“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them” – Hemingway
After his misfortune as a guest of the State of California and the U.S. Penal System, Orie found that he was no longer eligible for a lot of rights most of us have grown accustomed to. At that time in 1954, in most states he could not get a driver’s license, vote, hold a government job or even get a bank loan due to his felony history. He was obliged to be at the mercy of only those that were willing to take a chance on him. Those chances were most easily taken on the farms, fruit orchards and ranches of western Colorado. When Orie first came to the Grande Valley area he picked peaches in the orchards of Palisade and Fruita. He was able to work on the sugar-beet farms surrounding Delta. He stuck to the Bo ethic of always taking the worst jobs on the farm, always willing to work and as trust grew hopefully being moved to a job of more responsibility or if laid off a chance to be hired again.
In a couple of years this led to what he called a decent job as a farm hand on a large farm on the slopes leading to the Grand Mesa where the cattle were raised on the rich buffalo grasses of the leased government lands that encircled the area. He said he was on a horse 12 hours a day for 6 years straight tending to cattle and horses for the farm. He branded calves, castrated little bulls into steers and helped heifers birth their young. He separated cattle by their brand on the slopes of the Grand Mesa and rounded his farm’s animals up to take them to market after they’d put on a few hundred pounds. This all sounded an awful lot like working on a ranch as a cowboy to me but Orie never wanted to be called that. He explained that he and the other hands he worked with were more than that, cowboys were movie heroes, city slicker wannabees and worked on dude ranches.
He passionately said “Everything I wore as a farm hand had a purpose and if I didn’t need it I wouldn’t have carried it. The boot heels kept my feet from slipping through the stirrups, the spurs were to kick the shit out of a stubborn horse I’d drawn for the week, some horses I didn’t have to wear’em, the chaps was for keeping the oak brush from ripping my pants off and the goddamn hat kept the sun off my face and the rain from running down my neck. If I could have worn street shoes, loose pants and a fedora I would have.”
“We weren’t playing at being a fuckin’ cowboy out there, we were workin’ our asses off.”.
He took me to a horse sale once and I met his old friends that he had worked with on the ranch ..er farm. I now know what real cowboys look like and a little about how they think. I’ve seen how broke down men can get from sitting in a saddle all day manhandling a 1500 pound horse and coaxing 900 pound cattle with a rope and a kick. I haven’t wanted to wear a pair of cowboys boots or a hat since.
During this time Orie did manage to raise a family. He had a wife, a boy and a girl. He never talked about his wife. I didn’t know what happened to her, I mentioned it once and it was the only time he totally ignored one of my questions. I met his son and daughter. All that I know is that in the early sixties she must not have been there. During that time is when his friend Ramone made him the offer to marry his daughter. Orie wouldn’t have done that for nothing either. He was somewhat of a business man and I’m sure money was changed hands for Orie to have taken on another wife. After the shooting and the eight months in the V.A. hospital, Orie simply wasn’t able to farm hand on a horse anymore. He was lucky to only need a cane, it was a wonder he wasn’t in a wheelchair.
Millions of chickens are eaten each week in this country. If you don’t know, trust me, you don’t want to know how those birds are processed from the cute Easter chickie to the neat plastic packages we pickup at the grocery store. The poultry processing plants and their methods are not pretty. They are loosely regulated and are the topic of state legislation each session. If we ever plan to eat a nice grilled chicken sandwich again then enough said about that. I say this because chickens were one of Orie Penny’s passions. And talking about the humane treatment of them cannot be avoided here.
Orie wasn’t interested in the eggs, the drumsticks or the quality of the white meat of the chicken. What he was interested in was down deeper in the bird, down in the guts, the intestinal fortitude of the males. He raised, groomed and trained fighting cocks. And he knew how to do it. His birds were sought after all over the western United States.
Now understand, I knew Orie in the early and mid- 70’s. Cock fighting was already illegal in most of the United States. Now it’s illegal in all 50. Louisiana just prohibited it a few years ago. It is not illegal to raise, train or sell fighting cocks in any state that I know of. Orie raised and trained them. I never saw any deals made or money changing hands pertaining to his chickens. That’s a note I want to make very clear here.
Now as I’ve said, Orie’s left hip was blown away and miraculously reconstructed well enough that he could walk with a cane and even ride his adopted pinto mustang horse for a few hours. But sadly the one thing he wanted to do most was being in the cockpit training and handling his latest prize rooster in a cock-fight. But he couldn’t do it because of the hip and energy required to handle a fighting rooster in a fight. This really needs explaining.
You see, a cock fight is to the death. When you enter your rooster into a match, there is a 100% chance one or both of the cocks are going to die due to the needle sharp gaffs that are tied to their legs over their spurs. To win the fight cleanly your rooster will place the gaff squarely through the opposing birds back. It can be very bloody or it can be very quick. It is very expensive in time and money to buy and train them. Huge amounts of money are hanging on each fight. Wagering is the main reason the fights are illegal, not for the welfare of the birds. Consequently each bird has a handler inside the ring during the match. To fight the birds you must have a good handler. After only a few weeks of knowing Orie, he had picked me to begin training as one. A handler has to be able to keep his mouth shut too. Orie was trusting me to do this for him. It has been over 40 years and I feel I am breaking his trust just writing this. So please, consider the next pages as fiction. You know, to totally confuse the reader, the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.