you buy coffee at the concession stand and carry it to the bar, they will pour a shot of kahlua in it for a small fee.  Yahtzee!  Hot toddies saved my cold-blooded self Saturday night. 

After the horse sale, we migrated to Winners Casino.  The Jeff Palmer Band did justice to some rockin’ dance tunes, somebody drank the bar out of Jack, and we got free popcorn.  Most unique line from a guy I’ve heard so far: “It’s 2:13.  Wanna go sleep in a bathtub?”  I think that was his way of saying “It’s getting late and I’m really drunk.  Can I crash in your room?” 

By the time I called it a night (or early morning, whatever), I had two outside horses to ride this summer, a queasy stomach from breathing several decades’ worth of secondhand smoke plus the freshly produced stuff, and a lap dance.  Success all around!

The theme for Sunday’s rodeo was “My eyes are a shade of red no eye drops can whiten.  I’m really craving French fries, but the thought of food makes me ill.  I barely have the strength to crack a beer and sit on my horse/sit in the stands.  At least it’s Sunday and we can go back to work and catch a break tomorrow.” 

I met a staff writer from the Nevada Rancher, got another story assignment, and met a neat braider/cowboy to add to my collection of People to Pester for Stories For My Cowboy Book.  Add a little work-related activity to a road trip and call the whole weekend a business expense.  I love being self-unemployed.

Like I said, the best stories aren’t printable.  As such, I highly recommend going to Winnemucca next March to acquire some unedited stories of your own.  If you’re there, look me up.  I’ll be the girl drinking cofee (wink wink) and laughing way too loudly.

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Why is every generation so egotistical and self-centered that they think their problems are The Worst EVER? 

My generation has drivers who text while driving, airport suicide bombers, increasing government regulations, rapidly diminishing Social Security funds and a healthcare crisis.  According to our elders, life will never be as good as it was 40 years ago.  We are doomed.

Big deal.  We are not unique; when the first automobiles hit the streets, the aging members of the previous generation slapped their buggy whips on ol’ Bay’s rump and said “Those darn fools who buy those noisy, breakin’-down, inefficient contraptions!  Henry Ford must’ve been drinkin’ his bathwater.  They’ll never catch on.” 

Technology always catches on.

Humankind also is continually plagued by problems.  We think no cell phone service, ridiculously high medical bills, hormonally enhanced cows’ milk and ADD are problems?  What about the folks in preceeding eras who dealt with being thrown in front of lions for refusing to renounce their faith, or those who were killed by Crusaders for refusing to convert?

Royal women in the Middle Ages had one life goal: produce a male heir.  Could you imagine facing the Black Plague with no hand sanitizer?  Or coming to America with a cough, knowing you wouldn’t make it through Ellis Island and Ireland was fresh out of potatoes?

Ranchers today have to fight the BLM and anit-horse-slaughter activists.  Ranchers in the 1800s had to fight Geromino, winter and railroad land-grabbers.  There’s always a war; the battlefied just changes. 

What are we going to do about our problems?  There most likely are viable solutions.  We need to see past our own generation, both forward and backward, and get some perspective.  This is not the end of the world, and if it is, then who cares anyway?  I know where I’m going.

Perspective.  That’s the important element.

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Cowboy Poetry Craziness

Another National Cowboy Poetry Gathering has come and gone, taking with it the crowds wearing purple hats, prairie skirts, spurs (??) and obscene amounts of leather fringe.  It is now safe to eat at JR’s in a flat hat and not have tourists wearing bolo ties nod their slouch felt hat in your direction in a tacit “Howdy, pardner.”

  My cowboy compadres, I must report that according to the Poetry People’s attire, you are not fashionable unless you are sporting a silver-engraved scarf slide that could double as a post horn cap.  Poetry People own expensive handmade western jewelry, custom hats, high-top lace-up boots rarely seen outside of 1800s tintypes, hat bands adorned with beads/hitched horsehair/conchos/tassles/all of the above, and riatas.  They display all these items on their persons at all times when walking down Commercial Street hoping to catch a glimpse of Michael Martin Murphy.

I missed MMM, but I was lucky enough to score front row seats to Baxter Black.  That pretty much made my Poetry week!  I have long been a fan of his talented, witty, insightful writing, and was thrilled to discover BB is even funnier in live performance.  The man has a theatrical, dry, genuine manner, timing the pauses in his delivery to perfectly crack up the audience right on cue.  I loved every minute. 

I enjoyed the Milner family’s music and storytelling, even though they’re from Oklahoma.  I visited with Chuck Milner after his show, and it turns out we know several of the same people from Texas.  My favorite CM song lyric: “I went to town and signed another note/The bank’s got plenty of money/It’s been three years since they went broke.”  Great guy, and a Christian to boot.  I highly recommend his down-to-earth, wholesome, hilarious entertainment.

The Midnight Dance played by Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans was terrific.  I smoked a delicious vanilla cigar (thanks, John!), sipped some gin and tonic, and spun around the hardwood with some skilled leaders.  I narrowly avoided bodily injury when Malachi decided to use my body as a human missle, launching me into unsuspecting fellow dancers, but there may be a small dent in the wall by the Stockmen’s dance floor.

My dad and stepmom stayed with me for several days, so that was fun.  This is the first time I’ve had a really nice house to play hostess in, one that smells nice and doesn’t have mice running across the beds at night.  I think the change was appreciated by all.

I was fortunate enough to hang out with 6 top saddlemakers (Gaylerd Thissell, Doug Krause, Andy Stevens, Bob Park, Steven Mecum and Don Butler) for a few days in pursuit of a story.  That’s the best part of journalism; writing a story gives me free rein to ask interesting people all kinds of nosy questions.  I learned a ton and can’t wait to put my new knowledge into an article and share it!

Sorry if this post is marked by a distinct lack of smooth transitions between topics.  I stayed up until 4 AM and woke up at 7. 

All in all, a good week for visiting family, meeting new people, enjoying some smooth guitar-pickin’, and advancing my freelance writing career.  Now, the pressure’s on: I only have 365 days to find a purple hat.


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A Good Day To Cowboy

If I weren’t me, I would be jealous. 

I spent today day working at the Holland Ranch with Ty VN.  On the drive from Reed Station to the Holland headquarters, Ty and I visited about the Lord and what He’s been doing in our lives.  Ty and his family are settling into their new life at the Roseberry house, and they sold the rest of their meadow hay. 

To start the morning off, I rode my favorite caballo, the Van Normans’ home-raised 4-year-old roan stud, “JP Colonel’s Pistol.”  That horse is a day at the beach with a margarita in each hand.  He’s cowy, built to hold a Weatherly saddle tree, kind, and good-lookin’ to boot. 

The ground completely thawed today, so no equine ice skating!  Yay!  I ditched my wild rag before noon and wore my cowboy boots all day.  I did wear my super-duper Cabela’s Wind Sheer-lined 100% wool winter-can-go-fly-a-kite sweater, though, so that was partly why I was so warm.  I cheated 🙂

For the afternoon’s activities, I rode Ty’s 11-year-old bridle horse, “Rambler.”  He’s built like a pocket knife blade and plenty leggy, so a very comfy ride.  Sure was easy to smile trottin’ through a meadow ridin’ that particular sorrel. 

So the horseflesh was superb, but the cattle….oy, why must they be all black?  The first calf heifers stood in the gate.  Sniffed the gate post.  Turned around and bawled as they ran toward the icy river. 

Really?  Really.

Then someone shows up driving a tractor towing a flatbed trailer with remnants from the morning’s feeding, thinking he’d be helpful and chum the heifers down the lane ahead of us.  All he did was jam the whole bunch behind a bridge. 

God invented farmers so cowboys could practice their patience skills. 

But, I won’t let that ruin my overall evaluation of the day: divine.  Good horses, good company, good thaw, good Basque-o cookin’ at the end of the day….can’t beat that with a stick!

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Wintertime Smiles

I drove out to Reed Station and picked up my saddle and gear, bedroll, hats, and a few other odds and ends I left at Van Normans’ when I moved out in a snowstorm over a month ago.  I washed the bedding and put it back together, hung my bridles in the tack room here at Allie’s, and stashed my hats in my room. 

Being reunited with my gear reminds me of my real reason for living in town this winter.  My intention was to work on my writing career, establish contacts with editors so I can continue to write for pay after I go to cowboying in the spring.  I don’t want to get sidetracked by a full-time regular “career” and work in a bank or grocery store.  I’ve heard of people who want to stability, living in one location several consecutive years and working at the same job.  I can’t relate.

I’m excited to tie some knots with rawhide scraps Don gave me onto the old leather split reins I use to tie my bed together.  That’s the kind of non-modern girl I am, haha!  I have plans to acquire some sewing machine cord and make a pair of useful, if somewhat crude, reins for a bit I’m having repaired.  Pretty soon I’ll have TWO bridles….watch out!

My snaffle bit outfits need a little work, too.  One has a broken piece on the headstall (still useable) and one has a place on the split rein where a wood rat had himself a little snack.  My boots and saddles all need oiling….winter projects by the wood stove that make a person daydream plans for spring! 

I signed up as a ranching correspondent for the Elko Daily Free Press, so that will be fun.  I interviewed a couple great gals, Dylan Sponseller and Liz Brannan, yesterday for an upcoming article in the Nevada Rancher on women cowboys.  I learned a bunch, shared some laughs, and am really looking forward to writing this piece!

Today I am off to substitute teach middle school math.  More about the subbing biz later – boy, do I have some war stories!  But it’s always fun.

Enjoy the day, thanks for reading 🙂


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Cold Weather Country

You know what is a really good feeling?  The four-wheel-drive engaging on my pickup and taking aholt of the snow.  Stuck and awaiting rescue?  Not this girl!

I went to college in Bozeman, Montana for my junior year, and the campus is built on a hill.  The whole thing froze over in November and didn’t completely thaw until June (so I heard – I was gone by then).  In Montana, they say they have nine months of winter and three months of company.  Partial thaws during the winter left uneven ice-and-snow ruts several inches thick.  You couldn’t see the lines in the parking lot; everyone just roughly lined up parallel to the first vehicle in the mornings.

Some girls insisted on wearing heels, and they slipped and fell on the ice on a daily basis.  I never laughed – not until I was around the corner, anyway.  I wasn’t afraid to wear my Schnee’s snow packs to class, and I bought a huge down ski coat, even though I don’t ski.  I just felt stylish wearing a powder skirt.

The school maintained heated ponds, so trudging beside me through the fresh powder on my way to Managerial Accounting would be a duck.  My first day on campus, I drove past the black and yellow “Duck Crossing” sign and saw the mangled, bloody carcass of a duck lying at the base of the wooden post.  Poor things couldn’t catch a break; they were either roadkill or walking through the snow thinking “What the hell?” 

I’m back in cold weather country here in Northern Nevada.  During a November snowstorm, three of us rode through 1,800 weaner calves.  I faced the meadows, shut my eyes, and declared them all healthy.  Wishful thinking!  As we rode through the wind and wet snow, Ty mentioned that I’d been unusually quiet that morning. 

“I have nothing positive to add to the conversation,”  replied, returning all my energy to generating body heat. 

The cold really isn’t so bad, as long as a person is dressed for it and doesn’t value their extremeties.  That’s easy to say from my seat on the couch beside the wood stove.  For all you cowboys out there feeding cows and doctoring stuff on the big frozen slip ‘n slide we call “the ground,” you have my admiration.  You’re crazy, but I like it 🙂

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