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HOME COUNTRY: STEVE & SNORT

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Steve slowly saddled his horse, Old Snort, and climbed stiffly aboard in the cold snap of morning. He pulled his hat down a little lower and pulled the wild rag up to cover his nose and mouth from the morning chill.

How many mornings had he done this?

As Snort trotted out into the meadows of the hills surrounding our valley, he looked with perked ears for cattle. That's what Snort does for a living. Those ears worked back and forth like radar, searching through trees and behind logs for the tell-tale movement or color of range cattle.

And Steve just grinned. How many horses has he ridden on a morning like this? A hundred? Well, fifty, anyway. And the mornings all stay the same in his memory even if he doesn't stay the same. On a morning like this, his daily dose of "cowboyitis" lets itself be felt. That aching hip? Oh, he remembers when that colt dumped him into the rockpile, putting him on crutches for two months.

The shoulder ache? Too many years with a rope in his hands.

But he also knows when the fall sun gets a little higher, he'll stretch and suddenly get younger. His gray mustache will, in his mind, turn brown again, and once more that young cowboy who terrorized stray cattle so many years ago will come back to life.

He began kicking cows out and heading them back to the home pasture, and both he and Snort watched and waited for that one rogue that would make the morning complete.

It was a black baldy cow who made a dash for the high-ups and Steve and Snort were flying through trees and over rock piles and finally headed her and turned her back with the others. A 19-year-old cowboy couldn't have done it any better.

Steve smiled and reached down to pat ol' Snort on the neck.

Thanksgiving can be more than turkey and cranberry sauce.

Brought to you by Slim's new book and great stocking stuffer "A Cowboy's Guide to Growing Up Right." Learn more at http://www.nmsantos.com/Slim/Slim.html.

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