THE BABY CALF WALTZ Young Bud and Allie were ranchin’ in the breaks, livin’ on eggs and burger, never eatin’ steaks. Grass was thin, arroyos deep, cactus everywhere, their poorly scrawny cows had to pick their eats with care. Rattle snakes and horny toads abounded on their acres, the ranch had been for sale for years, there never came no takers until these youngsters come along and said they’d make a try at raisin’ cows despite the fact the grass was thin and dry. They took possession in the fall which made it extra rough because the winter wind and snow made survival tough. Bud and Allie toughed it out by eatin’ beans and bread, were thinner in the spring because of pounds they‘d shed. They didn’t worry on themselves but watched the price of hay - they had to be particular about the price they’d pay. I saw ‘em every Thursday when they came into the store - a pitiful amount they would carry out the door. I watched them thru the winter into the early spring - into February when that Groundhog does his thing. Thursday came and went, and Friday went by too. In concern I asked their neighbors who didn’t have a clue as to how the kids were doin’ but hoped they were all right. My concern turned into worry which lasted thru the night. Early in the morning while eatin’ eggs and toast I thought I’d settle in my mind what bothered me the most. I fired up my pickup and put things in a sack I thought they might be needin’, and I wouldn’t take ‘em back no matter how they argued or how they each protested - I’d explain it was the future in which I had invested. Eighteen miles of snow over twisted roads of ruts and I had to shovel some as I struggled thru the cuts. When I topped the hill and looked down on the place it looked as stark and cold as a money lenders face. The closest I could get was about a quarter mile because their rig was stuck and had been for a while. I walked down to the place but saw no one around, when I walked up to the barn I thought I heard a sound. I shoulder pushed the door to get myself inside. The scene I saw in there made me smile wide. The barn was full of mama cows with babies at their side and Bud had Allie in his arms like you do a brand new bride. She was huggin’ on his neck, they was kissin’ as they whirled. They looked like perfect lovers in a nearly perfect world. Their laughter mingled with their tears as they danced around. I felt like an intruder in this joyful scene I’d found. When they finally saw me they grabbed me by the hand, I started out embarrassed but soon I felt so grand ‘cause every cow and calf was healthy as could be and we danced the baby calf waltz, Allie, Bud, and me. From that new beginning which happened long ago Bud & Allie’s fortune started and continued on to grow. We’re all a whole lot older, but I’ll tell you true, by darn, My favorite all time memory is of waltzing in the barn. Writer Ray Lubben - 1999
When I was a little kid we leased the neighborin' ranch. Sometimes when I was ridin' fence I'd see her there by chance. She always seemed to have a bruise, or maybe a black eye. I was barely in my teens and also sort of shy, so I never, ever, asked if I could help some way. She was barely thirty, when her hair turned grey. Then I went away to school to be a vet'inary, forgot about my homefolks, I guess that's ordinary if a youngster's off to school, and stayin' mighty busy in tryin' out the city ways which make you sort of dizzy. My Momma wrote a letter which showed up in the mail sayin' "Martha's lost her baby and her husband is in jail." I came home for summer, Martha's man was runnin' free. Once I heard him brag, "They couldn't pin a thing on me." I asked my Pa the story of Martha and her life. He told me then that Martha was a good and faithful wife. She had miscarried more than once from falling down a stair. She wouldn't meet the Doctor's eye or tell her misery there. The Sheriff went out to nose around, her man would only glare as she'd repeat her story of falling down the stair. There wasn't much the Sheriff could do but told her she should call if there came a situation where she thought that she might fall. I saw her once that summer when checkin' on some stock and she was ridin' fence line. We took the time to talk. We talked about the weather and how it was at school. She said autumn was her favorite 'cause it started turning cool. I asked how she was doing. She blinked and looked away. I noted her high cheekbones, and although her hair was grey I saw the curl was natural and her ear was shaped so fine, her hands were brown with sun tan and looked as strong as mine. She turned again to meet my gaze. A light was in her eye like the sound of children singing, or a rainbow in the sky. She said "Thanks a lot of asking. There's nothing you can do. If I'd ever raised a son, I'd want him just like you." I sensed the sorrow in her words and had to turn away. I felt so d__n inadequate, not knowing what to say. She said she had a lot to do to fix the fence out yonder and she better get down to it or the cattle would all wander. I helped her to her feet and then to my surprise, she kissed me quickly on my cheek with teardrops in her eyes. She stepped aboard her saddle and gathered up the reins, said, "Talkin' with you a while lets me forget my pains." She rode away along the line, stoppin' now and then to staple up a wire so the fence was tight again. I stood and thought and watched 'til she was out of sight, and I asked God for a blessing for this woman every night. God might have been real busy but he brightened Martha's life when her man got shot for messin' 'round with someone else's wife. I got a job and we had kids after I married Lizzie. The years all seemed to fly because I stayed so busy. I received a telegram and the message sure was strange. It said, "Martha's failing fast and she's giving you her range." It didn't take no time at all to get to Martha's side. I was almighty thankful to arrive before she died. She held my hand and I held hers. The last thing that she done was to pull me close and whisper, "I have loved you like a son. You were the only person who ever seemed to care - to leave the ranch to you is the only thing that's fair." Martha let her spirit go with a gentle sigh. Her life had been troublesome, she was glad to die. There's something I'll remember, I'll not forget the sight in the moment that she died, her face was full of light.
Writer Ray Lubben
Swimmin' in the Storage Tank
I said, "Bill, today's my birthday so we ought to go to town, maybe drink a little whiskey and maybe clown around, but we better both go swimmin' in the water storage tank 'cause after all day workin' cows our smell is kinda rank." We splashed and rubbed our armpits with the water pure and sweet, we even rubbed our sweaty hair and even rubbed our feet. And then we laid back soakin', just havin' all the fun of watching white clouds passin' between us and the sun. After near an hour we figured we were clean we climbed out of the storage tank and this is what we seen. Our horses still were standin' there, our saddles and our tack was no where to be seen and a chill crawled up my back when I seen our clothes were missin', our boots and even socks and the only other things was some snakes upon the rocks. A dirty thief had stole our stuff, I'd like to treat him rough for leavin' us so far from home in nothin' but the buff. There's seven miles of gravel road to get back to the ranch it seemed to me a scary thing to try it without pants. We waited until midnight 'cause our nakedness was stark. we figured we'd be safer by travelin' in the dark. I recalled it was my birthday, walkin’ under starry skies We hid in the ditch from cars, like a couple goofy guys We both was mighty thankful to finally hit the yard without bein’ seen, birthday boy and his naked pard. It sure has been some birthday, no presents did I get, it turned into the quietest I have had as yet. We walk into the house, turn the lights on, realize twenty friends and neighbors are yellin' out, SURPRISE.
Writer Ray Lubben - March 1999
BRAIDED REINS AND DIAMOND WILLOW"Little Fella" asked his Grandpa why he wove the braided reins, why Diamond Willow was is choice when it came to making canes. Grandpa thought about his answer, thought on it hard and long, for it was an honest question and he dare not answer wrong. He looked into his Grandson’s eyes, and slowly stroked his chin. He made sure of his answer before he started in. "I use three strands of leather, just to make it strong, so it will last a lifetime, which seems to be so long. One strand is for your Mother, the second for your Dad, the third one is for you, though you’re still a little Tad. You are woven with your parents. With them you have your start, and if you’re woven tightly, you can never break apart. One strand can be broken, two can even sever, but three of you together can almost last forever. And, when it come to willow, well, it’s beautiful to see but when it comes down to it, it means more than that to me. It reminds me of you, Grandson. You’re a diamond in the rough. You will grow up like your parents, which for me will be enough, for life is full of storms, but you’ll stand up to the weather, if you’re straight as Diamond Willow, or as strong as braided leather. Writer Ray Lubben - March 1999
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Bartender EdJoe and Bill was argufyin' in the Foggy Butte Saloon on who was best at spittin' into the brass spittoon. They argued in the A.M. and through the afternoon each claimin' they were better at hittin' the spittoon. Bartender Ed was keepin' track of each and every word. He knew for sure most of them no lady'd ever heard. The other drinkers all took sides while slurpin' up their beer when their champ said somethin' smart they all let out a cheer. Bartender Ed drew them a beer, then doctored up their glass to see if they would notice or if the drink would pass. Joe and Bill tipped up their glass, closed their bloodshot eyes. The whole raw egg that crossed their teeth came as a big surprise. The egg went down their scrawny throats, slid by their swaller knot. They gulped again to keep it down and snuffled back their snot. They wiped their noses with their sleeves as hot words fairly flew. Bartender Ed was busy as they ordered up more brew. By count full twenty glasses each, the two had drank of beer. Bartender Ed was sure they were both full up to here. He finally said, "I've had enough! You've argued fast and strong, on who's the better spitter. One of you is wrong. I can't come to believin' either one of you's the best. Now's the time to find out by puttin' ya’ to the test." Bartender Ed grabbed a spittoon, leaned it against a chair. Backed Bill and Joe up 20 feet to make the contest fair. The other fellas in the bar were placin' bets first rate on who would be more accurate, could best expectorate. Bill and Joe stood at the mark, but stood there back to back. Their eyes were rollin' in their heads like marbles in a sack. Bill burped which brought the yellow egg into his mouth agin, the yellow part snagged on his teeth and spilled upon his chin. Bill's eyes both started closin’ shut, and he began to sag. The guys who saw the broken egg all began to gag. Joe's eyes rolled up to focus, on the crystal chandelier. His spittle ricocheted from there and landed in Ed's ear. Bartender Ed went crazy and really threw a fit to have his ear so full of tobacco juice and spit. Ed grabbed his double barrel, blew a great big hole in the wall (near the piano) through which a man could stroll. Guys were divin’ out the winders, ‘n tryin’ for the door, kickin’, bitin’ gougin’ as they rolled across the floor. Some was hidin’ under tables, crawlin’ on their knees. A couple ran in circles, shirttails flappin’ in their breeze. Some men took to howlin’ like a dog locked in the pound while others froze in place, with eyes bugged out and round. Some was pukin’ on each other as they struggled on the floor slippin’ in the slime as they wrestled for the door. One was poopin’ down his leg which ran down in his sock One bit off his tongue and he’s never learned to talk. While Eddy was reloading Bill and Joe fell to the floor They paid him no attention as they began to snore. Ed tripped another double load into the chandelier when the smoke had cleared you could hardly see a smear of where it used to be and we now have neon light which casts a mighty shadow because it is so bright. A double load of buckshot leaves some shootin’ scars. We ended with a sky light so we now can see the stars. This happened years ago in the bar here in our town, But don’t ask Ed no questions as he draws another round. Ed pays no mind to argument when he is servin' beers because he don't hear nothin’ - wearin' Tampons in his ears. Writer Ray Lubben 1999