If a cowboy has a bad wreck and breaks his leg, friends say, “He’s lucky…he coulda broke both his legs.” After that, they’ll make a joke at his expense. If he dies, they would probably say, “He’s lucky. He had good insurance so his wife and kids’ll be taken care of.” No one is spared the ribbing. I know this from personal experience. I was out with Randy’s crew learning some of the finer points of how to be a cowboy as we moved a herd (well, we really just kind of followed them) up into the Pecos Wilderness. We came to a small stream with a bit of an incline on the other side. Randy said, “You’ll want to lean forward when you go over.”
I was on Rusty, a real outlaw. Actually, Rusty is a fairly placid, if somewhat sneaky, horse who was easy to ride. I thought to myself, I know how to do this; I don’t need your advice. Right after that, Rusty exploded over the little stream. Of course, I wasn’t leaning forward enough and I immediately lost a stirrup and my balance. I tried to hang on until I realized that I would cause a much bigger wreck by doing so. I dropped off and bounced up as quickly as I could, hoping no one had noticed. No such luck. Randy was laughing heartily. He says he waited to make sure I was all right before he laughed. Cleve Bain said “Baloney (well, he didn’t really say baloney), you started laughing right away.”
When Randy gives me a hard time about this, I immediately bring up the time that he over-estimated the length of his truck when he was unloading hay. He stepped off…well, I say he got “bucked off”…crashed to the ground and wrecked his knee. Lucky he had his cell phone with him. Oh, wait, there was no cell service. Lucky his truck has an automatic transmission. Oh, wait, it was a standard. Okay, lucky he was tough enough to drive himself to the hospital. And lucky he had affordable health insurance. Oh, wait, that was after…nah, we won’t go there.
Cleve wasn’t in a position to say much to me either. That morning when he woke up in the pop-up trailer, he asked if anyone had seen his jeans, which had his truck keys in them. After much searching, it turns out the jeans, with the keys, were in the truck which was locked. It took Cleve and Randy quite awhile to do the old coathanger trick and get the truck open. During that time, Mike Moutoux took pictures of Cleve in his long-johns which he later posted on Facebook. That’s what cowboy friends are for!
One of the all-time “luckiest” cowboys we know is Ross Knox. Ross logged more miles as a mule-packer into the Grand Canyon than anyone in recorded history and he’s cowboy to the core. He’s also been in a number of serious wrecks, two of which resulted in his being air-lifted out of the Grand Canyon. We tease him that he also received an award from PETA for twice breaking the fall of his mules (they landed on top of him!).
At the Arizona Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Prescott a few years back, I was visiting with wonderful cowboy poet, Yvonne Hollenbeck. We were laughing about Ross’s latest mishap in which his forest service pickup developed wiring problems, caught fire and burned to the ground in a manner of minutes. Ross was “lucky” enough to get out and get all his stock out as well. We chuckled about this, then Yvonne got up to go perform in her next session at the church across the street from Sharlot Hall. I found out later that when she went in the building, she got turned around. She found a room full of people and went in, only to discover that it was an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She said, “Oh, I’m not supposed to be here.” A kindly gentleman leaned over and whispered in her ear, “That’s what we all say the first time.” Just call her “lucky.”