Steve was just sitting there on the tailgate of his pickup, looking out at the world and thinking he’s doing all right. The two little kids walking down the sidewalk saw their favorite cowboy sitting there and grinned.

   “Hi Steve!”

  “Oh hey there, Bobby … Sylvia … how you kids doing these days?”

  “Had a good Thanksgiving. Yep. Getting ready for Christmas. Bobby was telling me just a while ago that he wants to train horses, like you, when he grows up.”

  “I told you not to say anything, Syl, but there you go again. Now Steve will think all I want is horse training lessons.”

  “Horse training lessons?” Steve said. “Now that would be a good idea, actually. It’s always a smart thing to learn from others’ mistakes before you make the same ones.”


  “See this scar on my arm?” They both nodded. “Barbed wire fence at 27 miles an hour. Horse didn’t have a mark on him.”

  “That was a mistake?”

  “Sure was, Bobby. I wasn’t supposed to ride that horse. I was about 12, and they told me to ride something gentler.”

“But you didn’t, huh?”

  “No, Sylvia I didn’t, because when you’re 12, you already know more than the grown-ups around you. It was great, being that smart when I was only 12.”

  The kids examined every inch of the scar. “I bet you learned, huh?”

  “Oh sure, I learned never to run a fractious horse along a barbed-wire fence. And I learned other stuff, too. My right leg’s been broken once and I couldn’t work for almost two months. My left foot was stomped on and two bones broken by a draft horse I was shoeing, and this scar on the back of my neck? Low branch on a tree and a runaway colt. And on this other arm … see these? That’s all from a horse jerking his hoof while I was shoeing him and I hadn’t clinched the nail yet.”

   Bobby thought for a minute. “That’s a lot of learning, Steve. Did it hurt?”

   “Every one of them and a couple I don’t show to anyone. Are you ready to learn how to be a cowboy? Need some scars?”

  “I …. well … I guess I’d better ask my folks first.”


Brought to you by A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right. Look it over at www.riorandebooks.com. Avuncular tips from a guy who made lots of mistakes.


Newspaper columnist Slim Randles, who writes the weekly Home Country column, took home two New Mexico Book Awards in 2011. His advice book for young people, “A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right,” took first place in the self-help category, and “Sweetgrass Mornings” won in the biography/memoirs category. Randles lives and works in Albuquerque. Home Country reaches 3 million hometown newspaper readers each week

Slim Randles learned mule packing from Gene Burkhart and Slim Nivens. He learned mustanging and wild burro catching from Hap Pierce. He learned horse shoeing from Rocky Earick. He learned horse training from Dick Johnson and Joe Cabral. He learned humility from the mules of the eastern High Sierra. Randles lives in Albuquerque.

Randles has written newspaper stories, magazine articles and book, both fiction and nonfiction. His column appeared in New Mexico Magazine for many years and was a popular columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and the Albuquerque Journal, and now writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country,” which appears in several hundred newspapers across the country.


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