Wild turkeys scatter outside the Pitchfork Ranch cookhouse as I meander up the concrete sidewalk in the gray light of dawn. The welcome aroma of bacon, biscuits and huevos drifts from the kitchen. Ranch manager Bob Moorhouse and his trusted wagonboss, James Gholson, are seated at the far end of the dining hall, sipping their first cups of coffee and conversing in low tones.
Sleepy cowboys sit motionless on benches around the edge of the whitewashed room as the cook sets platters of hot food on the 25-foot dining table. Stoneware plates, set upside down to cover each set of silverware, are arranged in perfect geometric order. Using great restraint, nobody moves a muscle until the last steaming platter has been placed on the table and the cook rings the cookhouse bell. Two seconds after the first clang, the cowboys spear sausages and spoon white gravy as though they haven't eaten for a week.
As I fork down my breakfast in silence - a silence not only acceptable, but often appreciated by other cowboys first thing in the morning - I can't help but connect with those who've eaten their meals before us at this historic table. In the ranch's 100-year history, 173 miles of breakfast have been served on that table. That's enough, if laid out end-to-end, to stretch all the way from Lubbock to San Angelo, Texas.
For the rest of this story, see the January 2006 issue of Western Horseman.