The Old Pipers

Some twit at the BookEnds blog advanced the theory that all people in “heartland” America use chewing tobacco, love guns and are afraid of intellectuals. It must be true because an article in a British newspaper said so.

This got me to thinking about stereotypes.

It still surprises me people have these notions about “Deliverance” views of country people. I’m probably about as country as they come, but “intellectuals” don’t frighten me. I’m not even sure what constitutes one. Is it someone who acts intelligent or someone who is intelligent?

I belonged to Mensa for a while. I guess that means I’m not borderline mental deficient. All the boys were approved for gifted and talented programs in school even though they are “gasp” cowboys. The oldest one competed in the academic decathlon contests.

I’m not afraid of city people, but I definitely do not like living in town. It’s just not me.

Anyway, back to stereotypes.

Years ago, when I was on the ranch some of Bud’s, my step-father, relatives from Pennsylvania came to visit. Merle and Thelma came out in their pickup with the camper and their hunting dog Gabby.

There was a big draw west of the house, which is like a deep arroyo. This one was so steep it was nearly impossible to get down or out of once you did get down the side. Don’t ask me how I know this.

There was another gentle draw running south of the headquarters that ran just behind the corrals. This is how I got over to the cow and hay pastures and when I brought cows in they just eased up the draw and into the corral. Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes wilder cows turned everything into a Wild West Show.

Merle, being from Pennsylvania, was fascinated by the geography and waste of good land.

Now, before I go any farther, let me give you and idea of what that land looks like. Teddy Roosevelt National Park is on one side of the fence and the ranch is on the other side. Yep, smack dab in the middle of the badlands. When you look at the pictures, notice the size of the trees. They aren’t shrubs and yes, much of the time you are going down the side of those buttes to get where you are going. So, riding isn’t just a leisurely stroll through the park.

Badlands one

Badlands two

Merle and Thelma asked Bud what he did with the gulch to the west. Normally, we dumped the trash ashes there and aside from that, not much. Except, of course, when someone is looking for a shortcut, but that’s another story.

Bud, being Bud, told them that’s where he dumped dead Indians. Indians, as we all know, still attack ranchers on a regular basis so he had to get rid of the bodies after another Indian attack.

I’m serious, Merle and Thelma thought we lived in a constant state of siege.

They fretted constantly about me going out riding every morning and evening. I’m sure they thought the wild Indians were just lurking in the bushes, waiting to kill or kidnap that little redheaded cowgirl. Bud told them that’s why I left before sunup and went out again before dark. The Indians never attack in the dark for fear they will lose their spirits if they die in the dark.

I normally just tried to avoid The Old Pipers, as Bud called them. They were certain it was still the wild west complete with wild Indians and massacres and I didn’t feel like suffering fools and idiots.

Every night TOP sat outside their camper in their folding chairs and listened to Gabby baying. Apparently, where they come from everyone had hunting dogs and spent a lot of time coon hunting. When they weren’t hunting they sat out on their porches and listened to hounds baying back and forth to each other. I didn’t ask. They enjoyed listening to hounds howling and waxed nostalgic about the different voices of the dogs.

Good times in Pennsylvania.

I came in from riding one morning and penned my cow. I was riding toward the house when I heard a gunshot. A coyote had been out in the hay corral, heading toward the chicken house in the corral. Since Mom was raising Cain about the coyotes killing her chickens, Bud ran back to the house to get his gun as soon as he saw the coyote.

TOP heard the gunshot too and came tumbling out of the camper. There is something a person never forgets. It gets etched into your brain and never goes away no matter how hard you try to erase it. Thelma in her thin cotton nightgown and Merle in his once-white long johns. Merle was built sort of like Uncle Jessie on the Dukes Of Hazard. Thelma had, shall we say, a generous figure. I watched them fall out of that camper and tumble over each other with Gabby somewhere in the middle of all those arms, legs and corpulence. They were screaming, Gabby was howling and Cowboy had bunched up like he was on the verge of breaking in two bucking. I reached down and patted him so he figured out nothing was happening.

They screamed at me when they saw me watching in astonishment and wanted to know what was happening.

I looked toward Bud who was still standing there with his gun pointing toward the dead Indian gulch on the other side of the hay corral.

“Indian attack, I guess.”

More screaming and scrambling as Thelma gathered Gabby up in her arms and Merle rushed back to the camper to get his shotgun.

They raced to the house, shouting at me to hurry up and get inside. I just sat there watching. Cowboy was looking back and forth, wondering what everyone was so excited about. The door slammed behind them.

They had abandoned me to my fate.

Wild Indians were attacking and they were in the house barricading the doors. Mom was eight months pregnant and I could hear TOP shouting at her to get away from the windows. She was screaming at them to leave her furniture alone, but I could hear the thumping as they shoved everything movable in front of the doors. Above it all, the terrified yowling of Gabby.

The kitchen window slid open and a shotgun barrel poked out.

Oh, hell.

Bud came up to me after he was sure there weren’t any more coyotes and asked me what was going on.

I shrugged my shoulders.

He finally convinced them to unbarricade the doors and let him in.

Mother waddled out after it all got sorted out and shook her finger at me. “Julia, did you have to tell them it was an Indian attack?”

“Geez, Mom. I didn’t think they’d take me serious.”

I don’t think TOP ever came back for another visit.

A good time was had by all or at least me.

And, no, you can’t make stuff like this up.


  1. no one needs believe, as long as they buy, julie! 😉 lol

    forgot to mention: that’s MY kinda country, you picture 🙂

    also, since mama was a redhead, will always have soft spot for em 😀

  2. Well now. As I’m sure you know, there’s one in every crowd. No no no, not one of THOSE.

    Rather, one of the people who now must find out how you know the draw was “so steep it was nearly impossible to get down or out of once you did get down the side.”

    Please don’t leave it to our (im)possibly fertile imaginations. [laughing]

  3. Tony it really is beautiful country. Rough as all get out, but beautiful. Sunrises across the breaks are enough to make your heart sing.

    Well, my hair is really a dark auburn, but I guess that qualifies for red.

  4. I was reading the comments from Nathan’s blog and wanted to hop over here and tell you I’m glad you replied to tooj (sp?)

    I was so tempted to reply to her remark when I read it. Clearly, Nathan’s blog is very smart, clever, and easy going. So, I was one of the many “shattered” replies. It was all in fun.

    I think she was quoting a topic of the day on AOL about blogging being “overrated” because I read that same article.

    Good luck with all you’ve got going! Nice site.

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