|Dad and some of the 'boys'.|
It takes many hands to run a ranch.
Every one of my parents’ six children found . . . ummm . . . gainful employment there.
But before we kids were old enough to milk cows, heft bales and run equipment, these chores were tackled by hired men or 'boys' as they were called.
As many as six of them.
These men, mostly unmarried, lived in the bunk house.
And ate at the cook house.
If, for one reason or another, there was no cook in residence, they ate with us.
And that’s when I got to know them.
I can still see them as they filed silently to Mom’s supper table. Cowboy-hat tans that ended at the eyebrows, leaving the forehead white and gleaming. Hair slicked back and still wet. Heavy work shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows and slightly damp from their recent contact with soap and water. Rough, work-worn hands, newly-scrubbed but with darkened nails.
Over the years, we had many different men take up residence for long or short periods on the Stringam ranch.
Men from the neighbourhood who were just starting out on their own.
Educated young men from as far away as Hawaii or Korea or Denmark, wanting to learn the ranching ‘ropes’ to take back home.
New emigrants still struggling with the language.
I should mention, here, that learning English from the hired men on a ranch probably isn’t the best.
At least what they learned was . . . colourful.
Ahem . . .
All of them were taught to ride and work cattle. To fence and milk and hay and drive the disparate machines that were a part of ranching.
To think on their feet and react to the countless different scenarios that could – and did – crop up at any moment.
Those who lasted, eventually left the place changed men.
And they had their impact on us kids over the years.
And my favourite was Bud.
Bud worked on the ranch off and on. Beginning when I was four.
He was a local boy.
With a bit of a temper.
He and horses didn’t get along.
And the cows really didn’t like it when it was his turn to milk.
But he was always gentle and kind to me.
And I tagged after him everywhere.
Picture this: A tiny, skinny, white-blonde girl in jeans and a snap shirt.
|Dad and me|
Hopping and dancing along beside or behind.
Yep. That would be me.
I’d pop up the side of the fence and watch him feeding the bulls.
Sit on a stool nearby when he milked.
And follow him through his day as he went about his assigned chores.
He would smile at me and tease me.
Bud: “Hello, Diane-With-The-Red-Hair!”
Me: “Your hair is green!”
Yeah, so quick, I wasn’t.
He even gave me my own song, ‘Oh Danny Boy’. I’m guessing he didn’t know any songs with the word ‘Diane’ in them and that was as close as he could come.
And which song, interestingly enough, I hated.
As soon as he would start in, I would scream and disappear.
Hmmm. Maybe that’s why he did it . . .
I was devastated when Bud left the ranch to marry.
A few years later, he returned for a time, with his wife to act as ranch cook.
But his worsening health due to diabetes took its toll and he passed away from complications of the disease while still a comparatively young man.
Have you ever seen those internet sites titled ‘Gone, but Not Forgotten’?Bud is there.