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Writing the West

Posted by on Jul 12, 2019

There are some born to a life of livestock barns, wide open sky, starry nights, and sweaty work. They can saddle a horse anytime they want, lucky to be living the kind of life that others only dream about.   The dreamers live out their adventures through the pages of a book, the words of a song, a theatre production, or a movie playing on the big screen. And then there are them who write that book, craft that song, or create the words for actors to memorize so that we all may experience the western lifestyle, no matter our life’s destiny. My work and inspiration falls somewhere in between. I don’t ride a horse, but I am blessed to hang around some very skilled horsemen and women, and I count as friends many writers who love the American...

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All About Dad’s

Posted by on Jun 14, 2019

Whether it’s fixing a flat tire, unstopping a toilet, doctoring a steer, or lighting a campfire; dad’s are some of the best teachers. Hats off to all of the men out there, whether they be dads, grandpas, uncles, brothers, friends, or neighbors who spend time with us and teach us. My dad owned a welding and repair business he called The Workshop. He had a great talent for designing plows, livestock pens, decorative iron like light fixtures and staircase banisters, and repairing anything that showed up at his shop door. Some of my best memories are fetching tools, painting, and helping him with various projects. At an early age I knew the difference between a phillips and a flathead. He might call out, “bring me that socket wrench with a 3/16th” or “I’m gonna need that come-a-long”. Summers would find...

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Cowboy Camp Beef Stroganoff

Posted by on Jun 7, 2019

Beef Stroganoff is an old recipe. I stumbled on the history while researching recipes for cow camps and ranches. This very old Russian dish was created for Russian aristocracy by a French chef, was brought to America by Russian émigrés. Who doesn’t love a good beef recipe in a delicious sauce? My guys have never cared for the twang of sour cream used in most Stroganoff recipes, but they really liked this version made with buttermilk. The traditional dish pairs mushrooms, beef and sour cream. One son likes the mushrooms, another does not. Sometimes I have mushrooms on the side. You can make your own version. COW CAMP BEEF STROGANOFF 2 lb. beef shoulder 3 tablespoons shortening 1 1/2 cups clear beef broth 1 cup of sour buttermilk 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons onions, chopped 1 tablespoon flour 1/4...

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Cowboy Approved Potato Casserole

Posted by on May 31, 2019

As you read this blog post, we are gearing up for another week of branding at the Sanford Ranch. The cowboys and cowgirls are in the saddle before daylight and work during the coolest part of the day. They finish up with branding and vaccinations of new calves around noon and travel back to the cook house for lunch. By popular request, here is the potato casserole recipe that has been served at Sanford Ranch Branding several times. This has become my go to for company and covered dish events. It’s easy but tastes fancy. Belinda Sursa helps us in the kitchen every year. She is a former team roper, all around ranch hand, and as part of being married to a New Mexico cowboy, she has fed day workin’ crews for many years. Along with her sister-in-law. Tavia...

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Cocklebur Camp

Posted by on May 17, 2019

Abilene and the Western Heritage Celebration! Research for my book about chuck wagons took me to Abilene, Texas for the Western Heritage Celebration on a rainy, overcast Mother’s Day weekend. It was a huge event with vendors, roping and riding demonstrations, horse races, music, and lunch prepared by authentic chuck wagon crews. While there I had a chance to visit with the 2019 President of the American Chuck Wagon Association (ACWA) and Head Cook of Cocklebur Camp, Sam Howell, II. The ACWA works to preserve the history of the art of cooking on open camp fires in Dutch ovens by sponsoring cook-offs, demonstrations, catering, charity events, school visits and youth cook-offs.  The wagons used are the real deal, right down to the pots, pans and utensils that would have been utilized during the late 1800s cattle drives. Sadly, their message...

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Spring Branding on a Texas Ranch

Posted by on May 10, 2019

The Work Begins! Every spring throughout ranch country, cowboys and cowgirls gather the cow/calf operation herds for branding.       Some people claim that branding of livestock is a cruel practice, but it is necessary to establish ownership. The practice was introduced to North America by Cortes when he landed at Veracruz in 1519 with a few head of Andalusian cattle. He branded Three Christian Crosses on the hip of his small herd. Today, the only thing separating our calves from the neighbor’s herd is a few strands of barbed wire, and they do find ways to get lost on the other side. Bulls tend to have of mind of their own, and so do cattle rustlers. Sometimes fences and pad-locked gates aren’t enough. The new beef crop is too valuable. Branding is still the most humane way...

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