I was required to take off my boots to go through the TSA scanner – even in the tiny airport at Glasgow, Montana.
“Where’s the boot-jack”, I inquired.
“Boot jack?” asked the gal at the desk. “What’s that?”
A boot jack is a tool I use every day – to remove my lace boots; to change out of my irrigating boots; to pull off my winter pacs; to pry off my riding boots. This woman had never even heard of one.
“Where you from?” I asked.
She admitted that she was from the East, and another crew-member explained to her that boot jacks were a Western thing.
Like Jack-Coke, he added, referring to a common drink consumed in large quantities in the bars of Montana.
It wasn’t long until we added ‘Farmer Jack’ to our list of common Western terms.
Every farmer and rancher in the West has a Hi-Lift Jack – or two or three – and uses them regularly. These jacks are also necessary equipment for off-roaders.
And in keeping with that ‘jack’ theme, the term “jack fence” soon came up.
Jack fences are used where the ground is too rocky – or too wet – to drive fence posts.
Finally we added “Jack of all trades”, to the list – and this one really hit home.
Over the last 50 years in Montana I have made my living in a number of different jobs: ranch hand, contract fencer, elk guide, mule-skinner, trucker, horse-trainer, horseshoer, ranch manager, camp cook, carpenter, deliveryman…
I’ve done plumbing, wiring, roofing, butchering, shearing, artificial insemination, welding – and a lifetime of mechanical repair.
I returned to college mid-life, and graduated the same year as my oldest daughter. I’m currently working an interim assignment as a nursing home administrator – and returning to the ranch on weekends to shoe my horses, move cattle, work calves, gather, sort, and ship.
Yep, I’ve used bootjacks, drunk Jack Daniels, jacked up more pieces of equipment than I can count, built miles of jack-fence, and worked at many different trades. I guess you could call me a “Jack of the West”.
Read about some of my adventures in the book Ain't This Romantic!?!