The Tuck

Because I wrote about the Senior Photo shoot the other day .. I thought I would follow it up with this particular post. Because I noticed the Senior the other night doing the same thing the Cowboy does.

Tuckers boots

The tuck.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile now because every time I see the Cowboy wearing his pants & boots like this, I think to myself, ‘that would be something fun to talk with him about.’ I’ve never asked him directly why he does it. The reasons, living on the ranch, have become apparent. I’ve just admired, quite frankly that he doesn’t care what anyone might think about how he looks. And it makes me chuckle because some of the men I know, city cowboys especially, would never be caught dead wearing their pants inside their pointy toed, silver tipped (the Cowboy wanted me to be sure and add that element) boots. Not that there’s anything wrong with that ..

Don’t get me wrong, he can dress up with the best of them and his pants are most often worn with the hem dragging on the ground.

Casey Shoeing

But the day to day can often mean ripped and dirty jeans haphazardly tucked inside the boots.

What can tucked jeans tell you about a cowboy? The Cowboy tells me:

– Chances are, he/she is walking around horse manure often during the day and they don’t want to get their jeans dirty.

– They may want to simply show off the tops of their boots – boots anymore can be incredibly beautiful and detailed, especially those that are custom made. Have you looked at boots lately? Dan Post. Luchesse. Old Gringo. Tony Lama. Justin. Laredo. Resistol. Ariat. Olathe. Seriously, the list goes on and and on.. I haven’t even touched the growing market of custom cowboy boot makers.

“Girls often do it as part of a fashion deal, to show their boots off, right?” the Cowboy says to me. “Same thing.”

Clints boots

Some do it, real cowboys, like ranch cowboys, because they’d rather have their boots take a beating than their jeans.

“You know why boots were made taller?” the cowboy asked me as I’m talking with him about this. “It was originally to protect cowboys from snake bites, the west is full of rattlesnakes. The taller the boot, the less likely a snake could get at your leg. Good boots also protect you from brush, if you’re riding through heavy brush .. you know, if you go to West Texas where the brush is high and thorny? That’s how they wear them, up to their knees. They also keep friction off the inside of your leg when you’re riding. I never had hair on the inside of my legs when I was younger because I rode so much. Nobody ever really questions anymore why boots have tops anymore. They actually have a practical reason for being tall. They’re meant to help protect.”

Horse Show …

The dusty trail from Chicago ..

.. brought us back one more time to the last night of the Horse Show in Fort Atkinson.  

Flip flops and shorts were quickly exchanged for jeans and boots. 

Cactus Jack …

Manawa, WI.

Roping clinic of the season #2.

Often, when people with horses .. or cowboys travel to any sort of competition or rodeo .. they sleep in their horse trailer.  Or a hotel nearby.

We awoke this morning at a B&B.

The Cowboy had no idea this is where we would be staying nor has he ever stayed at a B&B.  He pulled into town yesterday and one of the other guys in town for the clinic, a good friend of his, had booked it for us.

Think though, that he enjoyed it, for what little time we spent there.  Very nice couple.  Beautiful home.  Cozy accommodations.  Great breakfast.  Couple cats and a dog roaming the house.  Makes us feel right at home.  (Although their dog and cats appear much better behaved than mine, so not quite the same, but close.)

Anyway, we woke this morning, grabbed a cup of coffee and flipped on the Today Show for a few minutes before breakfast.

And on comes …

Sweet little, Cactus Jack.

(Following link isn’t the Today Show’s interview, but couldn’t find their official version online yet, so here’s just a link to the story.)


“I got caught up in a cactus when I was a kid,” says the Cowboy.  “And no one ever felt bad for me and put me on tv.”

We both bust out laughing.

“Are you serious?” I asked him.

“I am.  Instead of Cactus Jack, I could have been known as Cactus (his name),” he says chuckling.

“How the heck did that happen,” I pried for details.  “And, where is my computer?  This, I need to write about.”

Apparently he was rolling down a hillside at his grandfather’s ranch in western South Dakota, in the Black Hills.  Something he and his brothers had done on occasion.  And this particular day, he happened unfortunately .. upon a patch of cactus.

“No one was there to help pick them out of my face,” he said.  Kind of pouty.

We are both now laughing somewhat hysterically.  Trying to keep some level of quiet given we are at the B&B which doesn’t seem to be all that soundproof and it’s early.   “I had to pick them out one by one all by myself.”

While a painful memory, time has healed all cactus wounds.  And this morning’s story on so many levels, while very sweet, (you really should go watch it) gave us a good laugh.

Off to the clinic.

Why thumbing a ride tough for some team ropers ..

There is inherent risk in almost any sport.

Concussions playing football or soccer.  Groin/hamstring pulls/shin splints or tendonitis for runners.  Falling on the ice curling and cracking your head.  Tennis elbow.   Rotator cuff.  Catching the ball with your body not your glove.  Sprains, strains .. stray balls hit your way playing golf.  Or my girlfriends and I drinking too much over the course of 18 holes.  It can all hurt.  You get the drift …


I mentioned yesterday I wanted to spare my thumbs until I had practiced roping enough to feel confident I could keep them?


I’m not sure how long we had been dating that I noticed the HUGE scar around the Cowboy’s thumb.

“What happened,” I gasped.

“Oh,” he says nonchalantly.  “There are a lot of team ropers minus a thumb.”

And he laughs.


The cowboy nearly lost his thumb, oh .. ‘probably 10 years ago’ he tells me, in Sydney, Iowa at a big team roping competition.

Why is this a common injury among team ropers?

Those who have done it, know.  Those who haven’t ever roped but want to try, should know.  And the rest of us, well it’s just useless trivia perhaps.  But I think it’s interesting enough to warrant its own post as we head into another weekend of clinics.

Ropers do something they call, dally.  Which is when they take the rope and wrap it around the saddle horn after they have either headed or heeled the steer.  I think I’m describing that right, anyway..

There is a piece of rubber around the horn (usually a piece of inner tube that’s been cut to size) and that is what makes the rope stick.

You dally because you either have a four or five hundred pound steer you are trying to turn for your partner to grab its hind legs, or because you’ve got the hind legs and you’re wrapping up your run and that dally and pull is what stops the clock.

The goal is, to not get any fingers caught up in the mix.

But the Cowboy tells me, “When you pull your slack and you take a wrap you have coils in that hand.  If you let go of that ..” OR, “Sometimes you get your thumb caught in when you’re cinching the rope down tight around the saddle horn..” OR, “You put a little twist in the rope and it gets caught going about 30 mph..”

POP goes the thumb.

Like this guys (Story from  Idaho team roper competing despite loss of thumb

The Cowboy says, “When you’re in a storm .. When things aren’t going right and you know you’re in trouble, you’re taught to let go.  But when you’re roping for a big prize and things are moving fast, you don’t always have time to think.”

The Cowboy (knock on wood) still has both thumbs.  But, he says, he’s probably got 5 or 6 friends that are missing theirs.

Like most other athletes though, with any given sports injury .. this particular cowboy along with every other thumbless friend, has gotten right back on that horse.

Is back in the box.

And is giving .. another nod.

Holding onto my thumbs, for now .. (catch up post from the weekend)

I love learning something new each day.  I love getting my hands dirty, getting involved, putting myself in situations that challenge me and make me think about who I really am and what I am capable of or able to do.

But there are also many times where I thoroughly appreciate learning something through the eyes of others and sharing their stories.


The owner of the ranch hosting the Cowboy’s roping clinic had this past Sunday asked if I wanted to ride as they were all roping in the arena, and said it’d be a favor to him if I’d run one of his.

So I did.  A little bit.

And it didn’t take long for the Cowboy to ask a question I knew would be coming.

“Want to chase a steer?” he says to me.

He’s been after me to give roping a try .. which I’d love to.  And I’ve tried my hand at it, very meagerly, on the ground, a few times.

But I’m thinking I need like a year or two, where I can take off of work entirely and do nothing more than rope, to have all that much fun with it.  And more importantly, not injure anyone including myself.

It’s an incredibly acquired skill.  And while I consider myself blessed to be able to pick up most things quite easily…

This is one sport where I’m concerned I might lose a thumb.  (Which isn’t all that uncommon, apparently.)  Get completely tossed and break a limb.  Maim or plow over the steer because I didn’t better ‘steer’ my horse.  Or quite possibly, severely injure the person I would otherwise be roping with.  Like throw the rope around them .. and pull.

That .. would .. be .. bad.

“No thanks,” I replied to the Cowboy kind of chuckling under my breath.

The horse I was on would have loved nothing more than to rope that day, too and he was trying to let me know in no uncertain terms he was ancy to get to work doing what all his buddies were.  All he wanted to do is run.  Fast.  And chase more than the air I was giving him up and down the other side of the arena in-between the guys running the steers.

(All my own horse ever wants to do is walk, maybe trot.  She fights me to get her to lope.  But we’re working on that.  It would help if I would get out to ride her more often.  That’s a whole other story.)

“C’mon,” said the Cowboy.  “Just chase one out, see what it feels like, you don’t have to even have a rope” he added, as he walked me over and into the ‘box’.  I tried backing Roper in, kind of.  Didn’t feel good about it.  And walked him out.

“Not ready for that,” I nervously smiled and said to the Cowboy.  He laughed.


‘What is it, about roping that has so many people seemingly addicted to it,’ I asked the Cowboy Sunday night after we had both returned home, my daughter was asleep in bed and I had originally sat down to write this.

“It’s competitive,” he replied.  “And it’s kind of addicting.  Rodeo is addicting.  The people, the competition.  The gambling.  It’s like gambling, only you have some control over it.”

He laughed.

“Well, in theory you do.  Have control over it.  You put the money up and you win if you do well.  But you have two horses, two cowboys and one steer.  A lot can go wrong with that.  But if it goes right, it’s great.”

The Cowboy used to practice two to three hours a day .. and have a ranking most others strive for, I believe.

While he’s removed himself the past couple years through life changes from the rodeo circuit for the most part .. and says he doesn’t miss the 10 hour drive to get somewhere, the money it takes on gas and to enter, having to win and knowing if he didn’t the truck payment wouldn’t get made that month ..

He still loves the sport.

And says one of his favorite things now, is helping others learn.

Learn how to get along better with their horse .. how to use their rope better .. how to win more when they do enter.

This past weekend must have been a win for everyone .. because there’s already an invite for next year’s clinic.  Same time .. same place ..

Next clinic:  next weekend in Wisconsin.

(And I’m thinking I might put down the camera long enough to try a little ground work with the rope, get going on that yearlong or lifelong project to learn this sport, myself.)

Easter ..

Easter Sunday, 2012 was a beautiful day .. as well as a bittersweet end to an incredible week of vacation, one unlike any other in my life, I realized as I pulled back into Madison late last night.

We almost always drive wherever we go.  And we are almost always going from place to place, spending only a couple days in each place .. visiting quickly before we’re off again.

This vacation, we settled in.  Felt at home.  And soaked up all we could of a place I never dreamed we would want to do much more than drive through on my way somewhere else .. a community (several) of people who all know each other by name, who have each others backs .. and a family we adore and can’t wait to see again.


Easter Sunday, we woke.  The Easter Bunny had successfully made his trek around the world again .. paying the ranch a wonderful visit on the way.  There were baskets.  Easter eggs hidden everywhere.  And four sweet kids running on jelly bean-chocolate bunny-peanut butter egg-hubba bubba highs around the house trying to find them all.

The Cowboy got the boys ready for church while the girls got into their Sunday best on their own ..

We went to church.  Which, on a holy day like Easter Sunday, was packed.  Apparently like the Cowboy’s family had never seen before.  Even getting there early meant the eight of us ended up on folding chairs in the church basement with about 50 others, having to watch the service on tv.  At one point, there wasn’t anything that happened in that service that didn’t set the Cowboy and I off laughing.. which I felt bad about.  But couldn’t help it.  And, I believe it all started before we even reached the steps of the church as we watched two young women/girls trying to keep some of the shortest new Sunday dresses I’ve ever seen from flying up in the wind as they walked gingerly in their 4 inch heels into Catholic Mass .. not sure why that struck us as funny but it did .. and it just got better from there.  Egging us on especially was a woman to our right singing her heart out but so incredibly off key.  Which .. not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But on top of everything else .. It was a wonderful Easter morning and it felt good to be in church, yet it was a strangely humorous scene.

The Cowboy and I tried after that .. to not feel time weighing on us, like it always does when one of us has to leave to return home .. and just enjoy what was left of the day, our time together and the chance to be with family – especially the kids.

There was one more afternoon of riding.  Of working around the ranch.  And time with family.  The Cowboy’s mom prepared for us all an incredible brunch .. and there were more Easter baskets and candy of course to be shared, before we all had to part ways.

I often shed a tear as we leave to head home because .. the girls asked why the other day .. well, because it’s just sad, I told them.  I never take for granted I will see those I love again and I usually tell them to a fault, how much I love them and to travel safely until we meet again.  Plus, I just love being there..  Or having the Cowboy here.  So what lies in-between just kind of stinks.

This time however, it was my daughter I was consoling as we pulled away ..

“I don’t want to leave, mom” .. she said, crying as we hit the road for home.  And the fact that it was her prompting that got us to stay in one place the entire week, made me feel very blessed that she seemed to enjoy not only our time together as a mom and daughter ..  but a vacation we look forward to every other year .. and perhaps most importantly, that she is feeling increasingly at home with the Cowboy.


As I ground beans for a fresh pot of coffee this Monday morning and reflected on the time .. I am just purely grateful for every moment this past week … Especially the down time together, something I know I can always do better at.

Along with that, the fact that never once, for us anyway this past week, was there an alarm clock set.  (I am reminded of that, as I hear one going off in my daughters room.)

Here we go, I guess.  As I pour the beans into a filter and hit brew, I’m thinking ..

Back to the old grind.

It may not be the vacation blend .. but it is still a pretty good, robust brew.  And I am just trying to enjoy every sip ..

The title of my story, she says ..

How often do you have those moments of clarity?

Clarity where, as a parent, you don’t worry so much about if you’re setting a good example, you see something spark in your child and you just know, they’re going to be okay.  That you’re not a horrible parent and they’ve gotten more from you than you ever dreamed.

That the temper tantrum last night was for you – and the rest of the world may see a very different young lady.

I grabbed the Cowboy the other day and we quickly ran over the lunch hour to my daughters school.  Every child in the class had written a story about something that was important to them, where they had maybe learned something and would want to share.

They’ve done this once already this year and it was priceless.  The things kids come up with, put in writing and aren’t afraid to say, we might all not only get a good chuckle out of, but learn from.  Last time, my daughter wrote about her cats.  Well, our cats.  And what they meant to her.

I had no idea what her story was about this time around.

With her dad, myself and the Cowboy in the audience among many other parents.. the teacher called her name.  She went and sat in the reading chair.

“The title of my story is, Saving Lives.” she says.

She proceeds to read the story she wrote;  recollections and emotions surrounding the day she and I years ago had to stop for a kitten lumbering across the middle of a country road.  We stopped to move it out of the way so it wouldn’t get run over.  And realized quickly, no one was caring for this sweet little thing.  It was very, very sick and its eyes were so clouded over with puss it had no idea it was walking into the middle of not just a road, but its own demise.  Or, maybe it did.  The poor thing was miserable and alone.

We picked it up, wrapped it in a towel we had as we were heading to our friends cottage on a nearby lake.

And the following day, after giving it as much love and tlc as we could, took it to the Humane Society to see if anything could be done to save it.

Days later… we got the call.  It had passed.

My daughter cried.  She felt like she couldn’t go on.  (Not only was she feeling that way at the time, this was in her story..)  She has one of the biggest, kindest hearts, not just for animals but people as well.  And while I often don’t get or take the time to see it (due to tight schedules, homework, only having her part-time, arguments, her talking back, growing up and asserting independence and the everyday little things we do that frustrate each other) .. that afternoon at school, I was reminded acutely of what a kind soul my little 10 year old is.

She wrote about that day.  But she also wrote about what it taught her.  And as I sat and listened .. I glanced over at the Cowboy.  He smiled at me.  ‘Wow,’ he whispered.

I perhaps should have turned around and given her dad a glance and a smile.  But I am just never sure what he thinks of the influence I have on her.  Given this story was all about our day and what she learned from it, I didn’t know if turning around to catch his eye would make him smile or .. well, frustrate him further.  I hope for the former.

Regardless, she found a lesson in it all, about life.

“Love things while you have them.”

It is a lesson I perhaps learned as well when I was younger.  But it’s one I have been reminded of countless times, especially through loss over the years, in my life.

Not only was her story and what she pulled out of that day something to celebrate, but she read aloud, annunciated, gave the right inflection at the right time and looked up and smiled at all of us when she was done.


Clarity that this day is good, that she can be and is strong, that she is insightful.  That she is learning how to communicate well and write.  That she loves her mom and dad and it means the world to her that either of us/we’re both there to help her celebrate her accomplishments.  That the little things count.  And that she is listening.

With the teen years fast approaching, that alone is something I know I need to appreciate while I have it.

The dog …

Since this is technically ‘my journal’ and its something I want to leave to my daughter.. I should chronicle the past few hours.  The wonderful time we’ve had tonight making dinner at home, having a dear friend over for a bit, hanging out with homework done and the excitement of getting a few things tonight for a dance class she’s been wanting to take, which starts tomorrow.  But then I’d also have to jot down some thoughts on the huge blowout we just had as well.  It happens more frequently than I would like.  At ten I guess I might expect we’ll have more.  I know I did with my own mother.  But I’m hoping to minimize or eliminate or reduce there ever being a need.  Is that possible?  In the meantime, while she implodes, I’ve been working on remaining as calm and quiet as possible (which doesn’t always work), which upsets her all the more.

But, the Cowboy wanted me to write something more lighthearted tonight.

So, I’m going to talk about .. The dog.

Oe of them anyway.

The dog

I had to leave my little yellow lab with the Cowboy this past week as my return trip home didn’t go quite as planned.  I ended up flying instead of driving.  Which means, the dog is still at the ranch, for now.

And, she’s not really a great ranch dog.  Not yet anyway.  She likes to play .. and wants to play with just about anyone or anything, regardless of size.  The horses for the most part, would prefer she go play in another pasture.  I’m concerned it may take a good kick for her to get the picture.

Confused by the dog

When she’s not chasing friends ..

She’s sleeping on the Cowboys bed.  Which he’d prefer she doesn’t do.  Or, apparently, she’s eating leftovers the Cowboy and the kids thought would be good to just set out on the porch after leaving them  in the crockpot too long they burned.

I warned him.  “Don’t let the dog eat anything but her dog food.  It’s just not a good scene,” I’ve told him on several occasions as he’s used to giving his pup, any and all leftovers.

He’s quickly finding out why.  The lab doesn’t have a very resilient GI system.  And straying from one of the only dog foods I found that worked for her to ever have a solid .. well, let’s just say she needs a strict diet or things get a little ugly.  I do believe if she were a cartoon character, there would be one of those, you know.. army green clouds following her around.

And as we talked this morning, all I could do was laugh as the Cowboy repeatedly said her name.. groaned at the scene or rather, scent unfolding before him.. and went to let her out, again.

So that she could go play with the horses.

The road home …

Its not often we get to ride together in the car.  Well, actually today, its the blazer.  Normally one of us is heading to see the other and flying solo, passing time between phone calls and the Cowboy anyway, likes to watch/listen to a few shows on Netflix.

The road home

But we’ve got the blazer pretty packed up (the Cowboy really misses his big ‘ol truck, we were lamenting that just a few miles back.  It was a sexy truck.  It really was.  But as part of the divorce he gave it up over some relatively humorous and unrealistic financial demands from the ex.  So he sold it.  And, because we’re both trying to be frugal these days and downsize more than upscale, he bought an old blazer he could still shoe out of .. that would be a solid vehicle for he and the kids .. and that he could pay cash for.  We promised we’d start looking at a truck again later this year.)

Tired after a morning run

We’ve got one of the dogs along as well..  Settled in amongst everything in the back seat.

And, a lot of conversations happening in the midst of it all.

One of which, is me…. fussing at the Cowboy for his driving.  He wants me to tell you, “The Cowboy is a great driver.  And I am a terrible back seat driver.”  But he tells me that as he’s drifting off onto the shoulder of any icy Minnesota highway.

Another conversation is…. do we feed the dog the burrito bowl leftovers from our lunch stop.. which is a mix of black beans, rice, chicken and guacamole?  Or will that make for an extremely long, stinky ride the rest of the way to South Dakota?  Sorry.. but you know its true.

Its been a relatively insane, far too busy week.  All good things.  Work stuff.  Mom stuff.  Trying to fit exercise back into my daily routine after being out sick a couple weeks.  We drove through the snow last night to have the most wonderful evening with some of my best friends in this life, from college and now from all over the world.  Truly an honor to be among those around the table at the Capitol Grille in Milwaukee.  I adore my friends.  And I adore the Cowboy so I’m glad they’re all getting more time to know each other.  Plus it’s fun to see him dressed in a suit coat once in awhile.

But the busy days, late nights, work in-between and not to mention.. the awesome company have me thoroughly enjoying the downtime today in the passenger seat.  (Even if he isn’t the best driver that ever lived..)

Riding shotgun...

Especially because the Cowboy and I have a big week ahead … and the road this week will take us to Pierre.

Finding time … and patience.

At some point, if you stick with me long enough.. you’ll most likely hear something about the challenges my ex and I have had the past seven years or so as we went through our divorce.  And, recovery.

Our marriage was a struggle from the start for many, many reasons let alone the break-up.  It has taken all we have, I believe, to try and do what is best for our daughter and somehow get along.  Or at the very least appear to try.

I’ve wished throughout the past ten years, that I had been better about journaling because so many lessons were learned through both the good times and the bad.  Lessons I would love to reflect on as well as pass along to my daughter.  Perhaps though, the following is why it struck me this past week, to finally get at.  To start writing.  I just felt some big things were coming my way.  I wanted record.  And pretty sure my intuition was right.

Just this week, the ex and I sat down and for the first time since our divorce and apologized.  For everything.

I’m not going to lie.  It was and is weird.  But I’m trusting its also genuine.  The ex said to me, “I don’t expect after so many years of treating you poorly (word changed there – family show!) that you’ll believe I’ve changed.  I know I need to earn your trust again.  But I’m going to try.”

While I believe I may still be in shock, I am looking forward to seeing how we might all heal and as well, where we go from here.

Getting along..  Successfully co-parenting post divorce, I’m going to just assume, is never easy.  But what I do know for certain, is that some try.  And, try to co-parent far better than others.

Before I go any further with my journal, let me just establish a few important facts:

1.  I know there are two sides to every story.

2.  The last thing I ever want or try to do is run another person down.

3.  This blog/journal, again, is about our day to day and the issues the Cowboy and I face.  But they are issues many of you face as well.  I want your thoughts, actions, solutions or experiences to share.  Because I know I and most of my friends going through these same issues are exhausted and broke spending upwards of $200/hr for therapy or their attorney.

4.  My focus will almost always be on how to improve a situation.  Not just complain about it.

There.  Back to the journal.

The Cowboy wants more time with his kids.  And I think its safe to say, anyone would find it tough to withstand the games a vindictive – for reasons no one seems to be able to understand – games an ex, his ex if we want to get specific, can play.  (Again, I know there are two sides to every story but its though to argue with facts, words in writing and actions.)

The Cowboy will tell you he’s not perfect.  I would agree.  But none of us are.  He lets the kids play in the mud, eat too many sweets, often stay up past bedtime the weekends he has them .. he lets them make mistakes in the hopes they learn from them and takes them for ice cream during the 3 hours he gets to see them each week.  He knows he has a lot to learn about parenting, about himself, about relationships and about life.  But he’s also the most open person I know to the lessons.

Strong hands and a tender heart help place a winter hat on son.

The Cowboy loves his kids.  And he does his best to show them in the ridiculously small amount of time he’s been granted each week – for reasons even the judge can’t explain.

The Cowboy is a great dad.  And it breaks my heart to know that he or any parent who deserves equal time with their kids, doesn’t get it.  No matter how much my ex and I couldn’t see eye to eye, even we felt equal time with our daughter was a non-negotiable.

So, we pray everyday for grace, for strength to get through this and the wisdom to understand why any of this is happening…

In the meantime, we also are praying for as much time as possible with the kids… and I asked earlier to give me one word to describe what he needed most to get through this.

He said patience.  Patience things will work out.  That the kids will be ok.  That the time with them will come.  And to know God is somehow through this, working on us all.

But hours later and having had some time now to decompress on a very lonely stretch of highway between SD and WI…

The Cowboy called and said, “Faith may be a better word.  I think faith is maybe patience in action.  Faith I believe, is knowing that doing the right thing will prevail.”

Afternoon ride