HE WAS A COWBOY-BY RICK MAIDMAN-2006
He was a cowboy. He was seven when i met his Ma; and by the time he was ten, we were standing by his hospital bed as the cancer spread through him.
The lady from the foundation was there and she said” We know you don’t have long and we just want to make sure one of your wishes come true.” He looked at his Ma, and then he turned and looked at me. He said. “ I want to be a cowboy. I want to ride the range before I’m through. I want to ride with you.” What could i do ? Fall round up was pretty near. time to bring the cattle home from the high country summer lease.
I put him on an old mare. she’d been a real good one in her day and she was steady and true. I had my usual crew. There was Ken, Billy and Patrick to.
We showed him some roping although there wouldn’t be much of that to do. The boy’s gave him some pointers on how to ride and handle cattle. They really made him feel like he was apart of the crew.
Those first few days were magic. The smell of the crisp autumn air, and the feeling of peace you get as nature prepares for winters sleep. We did some riding ! Gathering the cattle and moving them down to the holding corral. At night we pitched camp. The stars shone so bright. Even the northern lights put in an appearance. Billy played harmonic and we sang cowboy songs, at least the lines we knew.
By the third day we were still thirty two head short. Now i don’t know why that last bunch always has to be the farthest away and the worst to handle. We found them in a high mountain meadow about four o clock that day. We bunched them up and made camp. That night the temperature dropped and near morning the wind picked up and the snow started. It was hard to even get saddled up. The cattle weren’t in a traveling mood.; but we got them gathered and moving. The kid was everywhere. The old mare was workin’ better than i’d seen her work in years. I rode hunched in the saddle. My toes were numb and my fingers were froze. The kid rode up beside me. I said “your doing good cowboy. How do you feel ?” He looked at me and there was a sparkle in his eyes. He said “alive. Really alive.” Just then about a half dozen critters tried to bust out to the right. He shot forward like an arrow and pushed them back into the herd and let out a yippee and a yahoo.
I pulled myself up in he saddle and put my legs on my horse. I could tell my partners were doing the same thing to, and we started to cowboy and do the things a cowboy has to do. That herd settled right down and got themselves on the move.
It was getting near dusk when i spotted the corral. I could she his Ma was there and his grand folks too; but the kid never quit cause there was still a job to do. We point the herd towards the gate. Just before the corral they steered off to the left. We never missed a beat. We just wheeled them right around and when they tried that dodge again there was the kid and they just headed on in through the gate. The kid jump down and swung the gate closed. then he turned towards his horse and stroked her neck. The old mare dropped her head and gently rubbed her muzzle on his cheek.
I’m thinkin’ on this not a long time later as i’m kneeling at his grave. Feeling all busted up inside. Because he was a cowboy, and a good one to.