Mountain Cowboy Just ‘Says Stuff’

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Anyone reading My Horseback Opinion might wonder, where the heck does Jinx come up with this kind of stuff? When Jayne and I got married, one of my girl cousins told her, “Jinx just says things; no one knows why.” With that in mind, let me give you a little personal background. My lineage runs back through six generations of Mogollon Rim and Tonto Basin ranchers, lion and bear hunters, lawmen, packers, prospectors, bootleggers, bank robbers, cowboys and other men of common sense. They all said stuff — they all had opinions.

Like most ranch kids of my generation I learned to assess a situation and figure out a solution. We were sent off on a horse to check on salt, look for cattle or cow sign, fix up old fences, roll up barbed wire, and attend to any number of other chores. We grew up on the back of a horse and we grew up thinking. Just like the men, when a kid rode into the ranch in the evening, he was expected to give an articulate report of what he had seen and done that day. We said things.

I was raised pretty wild by modern standards, but I came to respect my dad’s teaching modus operandi. Dad and my Granddad Floyd before him, taught kind of like Mother Nature with the test coming first and the lesson afterward.

After I was grown, I asked Dad if he wasn’t ever concerned that I might get hurt when I was young. He smiled and told me, “I figured if you lived through it, you’d be a man.” I made it and I thank God every day that I was born into a ranching family at a time when I could fall into the culture of the old-time Arizona cowboys.

I grew up a mountain cowboy and made my living in the cattle industry in the same manner as my ancestors until I was 58 years old. And, like Official Arizona State Historian Marshal Trimble says, “If you can cowboy in the Mogollon Rim Country of Arizona, you can cowboy anywhere.”

 Lifelong habits are hard to shake and my mind still functions best when I have a good horse under me. In the saddle is where I learned everything worth knowing. It is also where I came up with almost every original thought I have ever had. Sitting astride a horse is good therapy for cowboys. It is where My Horseback Opinions were formed.

 What you read in my future columns will concern local history, politics, stories and opinions all flavored with a pinch of old-time mountain cowboy lingo and a cup of culture.

The cowboy life has provided me with more than my share of adventures and I have listened to the stories of my dad, uncle, great-uncles and granddads, along with many other old-time cowboys. From these men, I learned to be independent, take care of my family, and be a good neighbor. This is pretty much the criteria I use when judging people. Payson history is full of stories about friends and neighbors helping each other. The cattle drives to Winslow, Holbrook and also to points south, were always joint ventures with several ranchers participating. The ranch kids that grew up here in the 1940s learned to disdain government handouts or interference in their lives. My attitudes and beliefs were strongly colored by the old mountain cowboys.

Blaming politicians for anything that goes wrong with the country is an American pastime. I can relate to that, because more often than not politicians are the cause of the problems, but in my culture it was never all right to demean America.

Ask any old mountain cowboy and he will probably tell you, “Good is the best color for a horse. If a horse is a good one, it don’t matter what color he is.” With me, this philosophy carries right on through to dogs, people, congressmen and presidents. If the politicians are doing a good job and governing according to the Constitution they swore to uphold and protect, they will get little flack from me. If they step over the line, I will verbally nail their hides, regardless of color, to the backside of the barn wall.

My ancestors fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War; they fought on both sides during the Civil War; my grandfather was gassed in World War I; my dad fought in World War II, and I fought in Vietnam. I claim an inherent right to “say stuff.”

Como Siempré, Jinx Pyle

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