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Cowboy Compliment

Cowboys don’t give compliments. Cowboys, real ones, don’t talk much about themselves or you either. A cowboy compliment isn’t an oxymoron, though. Such a compliment is real, not given but inferred and so I’ve learned it is the most powerful and genuine compliment of all.The culture of the cowboy is the culture of folks who live where the rubber meets the road. Farmers, ranchers, mechanics, linemen, honest tradesmen of all types – these men deal with reality day in and day out. You can’t sweet talk your corn into growing. You can’t cast out evil spirits from a broken machine. There is no bravado and bluffing to make it work when dealing with electricity, say…I think a cowboy type must have originated the saying: “Nothing very good or very bad ever lasts very long.” Cowboy type folks take life in stride, don’t B.S. and they won’t flatter you. Ever. I used to shoe an old horse belonging to a genuine old, some say ancient cowman. In his 80’s, he figured he’d watch the 20 something me do my stuff. At the end of my first time shoeing his horse he said gruffly: “Don’t file off the clenches and make em’ purty. That thins the nail and weakens it and he could throw a shoe!” (This is the only criticism? Wow!) Old Joe also allowed as to how he’s ridden that horse 17 years: “And he still hates me!” So where’s the compliment? The end of that summer old Joe let me shoe his horse again.Back in those days Joe, of course would feed me and I, in my early 20s, would eat! Beware of country people feeding you massive amounts of food. They’re not being nice, they’re fueling the engine. Assume lots of heavy outdoor work ahead. A skillet full of Joe’s eggs would vanish in my presence! A pan of Joe’s best corn bread – gone. Joe wouldn’t say a word about my inhaling of his food, not directly. He’d just pause and fix me with a friendly level gaze and say, eyes twinkling amongst the leathery wrinkles: “Here, wrap this corn bread up in napkins. Put these biscuits in yer pocket. You might get hungry later!”Cowboys rarely boast. The real world that they live in makes fools of boasters far too frequently. And cowboy types never boast to strangers. If you’re ever cornered by a fella bragging up his place or his horses or herd, chances are good there’s nothing much there. He’s just bragging it up so he can swell his head to fit that oversized hat he’s recently bought. Amongst themselves I’ve heard cowboys say: “It ain’t braggin’ if’n you can do it.” It’s their way of saying: “Show me.” When I’d tell Joe of some good that had come my way he’d say: “Well, even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then.” This is a friendly way of saying, that’s okay, but don’t get too big for your britches sonny, take the good with the bad…When you’ve spent much of your life riding with the herd as Joe had, you learn a big lesson in humility and maturity as most “rubber meets the road” men of the real world do. It’s best that there is no complaining. None, not at all. A whiner has no heart and is looking to take yours too. He’s miserable and wants to share. Such men find themselves riding alone. Riding drag, don’t complain about the dust ’cause tomorrow it could be mud and snow. What’s the point in whining? “A lot of things in life just are what they are and bringing everyone around you down ain’t gonna help matters.” This is part of the culture of the cowboy.And so the compliment? Some weeks back, a couple of months maybe, a genuine cowboy told me that he had personal knowledge of something good that may be coming my way. The good thing itself doesn’t matter. The fact that a man I respect as of that culture actually let me know of some future good event says it all. He knows I’m not a whiner. (Well, not so’s you’d notice, not usually.) He is tacitly saying that he respects me, that I’ll take it in stride and will not become impatient. He assumes I’ll keep it under my hat. He’s said an awful lot about his opinion of me by simply telling me of the possible future, without saying anything directly about me at all. Typical. And I’m immensely pleased, but don’t tell him! Let’s keep this our little secret. The good thing? It’s way overdue and hasn’t happened yet. Or maybe it has.Tom

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