We seem to get a new batch of rules for politically correct speech every week. It’s not my intention to keep up with all the new language because most of the people I hang out with probably don’t understand those new terms any better than I do. But all this fuss has me thinking about the proper ways to interact with cowboys and ranchers. Likely most folks who live here already know the rules, but tourist season has arrived, and if you have out of area family visiting or helping out for a few days, a refresher course might not hurt.

Never touch a cowboy’s hat unless the owner asks you to move it. Grabbing it off his/her head as a joke will result in big trouble. And don’t ask to try it on either.

When at rest, unless on a hook, the hat goes crown down.

Don’t put a hat on a bed. It’s bad luck.

A saddle is stored on a rack made for that purpose. It may also be hung by a rope around the horn. In other circumstances, it sits on its face so the underside can dry out.

Wet saddle blankets should be spread out to dry, not left in a pile.

If the gate is closed, close it after passing through. If it’s meant to be open, it will probably be hung up on the fence.

A cattle guard is just a fancy name. Out here they are auto gates. But if there’s wire strung across it, close that too.

No Hunting means what it says. So does No Trespassing.

Town folks visiting a ranch shouldn’t just cut their little ones loose to run. There are a lot of ways to get hurt out here.

If you are granted permission to go horseback riding don’t be surprised if the rancher opts not to join you. He gets to do that all the time and is glad for a day off. Besides, he probably has work to do that he put off while entertaining you.

When in a horseback group, don’t cut in front of another rider.

Don’t drive on hay that’s in a windrow. And don’t drive off the trail road except to avoid a washout or other obstacle. Vehicles knock down standing hay and make mowing difficult.

It’s very rude to ask a rancher how many acres he has unless you’re fixing to make a purchase offer.

Same goes for asking how many cattle he runs. You probably won’t get a straight answer anyway. Legend has it that a greenhorn once asked Earl Monahan how many acres he had. “Enough to feed my cattle,” he replied. “Then how many cattle do you run,” the outsider asked. “Enough to eat my grass,” the rancher said.

Last but not least, if you’re out in the pasture sightseeing, the one in the shotgun seat is expected to open and shut the gates!

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