Sunday, August 1, 2010

v2, d132: WOF#3: Guest Blogger #3

Joseph "Old Joe" Harrison is a cattle herder who lives pretty much anywhere from Wyoming to Texas to California, looking for work wherever he can get it for himself, his brother Booger, and his sister Peggy. Joe isn't really that old, but he is the oldest of the Harrison siblings, so "Old Joe" it is.

If you're trying to puzzle how a cowboy from the 1800s has access to the Internet and blogging, all I can say is: you need more interesting things to puzzle over.


Evenin', folks.

Most folks would say it's mighty late as I write this here note. I know I still got a good few hours ahead of me. I tend to stay up later'n most people, even most other cow pokes. It ain't my night to stand watch. Booger's doin' that. I just ain't a man who gets to fallin' asleep too easily. It ain't necessarily 'cause I'm anxious or anything, I just don't sleep a lot. Never have, probably never will.

Now, generally speaking, I like it late at night. The air's a bit cooler, the stars are a bit brighter, and everybody else is already sleepin' so it's the only time of the day I got to really spend much time with my thoughts. It's usually a mighty peaceful, gratifying time. Sometimes, though, when just the wrong mood hits, it'll switch from "being alone" to "being lonely" quicker than a bee-stung piglet. Those nights, you're tempted to wake somebody up just so you can talk to another person, maybe play a quick game, enjoy a cup of coffee and look for shootin' stars. Tonight just happens to be one o' those sorta nights, so I'll do my best to keep from gettin' too melancholy on ya.

Actually, the writin' kinda helps.

Truth is, it ain't hard for a cowboy to get lonely. When you're ridin' a trail, you got the guys on your team (and the gal, if your kid sister is workin' with ya), your horses, and a whole bunch of cows. Whole bunch of cows. Now, it's great work, and there are all sorts of positives you can get out of it, but a satisfying social life ain't always one of 'em. Now sure, you're like as not to like the rest of the guys, but when you don't see nobody else for weeks at a time but the same group of guys, you can get on each other's bad sides pretty dang easily. (Those are the times when I like late nights alone with myself) And when you do make it to a town here or there, there are plenty more people, but you ain't like them. Talkin' to cows for nine months out of the year has a way of changin' a man, and it ain't so easy to blend in with city dwellers when you do get the chance.

You know what keeps a cowboy from goin' completely batty when he's out on the land day in and day out? Storytellin'. Singin', too. We're always tellin' stories. True stories, tall tales, ghost stories, you name it. Talkin' about people we met once, or towns we been through. Adventures we had on the trail. A rotten pot of beans. Anything we can think of to keep our minds off the what and the where, and sometimes even the who, of everythin' around us. I think a lot of people don't realize how important singin' and stories are. Stories ain't just a thing you give to your kids to distract 'em when their bodies are gettin' sleepy. I've seen stories that've kept two guys from killin' each other. I've lived through a night of freezin' rain and wind and floodin', and we kept each other laughin' like maniacs singin' one bawdy song after another, actin' like total fools, but keepin' one another alive. Music and stories can make connections 'tween people who don't have no business connectin'. One o' the first things the Good Book says is that it ain't right for man to be alone. Well, stories is a way of makin' sure a man ain't ever alone. He tells a story, and he remembers the person who told it to him, and it's like they're lookin' up at the same stars that night. Even the Good Lord told lots of stories, as I find myself remindin' all them cityfolk who tell their kids it ain't civilized to sit around a fire at night and tell ghost stories to other adults. Shoot, most of them high-and-mighties look like they haven't sang a song out loud with other people in twenty, thirty years. And let me tell you, folks, there's something right sad in that.

Ya know, kids get it, and we were all kids once, so I think there's somethin' right about it. Kids are always tellin' stories, playin' games like they're people from stories. Kids just start singin', don't matter who's around, who's listenin', if they're sittin' down to a meal, if they're readin' a book, or if someone is tryin' to tell 'em something. When one of 'em wants to sing, he sings. And if there's another one close by, she sings, too. And until the song's over, they're friend, even if they wasn't before. Now I wanna know, folks: what's wrong about that?

So here's what I'm gonna leave with ya: start tellin' stories. Tell 'em to your wife. Tell 'em to your friends. Tell 'em to your folks. Tell 'em to anybody you wanna connect with. And tell 'em to your kids. Tell those kids every story you know, and when you run out, you make up some more. You tell 'em so that they love stories so much, nobody can't never talk 'em out of lovin' stories. Let 'em know it's all right to laugh, even if you gotta be serious most of the time. You do that, and you teach 'em not to be afraid of nobody or nothin', 'cause no matter what happens to 'em or where they find themself in this world, they're always gonna be only a short story or a silly song away from people they love. Far as I can see it, that's just about the only way any of us is gonna keep from goin' nuts before we slip on outta this world and into the next one.