Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Poem by Jim Olson

Cowboy Night Before Christmas

Onward came the cowboy, came from afar 
Curiously following the glow of a star
Arrived at the livery, a place for his horse
Few extra oats on a chilly night of course
Told the stable man, hey, thanks for the light
Lit the desert nicely - such a dark night
The man just grinned and said with a nod 
Sir, it ‘twas not me - I believe it was God!
There ‘tween a burro and sheep freshly shorn
Cooed a little baby, not long ago born
Parents huddled, three men gathered round 
Gazed lovingly, at a babe on the ground
Well Cowboy was curious as men usually are 
& Knew right there, the purpose of the star
No doubt in his mind, that he was on hand,
To witness a miracle - worlds only perfect man
The Babe stared at him, right into his soul
Knew all about him, but how did he know?
Had piercing blue eyes that seemed to speak 
Cowboy got a message - knees grew weak
Then a horse rip-snorted, he sat right up in bed
Guess he’d been dreamin’, twas all in his head
Jumped up with a start, realizing the dream 
It seemed so real, these things that he’d seen
A voice came to him from somewhere within 
Said Cowboy - past is gone, you’re forgiven
Trust your instincts inside - I put ‘em there, 
Remember I’m with you, here and everywhere
Tend your horses, cattle and your fellow man
For to do right by me, treat ‘em best as you can
Remember now, to be kind to children 
Care for your soul, you must make amends
He pondered a while the message received 
Shore enough a miracle, is what he believed
It rattled round in his head loud and clear
Help your fellow man - both far and near
Cowboy resolved to do better, best he could 
The world surely needs, a bit more good
Why then he felt warm and fuzzy all over 
Like a wild horse herd, running through clover
He sat there a-rubbin’ grog from his eyes
Looks to the window - saw another surprise
Perched on the sill - a snow-white Dove 
Knows it has to be, a sign from above
Cowboy smiled, thought man what a night 
Dove then nodded and took off in flight
Twas no use a-trying to sleep after that 
Got up, got dressed - stuffed on his hat
As he passed the calendar - on the wall
December 25th - well don’t that beat all?
Now out in the barn, it’s time to throw feed 
Horse is sweaty, what’s wrong with the steed
Why he’s been ridden, evidence clear showed 
Looks in the bin and oats have been throwed
A cold winter chill went straight down the spine
Knew then I’d encountered  - something Divine!
Jim Olson © 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

For all my friends competing at the NFR...and life in general.

If you think you are beat, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don't
If you like to win, but think you can,t,
It is almost certain you wont.

If you think you'll lose, you're lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellows will-
It's mostly a state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You've got to think high to rise,
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win the prize!

The battle's don't always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later the one who wins
Is the person who BELIEVES they can!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fred and Deborah Fellows

Cowboy Artists

     A large metal sign bearing the brand “backward F, forward F” welcomes you to a ranch outside of Sonoita, Arizona. It is a beautiful place, reminding you more of upper central California or the Davis Mountain country northeast of Marfa, Texas. With its large oak trees and rolling grassland hills at an elevation of around 5,000 feet, it is definitely one of the more beautiful spots in the Southwest. It is the home of many fine ranches, cowboys and cowgirls.
     She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame (the second lady from Arizona after Sandra Day O’Connor). She is a lifetime member of the National Sculpture Society. Her monumental sculptures appear in about two dozen locations across the country including the Hall of Champions in Colorado Springs, Colorado; the Horseshoe and South Point casinos in Las Vegas; several Boy Scout of America monuments; several Vietnam Veteran War Hero monuments and numerous museums. The full list is long and impressive. Her name is Deborah Copenhaver Fellows. (Deb to those who know her.)
     He is the longest living member of the Cowboy Artists of America (CAA). He has served three different terms as the CAA president and at the time of this writing is the current director. His art adorns places like the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum in Cody, Wyoming; the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; and the Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona. His art has graced the cover of over two-dozen magazines and has honorable mentions in articles in dozens more. A current work of his entitled “We Pointed Them North” has become the “logo” for the Cowboy Artists of America and the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association’s annual sale and exhibition held at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. His name is Fred Fellows.
     Many great accomplishments of these two famous artists are well documented. A simple Internet search will turn up a multitude of information on the art of this talented duo. When you visit with them, however, they prefer to tell you about team roping, ranching and raising horses. They are quick to point out that their art is, “… art from experience.” Drawing and sculpting what they know and love is their passion.
     First and foremost, the Fellows are true Westerners. Fred is a lifelong team roper (header) with an eye for a good head horse. Deb is the heeler of the team, and she has a family rodeo history, which includes her dad (Deb Copenhaver) and brother (Jeff Copenhaver), both world champion cowboys in their respective generations. The Fellows family has competed in rodeo events most of their lives.
     Deb, once Miss Rodeo Washington and a runner-up to Miss rodeo America, looks like you would expect a former rodeo queen to look like. However, upon closer inspection, you see a gal tough as any man, sporting a much nicer exterior. Roping, cowboying and many long hours with sculpturing tools have made her as tough as her male counterparts. Pretty and proper to look at, yet tough as nails, she is quite an impressive woman.
     Fred is the quintessential cowboy. Rugged good looks on a 6-foot-plus frame with a large cowboy hat leave no question that this is a guy who has spent much time outdoors on the back of a horse.
Fred likes to talk roping horses and is quick to mention a horse he once owned which was a brother to the great horse, Walt, owned by professional roper, Travis Tryan. A mutual friend in Montana, Walt Vermendahl, raised both horses. One day Fred decided that his horse was not being put to its full potential, being turned out in a pasture on the Fellows ranch, so he wound up selling it. The horse then ended up where its brother once was, in the Tryan rope herd. The horse has been a winner at the professional level since.
     Fred is an avid history buff on just about anything cowboy or Indian. His collection of Old West memorabilia is one of the most extensive private collections you will find anywhere. He knows the history of each and every piece, how it was used and where it came from. This knowledge comes in handy when working on art. If one of them is working on a piece depicting the 1800s, early 1900s or contemporary times, they pay attention to minute details such as getting the clothing, tack and accessories correct for the period. Deb says, “In my opinion, it takes away from a piece if it’s supposed to be late 1800s and the horse is wearing a hackamore that wasn’t even invented until the 1940s.”
     Deborah also has a passion for good running horses. At the time of this writing, the couple has 14 head of horses on their ranch near Sonoita. Each has a roping horse or two; everything else is racehorse stock. The ones who don’t pan out on the track are then used as barrel racing and rope horse prospects. Deb is passionate about the bloodlines of the horses and laughs as she says, “I often trade stud fees for art… That comment has gotten me more than one strange look at formal gatherings, but eventually I explain what paying stud fees means to someone in the horse business.” Some of their more notable horses are Corona Cartel, Streaking La Jolla and Treis Seis, all of which have had their share of success on “the track.”
     The couple mentions the fact they have been on and worked with some of the West’s most famous ranches. This is an important factor, which carries over to their artwork. The Parker ranch in Hawaii; Haythorn Ranch in Nebraska; the Padlock and I X ranches in Montana; the JA, 6666 and o6 ranches in Texas and the Y7 ranch of New Mexico are but a few of the ranches they have been around.
     After twenty-one-plus years of marriage, the two still act more like newlyweds than a couple approaching the milestone “silver” anniversary. They spend each day working side by side in their luxurious art studio on the ranch. Fred says, “A typical day is to go out to the studio after breakfast, and we each work on our respective projects. After lunch together, we go back out and work ‘til late afternoon. Then we might saddle up some horses and run a few steers, coming back in the evening to go over our projects together. It is much better to have four sets of eyes critiquing our work than two. Sometimes I will see little things Deb has overlooked and visa-versa.” The two spend most of their time together, truly enjoying each other’s company.
     Whether traveling the West, gaining experience on some of its famous ranches, or working with their own animals at home, Fred and Deborah Fellows take pride in transferring the real West into their highly acclaimed artwork.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

By popular request...

My First Saddle

            Giving is an art. Lending a helping hand to the needy is akin to a drop of water on a pond, still as glass. When the initial drop hits, it makes a little splash (the good feeling). However, the ripple effect goes on and on, accomplishing more than one little droplet could’ve ever hoped to on its own (the everlasting rewards). I learned valuable lessons about helping others when I was a kid. One such lesson learned involves the story of my first saddle. It must’ve been when I was about 11 years old…
My family always had livestock, did some dry farming, but my old man thought a horse was an unnecessary expense. Our little place could be worked afoot, with a pickup, or by trapping the few cattle, we ran, in the corral. Typical little nester / starvation outfit on the wind-swept, high plains of eastern New Mexico.
All I ever wanted however was to be a cowboy. Not just a guy who wore a hat and boots, but the real deal. There were a lot of real cowboys around that part of the country and I admired them. Sure, some were wild and free, not housebroke by many standards, but most were stand-up kind of guys. They were my earliest heroes. Of course, you’re not much of a cowboy if you don’t own a horse or saddle, I concluded.
So one summer I convinced my dad to let me hoe cotton for a neighbor at $1.00 per hour. My motive was to buy a horse since my folks wouldn’t (couldn’t) buy one for me. The old man agreed, as long as it didn’t interfere with my normal duties on our place (which were plenty).
I woke an hour or two earlier that summer and went to bed an hour or two later. I worked my little butt off and thankfully the neighbor was flexible on my work schedule. I spent every waking hour possible in that cotton field craving the $1.00 per hour which represented a means to my eventual goal of being a cowboy. I managed to labor quite a few hours each week in that hot cotton field. These, of course, being hours over and above the ones I worked on our place as part of my “keep.”
Towards the end of summer, Mr. Neighbor found out what I was working for; offering to trade me a crossbred Appaloosa filly for the summer’s wages I had coming. Being sooo anxious to actually own a horse, I agreed. Looking back on the deal now, all I’ve got to say is the neighbor made one heck of a trade! It was my first experience (lesson) on horse trading but that’s another story.
I now owned a horse and my dad wouldn’t buy extra feed for her; too costly. I had to work harder than ever to keep my horse fed as school was started by then. Most of the time I pulled weeds from the bar ditch to feed her, other times I hauled hay or did chores for neighbors in exchange for feed.
Long about that fall, I started to ride her.
You see, I had no saddle. Something like that would’ve been useless around our outfit and therefore it was obviously a frivolous expense. A halter came with the trade and I’d bought an old bridle at the auction for a couple bucks. That was my entire inventory of tack. I rode my treasured horse anyway…bareback.
Other kids in school who were supposedly “cowboys” made fun of me behind my back but I didn’t care. I wanted to be a real cowboy and have my very own horse. I’d show ‘em all…I’d find a way to get a saddle…perhaps next year?
Training an unbroken filly by an eleven year old boy is one thing. Training a young filly by an inexperienced eleven year old boy who had no instruction and no saddle is quite another. That was one of my first experiences with perseverance and patience.
One day after school, the mom of one of my classmates invited us out to their ranch for some reason. I believe it was the first time I’d ever been out there. I really paid attention because this was a REAL ranch. I was impressed! The DePuy family ran cattle on about 32,000 acres of sand hill country and they were known for raising good horses.
Before we left for home, the lady of the ranch, Marlene DePuy, offered me an old saddle from the barn. I was astounded…didn’t quite know what to think. It was too big a gift to be taken lightly. I offered to work it off, make payments, what ever it took but she insisted I just take it and that was that. The old saddle didn’t have any l├ítigos, cinches, was dried out, cracking, and had a miss-matched pair of stirrups. At the time it probably wasn’t worth $20.00 (about $100.00 today) but to someone who had as little as I did, it was a HUGE gesture. Back then I considered it the most valuable gift I’d ever received.
At the lady’s advice I took it down to a local saddle shop and the man there helped me get the old thing back into useable shape. After throwing in a saddle blanket and a wore out catch rope, my bill came to much more than I had available. Luckily, he let me charge things. It took me almost the rest of the school year to repay him.
I now had what I needed to be a fully outfitted cowhand! That’s where the education really began.
I practiced daily with the old catch rope. I rode every chance I could in spite of very little instruction. Every time I’d see Mrs. DePuy however, she’d ask about my horse and how things were coming. She was always wise to a young boy’s feelings and would drop little hints about horses and cowboying which were very helpful. Never direct orders, mind you, not unsolicited advice (I was too prideful for that) just helpful hints I was too foolish to ask for. Somehow she knew to be careful, not wounding my fragile, budding confidence.
I hung on her every word without trying to show my ignorance too much. Through trial, error, lots of wrecks and just pure-d ole grit and determination, somehow I got through it all. That saddle and hints garnered from Mrs. DePuy helped launch my cowboy career ahead by years.
Eventually I traded up in the horse and tack department. Shoot, I’m still doing that to this very day! But everyone starts somewhere and now you know my humble beginnings into cowboydom. I’ve owned many horses and saddles since then but never have I forgotten my first ones, or what it took to get them.
The real story here is about giving, sharing and helping people out who need it more than you do. Marlene DePuy knew the art of giving. When she gave me that saddle, the only thing she got initially was the little “Splash” (the good feeling). That’s not why she did it though; not just for a little thanks either. She assisted people because she loved helping people. Marlene did stuff like that for folks all the time.
Unfortunately, Mrs. DePuy met an untimely death about a decade later. I had already gone out into the world to find my own place by then and I’m sure I never thanked her enough. The effects from her unselfish acts were definitely not wasted. I know, at least in my case, their still being felt in the pond of life to this day.
I learned from fine folks like Marlene DePuy. That’s how I got my start and I’ve never forgotten acts of kindness done for me; especially those done when I needed it most. I know as well as anyone how small acts of kindness can make a huge difference in another’s life. I also know the ripple effect of giving goes on and on; possibly longer than your own mortality!
Thought I’d just share that lil ole story with you. It did, and still does, mean a lot to me. Thanks, Marlene.

Jim Olson
© 2010

Monday, November 7, 2011

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

It started close to 400 years ago in New England. The modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition traces its origins to a 1621 harvest celebration at Plymouth. There is also evidence of an earlier celebration by Spanish explorers in Florida during 1565. As far back in recorded history as you can go - around the world, there have been celebrations of thanks at harvest time.
The Plymouth feast and Thanksgiving are what we now celebrate however. They were prompted not only by a good harvest, but also in appreciation of the Wampanoag Indians who helped the Pilgrims by providing seeds; also teaching the settlers the fine art of hunting in the area.
Some say if the Indians could have foreseen the future onslaught of European settlers coming, they may not have been so hospitable! But seriously, it would not have mattered; this continent was destined to be discovered by the rest of the world. Sooner or later, somebody would have “found it,” that’s for sure. Progress and change were coming no matter what.
I always say there is a silver lining to every situation. Thinking along those lines, looking at it from a positive point of view, folks should be glad the Pilgrims who came here first (after the Indians that is) were the Christian based Europeans. Imagine if Red China or another country such as that had gotten here ahead of Columbus. There would be no “Native American” culture alive and thriving here…or any other type of free “American” culture for that matter.
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” Alphonse Karr
There are always positives in every situation, something to be thankful for; you just have to look for it. I am thankful that America is here today.
Being thankful is so much more than a once-a-year holiday tradition. Daily thanks are more important than some may realize. It has the power to set the tone of an entire day, project, week, year, or lifetime. It is hard to be grouchy, negative or in a bad mood when you are focusing on being thankful!
I start every day by giving thanks for my many blessings in life…even if at times they seem hard to count. But no matter what kind of spirit I wake up in, it doesn’t take long to change my outlook once I’ve thought about the positives in life.
“What ever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Gal. 6:7
Remember what we plant within ourselves in the way of thoughts, feelings and attitudes are the seeds of our outer life experiences. All things have their beginnings within us…in thought. For some that is hard to believe, others never really think about it, but upon further analysis, it can be no other way.
“The ancestor of every great action is a thought.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you approach life in a surly or negative mood that is exactly what life will give you back. Snapping at the person behind the counter or on the other end of the phone does not get you better customer service. As a matter of fact, it gets you worse service and you will not get favors, special treatment or opportunities that a positive person in a good mood will get. Give attitude – get attitude, in one-way or another that is always the case. When you get right down to it - it is your thoughts, which control your attitude. How you think about things determine your being in a good or bad mood.
Besides not getting customer service and productive interactions with your fellow man, thoughts are also the basis of most everything material as well. Buildings, machinery, techno-devices, money and such do not just spring into reality on their own, by spontaneous combustion. They originate as the product of someone’s thoughts and dreams first. Folks who invent and plan those products and successful ventures never do so out of negativity or with a “that won’t work” type of attitude.
“Whether you think that you can, or that you cant, either way you are right.” Henry Ford
Many go as far to say that things on the invisible plane such as “luck,” “fate,” and “chance,” whether good or bad are created through your own thoughts. Think productive, happy, positive thoughts and things seem to go your way. Be negative, grouchy and surly and things never seem to work out for you.
The latter type of folk generally point a finger at the positive type and say things like, “He was just born lucky, everything he touches turns to gold while everything I touch turns to bull manure.” The so-called “Midas touch.” They honestly believe that - then wonder why life turns out bad for them. There is a direct correlation between what you think and feel and how things turn out for you.
Think about it: Everything starts with a thought (even this great big universe started out as a Divine thought somewhere). How you think then sets the tone for how you feel. Negative, grouchy thoughts turn into bad moods just as happy, positive thoughts turn into good moods.
How you feel, determines the mode of action you take in life. If you feel good, you interact with folks likewise. You come up with positive solutions to obstacles in business or work; the opposite is also true if you are surly or negative.
Last, but not least, your actions become chain-reactions, which set up the results you get from life. Nobody likes to be around a grouch. They will find ways to excuse themselves from a situation as soon as possible. People do not like to see you coming if they know the exchange may be an unpleasant one. Also, when an opportunity comes along, whom do you think gets first chance at it? Not the guy who is negative, that’s for sure.
So your actions have a direct correlation on the results you get out of life; that has not been disputed for ages: “Work harder,” “Try more,” “Dig deeper,” “Go the extra mile,” are all sayings which have been around forever it seems.
What folks don’t always realize, however, is the attitude they approach life with makes a big difference in how well those work ethics pan out for them. I guarantee the guy with a happy and positive attitude, and the same work ethic, will beat out the grumpy one…sooner or later.
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson
So what does all of this have to do with giving thanks, you may ask? Simple. By being thankful for what you have, by focusing on your blessings in life instead of the shortcomings, it naturally puts you in a better mood. It is hard to remain in a bad mood when you focus on being grateful. Thinking about what you don’t have in life instead of being thankful for what you do have is counter-productive anyway.
“A man is just about as happy as he makes his mind up to be.” Abraham Lincoln
That is a profound statement. How do you make your mind up to be happy, one may ask? Start with being thankful and you are half way there.
 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father.” Col. 3:17
Great people of achievement, and the Bible, tell us over and over again to be thankful. Why do they do this? Because they know by being thankful, you put your thoughts into a more positive mode. Doing this changes your attitude. As you change your attitude, you change how you approach life. When you approach life feeling good and positive, your actions (efforts) change, then you get better results.
“I thank God for my handicaps. For through them, I have found myself, my work and my God.” Helen Keller
Try not to focus on things outside of your control; it does no good anyhow. Start with being the best you can be, work on self first, then your whole world changes. It is simple. The great people of the past and God have always taught us this - good starts from within. Of course, this eventually manifests into better realities without. The easiest way to begin is by being thankful for what you now have. I recommend you do it daily at a minimum. It will have a profound and positive effect on your life.
This Thanksgiving, there is nothing wrong with sitting around, stuffing yourself on a nice home-cooked meal. But please remember that giving thanks (not just once-a-year or once-a-week - but daily) is a very important step in creating the reality you will live with tomorrow and every tomorrow thereafter.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Jim Olson
© 2011