Real cowboys don’t curse

I never heard a swear word come out of my father’s, or my husband’s mouth. Both were what modern “dress-up” cowboys consider anachronisms — REAL cowboys.

I suspect they might have cursed now and then when they were in a wreck out among the junipers and cactus — and no human females were around to hear it. I have no way of knowing about that.

What I find interesting is neither ever mentioned the unwritten code that was their behavior guide. My mother never cursed, either, so we kids knew our tongues had better not wrap around those words if we knew what was good for us.

I did slip, once. My dad, my brother and I had about 20 head of cows and calves at a windmill. My dad wanted to cut out several of the cows that were dry and leave them there while we drove the rest along with their calves to the home corrals. My brother (two years younger than me) and I were the designated herd holders. We were about 14 and 12 years old.

I was managing to keep the cows Dad cut out from plunging back into the herd, feeling proud of myself for making a hand, when my smart-aleck little brother decided to “help” in the cutting out part. He was riding a top cutting horse, so he thought his helpfulness would come in handy. Well, I also was riding a muy bueno cutting horse, and I decided nothing he cut out would get by me. Our dad, as usual, didn’t say anything while he watched the show.

The first cow my brother tried to run past me got stopped in her tracks when my horse and I planted ourselves in front of her, matching her dodges move for move until she gave up and trotted back into the herd.

My brother got smarter, then. He came out fast with the next cow, and she got by me before my horse and I could get set.

That got me angry, and him laughing. While we had a pause in the action Dad decided to continue his dry cow-cutting out, and he sent one old biddy straight at me. I was angry, and not ready, and when she went by me two other cows went with her.

I said, loud, “I can’t hold this damn herd by myself with both of you cutting.” My brother’s eyes got so big they took up half his face. About then I realized what I’d said and knew I was in “big trouble.”

Dad let me worry until we got to the house. After we unsaddled and brushed down the horses, he finally said, “Another human doing or saying something profane doesn’t mean you do or say it, too. I thought I taught you that.”

His disappointment in me was the greatest punishment possible, and I guarantee I never forgot it.

One day we saw — and heard — a profane woman at the auction barn cafe. Later, Dad said to me, “That woman had something in her mouth I wouldn’t hold in my hand.”