Maverick; or, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

by cowboylands

MAVERICK. Ask not how many times you can say a word, but why you need to say the word so many times in the first place.

“Maverick.” Thou shalt not repeat a word in the hopes that it sticks. 

“Maverick” took on a pop culture tone in the 1950s with James Garner’s hat-pushed back, insouciant gambler. The middle class may well look askance at the connotation of “gambler”; I, for one, would not hand over my hard-earned cash to a gambler. I wouldn’t hand over thousands to myself without some sort of “understanding,” much less some person who has a moniker that means a motherless calf.

October 7, 1979,  was the last day that the Ninety-Six Ranch ran a round-up. Northern Nevada was home to buckaroos and cattle-punchers bringing home their bacon–er, beef–for a century at least, and these 1979 photos (minus the Maverick TV show still, show colors from the cusp of the twilight of the twentieth century that are richer than any digital camera. The figures more dense and alive, the villains and heroes less everyday. 

A cattle drive had its beginning in the birth of calves. You can imagine the difficulty in figuring out whose calf belonged to whom. Just picture the satisfaction in being able to brand the animals whose mothers had died or gone MIA–they were mavericks, whose provenance was unclear. 

Maverick connotes a being who does not have a master, but the conception of it is rooted in animals whose uncertainty drives them erratically from dam to dam, looking for the suckling milk. Unless the brand sears them with a place, name, and all-around sense of well-being, they are driven by need to be liked, wanted, and appreciated. 

The TV show does its share of creating a devil-may-care feeling toward the name “Maverick.” The reality of bawling calves suggests the opposite. 

Just a thought: It’s time for twenty-first century politicians to publicly acknowledge the bawling calves and the gambler when they appropriate the word “maverick.”  It’s only right. 









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