Have you ever heard America’s favorite cowboy, Chris LeDoux, croon? Well, I have, and not just on the radio, but live and in-person. And good night Gertrude, was it ever grande! I was in the second row and I’ll never forget the man behind the voice. The man behind the heart. The man who sang about how he lived his actual-factual life.
Mister LeDoux’s on-stage energy was palpable through the electricity in the crowd. The crowd-control folks ushered me down from my chair. (One of those security fella was my soon-to-be husband. Poor guy. Had to get all authoritative with his wayward college woman. Didn’t work too good because as soon as he left, I hoisted my Wranglers back atop the chair. Hey, don’t judge me. I’m short.)
Anyway, due to a rare form of cancer, Chris LeDoux went to be with the Lord just over seven years ago. Could it really be that long? I remember hugging my baby son and bawling on the phone with a friend as she told me the news. Seems sorta silly to cry about a man who didn’t know me… but, alas, I think he did. He knew the hearts of cowboys. And the hearts of little ole country girls, like me.
Speaking of country folk, this Saturday I got to be the self-titled, surrogate chuck wagon master for a group o’ cowboy fellers and a few kiddos. Many calves had to be doctored (vaccinated & castrated) before they got turned out to summer pasture.
For the first half of the day all I did was snap photographs and try to stay out of the way — perched atop a fence rail; then after my lunchtime duties, our rancher friend asked me to lend a hand with filling syringes. I ended up doing that (yeah, a long-term insulin-diabetic knows all about filling syringes) and opening & closing the chute gates. I hadn’t been down in the dirt yet so when I saw the last bull calf eagerly anticipating (kidding!) his forthcoming procedure, I asked if I could “help” flank the very last one. Uh, actually, I probably got more in the way with that last bit, but the cowboys on hand acquiesced to my request and helped me pretend I did something useful down there in the dirt.
(hat tip, nod & many thanks sir Wes & sir Wayne)
Today’s story in photographs is in honor of both, the cowboy crooner who has passed on, and the cowboys who still live out loud, the very words that remain the heart of mister LeDoux’s songs.
Well Lord I love this ranching with it’s ropin’ & brandin’
but I don’t like that farmin’ at all
It’s good-bye for the summer, this haying’s sure a bummer
And I’ll be back to help you gather in the fall
Well I don’t mind riding fences but them tractors are wrenches
I ain’t never liked and I guess I never will
Just give me my horse and saddle or some woolies or some cattle
And turn me loose and let me ride out through the hills
Cause I’m just a cowboy
a dirt and sweat cowboy
Livin’ on beef steak and beans
I ain’t to hard to please, but Mister you better believe
I ain’t never had no use for farm machines
Well there ain’t much romancing in old-fashioned branding
But Lordy it suits me just fine
Oh the dust and the smoke’s enough to make a feller choke
But have you ever had to ride one of them old combines
Now my grandpa was a farmer, a Michigan black land farmer
And he worked with them machines the whole day through
But I bet if he did some roaming through the hills of old Wyoming
He’d probably feel about the same way that I do
I reckon it’s just bad fate I was born a hundred years too late
And they say, boy, if you want to survive you’d better change
But as long as sagebrush grows and that old Powder River flows
I’ll be a cowboy till my dyin’ day
I’m just a cowboy…
About them rattling banging smoking farm machines
For a listen, clicky here.
Yep, right here.
And see that 2nd to last image?
See how his little 8-year-old daughter is between her daddy & the calf? Boys & girls, right there, that’s the definition of “hands-on learning.” I reckon we could all use a little more of that.
Fellers, next time there’s a barn or grange hall dance, I’ll take you on a spin ’round the ole dance floor and teach you some of my moves. Saturday you all did the mud & guts, I did the BBQ sauce, but I still owe you some finger-painting the town. (wink, nod, nudge) Of course my husband will be there too… So we can really teach ya how to bust a country-fried move. (more winks, nods, & nudges)
* Above song: Western Tunesmith (1980) / He Rides The Wild Horses (1981);
“Dirt & Sweat Cowboy”
* And that title? Well, that’s a line from another of mister LeDoux’s songs,