I was just up in my den, trying to sort through some of the clutter, when it occurred to me that I’ve surrounded myself with all kinds of objects that pin point significant, but somehow lost, moments in time and maybe it would be fun to photograph some of them and then write about their significance. So here goes.

Rusty spurs

These are a pair of spurs given to me by my Uncle Bill, a real life cowboy who came of age during the Great Depression, followed the rodeo in his youth, fought in Burma in WWII (he doesn’t much like to talk about that), married the local school marm, and ran a large cattle ranch in Nebraska for most of his adult life.

I remember going to visit there as a kid and having lots of fun with my cousins. Going horseback riding, sliding down the haystacks, pretending the calves were rodeo bulls and riding them, sneaking up and shooting the chickens in the rear with BB guns just to watch them jump. My brother and I were the city kids (although we didn’t live in a real city). But we were definitely cosmopolitan compared to my cousins who lived in relative isolation at the end of a very long dirt road with no neighbors for miles around.

We were pretty trusting and fearless and needless to say, we paid the price for that. The first time my cousins took us horse back riding they found it quite amusing to leave the saddle cinches relatively loose and when we broke into a gallop, the saddles slipped sideways, spilling us to the ground. They thought that was hilarious. Scared the crap out of me, but you can be sure I didn’t show it. Nor did I ever let that happen again. Lesson learned. I made my cousins show me how and from that point on I always saddled my own horse. I believe that this particular incident defined my sense of independent self reliance to this very day.

My uncle got wind of the prank and on the day of our departure gave me those spurs, along with a wry grin. I’ve treasured them ever since. That was 45 years ago. My Uncle Bill is in his 80’s now and has been retired for some time. He has a place in Valentine, Nebraska on the river and usually spends the winters in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I can’t think of two more fitting names of places for him to live.

He was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago and is undergoing treatment. He will battle bravely and without complaining. That’s what real cowboys do.

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