My Dad the Cowboy

June 23rd, 2009

I’ve written about my dad and what a special person he was. His was a hard life for many years but not without some lighter moments as well. I like to think these moments were God’s way of encouraging Dad not to give up. One of those times was what I call “Bert the Cowboy.”

There was a period of time during my childhood that our family lived in California. Actually, we lived on an island off the California coast. The name of the island was Santa Catalina or just Catalina to the residents. A pure paradise, heaven on earth in my memories. When we arrived there in the late 1940s, the island was just getting back to normal after the Second World War.

My second cousin and her husband had bought a small hotel on the island and soon learned that this was the place to be. Like Jed Clampett and his bunch, we piled into a Ford truck and went for it. We traveled over two thousand miles at forty miles an hour. A long and hard trip, but to a kid my age it was one of the great adventures of my life. I saw sights that just don’t exist anymore. Much like the carrier pigeon, they are gone, never to return.

My dad found a job the day after we arrived. My second cousin moved us into her hotel until we got settled . The island was rebuilding the tourist trade that had been stopped by the war. The Army and Navy moved out, and the tourist trade started coming back. Everything was fresh paint, new flower beds, and manicured golf courses, not to mention great white-sand beaches.

Bert got hired as a welder and pipefitter at the Catalina Company. The company was the equivalent of the department of public works. He started right away so he could help another guy who was starting to sag under the added workload due to the booming tourist trade. Then like now, the pay scale in southern California was fantastic, plus overtime whenever dad felt like working.

One last bonus that sealed the deal was the practice of the company to keep and maintain a neighborhood for its employees. The neighborhood was called Pebbly Beach. It was a pretty spot about five miles from downtown Avalon, which was the only city on the island at that time, with low-rent ocean front homes. Like I said before, I saw things that don’t even exist anymore.

Come the end of the tourist season, my dad’s boss offered him a two-month lay-off or a different job until tourist time the following year. Bert opted to work, so he was sent to an interview with his new boss.

Into our lives comes a knurled old pine knot of a man name of George C. White. He says to my dad, “I’m a-lookin to hire me a cowboy —  are you him, Bub?” My dad replied that yes he wanted the job but his experience was next to nothing. “Well you give her a try, if it don’t work out it won’t cost you,” was George’s reply.

Thus began my dad’s cowboy days and a friendship that spanned thirty years. George taught Bert to ride and rope with the best. Bert had his own horse and saddle, not to mention a four-wheel-drive Jeep. My old man the cow puncher! Yippee ki-yay!

(An earlier version of this article was posted at Old Duggy.)

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2 Responses to “My Dad the Cowboy”

  1. Harvey |

    Another tale well told Larry! What a life you’ve had!

  2. Tom |

    Another good one, Larry. I’m sure your dad loved his cowboy times.

    I worked as a cowboy one summer in high school on a friend’s family’s large plantation and ranch. Riding fench, herding cows, roping (the horse knew more than I did about it), branding, and relieving young bulls of their bull-hood. I sure as heck wouldn’t want to work like that forever, but it was a great experience that I’ll never forget.

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