Wednesday, January 15, 2014

But Now I Ride

by Amy Hale Auker

At Cottonwood Spring, there is a tree that sings. Sometimes it is a squeaky gate, sometimes a flute, sometimes a soprano warming up her voice. I am sitting on my horse here in the creek bed, waiting, holding a few cows against the fence until the boss, my husband, comes along with more. I may be here for a while.

When a woman hires on to cowboy, these are not the moments she anticipates, not the moments anyone talks about. There are no witnesses, no cameras, no glitter, no wild rides with her hair blowing in the wind.

There is no printed job description for “cowgirl.”

A few months ago, I passed out a survey to a handful of women who have cowboyed for a paycheck. I was not surprised to discover that most of them didn’t have a strong affinity for the word cowgirl. Many of them cited semantics or wryly wrote something about rodeo queens. These women more often think of themselves as cowboys or ranch hands, or simply ranch women.

But no matter what we call ourselves, we are out here.

We are riding. And digging postholes. Tying in stays. Calving heifers, haying, windmilling ... often with a toddler in tow.We are cooking over a campfire or in a slow cooker, even after having brought in our share of the cows that day. We’re training young horses. Doctoring sick animals. We’re riding point or bringing up the drag. We may even be complaining about how Western jeans aren’t made of heavy enough denim anymore, and we won’t buy a pair with bling on the back pockets when we have to ride on them for nine hours a day.

Our gear and tack look much like the men’s except for the rubies on the buckle of our chaps. We own several pairs of work gloves, and we can pull a knife out of our pocket or off our belt if we need to, even when we are all dressed up, attending some event in town. We can kill a rattlesnake. Fix a water leak and plant a garden. Maybe shoe a horse.

Some women were born into this way of life....

Read the rest of this article in Cowboys & Indians magazine.

Amy Hale Auker is an award-winning cowgirl poet and author of Rightful Place. Her new novel, Winter of Beauty, is available at and www.pen-l.com For more information, visit www.amyhaleauker.com


Heidiwriter said...

Thank you for sharing this insightful and lovely piece with us, Amy. And congratulations for getting it published in Cowboys & Indians magazine!

Amy said...

Thank you, Heidi. I really like working with C&I. They not only reviewed Rightful Place in 2011, but they also ask me for a piece from time to time. I think Kathy Wise, executive editor, is doing a great job over there.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

Couldn't be happier you shared this essay here. A make-believe cowgirl in my younger years, I enjoyed it so much!

Linda Broday said...

Amy, I loved this. It's such an insightful way of looking at women who work at cowboying. You have to be mighty tough to do it though. My hat is off to you ladies. Wish I could watch you work. There's nothing glamorous about it I'm sure.

Susan J Tweit said...

Amy, As a former "rider," I loved your evocation of what's magic about the work, as well as what's not. And I chuckled at the "cowgirl" label--no one called me a cowgirl. that was too close to Buckle Bunny for me…. Thank you for sharing this excerpt with WWW!