Wednesday, July 29, 2020


The correct English definition of the word “dally” is to ‘fool around’.  Not so in The West.
To a cowboy the word means to wrap the rope around your horn to hold on to whatever it was you have roped. Like many Western words, this one comes from the Spanish: Dale Vuelta – give it a turn.
Especially since the advent of nylon lariats in the 1970s, cowboys have wrapped their horns with rubber so the dallies have a better grip with fewer turns.  At one time we used the rubber “chaffing rings” from split-rim pickup tires.  But split-rims were outlawed by OSHA as dangerous when improperly seated.  So we switched to bands cut out of inner tubes.  And now everything is tubeless.  So in the new millennium, packages of dally-wrap are sold at the local ranch supply.
Commercial dally-wrap looks like oversized rubber bands: about ¾” wide and 8” long.  Each of these bands can make three wraps around my horn, and there are maybe four of them laid on it.  I carry a package of dally-wrap when going to brandings, as sometimes the rope will jerk through and grind off some of the rubber.

Today I needed dally-wrap for a different application: a pipe was leaking.

This West Boulder water is as pure, cool, and tasty as any in the world.  Our house water emerges from a spring on the hillside up the creek, is captured in a concrete vault, and is then piped down some 500 yards, to emerge in the basement and be distributed throughout the house. 
There is no better water in the world to nourish both body and soul.  But apparently it’s a bit caustic to copper pipes.
The new house was built in 1983.  This was in the period after iron pipe, and before plastic.  It was the material of choice for both home and commercial plumbing from about 1950 to 2000.  But again, copper pipes have their limitations.
I’d run across this issue years before in a small rural hospital.  We were advised that we should calibrate our water softening system to maintain one grain (or one-tenth of a grain – I don’t remember) of hardness, to protect the copper piping.  And now I was faced with a leak in the copper water pipe, which was spreading water across the basement floor.
The first step was to vacuum up the growing pool of water.  That required a trip up to the Quonset on the four-wheeler, a swap to the side-by-side, cleaning out the shop-vac, and returning to the house.  Then vacuum the puddle; and determine the source.
The sheetrock was damp at the base of the wall at the point where water was spilling.  I used a utility knife to cut through the sheetrock and pull it away, up to the source of the water leak – a pinhole in ¾” rigid copper pipe.
Back in the side-by-side, stopping first at the horsebarn, I cut off from my saddle horn the outside strip of dally-wrap – which already had a significant lesion.  At the Quonset I picked up some hose clamps and a nut-driver.  Back in the basement I cut a piece out of the rubber dally-wrap to fit around the pipe.
Taking a dally around the pipe with the dally-wrap, covering it with the hose clamp, and tightening it with the nut-driver, I stopped the leak.

A dusty old cowboy can now take a nice warm shower. 

Remind me to tell you about how this dusty old cowboy took a shower many years ago – when he had no plumbing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Dancing Boots

In the early 1970s there was a thick outdoor-goods catalogue published in Minnesota by a fellow named George Leonard Herter.  It contained knives, guns, clothing, tents, dutch ovens, fishing poles, sleeping bags, and anything else you can think of in regards to the outdoors.  Herter also wrote a number of books, including How to get out of the Rat Race and Live on Ten Dollars a month.

George was pretty impressed with himself, and with all the goods he sold in his store and catalogue.  Every item was described in glowing terms, proclaimed to be the best design and quality available, and endorsed as being the item that was used by the “real” outdoorsman.

Herter’s sold a line of high-topped, round-toed, flat-soled, leather boots of the style I would call “engineer boots”.  George claimed that these were the “real” boots for riding, and that all the “real” outfitters in Minnesota rode in these boots.  He said that what were commonly called “cowboy boots” were really Spanish dancing boots, and weren’t created for riding at all.

In fact, English riding boots are flat-soled and low-heeled, as are the boots now worn by many of the contestants in such arena events as reining and cutting.  And a proper riding instructor will insist that you ride with only your toes in the stirrups, with your weight balanced on the ball of your foot.

Years later I was reading an account by Ralph Moody in his book Home Ranch which validated George’s assertion. 

The book told of Ralph’s childhood in Colorado at the turn of the 20th century.  He was only ten when his father died, and Ralph had a summer job on a nearby ranch.  Apparently Ralph had been riding in typical lace-up work shoes, and was thrilled when his crew went in together to buy him a pair of “Spanish boots”.

Over time, these tall, high-heeled, pointed, Spanish dancing boots came to be the standard footwear of the western horseman – and were commonly called “cowboy boots”.

All bronc riders, and many ranch cowboys, sit with their boots plowed into the stirrups up to the hilt, with the thin ox-bow stirrups cradled under the arches of their feet. 

The tall heels and rounded arches of those Spanish boots aren’t just for show – they serve a real purpose in holding the stirrups when the riding gets rough.

And so, indeed, they are dancing boots.  As I have written in several of my stories, working cattle ahorseback is a mounted ‘dance’, and one must be outfitted with the appropriate footwear.