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Cowboy Jim

Recently I was privileged to visit Fred Chaney’s mountain shangri-la high above Glenwood Springs CO.  Fred’s log cabin is perched on a rocky outcrop beside Crooked Creek at 9400′.  To call it a “cabin” is a bit mild, given that, despite its remoteness far from the nearest road, every latest convenience is there – flush toilets, luxurious armchairs, hot water showers, electric power  [low head hydro], Pinot noir.
While the initial construction was carried out by helicopter, what keeps it going now is Cowboy Jim.  Stampede is coming on here in Calgary.  Those of us who live here are quite used to the entire city being given over to jeans, boots, heartbreak music, ropin and ridin, with street celebrations all over and free morning pancake breakfasts on offer.  But out of towners are enraptured – and, really, I don’t know of other cities that go so totally into an event – well, maybe Fasching in Maastricht.
At its heart, Stampede shines a huge light on the old west, the cowboy culture that built this part of North America.
Yes, most of it east of here owes its development to the farmer – a very different species of country person.  Farmers operate on the land – change it over, tame it, render it useful on their terms.  Not the cowboy.
Cowboys have a much more symbiotic relationship with the ranch.  They co-exist and adapt to it in order to raise cattle.  The work requires a much more sympathetic understanding of how nature works to support large animals without significant alterations to the landscape.  Yes, there are fences – in some places.  And yes, the cattle do impact the land.  But the cowboy has to get along with what nature affords, so have a very deep understanding of the habits of the land, the ways of the weather, the vicissitudes of cattle.
Rough and ready, yes.  Tough and determined.  Weathered.
Cowboy Jim personifies cowboy.  Knows his horses ’cause he “raised em since babies”.  Trained em so well he can wield a chain saw from the saddle.  Got a chain saw holster!  Uncomplaining about his work and his lot to get us and all our stuff for the weekend up the hill.
Well, not all of us.  2 rode and 3 hiked – 6200 > 9400 feet in 3 miles.  I was on shank’s mare.
Up there, Jim had a bit of horse psychotherapy to practice.  One of the young geldings, despite obvious [to us] impediments, had designs on one of the mares.  So he would have annoyed the hell out of the other horses in the small corral trying to keep them away from his intended.  But to “learn him”, he gets tied to a tree outside.  “No harder lesson for a horse – cut from the herd.”
Any cougars up there?  “Oh yeah, them, lynx, bobcat, bear, all over the Flat Tops.”  Jim packs a 45 on his hip.  A Canadian question, alien as we are to gun culture, how do you use it on, say, mountain lion?  “Wait ’til he’s right in front of you, about 20 feet, then empty it into his head.”  Oh.
But a more sensitized, sympathetic guy you couldn’t find.  Slept down on the couch so he could be with his dogs who faithfully followed him everywhere.  “I miss ’em.  2 weeks straight I’m guiding up in snowmass and they can’t come.”
We went on up to Blue Lake, a twinkling gem at 10,500 right in the Flat Tops.  I tried to ride, having qualified for a mount this time.  Cramped up the moment i hit the saddle.  No “tough it out” from Jim.  “Well, you got to walk then.  There’s 3 creek crossings to wade.”  Matter of fact.  But no calling me down.
A rare breed, this lot.  Fred really couldn’t keep the cabin but for Jim’s care and attention.
I’m glad we salute the cowboy in Calgary.  And glad to meet Jim to get to know how capable they have to be up close.

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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