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Summer Solsice         and full moon  at         Red Rock Crossing

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     It was the last roundup of the year, on the last remaining working ranch in Sedona.  The cattle had to be rounded-up, then driven to Pine Valley to the corral for branding and castration.  Only a select number of real cowboys were up to the task.  One of them was Joe Beeler a renowned sculptor, painter, and born-and-raised cowboy.  

     Yet cutting out calves for branding and vaccination was no less artistic than a performance of the Bolshoi ballet.  It was a dance of horse and rider working as a single unit.  His cowpony juked and jogged back and forth in front of a calf until aligned for its rider's toss.  Then by legerdemain the rope dropped over the calf's neck.  Joe pulled back on the reins triggering his mount to plant its hooves in the soft dirt of the corral.  The pony, heart and mind transfixed exclusively on the will of its rider, was confident of its position in the dance, hard-learned years of practice, preparing it for this supreme test.  The result was no horse, no rider, just one singular mission.  

     The rough-hewn lariat, desperate for escape strained against the iron grip of Joe's leather disguised hands.  There was little compromise in either.   The lariat slipped, then was pulled back in increments of hard fought inches, With a twist of the wrist, Joe whirled the rope around the saddle horn, his iron grip slowing its speed until the slack was gone, while another roper captured the calf's hind legs.  The calf bleated in surprise as its balance was compromised and it tumbled to the ground.

Hands of the Cowboy Artist

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     Bursting from the cloud, the calf scrambled to its mother's side, seeking comfort from this rude interruption of his carefree life.

     As Joe reeled in his rope, his horse shied and banged against the corral. Over the cacophony of hooves, barks, bellows and whines, a city slicker, who had been invited to watch, shouted, "How do they decide who will do the roping?"      With head tilted down, Joe guided his pony in a semicircle to face me.  All that could be seen was the top of his Stetson.  It seemed like forever before he answered, until a laconic drawl drifted up from beneath the broad rim, "Its a sign of respect".

The cowpoke holding the calf's head reached out and wiped his glove on his partner's chaps as if they were his own.  With perfect timing a big country kid of fourteen, commanding the respect of any other man, lumbered toward the scene holding a branding iron, and placed the hot poker on the calf's rump, causing a gray plume to ride the wind's updraft and momentarily eclipse sun and action.  

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