Tom Ross: Cow bones make fine holiday gifts | SteamboatToday.com

Tom Ross: Cow bones make fine holiday gifts

Jo Stanko, a member of the Routt County CattleWomen, herds bulls to a new pasture in June 2007.

Steamboat Springs — I saddled up Old Paint on Saturday morning and rode into Strawberry Park for the Christmas in the Rockies craft fair. I was hoping to find the ideal gift for a Wisconsin cowgirl. The Routt County CattleWomen exceeded my expectations with one of the most ingenious luxury spa products you have ever seen. — I saddled up Old Paint on Saturday morning and rode into Strawberry Park for the Christmas in the Rockies craft fair. I was hoping to find the ideal gift for a Wisconsin cowgirl. The Routt County CattleWomen exceeded my expectations with one of the most ingenious luxury spa products you have ever seen.

— I saddled up Old Paint on Saturday morning and rode into Strawberry Park for the Christmas in the Rockies craft fair. I was hoping to find the ideal gift for a Wisconsin cowgirl. The Routt County CattleWomen exceeded my expectations with one of the most ingenious luxury spa products you have ever seen.

Ranchers Mary Kay Monger and Becky Appel were seated at a modest table near the front of the Strawberry Park Elementary School arcade, selling products to benefit their organization. The CattleWomen are dedicated to supporting the beef industry through education and marketing. They are also bent on preserving their Western heritage. And if there’s anything I like better than a juicy rib eye, it’s sinking my teeth into some Western heritage.

I’m a sucker for the paper dinner napkins the CattleWomen sell. They are printed with most of the cattle brands in the valley. I grabbed a pack to use as a stocking stuffer.

But the item that caught my eye was very different.

Let me reprint the product description just as it appears on the leather hang tag and see if you can guess what it is.

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“This bovine engineered, designed-by-nature, agriculturally correct product was sun cured in one of Routt County, Colo.’s, high mountain valleys.

“It is reversible – can be used either right or left-handed and only comes in bone white. It is one-hundred percent recycled.”

Leave it to the CattleWomen to recognize that the bleached rib bone of a long departed Hereford cow makes a right fine back scratcher. They select only the finest ribs from the bone pile up on the mesa behind the barn and give them an extra bleaching in a tub of Clorox. They finish their backscratchers off with a handy rawhide thong knotted around the knobby end of the bone where it attaches to the spine. Best of all, they cost only $10! When you consider the value of a cow on the hoof, each rib is precious.

I suggest you buy one for your sweetie and slip it in her stocking on Christmas Eve.

Without really meaning to, we stumbled into a Wild West weekend Dec. 7 and 8. It began Friday night at the opening of the Elling William “Bill” Gollings show at the Steamboat Art Museum at 807 Lincoln Ave. We topped the night off with a sleigh ride and calf-roping lesson at Saddleback Ranch.

If you are not familiar with the oil paintings of Gollings, Wyoming’s foremost cowboy artist, think Charlie Russell and you won’t be far off. This is easily the most stunning show of period Western oil paintings by a single artist that Steamboat has ever seen.

Gollings, as described in the new book on his work by William T. Ward and Gary M. Temple, was first a cowboy and probably “as well educated as anyone having an eighth grade diploma.”

He lived from 1878 to 1932 and observed the taming of the West firsthand. His paintings glow with color and portray an enlightening view of the Wyoming rangeland in the early 20th century. His subjects are Indian encampments he visited, wild animals, blizzards and cow ponies.

This is the kind of art exhibit that could go a great way toward raising awareness of Steamboat Springs as a place to see fine Western art in context. And you don’t have to hurry in to see Golling’s work – the collection will be on display through April 13.

Just make certain you don’t let the winter slip by without spending several hours at the museum.

And if you’ve got a back itch, you know how to scratch it.