We’ve all heard the saying “Christmas in July,” but do we really know what it means? No, it doesn’t mean Santa’s surfing the awesome rips of Pichilemu, Chile, or having an Everything’s Got to Go Now blowout 2 for 1 special at the North Pole. Christmas in July does have different meanings to some like my mother, my heroes of the NFR, and us plain ol’ end of the dirt road ranchers and farmers.
When my mother, bless her soul, tells me that it’s “Christmas in July ” she is referring to some epic week of Hallmark Movie Christmas Specials. It bewilders me that anyone can enjoy sleigh bells ringing, and B-rated flicks of happiness and goodwill towards others in the middle of July. Wow, that really sounded like Scrooge. I meant that it just seems out of place to be watching tales of mistletoe by the fire and reindeer flying when we are in the middle of prime “get your steak off the grill season.” Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not my Christmas in July. But, mama rules the ranch as Top Hand, and whatever she wants to record to her DVR is fine with me, as long as there’s room for a few of The Big Valley, and High Chaparral reruns. A hand has to have something to watch when it’s 104 in the shade of the bunkhouse!
Now, for my heroes of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) the term “Christmas in July” takes on a whole other connotation. For these guys, they are half-way through a season that culminates with a gold trophy buckle at the Wrangler NFR in Las Vegas, December 5-14 2013 (The World Series of Rodeo). Look for me way up in the bleachers waving! Christmas in July means trying to hit as many rodeos during the 4th of July weekend as possible. There are more rodeos held during this long weekend than at any other time during the year. It’s an opportunity for some to take commanding leads heading into the last few months, others a chance to gain ground and get back into the mix, and some lucky few get to pay the bills and keep on rocking. It’s not uncommon for cowboys to pool together to rent airplanes, horses, and help, and-then criss-cross the country trying to land payoffs in the biggest payout rodeos. Sounds like a jolly time to me.
As for a few others and me, Christmas in July is a time to be thankful! For example, my Christmas in July this year finds that we still have green grass standing on the rangeland. The mama cows are raising their calves which are frolicking, bucking, and having a happy time thriving because their nutrition requirements are being met on lush green pastures. Lush green pastures are not a common thing of South Texas in July. The good Lord has blessed us with some rain, and somehow even managed to keep the temperatures down. I actually burned a few vacation days to build fence this July because a cold front out of nowhere provided a week of highs in the 80’s and sporadic rain showers.
The same was the case for a fellow Certified Hereford Beef devotee, Frank Haardt of Comanche County, Texas. Frank makes his living applying his craft to a plethora of trades ranging from building livestock handling facilities, transporting equipment, doing day work on the local ranches, and even runs a few Hereford cows of his own. My brother and I met Frank one morning when we arrived in his driveway to pick up some sheet metal roofing that we purchased to finish our “Bad Luck Barn.” We were standing around talking when my brother noted the temperature was a crisp 72 degrees, but was already up to 89 degrees back home and rising. Frank, pointed to his knee high green pasture due to July rains and low temperatures, and stated how the previous years of drought had decimated his operation. The lack of rain and grass on the small operation had forced him to sell his Hereford bulls and cows. Frank spoke of his love of Herefords as easy keepers, gentle to work with, terrific calving ability, excellent mothers, and those pretty little white face calves just put on weight faster than any of his neighbors black cattle. He beamed as he spoke of working the land. Even though he had to sell the cows, he spent his time clearing that pasture of mesquites and letting the ground rest. Being a good steward like the majority of his fellow farmers and ranchers, he knows that we have to take care of the land that takes care of us. Frank’s Christmas in July would have him running Herefords again in no time and begetting this cowboy’s all-time favorite Christmas movie message, It’s A Wonderful Life!
Merry Christmas in July Y’all,