We’re Not Talking Belly Buttons Here
“Uncle Buck, are you an innie or an outtie?” Adam asked, twisting sideways in the saddle to look at his Momma’s oldest brother.
“Now nephew, my belly button ain’t no concern of yours!” Buck stated, yanking off his grungy Stetson to swat it against his leg knocking the dust off. “You pay attention to that old heifer over there and don’t let her get back in the brush.”
“I got her, Uncle Buck, she’s not going anywhere. I’m not talking about your privates. I’m asking, are you in the Kingdom of God or not?”
“Course I am. I ride for the brand.” Buck said, replacing his hat. “Why yuh asking?”
Buck had invited his teenage nephew to join him and some friends in an old time ranch roundup knowing neither would likely have an opportunity like this again. Old Man Humphrey had died; his fifteen thousand acre south Texas ranch inherited by his son and daughter. When they couldn’t agree how to split it, a judge ordered it surveyed into two equal value parts. A coin flip would decide the owner.
But first, the cattle on the ranch had to be rounded-up and taken to market. That was a major problem. The reclusive old man had kept a plowed road around the perimeter for a fire barrier and a dirt lane up to the house. Otherwise, nothing had been done on the land in forty years. There were wild cattle and who knows what in the dense brush thickets that had never seen a man. Well, maybe other than Don Flores who rode the fence-line in an old Chevy pick-up truck.
That is where Buck’s reputation as a cowman came in. The judge knew Buck and asked him to get a crew together, build a catch-pen, and round up whatever was there. And Buck’s boss had agreed to loan his ranch foreman out for a month.
Buck thought his nephew, Adam Hoover III, Buck called him “Nephew”, ought to build a memory and so now they were riding close on good working horses and getting to know each other.
“Uncle Buck, Momma’s concerned about you. She said you never go to church, like we do. And what do you mean about riding for …”
“Nephew, let me ask; you ever seen a five day cow? I haven’t. They take tending every day. Old Man Humphrey let ‘em alone and you see what a sorry lot of critters we’re gathering. I ain’t got time to go to church other than out here. Pay attention and you’ll see God’s touch in a way you’d miss in city traffic.”
“Hi Yiii!” Adam yelled, waving a coiled lariat at a wild-eyed calf that wanted to turn back. After he maneuvered around a massive clump of purple fruited prickly pear he reined his horse back close to Buck. “I think I get your point, Uncle. All these critters that are lost out here in the brush are kind of like lost people. And we are trying to bring them in.”
“Good thinking, Nephew. Bringing them into the herd is kinda like bringing people into the Kingdom of God. On the Bar None Ranch, we put our brand on them to show who owns them.
Just like God puts his brand on us when we come into His family.”
“Uncle, are you a preacher or a cowboy?”
“I’m just a wrangler that finds time to read the Good Book. Look, let me show you something. Buck reached back and removed a worn Bible from his saddlebag. Thumbing the pages for a moment he stopped and said, “Read this” pointing to Romans 14:17.
Adam took the Bible and read: for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. ”Wow! Uncle Buck. I didn’t know that. That’s a good verse to remember.” Adam handed the Bible back to Buck.
”Well, Nephew, we better put spurs to ‘em or we won’t get through in a month of Sundays. These old critters are gonna hang tight to their hideouts and we gotta go in there and get ‘em.”
“Okay, Uncle Buck. But when I get home Momma is going to be thrilled to know you are an innie. And so am I.”
The New King James translation.
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