Thu, Sept. 19

Letter: Bailey was a real cowboy to the end


The first time I met Bailey he was 3 years old. His mom was a fellow school bus driver and she would bring him in to the bus barn driver's room.

Bailey and I became good friends. He would show me his latest toy, try to trick me in various ways or scare me with his fake spider. I would tease him or threaten to kick his behind for scaring me.

One day Bailey came in sporting a pair of cowboy boots and came over to me to show them off. I gave them a very critical eye, then asked him to show me the bottom of the boots. When he did, I ssadlyshook my head and said "Nope, those aren't 'real' cowboy boots." Naturally he took offense and insisted that they were real cowboy boots. I persisted, "No. Real cowboy boots have cow poop on the bottom." This irritated him but I asked him if he had any cows around his house. He said "No" and I told him it was too bad because he could have gone home and broke them in as 'real' cowboy boots. He was having no part of that and turned to his mom, Cherie, for support. Being a mom, of course, Cherie told him the boots were real. I wasn't going to let him off that easy, though, and told him if he had a dog he might be able to fake it. Cherie didn't think much of that idea and Bailey still wasn't buying. At that point I called on one of the mechanics, who I had enlisted, and told Bailey "You know that Robert is a real cowboy (true) and rides on the roundups don't you?" Bailey nodded, yes, and I turned to Robert and said "Robert. How can you tell real cowboy boots?" Robert confirmed my assessment but Bailey was still holding out. He was proud of those boots and wasn't about to get them soiled.

A few days later I had Robert bring a real cow patty to work in a paper bag. When Bailey showed up in his boots, I showed it to him and said it was his chance to turn those boots into the real thing. Nope. No way. I then tried to reason with him. "Maybe those are the boots cowboys wear to barn dances - their good boots - and not the ones they wear when they go out on the range to herd cows." No sir. His boots were the real thing.

Finally, I had to give in. "You know what, buddy? Maybe what makes real cowboy boots is when they're worn by a real cowboy. So I guess you're right. Those are real cowboy boots." Bailey, who had never wavered gave me that look that said "You poor soul. You finally get it!"

Bailey, at age 5, just died of a vicious cancer. By all accounts, he was a real cowboy to the end. I'm going to miss him. He was my friend.

Jim Barber

Camp Verde

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