Once upon a time...

                                             by Ben Means

As a young man, Wilson Means, my dad cowboyed near Lamar, Colorado. He worked for a cousin some, and later for Culp Bros. Then Augustine Land and Cattle Co. Later on he done some carpenter work for them. There were few if any dogs used on cattle in the west at that time. Nearly everything was done horseback. For a Roy Rogers, Gene Autry kid this was as God intended.

My first introduction to dogs, that I can remember, was when we came for visits with my Grandmother Elsie and her brother Ivan, in Southwest Missouri. My Uncle Ivan always had some kind of old yellow shepherd around that would not only bite cattle and horses, it would bite you. When you started to walk in the screen door it would nip you on the heel so hard you felt like there might be blood in your shoe. My uncle would get up and cuss him out, but that was far as it went. You just learned to back through the door with your eye on that sneakin' old yellow bastard.

My uncle had a couple hundred acres that went down into the Little Sac River bottom. He had 80 acres up on the hill with the house and barn in the center like many farms in those days.

 When he went out to catch the horses, (work horses) he would walk up to them anywhere, and catch them. He never used grain to catch one. Now when one of them decided it didn't want to be caught, it would trot off. Uncle Ivan would holler for that old yeller dog that was always sulking around. He would sic that dog on the horse, after two trips around the 80 they would literally come up to him and shove their head in the bridle. Pretty impressive stuff for a kid like me. I usually hoped they would try for three. This was not without cost to some of the dogs. There were several dogs in those days that had an eye turned up, or completely knocked out.

Cows were scared to death of him too. My grandma could take a bucket and cane bottom chair out to where the cows were, and milk enough for the house and for the separator. Those cows never moved, and she never grained them either. They knew what that dog was capable of. Now I don't know how tough these dogs were, but one of them could jerk down a full grown hog. I remember one time we had to sew up the side of a hog because it's guts were about to fall out where that dog happened to catch it.

Needless to say I always begged to be left there for the two weeks we were in Missouri. Here was potential excitement. My uncle taught me how to cuss, and tried to teach me how to chew.  My folks didn't appreciate this much, but I thought he was next to God, because he had horses and cows and a dog that I was constantly trying to get him to sic on something. So you can see, as a youngster I thought the only time you used a dog was when you were mad or wanted to punish something.

Later on my folks decided to move to Missouri and try to farm for a living. My world of riding horses was coming to an end. We moved to southwest Missouri, rented a farm, got a few milk cows, some hogs, and chickens, but no horse. It would be 9 years before I got back on a real cowhorse. My dad bought a C Farmall tractor and only borrowed a team when we picked corn.

But, my Uncle Ivan gave me a pup. When it grew up, it was great. He was a pure sic-um-go-get-your-fence-fixing-equip dog. Every critter on the farm dreaded me and that dog. Things really went to hell when my folks would go to town on Saturdays and leave me there by myself. To say he would bite would be an understatement. By today's standards he probably didn't have "power", but the critters on that place didn't stop to check. When he showed up they were usually in a high lope before they got their head up from grazing.

Copyright 2001, NAAKR, Inc.  All rights reserved on content and graphics.