Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cowboy Way

I love stories of strong willed resolute people. I hear these tales many times when I talk to our older generations. I hear stories of kids who woke up early to milk the cows then off to school all day then home to work till dark each night. I hear of long days at the office where men built businesses and careers from nothing. I hear of time spent reading, writing (with a pencil) and talking. People set forth to accomplish things and they would not look up until they were complete. Change their lives, change their living conditions just change what needed to be changed.

Today it seems we are getting soft around the waste and in how much we can handle. Society as a whole seems to look for the easy way out. Don’t hear me wrong because I know many who work their fingers to the bone, who love with all their hearts and set their minds to get things done and do. There are those who want everyone to have it easy and comfortable even if they do not do their part, they want others to pick up the slack and make it all better.

Winn McClure grew up ranching and living the “cowboy way”. McClure lives in West Texas and to this day works his cattle ranch, he is 80-years-old. He lives each day with droughts and fences, cattle feed and coyotes, fresh air and quiet time away from everything. When I sat and talked with him recently we talked about God, morals and habits. At one point our conversation turned to smoking. McClure had smoked the old brands of cigarettes that were filter-less and pure nicotine. Four packs a day at his peak. Now anything you do that many times a day then add in an addictive chemical element over many years will hook you.

McClure had a wonderful spin on how he quit cigarettes that got me to thinking about how tough we are and determined as a society today. “Back in 1959,” was how he started his story. “Back then we lived in Odessa and one cold winter afternoon I ran out of smokes.” His wife was in the kitchen making Christmas candy when McClure announced he was out of cigarettes. “Well go to town and get some and get me some raw peanuts for the candy,” she said matter of factly. So he headed into town.

When McClure got to the store they were out of raw peanuts. “I asked for my regular carton of smokes and they told me that would be $3. Three dollars, I told him he was crazy, I would never pay that much for a carton of cigarettes. Then he told me my wife had been paying that for years. I didn’t know cause I never did the grocery shopping. That was it – I told them right then and there if they were gonna cost that much I would just quit.”

That day McClure quit smoking and never started back. I have quit a few unhealthy habits but I don’t think I ever just quit something with that much resolve. I usually squirm and whine as I suffer through it. I just thought what he did was so classic, hard-nosed, set in their ways old timer tough. I have heard ranchers and country folks tell me all types of stories like his. Stories of strong willed individualism and determination for good.

As Americans I don’t think we will ever lose our drive and will to push ahead, not everyone. There will always be mavericks and innovators, winners and losers. No matter where we go as a society we will have men and women who will not fit the mold or settle for less.

The bible tells us stories of those who lived and died because they made a decision and would not waiver. They were convicted of their faith and determined to share that with others. While facing certain death, sitting in prison and even Jesus as he was beaten and crucified stood for what he believed, made the choice to stand in the gap, speak out, to die for what is right. Mr. McClure quit smoking and that was that, done. I pray I can teach my kids to reach for the brass ring, to stretch, to strive to be a winner. I pray my kids are not afraid to share their faith with others and make hard choices. To this day I believe there is something to be said for “the cowboy way.”

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