100 People to Meet Before You Die
Tom Robinson a REAL cowboy.
When we first moved to Idaho we had one horse, Dandy, or Lakota Breeze as he was formally called. Man what a trooper that horse was. He taught us everything we needed to know about horses and then some. He taught my kids to ride, to be responsible to another living creature, to respect life and in general to be better human beings. I owe so much to that great old guy. Probably he deserves a post of his own. Anyway…
It took us two trips to move all of our stuff from Colorado to Idaho and Dandy went in the first trip. We had met some folks who had a small cattle ranch about a mile from the property we bought and they agreed to keep Dandy for the two weeks until we could get up there and settled. We made it up there in that two weeks but the weather had turned. There had been a hard freeze (I’ll say, the temperatures had dropped to -20 degrees and the ground was frozen solid) and now there was no way we were gonna get the extra fencing needed on our property done.
The first stop we made was a visit to see Dandy. It was awful. He was in a small pen, filled with cow dung. It was obvious he was not happy. This cattle rancher could sense our disappointment and he suggested we head on over to Wilford, Idaho and look up Tom and Jean Robinson and see if they were able to ‘board’ Dandy for the winter. My heart sank. The boarding fees in Colorado were way beyond our means and with a new mortgage it was gonna be impossible.
Not having much choice, we found Wilford and met Tom and Jean Robinson. These were some of the kindest people to befriend us on this new adventure. They owned a ‘rustic’ horse property with an indoor arena and limited boarding facility. We were told they really weren’t interested in the extra work it took to board anymore, but if we were willing to come by daily and do some of the chores they could make us a deal we were able to afford and live with. We jumped at the chance.
Jean had run some of the local 4-H programs and she immediately took the girls on and started teaching them the ‘book learning’ things they would need to know to compete in the horse programs. Tom worked primarily with Rachel to teach her to ride properly and handle the horse around cattle. She loved every minute of it. Tom was breeding and training ‘Cutting Horses’. An interesting and expensive end of the horse business. ‘Cutting’ is when a horse is trained to extract a particular cow/steer from the herd (as in cut him out of the herd). A good cutting horse can extract and basically corner and keep a single cow out of a herd of hundred or so other bovine. A really good cutting horse ‘used to’ sell for thousands of dollars and be able to win thousands in competitions.
Tom was also into ‘horse pedigrees’. He looked Dandy’s (Lakota Breeze) up and told us he was born out of some of the finest Quarter Horse stock around. Of course, that didn’t really matter to us; we already knew he was a grand ole guy.
Tom helped us purchase our first horse trailer and we learned all about the proper tack to use. He saved us hundreds of dollars and a lot of heartache by steering us in the right direction and teaching us the things necessary to begin our own successful horse operation.
Tom still worked a full time job as a lineman for the local telephone company and did his ranching ‘after hours’. He was a Viet Nam Vet and as conservative as they come. I remember being in their home one night and the TV was on when some advertisement starring Jane Fonda aired. We were treated to a whole dissertation on “Hanoi Jane’ and the abominable treatment of the US soldier and especially War Veterans, that I can’t say I disagreed with one bit.
Now, one might think that an old cowboy like Tom was born and bred in the West, but that’s not true. Tom and Jean were natives of New Hampshire. They came west because of their love of the wide open spaces and a desire to breed and work quality horses. When the Teton Dam burst they lost their entire operation, house and all, but they built it back up. Tom had turned the horses and cattle lose before the flood waters hit, and most of the horses survived but not so for the cows. He scoured the area for days and found and disposed of every one of his cows himself, after the flood waters receded.
Last I knew Tom was battling cancer and he was doing it his way. Tom wasn’t afraid to die. He knew God and Jesus Christ and had a strong personal relationship with Them. You’re not surprised are you?
I learned a lot from Tom Robinson, but maybe the most important thing was that being a REAL cowboy is not a matter of where or how you are raised, it’s a matter of heart. Please believe me when I say, this man had HEART.
OK, I'm crying now. See you guys next week. Sure do wish I could say the same to Roy, Dale and Tom.