Long Live the Cowboy

 by Rose Buchanan 

The coo of the morning dove settles over the calm of the morning. I stand in the barn doorway, looking out over the meadows surrounded by the Monitor Mountains. The horses crunch their grain and nuzzle alfalfa crumbs. The cows will be rounded up today. Branding season is among us and around two hundred head of calves are waiting for their brands and shots. Gates creak as horses are led from their corrals to the hitching rail. Curry combs scratch and brush furry coats as my wife and children groom and saddle horses for the day’s work that lies ahead for our family. The last to tack my horse, I am surrounded by the only saddles that line the old barn wall. They are no longer chosen for any of the ranch horses in our string. They were Papa’s saddles. They line the walls, along with the harnesses of the old draft horses that once worked the meadows for the ranch’s hay crops. I lead my bay mare past the old buckboard wagons to the horse trailer. Six horses are loaded. My wife and kids pile in the truck, and I begin the drive down the canyon. We pass Horse Heaven where Papa was laid to rest twenty-three years ago. Then the tiny, one room log cabin at the lower meadow where Papa grew up. Once enclosed with a sod roof, the skeleton of what was, now stands on the boarder of the lower meadows. Built in 1887, the little cabin was the first structure of what would continue to grow and become Martin ranch. Eight miles later, we drive out on the range. I stop to let out horses and riders. They tighten cinches and bridle horses. Off I watch them ride, trotting away in the direction of the cattle. My bay mare and I are the last in the trailer and I watch my wife and kids begin the cattle push across the flats toward the old Windmill Corral. Seasons of time come and go, what remains are stories and the work. I build a fire for the branding irons, the marks that have passed down through our family for six generations. Its more than work that will busy our hands today, but the passing of memories and traditions. What was once a dream over a hundred years ago is now a gift I can give to my children. It is the gift of hard work, an identity of knowing where one comes from, a sense of belonging and being needed. The gift of work and progress that continues to unite across time, for a rancher’s work is never done.