I come from a family who has salt water and ranch life mixed in their blood. Great (x4) Grandpa was one of the first cowboys down the Chisholm Trail. He served in the Civil War and the war between Texas and Mexico, eventually settling on a ranch in Texas where he raised a bundle of kids and horses. The saddle he used in the wars and then to teach his kids to ride sits in our tack room.
My Great Grandpa ended up in the Northwest. I'm not sure what got him all the way out here or prompted him to get into the tug and barge business. One of my first recollections as a child, is missing my favorite Saturday show, Fury, and being out on a tug instead, my siblings and I being babysat by a patient deck hand while my parents checked crab pots.
I grew up with miles of woods on one side of our neighborhood and on the other side, a few blocks down, train tracks that ran between our house and Bellingham Bay. Sometimes the neighborhood Dads would gather up all the kids and we'd walk down and across the train tracks to explore the beach. There was always a lot of pomp and circumstance about crossing the train tracks and we were constantly warned to never go down there by ourselves.
One summer morning, my fellow cowboy pardner, the neighborhood boy Sonny, and I decided to go looking for Roy Rogers. We figured that these riders and horses, which kept coming out through our woods, must have a ranch by Roy's.
Armed with our cap guns, cowboy hats and Trigger thermos's full of water (our canteens), we headed off into the woods in search of Roy at first light. We walked long and far that day, so sure we'd shortly come upon Roy's ranch. Being out on the trail, we ate wild blackberries and huckleberries for lunch. But by late afternoon our "canteens" were empty and we were hungry and thirsty.
We came out of the woods as the sun was starting to set. I recall the odd feeling of realizing the houses didn't look like ours. Sonny was also confused, his house was painted pink and there were no pink houses. Our house was painted green and down the road was a green house so I figured it must be mine even if it wasn't shaped like mine. I started heading to the green house but Sonny stopped me, telling me that wasn't my house. We stood in the middle of the road arguing, two tired five-year old cowboys, not sure what to do next.
We must have been quite a sight. A women came out of her house, asked us our names and if we were hungry. Boy were we! All thoughts of finding Roy were gone. Food was the only thing on our minds. She sat us down at her picnic table and told us to stay put, then brought us juice and sandwiches. We ate like we hadn't eaten in days.
Well, that's about the time my Mom came barreling up in her car. Mom was not happy, in fact Mom was very unhappy. She thanked the women (who happened to know my mom and knew of me) and pretty much pushed us into the car. Mom told us that "everybody" had been out looking for us the entire day. Everybody included all the deck hands on the tugs. Afraid we'd gone down by the train tracks, all the tugs had been brought into dock and the hands had pitched in to scour the beach and surrounding areas for two children. All the neighbors had joined the search party. Our parents were frantic.
Arriving home, Sonny and I faced two sets of angry parents. We were both placed on restriction and our cap guns confiscated - the most horrible sentence a five year old who lives to play Cowboy can face.
Sonny and I never did go out searching for Roy again. We both decided that Roy's ranch was further away then one could walk in a day and probably why everybody rode horses. Having no horses to ride, we settled back into running the trails of the woods and riding our rocks and fences, our make-believe steeds that took us to all the same places Roy went and life as a 5-year old cowboy continued as before.