“These stories are one hundred percent factual, no yarns or embellishments.” This is an enticing entry into septuagenarian cowboy Robin Langford’s memoir, The Cowboy in Me. The Maple Creek-born author candidly shares his life’s journey between 1947 and 2016, and readers are advised to hang on for a ride that delivers more ups and downs than a bucking bronco.
“Cowboy up” is a term that defines what Langford and his hard-working second wife, Penny, often had to do while they tended both cattle and kids on ranches between Williams Lake, BC and the Prince Albert region of SK. The work was physically arduous and eminently dangerous, and the culmination of poor weather, aggressive bears, pack rats, raging bulls, moody cows, temperamental horses, frequent job changes, province-hopping, bad deals, disharmonious neighbours, disagreeable bank managers, and health issues would be enough to make anyone raise the white flag, but the Langfords stuck it out, even when it was often difficult to “put groceries on the table”.
In one entertaining anecdote Langford explains that when he and Penny “finally” got married in 1984-Penny’d stepped in to help him raise his two boys, and she and Langford later had two more children together-the cowboy/trapper/ranch owner/author borrowed a suit and Penny borrowed a dress, and they married “in front of a Justice of the Peace on the front lawn of John Mador’s house in Prince George” with their children in attendance.
The stories begin with Langford’s birth to a violent, alcoholic father and his hard-suffering but “feisty” mother. “They had a strange relationship that was somehow a cross between love and resentment,” he writes. After a physical fight with his father at age thirteen, and with just a grade six education, Langford moved out and stayed with other family members. By fourteen he was hitchhiking to Medicine Hat, where a cousin soon hooked him up with a Taber beet farmer who needed help with chores that ranged from breaking ponies for merry-go-rounds to collecting eggs. Langford’s first real cowboy job was in the Cypress Hills, and “It was here that [Langford] found a love for the cowboy way of life that’s stayed with [him] to this day”.
In this easy-to-read memoir the language is in the cowboy vernacular, and the author’s lively character is apparent, ie: at eighteen he suggested a dalliance with the mid-forties cook, Mrs. Campbell, on the bear-plagued Circle S Ranch. “Within two days the whole goddamned valley had heard about the incident”. The book’s filled with respect for “real top cowboys,” many of whom were inducted into the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame. The numerous photographs of people, camps, animals, and activities contribute much, and the full-colour photo of the Langford Ranch in Shellbrook, SK-with a rainbow behind it-seems a fitting metaphor for a life that, in its later years, has included the joy of grandparenting.
Langford asserts, “with hard work and true grit, you can overcome most everything”–bears, hernias, bar fights, and all. Terrific read for a wide audience.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM