Friday, October 15, 2010
David McCumber, The Cowboy Way
McCumber's employer, Bill Galt, is a hard-driving man, leaving no room for error and no time to rest. The men on his ranch routinely put in 12-hour days, working seven days a week. They work in all kinds of weather, including long winter months of snow, wind, and bitter cold.
The author's account of the year includes calving, branding, irrigation, fencing, haying, fire-fighting, trips to sale barns, moving cattle, and maintaining equipment of all kinds. Largely mechanized, working cattle in traditional ways ahorseback is a rarity.
Never mind the lone horseman on the cover. The most vivid images that have stayed with me since reading it are the racks of manure-filled straw to be carted out from the calving barn, the burning of trash in the ranch's dump, the disposal of dead animals, and the men's living quarters - prefab cabins with the bruising winter wind whistling in the dark outside.
Besides Galt, several of the men come to life on the page with particular vividness, especially Keith the foreman. A young cowboy, Jerry, who tries everyone's patience, is also memorable. This book is for anyone who has ever thought of leaving a tiresome job and working on a ranch.
What it shows is that cowboying is hard, back-breaking, dangerous, exhausting, unending work, requiring countless skills. And you understand the measure of pride that men who choose this kind of work take in what they do.