A memoir about a maverick cowboy and a herd of wild horses by H. Alan Day and Lynn Wiese Sneyd

Posts by H. Alan Day

Beef Jerky: A Holiday Staple in the Cowboy Life

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Beef Jerky: A Holiday Staple in the Cowboy Life

“Hey, Uncle Al, you’re making some of your holiday beef jerky, aren’t you?” My nephew Jay looked at me from across the table. I swallowed my mouthful of Thanksgiving Day turkey, but before I could respond, his brothers chimed in with their perennial requests for the cowboy delicacy. “Guess I better get on that,” I said. Of course I wouldn’t have said anything else. I’ve been making jerky for way too long to admit. I learned the trade in middle school from one of the Lazy B cowboys. He had a rudimentary process: slice the beef with a sharp knife, season it with salt and pepper and loop the long, thin slices over the clothesline to dry in the Arizona sun for three or four days. The flies would find it, of course, so when the strips came off the line, you were never sure if you were eating pepper or flyspecks but no one much cared. The finished product ended up in a pillowcase propped up on a chair in the bunkhouse and no one could pass by without sticking a hand into that grab bag. The salty leathery beef tasted especially good on horseback while out on the range driving cattle. If you’re supposed to chew your food thirty times, you had to chew that jerky at least three times longer. After that cowboy left, I took over the reigns of jerky making. The main house had an oil stove, so rather than hanging the meat on a clothesline, I put it on tray underneath the stove to dry. I started experimenting with different seasonings – teriyaki, then habanera chilies and hot sauce. I’d throw the seasonings in a pot and let them simmer into a mouthwatering concoction. Every year the concoction got a little tastier. I’d put the jerky in baggies for the crew and during the month of December, we’d all keep a stash in our chaps. When I moved to Tucson, I convinced the meat lab at the University of Arizona, my alma mater, to slice and dry the meat for me. I’d bring the sweet-n-salty hot sauce down and the interns would dip the meat in it and put the slices in the dehydrator. I started selling the jerky commercially, but after a few years, the endeavor required more time than I wanted to devote to it, so I purchased a commercial slice and a dehydrator that holds a dozen or so trays. Now I’m a one-stop, beef-jerky-making shop but only during the Christmas season. It’s a gift that I make with my own hands and no one can duplicate it because I’ve never given away the secret ingredients in the sauce.   For those who want to venture into jerky making, here’s what you do.   Buy big chunks of top inside round beef. I get mine at Costco. I freeze the meat first, then slice it when it’s semi-frozen to about 1/8 inch thick. Dip the slices in the sauce. Sorry,...

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Javelinas: Unlikely But Loyal Pets

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Javelinas: Unlikely But Loyal Pets

The southwest Sonoran desert antes up some pretty unique creatures. One that tops my list of favorites is the javelina, commonly referred to as a wild pig. Actually it’s part of the peccary family – hoofed mammals with South American roots. Should you ever live in the central to southwest part of Arizona, you’ll likely see javelinas in open spaces that have cacti and other plants, their main source of food, though they readily will graze on garbage. They aren’t dangerous, in fact they have very bad eyesight, but will act aggressive when protecting their young or when threatened by a dog or coyote, their only natural predators. Javelinas boast a bristly coat, grow to about fifty pounds, and will never be contenders in the cute-and-cuddly category. They do, however, make nice pets as I discovered in my cattle ranching days. I was managing Lazy B at the time, the family ranch straddling Arizona and New Mexico. I had taken the jeep out to check on water levels in the holding tanks and leave some fresh salt licks for the cows. While squatting on the ground next to one of the tanks, I heard a chorus of squeaks. Just inches in front of my boot, nestled in a clump of grass, were two baby javelinas, their eyes not yet open. Their pitiful cries indicated they were eager for mama to return with some milk. I scoped the area for hoof prints or a carcass, but there was no sign of mama. I scooped up one of the babies. It fit perfectly in my palm. The early summer morning still had a chill, so I grabbed a work glove from my back pocket and gently slid the baby inside it. Its sibling went into the other glove. I settled the pair on the jeep floor and continued on my weekly rounds. Back at headquarters, the first thing I did was wrangle up a bottle and nipple. We always kept them in stock to feed doggies and other orphans, though it took me a bit to find one small enough for these tiny tots. I had one of the babies in my hand and was urging it to take the bottle when Cole Webb, the ranch foreman, came up. “They’re starving, but they won’t eat,” I said. Cole frowned. “You’d think they’d like that warm milk.” We found a box and blanket, made a nest for the babies, and left them in the screened-in back porch of my house. We checked on them after lunch. Again, those little dickens refused the bottle. “I don’t know if they’ll make it another twenty-four hours,” I said. Cole and I sat looking at the box. Neither of us wanted to give up on their lives. “Well, maybe they don’t like the nipple,” Cole said. “Let’s try a cup.” I had never seen an orphan animal drink from a cup. But I fetched one from the kitchen. Cole poured milk into it and held it...

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A Quirky Cowboy Boots Custom

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When I went to visit the South Dakota ranch this summer, I saw these cowboy boots on this sign. It’s not the first time I’ve seen boots like this. Maybe the mystery of how and why these boots got here will be explained to me someday. Maybe you...

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The Watermelon Thieves

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The Watermelon Thieves

It was one of those hot and unusually humid Arizona summer days on the Lazy B ranch, the kind where you feel like a baked bean. I was playing camp director to seven kids – my two plus four nephews and a niece. The crew sat sweating in the shade and I could tell trouble and whines were about to erupt if I didn’t cough up some entertainment. “Hey, I’ve got a great idea,” I said. “How’d you like to go down near the Gila River, steal a few watermelons, and go eat them under the cottonwoods?” The horses in the corral turned their heads at the unison scream. Everyone loaded in the pickup and we bounced twenty minutes over ranch road to the watermelon patch. I had rented out twenty acres to Andy Cromwell who had planted watermelons. Any time you want some, he said, come grab some. I pulled up at the far end of the field. Healthy green globes spread before us. “All right, here’s the deal,” I said before the letting the kids out of the back. “The farmer who owns this field is a real mean guy. Rumor has it he loads his gun with salt and if he sees you stealing watermelons, he’ll shoot you.” Seven sets of eyebrows arched. “So we have to be quiet and quick out there. When you find your watermelons, run on back here.” With much anticipation, the gang of thieves crept low out onto the field of melons. All the kids could heft one watermelon under each arm, except for Jay. At six-years-old, he was the youngest and could only manage one. I made sure everyone had their melons and then pointed to the truck. We started the return trek juggling the fruit and giggling. I turned around to make sure everyone was in tow. Jay held up the rear. He was a pudgy little thing and the one melon he carried looked to be half his size. We arrived back and set down our heavy load. Except for Jay. He was still a good fifty feet away, lugging his melon. Being the loving uncle, I started shouting encouragement. “Come on, Jay. Hurry! I see the farmer coming and he’s likely to shoot you. So hurry. Run fast.” Jay started to run. As he did, his pants fell down around his knees, hobbling him. He couldn’t pull his pants up without putting down the watermelon and he couldn’t run holding the watermelon. The other kids, quick to catch on, offered their support. “Here he comes, Jay.” “Get outta there. Fast!” Jay waddled a few steps forward. “Just keep running, Jay.” “You can do it.” Suddenly Jay stopped. A distinct change came over him. It was as if he concluded: If I’m caught, I’m caught. I can’t do a thing about it. He carefully set down the watermelon, pulled up his pants, and secured them. Then he picked up the bulbous fruit, settled it in his arms and...

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Giveaway of NY Times Bestselling Lazy B

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Giveaway of NY Times Bestselling Lazy B

Hey there! Welcome to this acreage of the blogosphere. It’s a place for stories and talk about ranch horses, wild mustangs, cowboying, Arizona, the West, western writing, books and probably more, but how about those for a start? To launch this start, I thought a raffle might be in order. Back in 2002, my big sister Sandra and I co-authored the memoir Lazy B about growing up on our 196,000-acre family ranch straddling Arizona and New Mexico. My immediate family consisted of my parents, Harry and Ada May Day, who we called DA and MO, my sisters Sandra and Ann, and me. Then there was the extended family – the lifelong cowboys who lived on the ranch with us. Jim Brister, Rastus, Claude Tippets, Bug Quinn. They taught us many lessons about horses and cowboying, but also about life. All of these people who we loved appear in Lazy B, as does the high desert land we called home. The raffle is for a copy of Lazy B signed by the authors Sandra Day O’Connor and H. Alan Day. It will run from today through Tuesday, September 3. You can sign up here: a Rafflecopter...

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