It didn’t take an act of Congress to give cowgirls their equal opportunity rights in their work at the ranch. Since cowgirl time began, the women of the range have been afforded the opportunity to work side by side with their male counterparts.
The weather never made the issue debatable. She was allowed to freeze her backside off in the same West Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada or Dakotas blizzard as he was.
Her circle for the day included ice just as thick to axe through and the same drifts to drive or ride through. Her frost-encrusted eyelashes, batting over blue eyes, never turned an ounce of sympathy or empathy with any of the other chilled-down cowboy-types as they moved a herd of mother cows and calves in a spring snowstorm.
Dust boiling from a droughty countryside as the winds whipped across the landscape never offered a preference for what gender the rider was when she got sandblasted, dirt stuck to eyes and nostrils and teeth turned brown with grit.
The start before daylight and the stop long past sundown carried no clause for shorter hours for the fairer sex. In fact, more often than not, she started earlier and ended later, as she first tended to arrangements for provisions to last the day and the cleanup at the end of the day. It’s not a complaint, just a fact.
A charging cow in the alley will just as quickly run over the one wearing chaps and mascara as she will the one who hollers at her in a deep voice, then laughs when the denim bottom is last seen bailing over the fence into the weeds. The bulls will knock down the gate she is holding with no regard to the fact she’s a mother and has plans to live to raise her children, preferably not as a quadriplegic.
The real equalizer in the operation has always been the horses. And, this is where the cowboys will—and they can’t help it because it is how they are—claim a superior notion that they can ride what the little woman can’t.
Sometimes true, sometimes not.
I remember my dad warning me not to ride a horse he’d just bought in a herd of several he brought home. “You stay off that dun horse,” he said. “Even the cowboys at the ranch I bought him from are afraid of him and for good reason.”
The local hands murmured and warned me. Eagle’s reputation had traveled the information highway common to ranch hands. You can see where this is going. I was 15 and bullet proof, or horse proof as it were.
As soon as nobody was looking, I had the tall, leggy dun saddled and in a long trot to the south, so my mother couldn’t see me from the house. Never knew why, but nothing happened. It never did, and when Dad got over being mad at me, Eagle and I covered lots of miles at a long trot.
Some time back, a friend of mine was hurt seriously when her horse bucked her off at the ranch. She’s been healing and will return to ride by springtime, but the best medicine she got came in the form of recent news.
The “outlaw” that had put her on the ground was sent to a cowboy to put some miles, wet saddle blankets and manners on him. Seems that was going along fairly well until this same horse dusted that cowboy’s britches in the dirt as well.
“That son-of-gun sure can buck,” he said. The radiant light had come on for the cowboy. The cowgirl hadn’t “fallen” off in a crow-hopping event… dang if she hadn’t actually been bucked down by a real bucker. Victories for the cowgirl sometimes come in odd ways.
This was one of them.
Julie, who suffers today from the long-term effects of a few “dustings,” can be reached at email@example.com.