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Grandpa Van (Harold Van Wagonen) was the “only thing that worked” on our guest ranch when we bought it 21 years ago. He stayed. Everyone and almost everything else went. Gramps was no blood relation, but he took to our family, and we took to him. He just became “gramps” from a friendly social positioning, as a ranch co-worker,  and from a love of our family. Gramps was a retired sheet metal worker, welder, outdoorsman, fisherman, and pseudo cowboy. Pseudo ” because he didn’t own a horse, but verified cowboy by his attitude and his “lingo”.

If you hang around the old school cowboys, the western colloquialisms, and slang can be both difficult to navigate, as well as entertaining. Here are some choice phrases from gramps ” my favorite old cowboy/ ranch hand.

While working on the mower repair: “Hey greener, yer too slow to grow fast. Slide me that shilaylee and work that screw pusher”

Translation: “Hey young apprentice, you are moving too slow. Hand me my hammer and turn that screw with the screw driver”

While at Thanksgiving dinner: : “Ooo Eeee This grub goes down mighty easy an lines the ribs well. Push me another sop ” oh and I’ll also need one o’ them face mops.”

Translation: “Mmmmm ” this is delicious (easy down the throat). Please pass me another biscuit to sop up the gravy and one of those napkins to wipe my face”


Gramps, on the left, would use a “face-mop” not a napkin

While welding with his diminishing eye-sight: “Friglesnitz! I’m just pushin a hole round-abouts this pipe with this dang spark-jumper.”

Translation: Darn, I can’t see well enough and I’m just burning holes in the pipe, filling them with weld, then burning a new hole with this welder.

Grampa Van was a fanatical user of liquid nails in his construction habits. As he maintained his aging mobile home, he would say “Jest slather them pieces with liquid nails, and oooo-eeee that baby will never let go.” Liquid nails became his calling card, much like a snail leaves his slime trail everywhere it goes. My son Aaron and I borrowed his truck one day and when Aaron tried to move the cardboard Kleenex box off the dash, he found it liquid-nailed to the dashboard. Aaron retorted “Dad! I’ve been VAN-dalized!”  This has become a family mantra ever after in our recurring construction projects.

The classic moment for our recollection of gramps was in his last year with us. We watched him come out of his trailer to wash his dusty truck. When he threw the hose to the ground opposite the truck, the squeeze handle of the sprayer landed on the pavement and shot an arching rainbow of water over the truck and back onto gramps. We watched gramps look to the sky, furrow his brow and squint, he held his hand out testing the downpour, and moved back into the house with the hose still spraying water over the truck. The returning gramps was now properly attired in his Gorton’s sea food sailor cap, muck boots, and rain slicker. Our Mr. Magoo gramps had returned to clean up a fruitless truck-wash in the middle of an imagined rain shower.

Cowboys don’t come just on horseback. Sometimes they come into our lives as welders, ranch hands, adopted family, and new friends. Good cowboys ” leave with a generous supply of fond memories and a fresh supply of cowboy lingo. Yerp “Chucks-up. Think I’m gonna ride out an grabs some grub ” hope she goes down easy.


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