“Ranch Hand needed at the Bar-B Ranch…”
My parents found the classified ad in the Sanger Courier. I don’t remember the circumstances leading up to me getting a job at that age, I just remember that my parents took me to the small 114 acre ranch that was practically treeless and adjacent to I-35. There was a 4 stall stud barn that was connected to a small apartment and that is where Walter Barbie, the owner of the ranch, lived.
I knocked on the door and he came out smiling with his full moustache and thick gray hair. He wore blue ostrich skin Luchesse cowboy boots, wranger jeans and freshly starched shirts with fancy cuff links. He smoked a pipe that smelled like warm vanilla and I was immediately taken with him. He was like a character out of a western story, or like one of the Cartwrights from Bonanaza.
My parents pulled away and Mr. Barbie handed me a shovel and told me I could start by cleaning out the 4 horse stalls. He apologized for their filthiness and said that they hadn’t been cleaned in months. “Just push everything out the back door.”
I set to work without question. The stalls were a foot deep with packed down urine and manure. It came up in large clay-like sheets and there were green patches of mildew. I was no stranger to a shovel or manual labor and I worked like an illegal immigrant with a wife and three kids to feed. My motivation for hard work was not so that I could keep the job or because I had been taught to work hard, rather it was the desperate desire to wow and impress Mr. Barbie. I made it a mental game with myself so that when he came out of his little apartment looking dapper and cool, he would smile at me approvingly. I desprately desired his approval.
I worked hard all week and I could tell Mr. Barbie was pleased. The manure piled up 3-4 feet deep in the area behind the horse stalls and I had to wheel barrel it down the hill and dump it into a creek. The work was back breaking but I delighted in my accomplishment and Mr. Barbie was very kind to me.
After working for 40 hours that first week I finally worked up the courage to ask how much I was getting paid. “I was thinking about 2 dollars an hour.” In my mind I made a quick calculation – 80 bucks. I knew this wasn’t very much money, but I wanted so badly to please Mr. Barbie. I acquiesced to the meager amount and went home with my first paycheck.
During my time at the ranch I learned how to exercise horses in a round pen, how to brush and bathe them, how to grab a colts legs and help pluck it from it’s mother’s womb and how to whip an unruly stud into submission with a snaffle bit and the occasianal punch in the nose.
Mr. Barbie was an excellent teacher and he was fearless when it came to the horses. I admired and respected him immensely. He had a gray Cadillac Sedan De Ville that was one of the nicest cars I had ever ridden in and he would take me with him to Valley View to pick up feed. After a while, at 12 years old, he let me drive the 4 miles to Valley View and pick up the feed myself. I was mature for my age and already close to 5′ 7″ in height and so I could pass for 16.
My love and admiration grew for Mr. Barbie, but part of me sensed that there was something a little strange about him. He had a beautiful daughter who would come to visit on occasion as well as his ex-wife. She would stay with him for a few days and then leave. Then a week later there would be another woman at the house and she would stay for the weekend.
Once there was a huge rain storm and I got soaked while putting the studs up in the horse barn. My parents weren’t home and so they couldn’t come and pick me up, but I was done for the day. Mr. Barbie wasn’t home, but i knew this woman was there, I had seen her. I knocked on the door and asked to use the phone to call my parents. She smiled at me sweetly and I thought she was very pretty. She told me to come inside and then found me a towel and told me to dry off. I called my parents and they weren’t home and so she told me I could wait inside. She had made chocolate chip cookies that morning and asked me if I wanted some. While eating cookies and milk Mr. Barbie came home and we all made small talk. He gave me a dry shirt to change into and I delighted in the simple coziness of it all – but that coziness would soon come to and end.
One of my duties at the ranch was to burn Mr. Barbie’s trash in a large barrel. He’d leave his trash on the front steps of his porch and I would take it and burn it. One day he left a stack of Playboy magazines on the steps and I remember how I felt when I saw them. My heart thudded in my chest as if Mr. Barbie had stacked a dozen cobra’s on his porch. I knew that this was forbidden fruit, but it was also my duty to throw away the trash. With mixed emotions I scooped up the magazines and took them to the trash barrel.
The trash barrel was hidden behind a large barn that was on the north side of the property. No one could see what I was doing back there, no one was around except for Mr. Barbie and he rarely came out of his apartment.
I started a small fire in the barrel and started to burn the magazines, but like a kid with a box of cookies I couldn’t help but take a few bites. Before burning each magazine I quickly flipped the pages and sampled the goods. This was something I hadn’t seen before, but I knew I shouldn’t be seeing now. Page upon page of women in various poses, it was almost more than I could handle. I trembled with fear, disgust, excitement, wonder, awe… All twelve magazines were burning now and I watched as the nude bodies turned black and the pages curled. Part of me wanted to quickly stamp out the fire and hold on to this new found treasure but I knew that pornography was a sin, I had been taught of it’s dangers and I could see in just a few moments how quickly I could become ensnared.
As I was rifling through the magazines I hardly noticed that a smaller publication had fallen down on the ground next to the barrel. It was called “Temptations” or something else bawdy and alluring. I picked it up and turned through the pages. There were only a few pictures but they were much more graphic featuring men and women. While the other magazines continues to burn in the barrel, by body burned with lust. It was something I had never understood before, I was still pre-pubescent and I had no idea why my testicles became a cauldron of fire. This small magazine was filled with erotic stories and I quickly read a few lines. I couldn’t put it down, it was like a buffet of some mysteriously delicious meat and I wanted to devour it despite the fact that it made me sick to my stomach.
Finally I thrust the magazine into the fire and went back to doing my chores. Around lunch time my parents brought me a sandwich and I told them about the magazines. I was so torn with emotion. Mr. Barbie had been my hero and now he had tarnished my image of him by having these magazines.
After this incident, Mr. Barbie continued to grow stranger to me. There were times when he answered the door without any clothes on, sometimes he would be buck naked, other times he would use his cowboy hat to shield himself. It was all a lot to process at such a young age.
There were many things that happened at the Bar-B Ranch that should have been red flags that caused me to quit, but the final straw came when I was in a horse stall with a mare and I was trying to stuff worming medicine in her mouth with a caulking gun. The mare was only 2 years old with a gorgeous auburn coloring and a splash of white on her haunches as if she had been doused by a bucket of paint. She was muscularly built and she didn’t want to have any part of the worming medicine. Her head was in a bridle and she was tied with a a two foot rope to a ring in the wall.
Every time I came near her with the caulking gun her eyes looked at me as if I held a rattle snake. Her head jerked whiled and she bucked. “Grab her head!” Mr. Barbie shouted. He stood safely outside the stall and yelled instructions. “That’s it, grab her.” I’d have her for one moment and then she’d wrench free nearly ripping my arm out of socket. “Whip her!” Mr. Barbie handed me a whip that was used for running horses in the round pen. It was a long stick with a braided rope attached to the end of it. With a precise flick of the wrist it would elicit a loud snap and that alone would spur the horses on.
I held the whip in one hand, the caulking gun in the other. I whipped Sally once on the bum and all hell broke loose. She snorted and her legs flailed wildly. Somehow she was able to contort her body in such a way that her powerful legs were directly squarely at me. She kicked once, twice, three times before I could even move and the last kick cause me squarely on the side of my thigh. Pain shot through my body as I hurled myself to the door.
Mr. Barbie inspected my leg and could see that it was quickly swelling into a horse shoe shaped bruise. He went inside and got me and ice pack and then took me home.
After that I was more timid around the horses. I had already been bitten multiple times, thrown off of a horse’s back, once a horse reared up and pawed me in the back – I had just about had enough. Towards the end Mr. Barbie became more reclusive too. When he’d answer the door he’d barely open it and give me instructions. Sometimes he’d still not be wearing clothes, other times he seemed dazed and confused.
During my year at the Bar-B Ranch I learned too much too soon. At the time I didn’t realize that seeds were being planted and that one day they would take root and grow into something that would become out of my control.
The Bar-B Ranch is a chapter in my life filled with a lot of good memories, but some bad memories are burned into my head and I cannot forget, no matter how hard I try, I cannot forget. The filth that has accumulated in my head over the years has piled up like the manure in those stalls and I cannot rid it with a shovel. The Bar – B Ranch was the beginning of some terribe things for me and I still don’t know when those things will end.
Authors Note: If you have a child that you have caught looking at inappropriate pictures on the internet, do something immediately. Make them aware of the consequences, if not, it is something that they will regret for the rest of their lives.