Hat Tips


October 5, 2018


We were working calves over the weekend. Giving fall vaccinations. I suppose it is a lot like the H1N1 flu shot. Some people give them. Some don’t. Everyone argues whether it is worth it or not. Except the calves. They don’t seem to like it, but they never say anything.

Now Shirley is about as good of help as you can get. She doesn’t need to look at the numbers to know if a calf belongs to a certain cow. She can ride a pretty big circle and pen up a pretty spooky cow. But the amazing thing is dinner.

I don’t miss many meals. I suppose you already knew that. But when we’re working cattle, I’m worried about cowboys and vaccine and cows in the brush. I worry a little about weather, and if we’ll be done by happy hour. So, at noon, when some of the riders were starting to whine a little about no dinner, I was a little surprised when Shirley said it was in the pickup. Roast beef sandwiches, crab salad, pickles, apple crisp dessert, hot coffee, cold beer. … You see what I mean. No one expected a hot meal, but there it was.

Speaking of hot meals, Uncle Hugh used to make the best roundup dinners on the reservation. And they were always the same. Hamburgers, beans, pickles and a candy bar for dessert. He’d make the hamburger patties with his gloves on. The same gloves he wore sorting cattle, fixing fence, or spraying weeds and cows. They were always big and juicy and cooked to perfection. Well done on the outside and very rare in the middle.

We would be holding herd and watching for Hugh to bring dinner. The wind would be blowing and your toes and fingers would be numb from the cold. Once in a while you would let something get out of the herd just so you could move around a little. The herd holders would have to take turns facing into the wind.

But when Uncle Hugh unloaded a pile of old fence posts and stuck his branding torch under them, you would see that billowing cloud of smoke and know that hot coffee and hamburgers would be ready pretty quick. Half the riders would go to dinner at a time. The rest would sit and suffer and wonder how it could take so long for anyone to eat.

Hugh had an old furnace grate that he had welded short legs on. He would set that over the posts and drive in the corners with a maul. He had a big griddle that he would put about a shovel full of lard on. The coffee and the beans would be boiling and he would start making patties and throwing them on. Grandpa Jack would always walk by and press the hamburgers down and make Hugh mad. Always. In the twenty years or so I rode with them, I don’t think Hugh ever washed the grill or the coffee pot. But they were the best meals I ever ate.

One time Billy Hall came for dinner. He had a bunch of half-starved greyhounds he used to run coyotes. I don’t think these dogs had ever been over fed. They had to stand up twice to make a shadow. They were begging for a little food, but weren’t having much luck. We were as hungry as they were. But when we were done they piled in and started cleaning up. The grill had grease on it, and the beans were still boiling. And those dogs went to licking it up. Those greyhounds would gulp a mouthful of boiling beans and yelp like hell. Then they would try to lick the grill and yelp some more. But they got fed.

The next day, when we were having dinner, I mentioned to Uncle Hugh that I had never seen his griddle looking so good. He said those dogs of Billy’s were the best dishwashers he had ever seen! And you didn’t have to marry them.

Later, Dean


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