Category Archives: The Cowgirl and the Contadina

These are stories from letters written in 1995 between Diane on a Montana cattle ranch and Joanna in a small village outside of Spoleto, Italy in the province of Umbria. Diane and Joanna had been movie and television talent agents representing such actors as Julianne Moore, Emma Thompson, Christian Bale, Stanley Tucci and the comedian Lewis Black. Both jumped ship, skedaddled, flew the coop and escaped to the country. Joanna may have gone farther miles wise, but psychically Diane was on another planet. Joanna could get to Rome in an hour and a half by train. Diane could maybe get to a Costco in that time and only when the roads were good.

Tao of Cow – Thoughts

By The Montana Maven and Cowboy Clay (with some additional help by the Catskill Contrarian).

One of the main tenets of The Tao of Cow (which is more like the Tao of Cow…Boy) is “Shit Happens”.  This principle is not as pessimistic as it sounds.  It’s just what is.  “The best laid plans of mice and men” is just another way of putting the same  principle that you just got to try to do your best and embrace the yin and yang of things.   You need to explore and embrace those pesky opposites of what you are and what you’d like to be.  Judgement is for your own actions.  For everybody else you should just be kind.  You can’t control other critters whether it’s cows or coworkers.  Better to let them be.

I’ll try to explore every week some of the guideposts within the “Tao of Cow”.

#1 Things Will Work Out…Until They Don’t. Then You Move to Plan B”.  Try it for Three and Then Go to Plan C.   I find this the most useful of Cowboy Clayisms. No sense in crying over spilled milk. Crack open a beer and meditate on what’s next.  For example; in moving cows from pasture to pasture, it helps if they want to go. If you are patient and your help knows a thing or two, you may get them to go thru the gate. But sometimes “shit happens”. Your neighbor’s horse is young and jumpy and spooks the cows. Then the cows start kicking up their heels and running in the opposite direction. You can wait until they quiet down and try again or try to get them to another gate or call it a day.   The rule of three works here for cows and students.  Try something about three times.  After that call it a day and give yourself a break.
This goes for machinery too. If you are cutting hay with an old swather, it’s bound to breakdown. You try to fix it. You try this and that. You spend a couple days, maybe three. If nothing works, you call your neighbor and ask if he can cut the hay for you.
Another way of looking at it is “It Can’t Always Be On Your Schedule”.  Entertainment projects whether it’s filming a TV series or filming a film have their own schedule. A film company is a large machine with many gears and cogs. Sometimes something puts a monkey wrench into the gears of that fairly well oiled machine. It could be that sudden thunderstorm. It could be a nervous star. It could be an idiosyncratic director. It could be the dog that won’t Stay!  It can never be a grumpy grip or a cranky coach. So you suck it up and get out of the way and wait your turn.

P.S.  It is also the job of the Cow…Girl to pushback on the Tao of Cow…Boy.  For example, the phrase “Cowboy Up” is used a bit too frequently on a ranch.  “Hey Honey, the plumbing really needs upgrading.”  “Cowboy Up!”  He replies.  “I don’t think we should wait until it breaks.”  “I’ll Get To It,” He replies.  “Sigh.”

“A Little Snuffy”

6859DAF8-3679-4CB3-BF7F-24102DE2C7DDOkay, let’s add another word for being mean or pissed off which can make you mean.  Specifically, a pissed off mean cow.  But a word that can be applied to mean pissed off people in general.

The word is “snuffy”.  So add that to “gnarly”, “owly” and “high headed”. Well, “high headed” is a word for wild, Cowboy Clay reminded me.  “Different”.

So Cowboy Clay called this morning and I asked how the cold calf was.  Two nights  ago a calf was born in below zero weather out in 2 feet of snow.  He decided he better get him in which means putting him in the ranch house’s mudroom.  He loaded him up in the pickup, but then he almost got stuck in the deep snow.  Somehow he made it and got the calf in to the warmth.

So two days later I wondered how the calf was doing.

“Oh, I put him back out there, but the darn cow wouldn’t take him.  Wouldn’t recognize him as her own.  So I went back  a little later and put  some of that powder on him.”

(That powder has the hilarious but appropriate name of “O NO MO”.  Translated is Orphan No More.  It takes the human scent off and hopefully will get the cow to take the calf aka nurse the calf.)

“Not much luck when I checked and then the darndest thing happened.  This other cow came up to the calf and started to butt him all around.  I had to jump in there and try to get her to go back to her own calf.   She finally went away.  And then the next time I checked his mother had claimed him.  But then I found another new calf and I was doctoring him when that same mean cow got a little snuffy again. She tried to butt me and the calf, but I got away from her and got her to go back to her own calf.”

I asked if he had marked her tag number down and he said he did.  That means she might be on the list to “send her down the road” next fall when her calf is weaned.  Sending her “down the road” means going to the meat packer, if you haven’t figured that out.

In my line of work in Hollywood, you get the occasional mean person.  You try and fend off the “gnarly”,  “owly” or “snuffy” ones.  It’s best to try humor with these snorty owly snuffy types. It can work to be a little playful or a little curious about why the bad mood. Doesn’t work to crack jokes with an angry 1200 pound mother on a mission.   She goes on the list.  If humor doesn’t work with the human snuffy type, you can put them on a list.  But the consequences of that list aren’t so dire as ending up in the “Meats and Deli” section at the grocery store.

 

 

My good horse pepper died today by Cowboy Clay

my old horse died today. i guess it doesnt matter much to anyone but me. i bought him back in 92. my friend and i were at the cort bar just celebrating another day i guess when a pretty girl stopped in with a trailer load of horses from arkansas for sale. she was full of smiles and full of figure so after a few drinks and a ride under the street lights ( on the horse not the girl ) i became the owner of my new friend pepper. the next morning with a heavy head and a lite pocket book i walked out to examine my new purchase. he was big and black and i guess compared to his previous owner you might even call him ugly. while i was saddling him up and sobering up i wondered if perhaps i had over payed but when i stepped home on him all my doubts were dismissed.there was no buck no runaway. he wasnt real handy with the rein but he had this perfect smooth balletic lope that felt like whiskey on the water. later when my pards and i would be heading out to the gather they would all be bouncing along at a trot shaking their bones and i would be sitting up there on pepper rocking in my chair like a baby. man he made me feel good.he wasnt the cat quick cutting horse type for pushing and sorting cattle but he had the persistence and patience to get the job done.he had the heart to go anywhere i asked him no matter how tough, he would never balk or back down. when it came to roping and dragging calves to the fire he would always get me in position to throw a good loop and he could pull any critter i caught. man he made me feel good. when he got old i didnt ride him any more.i didnt use him for any thing more than just to see him and bring the memories of all the miles ridden together that make me feel good. so my good horse died today. i guess it doesnt matter much to anyone but me. but man it makes me feel bad.  

How A ‘Farm Bust’ Could Help Renew American Agriculture

Current agriculture methodologies aren’t just bad for land, community, and ecology—they’re increasingly bad for business. Something’s gotta give.

Source: How A ‘Farm Bust’ Could Help Renew American Agriculture

Boxes

Since Education is back in the news because of the appointment of a Dutch Calvinist from my neck of the woods, I thought it might be a good time for people to examine just what is an “education”. John Taylor Gatto makes the distinction between ‘”education” and “schooling”. I have read his book “The Underground History of American Education”. He wrote an article in 2003 in Harper’s called “Against Education”. You have to subscribe to Harper’s to read the essay, but there are excerpts available on line. I’m not sure of some of his ideas about but definitely like some of his observations about how awful and mind numbing school can be.

You are made to sit in BOXES and are taught to behave so that when you graduate you can sit in another BOX all day long. And at the end of your life you end up in a hospital BOX and then a real BOX. Every four years, in preparation for the ballot BOX, for 18 months we were being herded into two awful BOXES called political parties.  The whole process looked more like that cartoon of the cow staring at a meat packing plant with a sign that said “Enter Left” and “Enter Right”.
My 2¢ is that we need shorter work weeks with one parent working so they have more time to spend with their kids. I learned more from helping my Dad build a barn than I did from awful Miss Bloemendal who kicked me out in the hall every week. As an educator himself, he said, “Children should be hand made and not mass produced.”  I read a lot of books. And I spent a lot of time in the woods making up stories of elves and other mythical creatures.

We hear an awful lot of yapping about “freedom”, but we imprison our children and literally imprision lots of teenagers.  We imprison in prisons around 2.3 million people, more than any other nation.  However, we are a big country.  Proportionately though, we still imprison more than any other nation except maybe North Korea and Cuba.  But according to Politofact, we don’t have accurate information on prison populations in those 2 countries, but they could be ahead of us.  The point is whether we are first or third, it’s a disgrace.

Freedom should not be about the so-called free market of freedom to choose between 20 different cereals.  It should more appropriately be about freedom to think differently and being able to freely express those different thoughts.  But….(there is always a but), as much as we should respect individual freedom, with freedom comes responsibility to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Children should be free to have safe places to run and holler at the top of their lungs.  They should also have mutual respect for others and the good manners not to scream in other peoples spaces.  That goes for adults too!

Good manners and mutual respect for others opinions and cultures are great goals for an educated person.  Since education is a journey, there will be many stops and starts along the way.  So when you come across a different opinion, it is wise to take the PACE approach.  Be Playful, Accepting, Curious, and Empathetic.   Not an easy task especially the Playful part if it’s been knocked out of you due to years of being stuffed in boxes.

The Maven

Notes:  I got the boxes idea from the anthropologist and anarchist thinker David Graeber in his essay on “Revolutions in Reverse” and PACE from cognitive behavioral therapist Dorothy Dacar.

New Year’s Letter – 2016

Howdy!

Christmas2003015Christo Cows

 

Yes, after 23 years here in Sweet Grass County, I can report that there is still no parallel parking in Big Timber. You can still pull your outfit in vertically with it’s nose facing the store. **Yes, “outfit” is something you drive not wear and “Gant” means thin and not a famous shirt maker. A Mexican drag line is a shovel not a bunch of Carmen Miranda impersonators kicking up their heels. And ‘casting a cow” is not getting her a good part in “City Slickers III” but tying her down on the ground.

There is still not one stoplight in a county whose square miles equal the state of Rhode Island. The anarchist in me loves that idea as much as I love roundabouts instead of 4 way stoplights. Hate being told to stay put when there is no good reason.

****************

Mike continues to impart the Tao of Cow.

A Haiku – Advice

“Remember that it’ll all work out;

Until it doesn’t;

Then switch to Plan B.”

Haiku 2 – Rules

The number one rule

Of the cows at feeding time;

Let the big dog eat.

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Gone to the Lake

Gone to the Lake