I'll never forget the first time I met Stuart 'The Brand' Baggs... fifty two, late August, tail end of one of them sorrowful Texas summers when a man feels like the heat will stick in his bones and give him succour all winter, but by December rolls around he knows that ain’t true... I’d come down from Amarillo looking for ranch work, anything to cure that itch in my feet... tough times and not much to be had... got turned down at the 6666, LIT and more, made it all the way down to Pecos Country before an old fella called Wilson took me on, more out of pity than need, I reckon….
Small spread but a good group of boys workin there, long days, good chow, cold beer and a sunset on the porch of the bunkhouse… this fella called Stuart was a different kind though, somethin about him, cut from a different cloth…. young, loud, cocky, tellin us all what he was gonna do, what he was gonna be.... used to wear these silver spurs and all of us ribbed him for it, didn’t phase him none though, opposite if anything, puffed up his feathers even more. I took him for a dude at first, but seeing him break a horse, rope a steer, he weren’t playin at it. Worked twice as hard as most of us, and raised twice as much hell too…
Got my papers for Korea in January…. “now ain’t that a son of a bitch” Wilson says... I didn’t think so, somewhere else to take my itchy feet I reckoned… old fella knew though, spent Christmas forty four with the 10th Armored outside Bastogne…
Made it back in fifty three, bit of Pork Chop Hill iron in my back for a keepsake... the forgotten war, I’ve heard it said, but only thing I could think to do to try and forget was swing back through that dusty panhandle hopin that the heat might stick in my bones and give me some succour…
Heard about a new outfit out in Culberson County lookin to hire on good men, strange to find such a big spread sproutin out of nothing in the them days, but some young buck at the reigns they said, buying up more pasture all the time…made sense when I got there and seen it... Stuart in a field of ponies, sat on the prettiest Appaloosa I ever did see… “still wearin them fine spurs” I said… he turned and looked at me, puzzled for a second, then smiling, them warm eyes of his… “you’ll see, you’ll see” he said, laughin as he rode off…
Silver Spurs is the biggest ranch in west Texas now, and them spurs are burned into the side 10,000 head of ornery black angus beef… Stuart’s gone now, and I’m powerful sorry to hear it, but that brand of his ain’t goin nowhere, and that’s some succour for these cold old bones….
STUART ‘THE BRAND’ BAGGS RIP
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