It was summer of my sixteenth year. We’d rounded up the mules. Our wranglers worked from dawn to dusk. One said, “We must be fools.”
Each wrangler had his job to do. He’d pack up every day, five mules and a saddle horse, and head out on his way.
It took a man who knew the job and someone who had guts. There was no time to dawdle, dang sure could not be a klutz.
Each year my father hired a city dude right out of town. “It’s a gamble, but I know we’ll win. No man has let us down.”
Well, Albert was the one he chose, a soft and pudgy guy. Had my father really picked this wimp? You had to wonder why.
Albert was a timid fellow; cowboys should be bold. Could Albert muster courage? He sure did not fit the mold.
He caught his horse one early morning, but those times were few. Another horse snuck up on him; he whirled and hollered, “Shoo!”
And then a mule reached back at him and bit him on the butt. He jumped and yelled, “That mule’s gone mad!” He sounded like a nut.
So, the wranglers saddled up his horse. Still, Albert was afraid. He never put his saddle on, so there his saddle laid.
The cowboys were a kinder breed. They helped him every morn. But kindness only goes so far. His welcome, he’d outworn.
Was Albert really headed home? He’d be one for the book. But then Dad said, “Jeb’s drunk and gone. Looks like we’re out a cook.”
Well, Albert’s eyes came right alive. “Hey! Cooking I can do. Give me a stove and frying pan. I’ll feed this hungry crew.”
Breakfast was at six a.m. Flapjacks a golden brown; hot syrup mixed with eggs and bacon, coffee swirling down.
One cowboy hollered, “Albert it’s for dang sure you can cook. You proved you weren’t no cowboy. Glad you got a second look.”
My father’s years had proved him wise. He’d gambled, then he won. And so, I learned a lesson. There’s a place for everyone.