Rod Miller: Saving Daylight Around the Ol’ Campfire

Columnist Rod Miller writes, "Dawn was still just a milky rumor in the eastern sky when Cookie started the campfire. Drowsy cowboys snored in their bedrolls, sounding like a chainsaw fight."

Rod Miller

March 10, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Dawn was still just a milky rumor in the eastern sky when Cookie started the campfire. Drowsy cowboys snored in their bedrolls, sounding like a chainsaw fight. 

Cookie kicked at each pair of boots sticking out of soogans and growled, “Wake up, you wastrels. We’re burnin’ daylight.”

Trail-weary cowboys stood, stretched and grumbled, “Coffee. Now!”

“Criminantly,” growled Saratoga Slim, “sure seems like I missed some beauty rest.”

Cookie banged on a skillet with the butt of his Peacemaker to call the throng to breakfast. He turned to Slim and explained, “That’s cuz o’ Daylight Savin’ Time. You only think it's early, but we lost an hour of time last night.”

Slim looked puzzled. 

“All the clocks got set ahead an hour. Deal with it.”, Cookie explained. “But don’t get yer bustle in a bunch, they’ll get set back next Fall, and we’ll make that hour up.”

It was apparently too early in the morning to be presenting these simple trail hands with quadratic equations like that, and confusion showed on their faces lit up by the campfire.

“Waaait just a goldarned minute,” muttered Panhandle, “you mean that the boss makes us miss an hour of sleep now just so he can work us an extra hour in a few months? That don’t seem to be the Cowboy Way at all.”

Cowhands set down their coffee cups and started counting on fingers, nodding at Panhandle’s wisdom. This knowledge did nothing to improve their sour, sleepy mood. 

Grizzled old Hard Tack, who had worked for his share of fatback, greedhead bosses in his time, addressed his companeros, “I’ve seen them bastids pull a passel o’ dirty tricks, but if this don’t beat all. Stealin’ time from the workin’ man. It's downright un-American.”

The Kemmerer Kidid, fieriest of the bunch stood in the gathering dawn and shouted to the crew, “Lets unionize! Lets show them sumbitches we won’t be treated like a bunch o’ peons.”

Stetsons nodded in the campfire glow, and a chorus of raspy voices answered, “Damn straight!” and “Power to the People!”

Between mouthfuls of beans and bacon, the dusty rebels made plans for their own union, to collectively bargain over what time they should get up and go to work. Little groups of cowboys coalesced around one idea or another.

The crew was just about to discuss who should be elected shop steward and break the news to the Big Boss that he now had a union crew of broncpeelers on his hands when the trail boss sauntered into their midst.

He pulled a sack of Bull Durham from his pocket and rolled a smoke. “Y’all cain’t unionize,” he offered. “Yer a contrary bunch o’ rugged individualists, not commies. Y’all should be ‘shamed o’ yerselves.”

Downcast cowboy glances greeted this western truism, a line drawn in the dust. Those glances because wide-eyed stares of near panic when the trail boss said, “Them cows got up at the regular time, and the herds got an hour head start down the trail.”

He tapped ash on the ground, screwed his hat down tight and said to his men, “We’re gonna have to ride like hell to catch up with ‘em. Shake a leg, boys. Spring forward! We’re burnin’ daylight.”

Rod Miller can be reached at:

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist