The Sunday after Thanksgiving was the first time since ’02, that I have not cooked for the 5R ranch run by Rex Glover, and I sure do miss it. We started out in November of 2002 in the Palo Duro Canyon on the JA”s. Rex leases about 87 sections and it sure is historical country for the cook and cowboy. This area was the ole stomping grounds of Charles Goodnight, the man who got credit for having the first ever meals on wheels- the chuckwagon.
I guess the thing I will miss the most is the company of ole Chris Morton. He was with me every morning at about 4:15 am for coffee. Ole Chris and I have drank many a gallon of Bertha’s cups of coffee- and I ain’t talkin’ about no cappuccino or decaf. I am talkin’ about good ole boiled coffee and the warmth of ole Bertha to sit by after a night in a bedroll. Chris and I have solved many a problem in the world over cups of coffee and fires.
Our fireside discussions were never about politics. But we did swing a big loop around various topics including: the proper way to cuss a cow and man’s dog, who were in the gate at the wrong time, without really offending the owner of either one. Or the weather, which always seemed to be bad on the day we set up and broke down camp. Chris told me once, “Them damn weatherman are the only ones beside politicians who can be wrong about their predictions everyday and still keep their job.” And of course horses, the men who rode them and the drives they had made were always a daily topic.
Then about 5:oo every morning ole Rex would show up and tell Chris and me that he had changed his plan for today’s drive just a little after a night’s sleep. This was an everyday occurrence, much to the resentment of ole Chris. After Rex had washed his face and had about two cups of coffee it would change again. Chris would just laugh and say, ” He is just like them weathermen.”
Another feller that I will miss is Art Reed, a good friend and a good cowboy. Art would come into my kitchen every morning about 5:15 and say in a radio announcers voice, “Lets play cowboy today and see if we can make a living at it!” Art and ole Chris go way back, they have drug many a wet saddle blanket off of a horse and drank many a Budweiser together.
There was usually one thing that brought cowboys to my kitchen earlier than expected and that was a cold night. It can be a rude awakening to crawl out of a bedroll in a teepee when it is around 3 degrees. A feller can get dressed quicker than you think when your clothes are frozen. But most of the time after the regulars, Chris, Rex and Art, would start Andrew the fireman, Tom Bates and then Stevie Ray Taylor.
The last man in was always ole “handsome” better known as Mike Butler. He was a feller who woke up last and strolled into camp like a 90-year-old weathered man. Now don’t get me wrong- when ole Mike had his coffee and his breakfast he would perk up somewhat.Let’s just say ole Mike might be last out of the teepee, but when it come to cowboying he was ready and willing.
Mike always called me “Cookie” and said that one day I might make a half decent cook if I stayed hooked. But I never heard him complain about any of my cooking, just that we ate too early every morning! I told him people die in bed and it was my job to make sure he was fed and up at 6:00am. Mike said he would just as soon have brunch if we could fit it in about nine.
Now I know that things change and I have it better in my warm bed, but I will miss them fellers and worry about them just a little. That is what you do when you call people family. These fellers have eaten my cooking for a long time and treated me like a brother. So when that Sunday night rolled around and I wasn’t there, all I can hope is that they stayed warm, ate well and someone remembered to wake up Handsome.