Cowboy Wisdom

Once upon a time I used to do some cowboying; not so much anymore. Throughout my life, I have heard cowboy wisdom. Some of it I’ve heard from the mouth of a cowboy, some I have read, some I have experienced. I have a hankering to share some of it today.

The less a man knows the more he’ll tell you about it.

Have you noticed that sometimes folks like to prove how much they know and in the process they prove how much they don’t know? They also like to prove how much you don’t know while they are at it. I have run into this a lot, especially in the horse business. I just smile now, and don’t let any of it stick. It’s better to let others point out your strengths rather than to point them out to others yourself.

Always pick up your hay strings. 

I heard this one from one of our old ranch managers, Norm Hartz. Some farmers and ranchers just throw their hay strings into the dirt after they cut a bale of hay. I’ve had to cut those strings off of the paddles of a manure spreader a time or two in my day. (It’s tedious.)

It is better to take care of your hay strings when you first cut them off the bale rather than down the road. It also pays to take care of your business when it comes along, like apologizing when you should and off loading your baggage before it piles up too high in, er, the manure wagon.

Never hire a man who wears gloves. 

I heard this at the funeral of a cowboy who died in our ward a few years ago. His name was Dale Castagno. To me it means don’t trust someone who won’t get their hands dirty and calloused doing real work or who runs away from pain when duty calls for it.

You can’t be a cowboy unless you carry a pocket knife. 

I heard this when I was a boy from an old hand named Ralph Keen. I didn’t have a knife on me at the time, but I went out and bought one right after that. I still have that knife. It’s a Buck knife. It has a broken blade, but I still carry it in my pickup. Nowadays, I carry a small pocket knife to work each day, and carry a larger one with me on the weekends (when I wear jeans). Nobody knows I’ve got one on me until it’s needed. It comes in handy.

Reward the smallest try.

This is something the great horseman Ray Hunt used to say. It means when your horse shows the slightest effort to do what you are asking it to do, praise the horse, give it a break, rubs its neck, pull our a treat from your back pocket. It really works with horses; in fact, I was using it just yesterday with a horse. It also works with kids. And husbands. And wives.

If you have some cowboy wisdom you want to share, I’d love to read it. Please comment.

2 thoughts on “Cowboy Wisdom

  1. Anonymous July 27, 2012 / 1:05 pm

    The gloves “wisdom” seems absurd in the extreme. Gloves can allow a person to work for much longer and do more. If that's what passes for wisdom among cowboys, it probably explains the dearth of Cowboy “wisdom.”


  2. Mike Fitzgerald August 5, 2012 / 5:00 pm

    I know it seems absurd to not wear gloves. I wear them! But knowing the man who said that, I get what he meant, especially after thinking about it for a few years. I have known cowboys who have had a dearth of wisdom, but not the good ones. The ones who know their business, have been at it for a lifetime, the ones who talk less and do more, the ones who treat horses and cows and people with great respect. Those are the ones who have no dearth of wisdom.


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