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Chapter 37

Do's and Don'ts

My Father and Me, 1971

This is a picture taken on my dad's birthday about 1971. He was born January 10, 1914, so he was still pretty young in this photo. Drove a truck for a living and that is what he was doing the day he died, December 7, 1986. He was not supposed to be driving but he just couldn't get it out of his system and he could always use the extra money. That is another story. This is about an event that happened during the summer of 1940, before I started school in second grade at Paint Creek, Haskell County, Texas. You all know where Paint Creek is don't you? That is where Gov. Rick Perry grew up and went to school. The only thing there in 1940 was the school and a combination grocery and one pump filling station. I doubt it has growed much even with the notoriety it received when Gov. Perry entered politics.

My dad was a man of few words. His world consisted of "DO'S and DON'TS. DO was pretty simple. DO mind your mother and grandparents. DO take care of the stock. DO your chores when they are supposed to be done.

The DON'TS were just as simple. Violate a rule and punishment was swift and sure. Usually in the form of the belt he wore, inch and a half leather about 34 inches long. Doubled that meant 17 inches to lay across an errant bottom. The number of licks depended on the severity of the crime but never less than five. It was always over with pretty quick. There was never a time when I was told, "When we get home...." It happened then and there.

We had been fattening two steers in the lot. One to sell for much needed cash and the other to slaughter for winter meat. I had been riding them since they were old enough to support me. Good training for my future in the PBR which had not been formed at that time. I just knew I wanted to be a bull rider.

One of dad's long standing DON'TS was DON'T mess with my rope. It was coiled and tied to the saddle in the tack room and he only used it to work stock, never for play. He let me touch it now and then but I was never allowed to play with it. I had my own piece of twine, one of his old ropes. Another DON'T was, "DON'T ride them calves. It is too hot and they won't gain if you jostle them."

Early one morning, dad and my grandfather had to go in to Stamford. I usually got to go along but they were headed for the bank to do some serious business. I was out of caps for my Roy Rogers cap pistol and knew with a little whining I could wheedle a nickel or dime out of one them for much needed ammo.

Bored to tears, I made it through the morning but right after dinner, the noon meal, I decided to catch my horse and ride the pasture, maybe even visit my friend Ronnie Martin on the next place. You wouldn't think people would allow a seven year old kid to do what I did. Mine did. All I had to do was inform one of the adults what my intentions were. Today, my horse had other plans. I could usually sucker him up with a bucket that held a handful of oats. While his head was down, I could slip the reins around his neck and put the bits in his mouth. I never rode with a saddle. It was too heavy.

Today he stayed away. Sweating and disgusted I returned the bridle to the tack room and saw THE ROPE. I just couldn't stand it so I removed it from the saddle horn and tossed a loop across the floor. Then another. I spied the two calves through the open door of the tack room. They were just doubledog daring me to rope one of them. I made a loop, walked out in the lot and put it on the nearest calf. Here was decision time. I might have been able to get the noose off but no, I had to sit back on it and take all the slack. Seems like we made about six trips around that lot before I could get a turn around the snubbing post set up in the middle. That is when the calf does what all stupid calves do, he rared back on the rope and tried to strangle himself. I tried every trick I knew to get that rope off. Slobber was running out of his mouth and from past experience I knew he was overheated. I should have let the rope go slack by taking it off the snubbing post but I was scared now. I had violated two DON'TS and knew the consequences.

I was waiting at the house when dad and granddad arrived. First thing out of my mouth was the problem. When we got to the lot, the calf was down. He was still breathing but he would not have lasted much longer. Real easy, dad untied the rope around the post, walked up and removed the noose. The calf lay there a few minutes then got up. I was never so relieved in my life. Dad stood coiling the rope and looking at me. I knew what was coming as soon as he finished and thought maybe if I started bawling then he might show a little mercy.

I was in for a surprise. He took me by the arm and we started for the house. We stopped at the burn barrel where he put the two boxes of caps he had brought for me. Then he lit a piece of newspaper and we stood there while both boxes exploded.

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