I have many happy memories of visiting my maternal grandparents as a child. Inside the house on my grandparents’ wall was my grandfather’s impressive prize spur collection. Avid reader and horse lover that I was, I was always drawn to the Western Horseman magazines spread across the living room coffee table. I’d read them from cover to cover, even the classifieds, where I learned not only about real horses, but also the Breyer models I soon began to collect.
Outside, a crick gurgled behind the property with a rickety plank to cross to the other side. A crotchety rooster chased me around the yard more than once. Grandpa kept his tack in old wooden shed that smelled of leather and grease. Palomino quarter horses ran through the nearby meadow, and sometimes a donkey or two, and I spent hours out there just watching them. My heart be still.
Going into the yard, a white picket gate would snap behind me on a spring, leading to a canopied porch where extended family would gather to share in the blessing of delicious meals cooked by my grandmother.
But what I remember most about our biannual visits (from Colorado to Oregon) to my grandpa’s house were what happened after dinner, when the family would gather ‘round and Grampa would pull out his fiddle. He played by ear without knowing a note of music, sometimes accompanied by Uncle Jack on guitar. He regaled us with everything from Irish jigs to old country ballads. I still tear up when I hear one of these songs now.
My grandfather was a legit cowboy, so much so that he had several articles written about him. Ranching was in his blood. I hardly ever recall a moment when he wasn’t wearing his cowboy hat, his faithful dog Lucy at his side. He was a quiet man. Actions meant more than words. Yet I recall him as one of the strongest men I’ve ever known.
Growing up with exposure like this, is it any wonder that most of my heroes are cowboys?