Seeing your dad cry leaves a mark

Dad had always taught us boys not to cry. That’s the way it was at our house. Be strong. It was part of being a man.

Well that day started out like most every other week. Dad had a list of things that we should get done and there were never quite enough hours in the day. We had a lot of windy days but this day it seemed the wind was stronger than ever. We were sorting cattle that day and in the first few minutes we had so much dirt in our eyes we could hardly see.

Later that afternoon we started hearing rumors of fires and soon in several directions but still thinking they were far enough away that they would surely get them out put out, even though with these winds you wondered how they would. Then we got word they were evacuating several towns and you could see smoke in every direction. We scrambled as fast as we could with feed trucks going in every direction trying to see if we could call the cows out of the way of the fire. But within seconds we were scrambling for our own lives, wondering if we too might be burned alive.The next few days I will never forget cows laying dead and others with burned out eyes. There were calves that could not get up. As we looked across these burned pastures, it looked like a war zone. Dad told us to shoot any animal that was in great pain. A neighbor drove up and told my dad, “Let me shoot them for you.” But Dad thought it was his responsibility since they were his cattle. Then we found Dad’s favorite ole horse he had told us would die on the place.

But I don’t think Dad ever thought it would be like this. Dad walked up to his old horse and knelt down beside him with all of us a few feet behind. It was like Dad had to have a little time alone as we heard him say, “I’m sorry.” He pulled the gun up several times before finally pulling the trigger. That was the first day I saw my dad cry.

For the next several days, Dad walked around bewildered with all our corrals burned to the ground and many miles of fence the same. I will never forget this as long as I live because it just ain’t right to see your dad cry.

The other day a cop stopped me and was writing me a ticket. I said to him, “I notice the flies are bothering you. We call them circle flies. You often find them at the rear end of a horse.” The cop said, “Are you calling me a horse’s rear end?” I said, “No sir, I would never disrespect a police officer like that—but I guess those flies can’t tell the difference.”

Editor’s note: Jerry Nine, Woodward, Oklahoma, is a lifetime cattleman who grew up on his family’s ranch near Slapout, Oklahoma.