Scars mark real cowboys

If you see a couple of fellows walking down the road, both wearing cowboy-type garb, how will you know which one is the for-real cowboy?

Here are a few hints:

The real cowboy will be bow-legged and will limp a bit. As he gets closer, you notice one arm seems to stay bent all the time. His hands, though, are a pure-dee giveaway.

He’s probably missing one or more digits, and some of the remaining fingers point a different direction than their neighbors. You won’t see him make a fist.

Now he’s close enough you can see his head. One ear is missing a part or two. His nose points a bit sideways, causing him to sniff often. When he smiles, a few gaps in his teeth are revealed. And the teeth not yet among the missing are brown — the color of Copenhagen snuff.

At the recently completed Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev., the Justin Sports Medicine team was busy. Along with the bullfighters, who take many hits meant for fallen cowboys, the sports medicine team saves lives almost every performance. The cowboys are grateful, and often express their appreciation and admiration.

Our real cowboy walking down the road probably didn’t have anyone to help when he had his wrecks.

Rube, one I know, has part of his breastbone permanently pulled away from his insides. He told me he was bringing a herd of horses from Arizona to New Mexico. It was just after sundown, and they came upon a narrow, deep arroyo.

The horse herd all jumped across. The horse he was riding couldn’t make up his mind. He slammed on the brakes, throwing his rider a bit forward, then changed his mind and jumped. “I was riding one of those old-fashioned silver-horn saddles,” he said. “That metal horn sank into my chest when he stopped and ripped out when he jumped.”

He was alone, of course. Luckily, his well-trained horse stopped.

The herd ran off. Rube lay still, trying to figure out a plan. After daylight the next morning he managed to get on his horse. Ignoring the awful pain, he got the horse herd back together and resumed their trek to New Mexico.

Did he go to a doctor, or hospital?

No. “There weren’t any within a three-day ride,” he said, and added with a grin, “Anyway, I healed up and haired over all right.”

No matter what, a cowboy sees the sunshine beyond the mountain. At a recent rodeo a bronc stepped in the middle of his would-be rider’s back after bucking him off.

Although he couldn’t walk without help, on the way out of the arena he gave the audience a thumbs-up.

Later, when asked about his injury, the fallen rider said, “I’m lucky. My liver was lacerated, and that body part can repair itself.”

Lucky? I think my smile would have failed me along about then.