It’s been noted that after several years of marriage, couples begin to finish each other’s sentences and understand certain phrases to which they alone are privy. I’m certain this is true among cowboys as well.

After 17 years of marriage, though, I’m still uncertain of some of my hubby’s grunts, hand motions and word combinations.

  • “Nup, nutha.” This means “No, the other one.”

  • “Plgabtut.” Often varying in utterances, this is said with a rope, a glove or other paraphernalia in the mouth. It basically means “Please grab that.” However, it can also mean, “Get me the shotgun,” “Help me” or “Let’s go out for ice cream.”

  • A hand circling the air. This usually means to come back around. When done at a high lope away from you, it means “I’m circling to look for stragglers.”

  • Grunts are almost always time-sensitive. A low, hard, guttural grunt deserves immediate attention and probably requires bandages, medicine or therapy. All other grunts are based on interpretation and, any way interpreted, will only be understood by another cowboy.

All and in all, we are learning to communicate better in our marriage. I’m trying to learn his lingo, and he’s attempting to understand me. Maybe I’ll master the art of cowboy lingo and he’ll understand my emotions. Well, then again. ...

Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children.

Erica Louder
Would your resumé say cowboy or cattleman?


This spring, we helped my father-in-law work cows on his small ranch. Curtis, the brother-in-law, saw this as the perfect time to show off his cowboy skills to his veterinarian brother: my husband, Craig.

Being two years apart, there is pretty much a constant competition between the two men.

Now, working cattle is stressful under the most ideal circumstances, let alone with a couple men with something to prove. When Curtis was calling his dogs, Craig was attempting low-stress handling.

One was reaching for a rope, and the other wouldn’t use anything more than a sorting stick. If you asked Craig, he is a cattleman and Curtis is a cowboy.

Now, the difference between those two words is often discussed in our home. What makes one a cattleman? I think the difference between a cowboy and a cattleman is your intention. In the example of Craig and Curtis, maybe neither of them was the true cattleman. They were both playing cowboy, but each doing it differently.

Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

Tayler Teichert
Landmarks on wheels

“You’ll go just past Mineral Springs and hang a right at the camp trailer. If you pass a random recliner on a switchback in the road, you went too far. You will know when you’ve made it to the paint cans because you get service and there is a little clearing in the sagebrush.”

If you live in rural America, I am sure you have gotten some directions similar to these. When you have lived somewhere forever, you know about all these landmarks, but if you are new to the area, you have no idea what they are talking about, especially when these so-called landmarks aren’t permanent. ...

Creative landmarks are like an inside joke, pretty awesome if you were involved from the start but really confusing if you weren’t in on the whole story. These landmarks are a part of rural America; I guess we better get used to it or move to the city where Navigator can be our guide.

Tayler Teichert is a rancher and blogger currently based in Nevada.

Billy Whitehurst
Invest in their success: How I pass on the ranching know-how

This weekend, I had the pleasure of watching my daughter take off on a young colt we have been riding for her. I love riding young horses and watching the lights come on when they really grasp what you are trying to teach them.

There was a little twinge of jealousy in me, though, as I watched my daughter take off on her new mount. I was really enjoying that gelding; he was just starting to really make a horse, and now I have to start over on another one, but then again, it’s not about me, is it? ...

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen as a teacher, as an extension agent and as a stock producer is a failure to let go and start letting the next generation take more of the reins.

I have literally seen someone who is 80 years old not want to turn management over to his 60-year-old “kid” because he just wasn’t sure his son knew enough to be in charge yet.

One fine day, our next generation will have to take the reins whether we are ready or not. Let’s not set them up for failure and make sure they have the skills and the ability to learn to make decisions and mistakes while we are there to guide them.

It may cost us some time and money on the front end, but it’s high time we look past ourselves, and the here and now, and look far into the future and do what we can to make it brighter for our young.

Billy Whitehurst is an extension agent at Montana State University.

Richelle Barrett
The reasons to be a rancher

Co-workers and friends always ask me why I would rather get dirty, be outside in the weather or risk getting kicked by a cow than sit in a climate-controlled office riding a desk chair.

Personally, I think the answer is pretty simple: Being able to take pride in an honest day’s work is more satisfying than climbing a corporate political ladder. For me, that will always be my answer. Well ... that, and the view outside the office is a heck of a lot more beautiful.

I am proud to be a rancher’s daughter and am proud that my husband and I are carrying on my family’s traditions. We chose this lifestyle, and we are committed to making positive contributions to the industry.

I am proud of all the lessons our girls are learning at home. Most of all, I am proud to say I love what we do. After all, that’s what life is really all about.

Richelle Barrett is a part-time cattle rancher and full-time wife and mother on a north-central Montana operation.  end mark

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