My uncle Chuck – True stories with Vern

It was hot, hot and dry, but it was supposed to be. It was the middle of June on the Ryegrass allotment near Daniel, Wyo. It was 10 or 11 o’clock and we had been out there since it was just light enough to see, because it was the old days when cowboys still cowboyed, not that I was. I was 10- or 11-years old and I’d been following my uncle Chuck around out there in the sagebrush and my lower lip looked like it. It resembled a modern-day sundried tomato that someone had stepped on. We were following some cows and calves up the bottom of a draw and up ahead was a big ol’ spring calf that had them ol’ mustard-colored calf scours that we are all familiar with when he said, “Bud, if you would dip your finger in that and rub it on your lip it would heal up!”

I rode along for a ways pondering this medicinal advice, trying to make sure what I thought I heard was what he said. Sure enough it appeared to be, so I looked up at him and said, “What? You mean to tell me if I rub that stuff on my lip it will heal up?” And he said, “Nooo, but it will make you quit lickin’ it and then it will heal up.”

I knew him 60 years and 80 days. He was a mentor and in all that time he never told me what to do or what not to do. He would suggest some choices and even when it was obvious you made the wrong one he never re-rode the issue. Me and him made a deal some time ago. Whoever lived the longest would scatter the other one’s ashes and I lost. As a line in one marvelous old poem says, “A promise made is a debt unpaid.” So on an obscure little point on an insignificant mud hill of sand rock, sagebrush and a lone birch tree with the most panoramic view of the Green River Valley his wish was fulfilled.

He’ll be missed by his family, he’ll be missed by his friends and he’ll be missed by all who ever knew him. But most of all he’ll be missed by a way of life. The Green River Valley is a special place. A special place to run cattle, a special place to raise good hay and good kids, a special place to ride and drive good horses. It’s that way because a lot of good people worked hard all their lives to make it that way. My uncle Chuck was one of those special people.