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Cowboy Wisdom
Brenda Himelfarb Crowd Pleaser July 3, 2017
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The character in the play, A Man for All Seasons, written by Robert Bolt, is portrayed as “a man of principle, envied by rivals and loved by common people and by his family.” Robert Whittington, a 14th century English grammarian defined the meaning as “a man for all occasions, whether happy or sad.” At the time, Whittington was talking about Sir Thomas More, the 16th century Chancellor of England, about whom the play is based.

For those who knew George “Bud” Gates, the phrase “a man for all seasons,” can aptly be applied, for he was respected by all those who met him and was loved dearly by his family. He was a man for all occasions. Unlike More, a chancellor, Gates was a cowboy in every way. And he walked that walk and talked that talk! Raised on the Gates Ranch, Bud who passed away in 2016, was a fourth-generation rancher who passed on his knowledge and “ranchin’ ways” to his five children, Kip, Doug,Vienna, Nancy and Tami, as well as to his 15 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. He and his wife, Marge, were married for 68 years. Bud was an Eagle County commissioner for 12 years and was recognized for distinguished service, from the floor of the United States House of Representatives, by then Representative Scott McInnis.

Yet being a rancher, tending his cattle and land is what Bud was all about. When he was on the range, he was in his element. And he passed on some “cowboy wisdom” to his youngins’ and anyone else who crossed his path. In fact, Bud was quite well known for his “wisdom,” and seemed to have some for everything!

HE TAUGH this children and grandchildren all that a cowboy needed to know. Whenthey awoke, they were to “Thank the Lord for the morning and live for the day.” He told them to commit themselves to the land that their ancestors homesteaded for them back in the 1880s and to always do things that would improve, not only its looks, but its value and integrity. It was important for them to love the land, he said, for what it did for the family and that if they didn’t take care of it like they should, it would cheat them. He taught them how to build fences, dig ditches, irrigate the land the proper way – with a shovel – and to train horses and be a cowman. And if one of ‘em got hurt, he’d tell ‘em to “cowboy up.”

HE LOVED his cows. He loved his horses, too, but his passion was in the Hereford breed of cattle, and he took pride in having the best cows he could have, buying the best bulls to breed the cows and to improve genetics.

HE WAS so enamored with ranching that he and filmmaker, Roger Brown, produced Western Ranching: Culture in Crisis, in the 1990s, in which they tried to educate the public that ranchers were the best stewards of the land. According to Vail Daily writer, Randy Wyrick, the film was “a response to the growing cacophony of misinformation from developers who wanted land and water for residential growth.”

HE SAID, at the time, “When you takeus (ranchers) out of that wheel, you’ve got a broken wheel. Money is not our main goal. Ranching is a lifestyle. We sacrifice to live here. We love that land. We love it and we’ve been good stewards.” When the film was made, the average ranching family’s income was $30,000.

HE KNEW everything about ranching. And from the wisdom he had acquired from growing up and working with the ranchers, he was busy punching cows or digging ditches for anyone who asked. His outlook was, “If you’re going to take time to do it, do it right the first time.”

HE HAD a passion for horses, was a great horseman and taught his son, Kip, the cor- rect way to train the animal. He explained that the horse was to be respected and that patience was required when working with him. A great sportsman, Bud also introduced his kids to hunting and fishing.

HE HAD something to say about everything! Bud suggested that, “before you try to train kids, you should train a horse.” And, “If you’re going to ride it, put a seat on it.” He loved to say, “I won’t go to their funeral because they won’t be goin’ to mine,“ or “Get in out of the rain. You don’t see those chickens out in the rain, and they have a small head.” If someone was having a marriage problem, his advice was, “You can leave if you want, but you’ll both only have half a sheet and neither of you will be warm.”

Everyone knew that when Bud was around, you had to listen real close – ‘cause you never wanted to miss his great sense of humor, his cowboy words of wisdom. He was just full of joy and “lived life like someone left the gate open.”

When Western romance author, Amanda McIntyre was asked to list the characteristics of the perfect cowboy, she wrote, “1. Pride. In his work, his family, his home, in himself; 2. Trustworthy. His word is his bond; 3. Tenacious. He never quits, especially when things are toughest; 4. Protective of those in his care – women, children, animals, the land; 5. Courage. He might feel fear, but he looks it straight in the eye.”

That describes Bud Gates to a “t.” He was the perfect cowboy.

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