There are several items of a cowboy’s life that he treasures highly, sometimes more than life itself. Right at the top of the list are his spurs.
Spurs are a standard part of a cowboy’s day-to-day working equipment and, usually, they never come off his boots. Understanding that cowboys seldom remove their spurs will dictate the type of furniture, carpet or other flooring in the house he lives in.
It is also a reassuring sound late at night when the work has gone long past sundown, to hear the familiar jingle come through the back door. Spur jingles are as recognizable to a ranch wife as the sound of the ranch pickup to the resident dog.
Spurs are a point of pride for the cowboy. They regularly are handmade, inlaid with silver, embossed with initials, brands and good luck totems. A spur can reveal a cowboy’s geographic origin, riding philosophy, ego or intelligence quotient.
Foot jewelry will include bells, jingle bobs, pizza cutter rowels, tooled straps, and silver buckles. Whatever they look like, it can be and often is, a topic of regular conversation. By nature and more often by necessity, cowboys are frugal. All sorts of items will be recycled until safety becomes an issue and even then it is a debatable moment.
Case in point, one cowboy I know owns a tie-down strap homemade from material he and his buddy partnered on when they were in college 30 years ago.
That tie-down, a mark of frugality, ties to a new $3,000 saddle set on a very expensive horse to go to some high-dollar ropings. But he sees no reason to replace it as long as it still does the job.
He is sure that strap is the reason his horse can stay on course when he’s after a triple-A running steer.
This same frugal cowboy shares the story about another cowboy, a very economy-minded individual, who needed to replace his worn-out spur rowels. In his mind, the store-bought rowels were simply too expensive. So, he decided quarters would work just as well. He could put them in himself and avoid the saddle-shop labor component.
The next time these two models of frugality (read that, “cheap”) met, the former 25-cent spur-roweled cowboy was wearing nickels for spur rowels. He said he had saved 40-cents that way and the horse didn’t know any different. The rest of story was that it took a week for him to figure out how much he’d save before he could determine if it was worthwhile.
Bill, a Texas Panhandle short-grass rancher, had a cowhand working for him who was especially proud of his spurs. The cowboy wore them all day, every day and even presumably at night for a number of years while working for Bill.
At one point, the cowboy needed a loan. He needed $600 for some undisclosed emergency and to prove his sincerity, he offered to put up his beloved spurs for collateral. Bill felt like nothing short of threats of life and bodily harm would part that man from his spurs, so he loaned him the $600.
Whatever the emergency was, the cowhand skipped the country with Bill’s money. The spurs are now a family heirloom, known to three generations as “the $600 spurs.”
Julie, with a few “heirloom” spurs on the wall, can be reached for comment a firstname.lastname@example.org.