In business, politics, or most any of our other struggles to succeed, there’s a common saying that, “it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts”. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where those words fit.
A couple months ago I spent some time in the big Southpoint Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, kind of the cowboy place to hang out. A visual inspection was necessary for some research on a barrel racing scene in the first novel of the Winds of Passion Series. A couple of young guys were attempting to access the massive indoor arena, the same place I wanted to see. Instantly, I pegged one as a cowboy; the other one . . . hmm, probably not. You see, the one guy had the right clothes—and of course a reasonably large and ornate buckle. The four of us met and talked shop while we waited to get inside. Later, my wife Pat laughingly informed me that it was a hoot watching both of us surreptitiously study the other guy’s buckle. Buckles are the cowboy equivalent of “who’s who in cowboy America”. Too often, it’s all a little phony.
I wrote this piece of cowboy poetry a few years ago, and I hope if I’ve learned anything about other folks it’s that the size of the buckle doesn’t really tell a lot about the man—or woman.
A Real Cowboy
Old Juan was sittin’ on the porch,
After a big Thanksgiving meal.
Just ruminating and taking in,
The evening sights and feel.
Young Billy swaggered up and sat,
Beside him on the step.
You could tell the walk was his best shot,
At buildin’ up his rep.
He glanced at Juan with some disdain,
Then looked him up and down.
You see, Juan didn’t really have
The right hat crease in his crown.
And old Juan didn’t wear the pants
That all the cowboys do.
He even wore suspenders,
And there were holes in his old shoes.
Juan didn’t own a pair of boots,
Had no buckle at all.
His pants were baggy corduroys,
The shirt was way too small.
No, Juan he never fit the mold,
That it took to be a hand.
Well it seemed that way to Billy,
This yokel should be canned.
For clearly he’d never swung a rope,
Or rode a bronky colt.
And his clothes fresh from the Sally Ann,
Said this guy was a dolt.
Just then the boss stepped on the porch,
And saw Bill’s sneering grin.
Said come with me, for I can see
You’re a cowboy made of tin.
So Billy stepped out with the boss,
He didn’t return ‘till dark.
He was a chastened cowboy,
The boss had left his mark.
The story came out piece by piece,
As we fixed some fence next day.
The boss had shown no mercy,
For Billy’s feet of clay.
The boss told of a younger man,
Then old Juan there on the stoop.
A man with talent, full of life,
‘Till trouble cast its loop.
A man who was a cowboy,
With a future bright and bold.
At riding bulls he was the best,
Of a champion he told.
The boss told Billy of a man,
The ‘ride the river’ kind.
A man who’d stuck by him for life,
And saved him in a bind.
Was long ago in Wichita,
My draw was the hookin’ kind.
I’d hung up bad, the clown was down,
I knew it was my time.
My jaw was broke, I was smashed up bad,
When Juan jumped in the fray.
He got me loose as I passed out,
But Juan couldn’t get away.
That bull stomped out Juan’s cowboy trail,
I knew he’d run life’s race.
He’d saved my life and given his,
And tears ran down my face.
But by God’s grace old Juan pulled through,
He’s made of tough rawhide.
Because he wears no buckle,
Don’t think he cannot ride.
Now Juan comes here when he needs a place,
To rest or have a meal.
And Billy that man’s made of gold,
He’s a cowboy that’s real.
So Billy don’t look down on men,
Who don’t dress the way you do.
A real cowboy’s gold is in his heart,
And in Juan—it shines right through.©