A Cattleman’s Christmas

A Cattleman’s Christmas

Source: Shutterstock

A Cattleman’s Christmas
© 2020 by Peter Coe Verbica

If you were hoping for Neruda, my apologies to you at the onset.  I fail at writing about the universe in a lover’s eye or hidden flowers which blossom at the center of one’s soul but allow me to unfold a brown paper bag, crease out its stubborn wrinkles and pencil out something much less impressive — a cattleman’s Christmas. The cattlemen I grew up with would spit into the center of their palms to put out their hand-rolled cigarettes after smoking them down.  Our beliefs were simpler, I suppose.  Not to overgraze the fields.  Horses were for work rather than pleasure.  You didn’t make pets out of what you would eat later.  We looked past the man and rode for the brand.

In retrospect, we had our sins.  Pouring poisoned grain down squirrel holes to cut down on cattle breaking their legs.  Not thinking of the raptors.  Our equations were shorter.  Deer meat was dug out of the back of the freezer during the difficult times.  No matter how slow you cooked it, somehow it always ended up tough and gamey.  The heat was tolerable, even in the summer when the creeks ran deep below the round river rock beds and the windmills pulled up groundwater intermittently.  If you were bucked off a horse, which was rare, you got back on.  Weeping was for the weak and the candy-assed.

Now, the bold wrote about sunshine patriots and times which try men’s souls, and these days are in an odd parallax to those as grown men are told to shutter at home in pajamas rather than take to the open range.  I am at a loss, though I know that this too shall pass.  I guess whatever rage I should feel at this situation has been dumbed out of me, the way rust works its way into barbed wire over time.  The way the sun bleaches the blood out of strewn bones.  Even the high-country trail ride I had been scheduled for was cancelled, the first time in its history.  The trademark silver buckles with their three gold crosses were left in closets.  I never mustered up the money to buy one, probably because ranger buckles were less showy, but to tell the truth, they were also cheaper.

What to do with so much dead time.  After you’ve rubbed gristle into saddle and bridle leather to keep it from getting brittle and swept the frayed Persian rugs free of hay on the cement walkways in the barn.  After you’ve replaced the old fly tapes with new ones you pull out from their cardboard canisters.  After you’ve filled the bathtub with rolled grain fresh with the smell of molasses, dropped down the framed cover and laid the gunny sack onto a pile.  After you’ve checked the cinches and decided they’ll last for a couple more seasons.  After you’ve let the sweat in the horsehair blankets bake off in the sun and slid them back onto their racks.  After you’ve hosed down the dirt to keep the livestock from kicking up the dust.  After you’ve disced firebreaks around the barns and tamped down the dirt around the creosote-soaked gateposts.  After you’ve mucked the stalls and fed the barn cats and Queensland heeler.

Some say that they’ve drawn the cowboy out of Christmas, taken most of the marrow out of the holiday’s hallowed bones.  I’m not going to preach to you that it’s wrong or right; I suppose it’s something that just is.  The old cattle trails are fallow and cutting pens left to rot as faceless foundations grab more of the land.  Pipes warned that well-intentioned utopians would roll utilitarian heads, that in forcing us to raise our eyes towards their perception of heaven, we would lose the very ground beneath us.  The new breed lost something along the way, I would say.  Perhaps it’s time to bring back the gauchos, the vaqueros, the cattlemen.  Perhaps it’s time to let people rather than the unaccountable own the earth.

This isn’t meant to be an eccentric’s manifesto.  I’ll hand you a bag of nails, a hammer and a handsaw, and do my best to explain myself.  A hike years ago had a purpose; it meant angling your roping boots, so as not to slip on a hillside if you were carrying a shovel and redwood to work on a spring box.  My favorite spring was down one steep hill a ways, hidden under the immense shadow of a big Bay, her leaves rich in spice and scent.  You’d pull off the wooden top to work on it, like opening up a treasure.  And the water was clearer then, somehow alive in the speckled light, with the whole hill whispering into it.  Subconsciously, you knew that you were up to something precious.  That the cold water in contrast to the dry summer heat was life.  Before meat was grown in labs and what you did mattered and fed families.

To the men and women I was raised with, I’ll propose a Christmas toast, to those who bought their young sons lever-action Winchesters, stockman pocket knives and flannel rather than cardigans.  To the men who sat with me at a long table at a ranch house which has long since been torn down.  To those I think of as not just cowboys, but something a little more regal, to the broad-shouldered and big-hearted, who opened doors for ladies and tipped their straw hats while winking at them.  A raised glass to the old guard, both then and now, to those I like to think of not just as cowboys, but as cattlemen.


“Bless those who lifted bales
and threw them onto trucks

Bless those who rode the trails
and never trusted city …”

Secrets of Success from the Best in the West


by Peter Coe Verbica,
California Congress of Republicans

Each month and without fail, the California Congress of Republicans (“CCR”) has a board conference call.  In attendance are executive board members, Regional VPs and chapter officers throughout the Great State of California.  The call is a wonderful time to hear concerns and successes of chapters throughout the State.  And, the meeting gives like-minded Republicans a chance to discuss how to make our grassroots organization even better.  A lot of great ideas are shared — what businesses often describe as “best practices.”  One of the most vibrant chapters of CCR is the Republican Club of Ocean Hills.  I asked John Murphy, its Second Vice President of Membership to weigh in on how his chapter has continued to blossom. 

Secrets of Success from the Best in the West:

Notes on Building Membership

by John Murphy
Second Vice President, Membership
Republican Club of Ocean Hills (a Chapter of the California Congress of Republicans)

One step back and three steps forward! 

This article was written with a simple objective: to share our secrets of success so that you, too, can be the best in the West.  The Republican Club of Ocean Hills, in North San Diego County, has always had a strong member base. A majority of our 116 members lived in a retirement community called Ocean Hills Country Club when I joined in July of 2019. Since then we have lost 16 members who have moved from our area or quit the chapter due to health issues. However, in the last 14 months we have gained 48 new members.  One step back and three steps forward!

There was a need for a more renewed electronic presence, updated membership file and a way to reach out to potential new members. We focused on improving our website and Facebook page. More frequent updates to our online presence created a base from which members and nonmembers could get an update on our activities. Improvements to our website included an online form for new membership. Anytime someone submitted the form online they got an automatic generated email from the website welcoming them and giving them more information on how they could be active in our Chapter. Our Director of Membership and Chapter President also received an email with all of the information about the new member. With these changes we could reach out to prospective members and make becoming a member more seamless. Our President Barbara Hazlett challenged us to start a prospect list and include them in our monthly communications. Many board members would bring in new members or add to our prospect list.

Our monthly communications to members and prospects included:

  1. Email a flyer with information 2 weeks before our general meeting
  2. Phone call reminder to members 7 days before our general meeting
  3. Email meeting details & last month’s minutes five days before our general meeting
  4. Email newsletter two days before our general meeting
  5. Email meeting agenda one day before our general meeting

This communication schedule keeps our members informed and in touch with their club’s schedule.

Reaching out to Potential Members

The single biggest impact on our membership came from the many ways we reached out to potential members. We were able to get a list of emails from a candidate for local office that included all Republicans and Decline-to-States in our area. We added to that list anyone who liked a comment or post on our Facebook page. An introductory email to them got us a 10% increase in membership.

Fine wine from Sour Grapes: Origin of the “Freedom Flier”

Finally, we had a neighbor and member of our club whose property was stolen or destroyed, dog feces thrown in his driveway and his car was vandalized with what we think was a golf club all for flying a TRUMP flag.  Clearly, this was a case of sour grapes from the radical Left, but our members were determined to convert them into fine wine.  Several of our members were very upset; some were fearful they could be next.  Michael Richardson, our longtime member and member of the board, suggested it could not go unchallenged. After much discussion and a board split on our suggested action, we decided to distribute a “Freedom Flyer” to everyone in the 1,600 home community.  The flyer asked point blank “Are our rights guaranteed under the Constitution under attack in our community?”  It went on to describe in detail the property damage that was designed to intimidate, spread fear, and eliminate freedom of speech. “Not in our community, not in our state, not in our Country,” we pledged. We suggested a “Support Your Candidate” day encouraging residents to fly flags, banners, or yard signs for whoever their candidate was,  or fly an American Flag to show your support for residents’ freedom of speech.  The flyer offered to deliver Trump signs or signs for any local /state office to any home that wanted one. We delivered over 70 signs. This particular initiative increased our membership by 25% over a 3-month period!

By beefing up our core responsibilities of membership tracking, communications, and the new way of submitting a membership form, we were prepared for the surge in membership our outreach programs brought in.  All during this crazy pandemic lock down that would suggest membership would decline or stay stagnant.

A Team Effort

The success of our club would not be what it is without those board members who delivered great speakers each month, kept the minutes, reached out to current members with hand-written birthday and get well cards, managed the team who reaches out to 148 members via phone, writes our newsletter every month, keeps track of our finances, arranges for hospitality and our Chapter President for her leadership in challenging us to grow the club and increase our impact on local, state, and federal elections.  Clearly, our club members are involved in a team effort.

You can grow your club, too!  I wish the best of luck to you and your chapter in your search for increased membership. If you have any questions I can be contacted at:  [email protected]