Neu Perspectives

Cowboy Language Barrier

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It’s not just our hats and boots, but the way we talk that puzzles the outside world.

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Sometimes it’s hard to feel understood in this big, wide world.

Granted, I spend a good portion of my time around other people who understand what I do for a living. Their diction involves a lot of equine, bovine and Western terminology. Sure, my peers and I could nitpick about words like bosal, mecate and honda. We often walk a fine line between the terms sorrel and chestnut. And don’t get me started on whether a calf with splotched markings on his white head is a mott or a brockle-face.

But, as most of you can attest, there are a few things that we horse people can all agree on. Terms and concepts that the “outsiders” may not totally understand.  There’s a difference between a pickup and a truck. We don’t “lasso” cows. And just because you came out of the saddle and hit the ground does not necessarily mean you were “bucked off.”

Let’s face it, in addition to our boots, our hats and that special, distinct odor that follows us around, we folks of the Western persuasion stick out like a sore-thumb to those who don’t affiliate with animals.

We can’t expect them to understand that the white horse in the field is actually a gray, or that the one that looks black is actually a brown. That a green horse can be any color. Oh, and those cattle aren’t brown—they’re red. Yes, lame means crippled, driving a horse is not the same as riding it, and hands are a form of measurement.

Years ago at a family gathering, it took me a good while to reassure my concerned cousin that my future husband started colts for a living, not cults. And when questioned by my uncle about some of my goals for the near future, he looked very confused when I told him I wanted to be a better heeler (he was picturing a shaman).

A man at a wedding once asked me about the details of the sport of cutting. The entire table seemed interested, so I went into great detail about the process. I explained how it’s a judged competition where the horse enters a herd of cattle, drives out with a specific cow several times during the two and a half minutes and attempts to prevent it from returning to the herd by mirroring the cow’s maneuvers. I delved into the rules, the payouts and the importance of good cattle. Once I was finished with my explanation, the table fell silent and I assumed they were all fairly impressed by my concise commentary.

That is, until the original guy asked “So, is someone on the horse while it’s doing all of this?” Whoops. Did I forget to mention that?

I understand that there is a lot more to the world than our little circle of cowboys. Sometimes I just need to slow down and use layman’s terms when explaining my lifestyle. I will always attempt that with patience and try to avoid using our unique terminology with people who don’t ride but want to learn more about what I do.

However, if you reach for a plate of rocky mountain oysters and comment about how much you love seafood, I’m afraid you’re on your own.



1 thought on “Cowboy Language Barrier”

  1. Loved every word, and yes, I did understand…and, oh, I prefer a different type of seafood, thank you…..ich…..


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