Where the Wild Things Are

August 10th, 2013


When you visit the T Cross, chances are that one of the adventurous rides will take you into the Washakie Wilderness Area which borders the T Cross to the west and north.  There are only a handful of entrances into this pristine wilderness, and T Cross is one of them!  Known for its size, wildness, diversity of wildlife and severe climate, it does not get many visitors.  When you ride into the wilderness from T Cross, you will rarely see any other people.   It’s just you, your horse, your T Cross friends, and whatever wildlife you happen across!


This glorious section of wilderness was first set aside when congress passed the Wilderness Act of 1964.  Then in 1972, the South Absaroka Wilderness was combined with the Stratified Primitive Area to form the Washakie Wilderness, named for the revered Shoshone chief.   To be designated as a wilderness area means that no motorized or mechanized vehicles are allowed, no roads can be built and there can be no logging or mining in the area.


The Washakie covers 1,100 square miles and includes sections of the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton National Forests.  Bordered by the Teton Wilderness to the west, the North Absaroka Wilderness to the north and the Wind River Reservation to the southeast, all total, there are over 2.1 million acres of wilderness!  This is a huge chunk of Wyoming that has been set aside for us to marvel over!


Located in the Absaroka Mountain Range, the Washakie Wilderness is composed of eroded volcanic flows.  Amidst the rugged peaks and ridges there are petrified forests and fossils awaiting discovery!  I know one T Cross regular who has found such fossils in Horse Creek!  The highest point in the wilderness area is Franc’s Peak at 13,153 feet which straddles the eastern boundary.  There are vast plateaus above 11,000 feet and a good number of rivers that follow a glacial stream pattern. 


Wildlife abounds in the Washakie and includes moose, elk, pronghorn antelope, big horn sheep and mule deer of course, but also grizzly and black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, wolverine, and martens.  The Washakie Wilderness was also one of the locations where wolves were reintroduced and at least 4 wolf packs are alive and well in this incredible part of Wyoming.


If you want to see the West that looks much the way it did in the early 1800’s when John Colter first explored this neck of the woods there’s no better place than to come to the T Cross, and take a horseback ride into the Washakie Wilderness Area.  It is simply breathtaking.


To Tuck or Not to Tuck

April 13th, 2013

A matter of great debate in cowboy fashion and style is whether one’s pants should be worn tucked into the cowboy boots, or worn over the top of the boot.  I have seen cowboys and cowgirls wear them both ways and never thought much about it.  Then, while at the National Finals Rodeo, Gretchen was observing the cowboys tending the bucking chutes.  She pointed out one who had his pants tucked into his boots and commented that this was dorky.  I replied that perhaps he was a buckaroo rather than a cowboy and that wearing his pants inside of his boots helped make that distinction.  Nope, she stuck to her position that it was dorky.


So I have been pondering this for some time and decided to conduct a little research!  I began with the premise of there being a difference between a buckaroo and a cowboy.  A trainer I am working with makes this distinction about himself, and he wears his britches tucked into his buckaroo style boots. He’s in his 70’s and worked on ranches in Oklahoma and Colorado back in the day.   In talking with him about it, it is just a matter of style and what he grew up with combined with a desire to show off the tops of his boots.  I noted that his son who is a little younger than me wears his boots both ways depending on the boots.  If he has on his buckaroo boots, the pants are tucked in; regular cowboy boots, he wears the jeans over the top.  (Buckaroo boots are generally taller and have 4 holes in the top to poke your fingers through to pull them on.)


What does history tell us?  Well, in looking at old photos from the 1870’s-early 1900’s, it would seem some cowboys tucked and some did not.  Photos of vaqueros from the same period depict the same…some tuck and some don’t.  Frankly, either way, they look like pretty tough cowboys to me!


Well, could there be practical reasons for the style one way or the other?  There is the thought that your pants stay cleaner, especially when it’s muddy if you put your pants inside your boots.  Others note that by tucking your pants in, you can prevent ticks and other unsavory critters from crawling up your leg.  In opposition to that view is the position that tucking your pants in allows all matter of debris and critters to get down into your boots!  And of course, there are those that believe people that tuck their pants in are just showing off their fancy boots which is as gauche as leaving a price tag hanging on your hat!







It could be that those who wear their britches tucked in are just avoiding another cowboy fashion faux paux which is that of high water pants.  Gretchen has given me full instruction on this as well.  Jeans must be long enough that they “pool” or “stack up” around your boot.  Essentially, when you don’t have your boots on, they have to be long enough to walk on.  And then when you are riding, the pant leg has sufficient length that it remains down over the boot.  If your pants are too short, you can tuck them in your boots; but either way, you run the risk of descending into dorkitude.


So what’s the bottom line?  In all things of a controversial nature, I always look to my childhood hero Roy Rogers…What would Roy do?  In all of the pictures I perused of Roy, he more often than not wore his britches tucked inside his boots.  And, may I say, he doesn’t look dorky at all!   I think either way is acceptable…it’s whatever makes you feel good that counts.  Just make sure you don’t put your cowboy hat on backwards.  Some things are just too hard to overlook.


Knot So Easy

March 16th, 2013

I can remember when I was little trying to learn how to tie my shoes.  My mother wore white Ked’s in the house and in the evening while she watched The Fugitive on TV, I would wear my fingers out trying to tie a bow in the laces.  I just never could get the hang of it.  I much preferred my cowboy boots anyway and now I had yet another reason to dislike regular shoes.  Unfortunately, I had a pair of “oxfords” that were required attire at school right along with white knee socks.  So I had to master tying my laces.  I eventually found my own way, and still today if anybody happens to see me tie my shoes, they laugh at my awkward fumbling to get the job done.

How many of these can you tie?

Knots are part of everyday life on a ranch and also in fishing, so they come in mighty handy on the T Cross.  In matters of fishing, I always left the knot tying to my Dad.  Every attempt I made to tie on a leader or a hook wound up in the whole thing falling off either during the cast or worse yet, once I had a fish on.  So my Dad was only too agreeable to tying it all together for me.   In matters of horses, I have had any number of people starting with my Dad and others over the years try to teach me various knots.  I watch in fascination as their hands work magic with the rope and then try unsuccessfully to repeat the process.  They will then try to make it into a story for me so I can recall which way the end of the rope goes.  The squirrel comes out of the hole, goes around the tree, back into the hole, then up the tree, then around the limb and voila!  The squirrel hangs itself.  At least the way I do it.


Idaho and her friends admire my “wonder knot”!

I figured out a way to tie a horse to a ring or a rail so that if they pull back, it won’t tighten up, and it’s pretty easy to get undone, and the horse can’t untie himself.  When T Cross wranglers note my “wonder knot”, so called because they wonder what it is, they promptly undo it and tie one of their own making.  Then I usually struggle trying to find the trick to loosening the knot so I can get my horse.  Several wranglers over the years have attempted to show me their knots.  You guessed it.  Hopeless.


One evening Mr. and Mrs. Neal were visiting the ranch and as we were sitting out on the lodge porch, I told Mr. Neal of my struggle with knots.  He promptly got up and went over to the end of the porch where the strings for the shades were hanging.  He pulled a length down, and showed me a bowline and a half hitch.  Then he proceeded to show me in slow motion and I would then try to repeat it.  Somehow, my loops were never going the right direction and the end never came out in the right spot and the knot either wound up just unraveling or getting into a knot that was difficult to untie.  You know what they say, “If you can’t tie a knot, just tie a lot!”   Mr. Neal finally gave up.


One knot I can tie!

Back home here in Georgia, I remain committed to learning how to tie a few handy knots.  A horse trainer I’m working with has picked up where Mr. Neal left off.  So far I can tie a square buckaroo knot in my wild rag!  That only took about 3 repeated lessons.  I have also learned how to tie a bowline, a quick release and an alamar knot although I haven’t practiced those in a little while so I wouldn’t be surprised if their mysteries elude me again.


Why, I wonder is this so difficult for me?  I think I may have the answer.  I caught a segment of a news program that was talking about mathematics.  They explored all of the things that have their basis in math, as a means I suppose of prompting interest in this particular field of education.  Frankly, just the word “math” causes a cold shiver to run up my spine.  Only memorization skills saved me in this area, because the logic of math was completely beyond me.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, but it turns out knot tying is based in mathematics!  No wonder then that knot tying for me is much like those old math word problems about a train leaving Chicago at 9:00 a.m. traveling at 70 mph and another train leaving Denver at…well you probably recall these types of puzzlers.

A quick release knot I must keep practicing!



The next time you’re at the T Cross, if you’re a math whiz, try your hand at knot tying and see if you can one-up the wranglers!  Or, if you’re a left brained thinker like me…keep practicing on the shade cords on the porch and leave the horse tying to the wranglers.


T Cross Toasts You!

December 29th, 2012

Christmas is now behind us and it’s time to think about New Year ’s Eve and the annual celebrations to mark the passing of a year, and express our hopes and desires for the year ahead!  Many will don party hats and a variety of celebratory gear; others of us will set the alarm clock for 11:58 p.m. so we can open one eye long enough to watch the ball drop on the Dick Clark New Year’s Eve special on TV.  Then at 12:02 a.m. we will drift back to sleep dreaming of those New Year’s resolutions!  And, somewhere in between those two extremes, many of us will at least clink a glass or two with friends and family to mark the end of 2012 and wonder at what 2013 may bring.  Even if you’re only clinking a glass of Mountain Dew, a good toast is in order for these occasions. I thought it would be useful for you to have some at hand lest you be at a loss for words.  Here’s some fine western flavored toasts, and I was so inspired, I made one up myself!







May you never lose a stirrup

May you never waste a loop

May your can stay full of syrup

And your gizzard full of whoop!     S. Omar Barker

May your days be filled with usefulness

Your nights be filled with rest

May your life be filled with happiness

And all that you love best!  Hal Swift


May your horse never stumble

Your spurs never rust

Your guts never grumble

Your cinch never bust!  S. Omar Barker

May your heart and wallet

Always stay full

May the words you speak

Be more truth and less bull

May the trails you ride

Be upon a good hoss

May your summers always bring you

Back to the T Cross!  Cindy Coe

Here’s wishing you a New Year filled with much joy, good health, prosperity and a trip back home to T Cross!

Yo, Dude!

June 16th, 2012

Growing up in western Colorado, I was acquainted early on with the term “dude”, and trust me, it was not complimentary.  Whenever this term was applied, it was to scoff at a person who was not native to the West, and who did not know their way around livestock or a shovel for that matter.  So when Robyn and I were scouting for places to have an annual adventure, a dude ranch was the farthest  thing from my mind.  But, we stumbled across the T Cross, and found a little bit of paradise in Wyoming that we call “home” every year for a week!

When I first started going there, I was reluctant to tell friends that I was vacationing at a dude ranch.  So I would hedge and say we were going to a ranch. Or if pressed, I would say it was a “guest ranch”. They would immediately give me an incredulous look and say “YOU are going to a DUDE ranch??”  I am not what anyone would think of as a “dude” the way most people think of it when applied to the outdoors, the West and livestock.  The term also confers someone with “exaggerated fastidiousness in dress, speech and deportment”.  That ain’t me.

The word “dude” was first used in 1870 and implied a person unfamiliar with the demands of life outside of an urban setting.  It was also used to describe a dandy-ish sort of doofish; which I reckon is how Evander Berry Wall, a New York socialite got the handle “King of the Dudes” in 1888.  In the late 1800’s as the United States expanded into the West, the term took on the meaning of an Easterner in the West.  So in the early 1900’s when people from the East wanted to have a look at the West without committing to a move, dude ranching came into being.  Nowadays dude ranching isn’t only in the West; you can find a dude ranch just about anywhere, but the term in that context still applies to someone less familiar with ranching.

Truth be told, even if you consider yourself pretty rough and ready, observing Mark and the wranglers on the T Cross is quite a humbling experience.  They are master horsemen and women, they can rope and ride with the best of them, and they can turn a hand to all manner of ranch work be it fencing, wood splitting, mending tack, nailing a horseshoe back on, or fixing stuff.  There is a definite distinction between what they do, and what I do to make a living!

Once while at the T Cross, I had purchased a rope halter from a former wrangler who was visiting.  It had a hand braided nose band and was really pretty.  I wanted a lead rope to go with it, and thought to ask Ken Neal if he might be able to braid one onto the halter the way the T Cross halters and leads are made.  My only dilemma which I expressed to Mr. Neal was where to find rope to match the navy blue of my halter.  Mr. Neal scowled at me and said “That is so…..dude.”  So, Mark made me one out of the white rope they keep on hand and it looks great!  And, I reckon it is in keeping with what’s not dude!

Dude is an interesting word.  Think about how it has evolved into an entirely different meaning over the years.  In the movie The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges played a guy that was the ultimate in cool.  He says “I’m The Dude, so that’s what you call me, you know, that, or, uh, His Dudeness, or Duder, or uh, El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”   It is also noted in The Big Lebowsi that a person demonstrating a lack of coolness is “very un-dude”.

So, all of that said, if you are letting the fear of being considered a “dude” prevent you from experiencing the sheer joy of visiting the T Cross, just channel a little of the Big Lebowski.  Don’t be a “dude”, be a Duuuuuuude!  Or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.