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.”

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.

Continue reading

Gone to the Lake

Gone to the Lake

Winky Dink and Me

What makes us who we are?  When we are caught misbehaving who do we point fingers at?  In trying to find the culprits involved in shaping my persona, I have previously examined the children’s show “Andy’s Gang” with it’s rascally thing called “Froggy the Gremlin” who appeared when Andy Devine declared “Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy.”  Lot of Freud couch time for that expression.

Today I will examine another TV show called “Winky Dink and You“.

Each week there was some sort of puzzle to figure out by completing the picture on the TV.  And each week you would help Winky Dink complete a mission.  You could do this if you purchased the magic Winky Dink drawing screen which turned out to be a piece of vinyl plastic that you put on the TV screen.  Then you took the magic crayon that came with it and drew on the TV.  An example would be Winky Dink needing a bridge to cross a river.  You would draw the bridge.  This seems to be one of the first examples of interactive games on something like a TV.

More often than not, the kids could not get there parents to fork over the dough for the magic screen.  And I too could not convince my parents of the necessity of the screen.  Times were supposedly good and idyllic back in the 1950s, but my Dad did not make a lot of money.  We were always told that we couldn’t afford this or that.  But somehow he managed to take flying lessons.  But that’s another part of the puzzle to be looked at later.

In this instance, it may have been that the whole Winky Dink thing was stupid and our parents just did not want to participate in this consumer scam.  But we had a way of getting around this.  Mom’s lipstick seemed to be a very good substitute for the magic crayon.  And why did you need a magic piece of plastic when you could just draw on the TV screen?

A lot of kids, I hear, got whacked for drawing on the brand new TV especially the not so bright ones who used permanent ink instead of something that could be easily wiped off.   I too received a bit of scolding.  But at least my father agreed that he didn’t see the need to purchase some thingamajig when we could maybe use waxed paper.But that wasn’t great.  We tried holding up a piece of glass while one of us used the crayon.  But that was way too much labor for the not very interesting puzzle anyway.  I vaguely recall that we finally got our 50¢ Winky Dink Kit and also recall become immediately bored with it.

I think there must have been a lot of complaints from parents and that might have been one of the reasons it went off the air.  But it was another example for me anyway of ways to not follow the rules and to invent a way around the system.  It was much more fun and creative than the actual kit.  And my Dad helped.    Disobedience, as Martha would say, is a good thing.