My father’s brother lived in Kansas but always managed to come home for the holidays. He would arrive for our family Christmas dinner wearing his favorite cowboy hat and dress boots, his work boots left behind at his back door. Uncle Ray was a business man who not only ran a retail shop but also ran a working ranch complete with ranch hands and branding irons and horses trained to cut cattle.
Uncle Ray was a modern day cowboy.
He stood out in our annual holiday pictures because of the cowboy hat that he always wore. His hats were custom made and each one had a story to go with it. Over the years I forgot what Uncle Ray looked like without that cowboy hat because he rarely took it off. That hat was as much a part of him as the boots on his feet and his belt with the wide silver buckle. He lived the life of a cattle rancher, proudly showing the world the man he was through the boots and buckles he wore.
At least twice a year my father would make the drive to Kansas and stay with his brother on his ranch. They would ride the range together in an old pickup truck while Uncle Ray talked about his new calves and his new plans for the new year. At the end of the day they would sit together on the edge of a private lake and cast their fishing lines while the sun set before them. They would share that last hour of daylight sitting side by side doing something they had done together since they were little boys.
Such a long time ago.
For the complete column, see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard