Few men have looked into the lantern light of the cook tent well before dawn and experienced the taste of coffee hot off the wood-fired stove from the tin can of the cook wagon, while sharing the conversation of the cowboys gathered about waiting for breakfast.
Few have experienced the start of day so well in advance of sunrise. If you ask the men that have been there, they will tell you it is one of the special times in life. They will tell you that they relate in a special way to generations of men who made their living following the chuck wagon, sleeping in teepees and working from the back of a good cowhorse.
Few men have had the distinct honor of saddling a 6666 cowhorse in the predawn hours and covering a big pasture from sunrise to mid-day. All of those 6666 cowhorses were born there, raised there, trained there and earn their living there. The same could be said for their mothers. “Sixes” horses are bred, raised and trained to do be the best working ranch horses anywhere, and capable of doing any job required. A man would look long and hard before he would find a finer string of horses that could carry as many riders in a single day and do all of the work required of a solid ranch horse. The CA members and guests won’t soon forget their ride that day on the horses of the Sixes.
Few men have seen the splendor of Texas in the spring as it was this year following the plentiful moisture of the past winter. One can’t help but ride the country and almost hear Red Steagall singing the words to the famous lines of, “I’d like to be in Texas for the Round-Up in the Spring.” The color green takes on new meaning and the wild flowers a special radiance. The cattle are as much in bloom as the flowers. The calves are healthy and the horses fit.
Few men have experienced the camaraderie of the campfire where stories, and songs, poems and “windies” keep the conversation lively and the moment something to be cherished. The cool air falls into camp at sundown and makes the fire the gathering place after dinner at the wagon. The light of the half-moon on a crystal clear night is bright enough to give the range a soft glow. Whether it is Bill Nebeker with a joke, Red with a poem or Don Hedgpeth with a tune, it’s all about being together and sharing the trail. Those gathered around the campfires of mid-May on the Four Sixes won’t soon forget the time spent together.
The 40th Anniversary ride had its share of special moments to be sure. Emeritus members Tom Ryan and Grant Speed attended the ride. Tom, now 83, drove all the way from Scottsdale, Arizona to spend the days with his fellow CAs and mix with the cowboys of the 6666 who were the subjects of so many famous Tom Ryan paintings. Grant shared a ride from Utah with new CA member Clark Price. New members T. D. Kelsey and Dave Powell were also on their first ride.
Dave drove from Montana with Loren Entz and T. D. – well he’s a neighbor to the Four Sixes down at the headquarters in Guthrie. Special guests included Rick McCumber, the official silversmith of the Cowboy Artists, Greg Brown, publisher of Cowboys and Indians magazine, Tom Pearson and Mike Cassel of the Men’s Arts Council (MAC) and Bill Rey of the Clagget Rey Gallery. Honorary member Griff Carnes of Kerrville, Texas joined the ride and recorded it with many memorable photographs.
Perhaps no moment was quite so memorable as President Bill Owen and board member Fred Fellows giving Bill Rey a big bear hug, and telling him he’d just been voted an Honorary Member of the Cowboy Artists of America during the business meeting.
The CAA members and guests have many people to thank, especially Mike Gibson, General Manger of the 6666 Ranch and Joe Leathers, manager of the Dixon Creek division and the ride host. The CAA members have been privileged to ride all three of the famed 6666 ranches. In 1996, the ranch hosted the CAA at the historic Guthrie headquarters for the second time in its history. In 2002, the CAA traveled to central Montana along the Smith River. The loyal and generous support of Mike, Joe and owner Anne Marion are greatly appreciated.
To say the Trail Ride of 2005 was special is an understatement. It will go down in the history of the Cowboy Artists of America as a consummate blend of the old, the new, steeped in tradition, memorable and as CAA Founder Joe Beeler says, “one of the best of all time.”
Learn more about the 6666 Ranches at http://www.6666ranch.com.