welcome to cow tails & trails

Cow Tails and Trails - Short Stories of Real Life with Real Cowboys, Cattle & Horses

I believe in the power of the written word. I've seen it transform lives first hand. Memories are time capsules that need to be shared and passed down to the next generation.  So I created this page to preserve some of those memories and invite aspiring writers to share their funny stories and experiences while ranching, farming and raising livestock.  I am a ranchers daughter, a ranchers wife and freelance writer based in Northeast Oklahoma.

These stories are not the perfect manuscripts.  The spelling and grammar may not be perfect, but I guarantee the story will be real and true.  My favorite writer is Will Rogers.  His quotes and stories are timeless.  His easy down to earth way of getting his message across with a common sense approach inspires me to share my stories.  Thanks for stopping by and happy trails.  Joan Thorne


a Cowboy's Cowboy

C. M. Coffee a Montana Cowboy from Texas

C.M. Coffee, 94, of Miles City, passed away on October 10th in the presence of his family at the Holy Rosary Health Center. Clyde Merwyn Coffee, Jr. was born on the family ranch near Miami, Texas on May 22, 1921, to Clyde Merwyn and Abbey (Gripp) Coffee. He was called C.M. early on and after almost 95 years that is still how everyone knows him, even his closest friends and family. Like all of us, C.M. was formed by his youth. Times were tough in the late 1920’s and early 30’s across the entire country. The panhandle of Texas was especially hard hit in the heart of the dust bowl. At age nine, C.M. was riding horseback with his father on the family ranch. The elder Coffee was on a young horse that was very green. After riding a considerable ways from the house, his father was bucked off with his foot getting stuck in the stirrup. Young C.M. eventually gathered the horse; however, his father was gravely injured and died before reaching town. Apparently, C.M. understood at this early age the importance of strong horseman and cowboying skills, and continued to hone these skills over a lifetime. C.M.’s mother was a true frontier woman and did her best to take care of C.M., his two younger brothers, Walter (“Squink”) Coffee and Tom Coffee, all while running the family ranch. Many stories illustrate how strong and self-reliant “Mama Coffee” was from gardening, to rendering hogs, to handling firearms. She instilled lasting manners and the ways of a southern gentleman in her boys that have stood the test of time. The following is a brief bio from C.M.’s induction into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame in January 2012 – “At an early age C.M. started working for neighboring ranches after school and on weekends, in addition to working on his family’s place. During this time, C.M. also started competing in local rodeos. He competed in all events except for bull riding. He was a natural horseman, but it didn’t take C.M. long to realize he “didn’t know how to properly sit on a bull.” As he grew, so did his rodeo circle. C.M. won many saddle bronc, roping, dogging and all-around titles throughout the entire panhandle area of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Upon graduation from high school he was drafted into to the Army Air Corp. It was during his military service when he first came to Montana. He was sent to Missoula and received training in flight, parachuting and related areas. However, since the Japanese surrendered during this time, C.M. was sent to be a tail gunner on a B24 in the Army’s mop up operations in the Pacific Theater. He was eventually stationed in the Philippines, but traveled throughout the U.S. and the Pacific.

Upon honorable discharge from the Army, C.M. returned to the panhandle of Texas and returned to rodeo. He was rehired to work on a ranch that he had worked on in high school. Not long after his return, the ranch owner asked C.M. if he would like to go to Montana and run a new ranch the owner had recently acquired. C.M. took the opportunity and headed north. The ranch was in the Pine Hills just southeast of Miles City. C.M. worked hard and saved his money. Over time, C.M. bought half of the ranch and became partners with the owner’s son. Eventually, the son sold his interest in the ranch to C.M. Years later, C.M. would sell this ranch and buy a cattle & sheep operation at Sumatra. Through the decades C.M. has owned, operated and leased ranches across Custer, Rosebud and Prairie Counties. Also during this time, C.M. continued to rodeo throughout the region. He successfully competed in many of the areas top venues, including Calgary, the Wolf Point Stampede and Cheyenne Frontier Days. In addition to ranching, C.M. was a director and an owner of the Miles City Bank which later grew into Stockman Bank of Montana. As the bank grew, C.M. always made sure the bank’s focus remained on the customer. He provided insight into agriculture, the producers and the markets for over 50 years. C.M. was a fourth generation and lifelong Shriner, over 60 year member of the Miles City Sage Riders Club and, in addition to being inducted in the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame in 2008. C.M. is survived by his wife, Virginia; his son Bill (Vicki) Coffee of Billings; his daughter Caren Coffee of Miles City; and two grandchildren, Colton Michael (“C.M.”) Coffee of Bozeman and Abby Coffee of Bozeman. He is also survived by his brother Walter of Miami, Texas; nephew Charles (Rolanda) Coffee of Canadian, Texas; and his extended Coffee family throughout Texas. Memorial suggestions to either the Miles City Range Riders Museum, Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, or the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame. Addition Note: We are sad to hear of CM’s passing and we send our prayers and sympathy to his dear family and friends. CM was a one in a million and his life here on earth is a better place because of him and real Cowboys like him. I met CM in the early 70’s on the Nefsy Ranch cooking for a crew setting up irrigation. In 1996 I remarried and moved to OK. We figured out then, we knew the same C M Coffee. My husband, Albert (Abbie) was nicknamed after Abbey Coffee, CM’s mother. She was his grandmothers best friend in Texas.

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C.M. Coffee

C.M. Coffee

castration blessing by jeff morrison

Old Indian Horse Castration Blessing

 Castrate the horse and position his testicles in front of him. “he will never look for them again.” 

 mark blood from the Castration on each four feet. “to make sure he will be sure footed.” 

 mark his forehead with blood. “to insure him to be level headed.” 

 touch his nose with blood. “to make sure, he always walks a straight line.

” I worked with a veterinarian for years and every time we castrated a horse. i performed free of Charge this blessing. it Couldn’t hurt right? - Jeff Morrison of Chelsea, OK. 

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Computers, cows and cowboys

In Memory of Derry Brownfield

What a combination? Today we as cattle producers are all exposed to cowboys, computers and cows daily. Some of us still don’t fully realize we are sitting right in the middle of a computerized society. One of my old friends and bull customers, from a Missouri Radio Station made the comment one day that, “He didn’t even know how to turn a computer on!” That really put a thorn under this old cowgirl’s saddle blanket when I realized what that really meant. I bet if he checked he has more micro chips in that radio station than cow chips on his ranch. I still feel that every person carries the best computer in their head. Not IBM, Hewlett Packer or what is that spotted cow company? Oh yes, Gateway! They have not replaced the brain of the common sense cowboy yet! But to say, “I don’t know a thing about computers, don’t even know how to turn one on! “ That is just a plain lie cowboy’s! Consider this? Every morning when you go out to check the cows you turn on, a computer to start that new truck. Not to mention it’s probably the same brand of truck you have always bought too. But today we are exposed to computers in our everyday life with out even our knowledge. That bulk feeder you use has micro chips in it to weight pounds of feed fed and the display is digital. Your tractor has micro relays in it to tell it when to start or if it’s getting too hot. Your digital scales for weighing cattle are full of computerized components. Our pocket calculator is a digital computer. Your cell phone is a walking computer these days and you can even take your favorite cow’s picture with it! Your remote control sitting next to your old recliner has just a few computer chips in it too. So I love hearing these old die hard cowboys make the comment, “Don’t even know how to turn one on.” I just chuckle to myself and admit that some things will never change, but time will elude several! The Computer is a “Tool” Just like our other tools we use to raise cattle! We use it to record data, advertise cattle for sale and communicate with a world too busy to travel long distances. To give you the mentality of today’s consumer we had one lady ask why we didn’t have a credit card form on our web site so she could just buy a certain cow and have it delivered like on e-bay! Even though we are considered by many as a totally computerized ranch we still use a fence stretcher to fix our wire fences and wire pliers that pinch. A scoop shovel, a pitch fork to muck out the stalls, a wheel barrow with two wheels, and post hole diggers to plant posts. We still castrate bull calves with a band and if they get too big we do it the old fashioned way with a knife. By the way we de-horn with a hot iron not a laser gun!! 

The future for the cattle industry is going to include bar codes and micro chips attached to our cattle for identification, so get ready cowboys and cowgirls we haven’t even seen anything yet. God Bless and here’s hoping you have more cow chips than micro chips on your cow paddy!! 

By Just an ole Cowgirl  

Note: That old cowboy was Derry Brownfield pictured above. He was a good and honest friend to us. He was the host of his own radio talk show titled “The Common Sense Coalition" and a co-founder of the Brownfield Network, an agricultural news service for radio stations in several states. We salute you Derry for your many words of wisdom and your friendship. Derry passed away in March of 2011. “Happy trails old friend.” 

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arli the fullblood cow

Sweet Sweet Arli

 Arli was a Fullblood Braunvieh cow that Abbie purchased from Ian and Verona Pedan in Canada. He paid a lot of money for this gentle cow and she never did produce the mega champions we intended her to produce but, she was so kind and gentle that having her around made her worth her weight in gold. This story begins with me watching and caring for the herd while Abbie dear was on a trip to Colorado to take steers to the Great Western Beef Expo a feed out in Sterling, Colorado. It was Fall calving and everything had been going well so I thought I could handle the situation, whatever unfolded. Everything was fine until I checked the heavies and noticed Arli running around with her tail up and in the process of calving. The strange part was that she kept going in circles and would not get down to business. So since she was so gentle I walked up behind her and checked to see if the calf was coming normally. I could see a nose and one foot visually. She let me check so far but not enough to reach in and pull the foot up that was turned back. So I went to the house and called the vet from Vinita just in case I couldn’t get the job done and proceeded to walk out with a flash light and a bucket of feed and tried to lead or drive her up to the barn. This pasture is south of the house about ¼ of mile and there were three gates before I could get her there, but the problem was she would not drive because she kept going in circles. She about made me dizzy trying to keep up with her but I kept her headed towards the barn with me holding her tail to get her to move. I had her close to one gate and had to tell her to wait as I had to open the gate first. She just looked at me with those big dark brown eyes in questioning fashion. “Like what the heck do you think you are doing woman. Why didn’t you open it before you came to get me?” But she did wait and we proceeded to the barn where I thought about waiting for the vet but decided that I could do this and I got her in the chute. I pulled up the turned back foot and got the straps on and hooked up to the stretchers and helped her deliver a strapping baby bull calf. I named that calf “Ace” My ace in the hole! He went onto to be shown by Rod Sullivan in Louisville, KY with our group of get of sire of Silverwood Dragon progeny and was a big pet like his mother. Arlie went to live with Rod, Andrea and Dani Leigh and they enjoyed this sweet cow for many more years. That vet did show up after all the work was done. I am sure he still billed us for the trip! I was just happy I saved the calf and cow and helped assist one of our favorite cows in need. 

Note: Braunvieh is a purebred breed from Europe that has been purebred for centuries. They are not a composite. The brown cattle that you typically see in the Alps with bells on standing along a mountain side are the Braunvieh cattle. Braunvieh pronounced; Braun (brown) Vieh (cattle) in German 

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The old gray mare

Tejay's Night Light AQHA #

It was a sad but necessary day in December of 2012, when our vet and friend Clint came out to humanely put my old mare Jaycee (Tejays Night Light) to sleep. I had to leave the scene to go to Texas, because I just didn’t believe I could handle the sad situation. Too many fond memories with that old mare! Jaycee was born in north central Nebraska in April of 1988 and her dam was Jays Night Light by Deer Light and her Sire was Chevis a son of Sonny Go Lucky. We bought her mother from Bob Alberts and we bred her to Chevis while Charley Hill was managing him. Her dam was a red roan and a very pretty feminine mare, smooth riding and very smart. So breeding her to Chevis a big gray stud that Charley trained in several events had to be the perfect match. Little did I know that she would be my rock for many years to come and end up in Oklahoma. Geez we have some good memories of Jaycee. She won the dinner bell derby at the Rock County fair as a baby! Breaking her was a task but she submitted finally since we had spoiled her as a baby. Which is not a good practice and I have learned to distance yourself from them some to make them more respectful in future colts we raised. She took after her sire and was very athletic for her size. We used her as a ranch horse and team roping horse, both heading and heeling. I rode some in reining patterns, goat tying and barrels. She loved to work cattle and you could ride her all day if you had to. We never hooked onto anything she wouldn’t pull the rope tight. At several brandings she would out pull all the geldings in the event. Plus she never acted like a typical mare and had such good manners. The girls dad always cussed her, but what was the first horse he would ride if he got the chance? You guessed it! She would single foot often when traveling the big pastures at the Barta Ranch checking cattle in big section pastures. She could flat cover some ground and not beat you into the sand. Most people would look at her and comment, “She had to have some thoroughbred in her somewhere?” In 1996, I changed address’ to Oklahoma and became Mrs. Thorne. The first thing I made arrangements for was to get Jaycee here. Jeffrey and Diann both college students then were home for the summer. They made a trip to Beatrice Ne to meet Beck and Brenna at the Little Britches Rodeo and pick up Jaycee. We were off in Louisiana dealing cattle so I couldn’t wait to get home after that trip. She settled in well and she adjusted to the heat and humidity pretty well the first few years. I know she enjoyed less mosquitoes and unlimited grass. Once we were getting her and some cows in from the East pasture. She ran by this one cow and kicked her in the jaw. The purebred Braunvieh cow, named Caroline just blinked her eyes and was in definite pain. She went shaking her head into the pen with the rest of the cattle. I caught Jaycee and saddled her and we worked the cattle. When I was driving them down the south lane later to their new pasture Caroline came back to meet Jaycee and me! She wanted a piece of that horse that had given her a big ouch! We got away but she came right up to us and shook her head like don’t do that again or else? Who says animals don’t have a memory or an agenda! You hurt me I will hurt you back! So it’s best to treat them like you want to be treated. She came here sound and we all rode her every chance we got, but she grass foundered in 1998 during a hot humid summer and it was a task to keep her sound from then on. I spent many hours wrapping and soaking her feet in Epson salts and keeping her comfortable under the fans in the show barn. She recovered but was never the same completely so I decided to breed her. She had her first colt when she was twelve years old named Tejay a nice red roan. Tejay took Jacyee’ place and is still my go to horse. She gave us three beautiful colts, Teejay, Jazzy and Jet, so her legacy lives on. Jazzy and Jet went back to Nebraska to grandchildren, Dalton and Dalya Rae. Someday I would like a colt from those mares to continue on her blood line. We had special shoes on her front feet until the day she died. The last time we had her shod she almost fell on Jeff so the decision was made that we had to do something about her pain and suffering. The grand girls enjoyed brushing her and she would stand patiently for them for hours. You could catch her anywhere just give a call and she would come running. My last few hours with her I gave her an apple and she let Wiley know that that apple was hers to cherish! I kept her mane and plan on having a friend make bracelets as reminders for the girls and granddaughters. She was a special horse to our family! She asked for nothing and gave many years of loyalty. She now runs free of pain with the girls Dad who rides the pastures in the sky! Jaycee is buried in the front pasture overlooking the lake with the rest of our special animals. RIP Jaycee job well done! I miss you old girl. Save me a spot where we can view the horizon. 

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reason's not to assault a ranch woman

One Tough Ranch Woman

Violence does not scare us. We ride 1,500 pound horses and stare down an alley full of mad, snot-slinging cows that weigh over 800 pounds. We've held down calves that outweigh you by four times. Don't try to intimidate us. Most of our husbands stand a head and shoulders taller, outweigh us by 100 pounds and we aren't scared of them. Why would we be frightened by someone who can't keep their pants up? Every time we work cows, our husbands threaten us if we don't get out of the gate. They threaten us if we don't stay in the gate. We are pretty much not impressed by threats. Plus, if you get much closer we may give you some threats of your own to consider and be able to back it up. Don't wave that knife at me, boy. I castrate when we brand, throw the 'mountain oysters' on the fire AND eat them, dirt and all. You probably don't want to go there. Don't threaten to steal my pickup. I work for a living, so I have insurance. The chances of you being able to drive a standard are next to none and there is no spare. I've walked home from the back side of the ranch, I can walk from here. You want my purse? Take my purse. It has little money in it because, as I mentioned, I work for a living. You will find various receipts for feed and vet supplies, some dried up gum and the notice for my next teeth cleaning. The only 'drugs' you will find is something that is either aspirin or a calf scours pill but its been in there so long I've forgotten which it is. Don't threaten to hurt me. I may look old and fragile to you, but I can ride horseback for 12 hours, with nothing to eat or drink. I have been kicked, bucked off, run over and mucked out. 've had worse things happen to me in the corrals than you have experienced in the little gang wars you've been through, and still cooked supper for a crew. You may whip me, son, but you'll be a tired, sore S.O.B. in the morning and yes, I will remember your face because I am used to knowing which calf belongs to which cow. I'll also remember which direction you went and what you were wearing because I've tracked many a cow with less information than you've given me. You are not going to scare me with that little 'Saturday Night Special' when I have a .38 in my boot. You need not think I won't shoot you. I've shot several coyotes and numerous rattlesnakes. I put down my horse when he broke his leg and shot my pet dog when he killed some sheep. Don't think I won't consider you a rabid dog and go on my way. - One tough Ranch Woman 

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we named her salty

TCL Cutters Salty

A normal spring day at the Thorne Ranch started out with rain and wind. After the clouds left and the sun came out we gathered the first calf heifers and the babies out of the calving pasture. We paired and tagged the frisky little boogers and sent them to fresh pastures. One little red white face heifer decided she left her momma back at the barn so she went back the direction she came from. She went under five fences and even crawled under a metal gate to get back to her birth pasture. So hubbies thinking was we would just catch her and give her a free ride on the golf cart back to her Momma B4422. We captured her in the corner of the corral. I asked hubby if he still had a pig string to tie down those wild little hooves? Since he grew up roping and doctoring calves daily all by himself with his trusty old buckskin Smokey, a rope and pig string. He said, " No lets just hold her, " Right? So, I drove the cart into the alley so that he would not have to carry her far. I finally found reverse in between stabbing sharp hooves and tried to hold one foot that kept smacking me, while he held her squirming body and three legs. We made it out of the alley and my next attempt was to switch the cart to forward. That didn't happen. He kept saying, “Get going!” Well when I tried to reach down and engage forward, flying hooves kicked my chest (should be wearing a metal protective bra ) the next micro second my shin bone on my right leg got multiple stabs (should be wearing shin guards) at that point I went off the cart yelling. " Turn her loose!" ha Well the next micro second, the salty little heifer stepped on the gas pedal and away they went backwards..I can still see Abbie's eyes of horror as him, the little red heifer and our bright red golf cart with a sticker, Make America Great again slam into the metal corral fence. I was limping and trying to catch up with the cart and yelling let her go! He somehow reached up and pulled the keys out to stop the cart from banging into the fence. Thank the Lord it was not a hot wire fence. He finally turned her loose as she was giving him a beating too..lol She went back into the corral and gave us a look like “You lost that battle people. You only thought you were tougher than me.” It was at that moment she got her name Salty. So I then persuaded him to go and get her momma, as I had suggested before we started. She was waiting patiently at the pasture gate looking back at the barn. We reunited the pair and they didn't even look back on their way out. We looked at each other and just blamed the other one for our wreck. Got to love working with the man you love. On a good note, my bone density test I took last week proved I am not too brittle just a little too soft skinned.  

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mr. smith and his brown swiss cows

In Memory of Larry Smith

Larry Smith a respected dairyman in the Collinsville, OK area raised and milked Registered Brown Swiss cows and loved them and life. His family was very important to him, along with his cattle. They were his other family and constant companions. His registered herd was well known locally and nationally. In the Spring of 2015, he passed away from a heart attack and complications leaving his family and his cattle a deep void. His one request was that he didn’t want to be carried out of this life in a hearse. He just thought they were morbid! So after a family discussion, they shinned up his new black truck with gold trim. His coffin also was black with gold trim and they gathered to carry him to his resting place. On the way to the cemetery that was close to his farm a horse came running out of a pasture and ran along side the procession. Screaming and whining. Everyone said it was unsettling and just a little spooky. But that was only the beginning. When they went past the Smith Farm all the Brown Swiss cows were lined up along the road and fence, paying their final respect. When they got closer to the cemetery the family was in tears. The lease pasture was the last tribute by the young heifers that were also lined up along the fence. Truly the Lord gathered his animals he loved for one lasting tribute. Surely this is a testament of the love he had for his cows and the unmistakable love his cows had for him. By Joan Herrington Thorne 

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ken overcast

The Last of the Singing Cowboys

Check out our friend Ken Overcast at his website.  Check out Bucked Off and Ken's latest Fables From the Far, Far West  a short story on Chapter Five.