I was very young when I married my high school sweetheart. I was living in a smaller Southern California city, my father was on the city council and a Los Angeles County Sheriff, and my boyfriend was from the "wrong" side of town. So, as most young women do, I knew he was the One. The issues between us were huge: respect for the law was a big one and the fact that his family refused to speak English was the other. I found my younger self face to face with a genuine language barrier. I worked hard...I studied Spanish...I practiced speaking Spanish in the mirror...and I learned Spanish so well that I spoke with his family better than he did.
The use of language is a primary milestone in raising our children. We all get so excited when our children say "dada" or "ball" or "dog" for the first time. However, not understanding what someone is saying can be very humbling and aggravating. Trying to listen to our toddler-aged grandchildren usually turns into a game of charades rather than actual communication. Understanding the "Cowboy" language has taken many years and I still suffer with the language on occasion. Not only is "Cowboy Speak" difficult to comprehend, it is LOUD and full of words I can't write. You know those words...the four-letter kind? I am now married to a man who uses "Cowboy" lingo regularly and gets angry when the rest of society doesn't understand what he is saying. Okay, maybe not angry. He actually finds it humorous that the rest of the world doesn't "git it.” I also have a very good, almost family, older friend whose use of the English language is challenging, at best. He, too, is a LOUD Cowboy.
When talking with my husband or Mr. Poste (my friend) one needs to be prepared with a quick wit and rapid translator abilities. I find myself immersed in a conversation full of adult innuendo and LOUD statements. Let me give you just a few examples of some "Cowboy" terms to start with.
The other night at a restaurant, Steve announced, "That ‘ol hide was fixin' to mosey over to the shi**er yonder so I better get in a long trot.” Translation: "The older gentleman is getting up out of his seat to use the bathroom so I better hurry and go first.”
Mr. Poste was visiting with a pregnant woman and asked "when you set to foal?" The young woman looked at me blankly. I assured her he was asking, “When's your baby due?" I thought it was a straight forward question.
In "Cowboy" language a woman is never just attractive. She is "damn near purty" or “purty enough to make a fella swoller his ears.” Translation: "She is so pretty that a man would smile very wide when he sees her.”
Are you getting it, yet? The "Cowboy" language is quite colorful. Words used to describe everyday items in "Cowboy" language can be hilarious to learn. Young children are not toddlers in "Cowboy" they are "crumb pushers.” The family dog is not just a dog, he is a "pot licker.” Your everyday family car (not a truck) is not just the car, it's the "little jitny.” A simple text message on your phone is not just a text, it's a "Texas message" because Cowboys cannot pronounce "xt.”
When a Cowboy is sitting on a horse and that horse decides to buck a bit he's "bogging his head" and "gettin' right with it" while "he blows snot in your pocket.” Like I said, colorful.
So, the "Cowboy" language is figurative and challenging but often it's the tone and loudness that unsettles most folks. I have friends that express concern for my well-being when Steve (my husband) or Poste (my very best friend) gets "worked up" about something. Folks will often ask me, “Is he always so aggressive when he talks to you?" The answer is "NO"...he just gets LOUD when he is excited, aggravated, tired, frustrated, happy, giddy, bored, sad...in general they just get LOUD. When the conversation around the dinner table is about the cows or horses or tractors or water, it's LOUD. Any topic that stirs feelings of any kind, brings LOUD conversation. A lot of folks do not realize that Cowboys can be very emotional and those emotions must be released...LOUDLY.
For the last 12 years, I have worked hard...I studied Cowboy...I practiced speaking Cowboy in the mirror...and I learned Cowboy so well that I can now speak with any Cowboy anywhere. So, "give me a holler if you want to study up some Cowboy talk, I can learn you a thing or two over a cup of swill.” Did you get that one?
Erin Stadelman is a rancher's wife and a devoted care- taker of children, grandchildren, horses and cows alike. She was awarded first place by the Colorado Press Association for most humorous columnist in 2016.