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A Man’s Business is His Own

There were no strangers in cow camp. Everybody was welcome. Old trail drivers write about their memories of eating beans and sourdoughs with all kinds of dinner guests, from women folk to Comanches and Kiowas. But a man’s business was his own and there were no questions asked. It was the chuck wagon cook’s duty to cook enough for all.

Go ahead. Eat with your fingers, the food’s clean.

Cookie. Biscuit-shooter. Dough-roller. Belly-cheater. Dough-wrangler.

The story is often repeated in numerous memoirs and historical cattle trailing accounts about the stranger who rode into cow camp one evening just as the cow punchers had filled their tin plates and settled in for dinner. He stopped his horse the appropriate distance from the chuck wagon so as not to raise a dust cloud over Cookies’ domain. This immediately identified him as one who understood the rules of cow camp.

Stopping at the edge of the camp parimeter, he respecfully asked if he could enter the camp. With permission granted by Cookie, the rider carried his saddle over one shoulder and dropped it to the ground. He stepped up to the serving line, a row of cast iron Dutch ovens next to the fire, and filled his plate. He settled on the dirt with the others, using his saddle as a back rest. Shoveling grub into his mouth as fast as he could, he kept his eyes glued in the direction from which he’d come. The cowhands ate their meal, caught fresh horses, and returned to work. Cookie tipped a kettle of warm water into his wreck pan and began washing the plates, tin mugs, and eatin’ irons.

The stranger grabbed a towel and dried the dishes, not once taking his eyes off the skyline. A cloud of dust emerged on the horizon. He kept at his task. The two specks soon emerged into men on horseback, riding fast. Cookie yelled for the horse wrangler to take his place at the wreck pan, then he roped the fastest horse the outfit’s remuda had, and cinched the stranger’s saddle in place. The man finished drying the stack of dishes, shook the cook’s hand, and swung into the saddle, disappearing over the next rise in the opposite direction of the fast approaching riders.

No question was asked of the stranger. He offered no explanation. His name was of no interest, his past did not matter. A man’s business is his own, but this stranger had the respect of cow camp because he understood the rules of behavior.

Honoring the code of the Wild West is a powerful creed.

Of all the truths in this world, the cowboy is one of them.

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My newest book available at online bookstores everywhere.
Hardcover arrives in stores Spring 2021.

Natalie Bright is the author of the upcoming book, KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’: The All-American Chuck Wagon Cookbook. With over 100 recipes, cattle drive history, archival photos, and her own Texas ranch photography, you can bring a taste of the old West to your kitchen! Available now for preorder at all online bookstores. She is also the author of the Trouble in Texas series for middle grade readers and a series of easy readers about rescue horses.

The 2020 pandemic has impacted book publishers in a big way as they struggle to keep their employees safe and adjust production schedules. The release date of KEEP ‘EM FULL has been pushed to spring 2021. If you have already pre-ordered my book, thank you for your support and understanding. If your public library or local museum needs a program about chuck wagons for summer 2021, please let me know. Hopefully, I’ll be traveling and speaking during that time, and I look forward to meeting you!