This Christmas season, I want to help those in need. Anybody who has a cowboy or rancher on their Christmas list needs some good gift ideas. With my help, maybe shoppers won't resort to buying the cowboy or rancher on their list another western shirt.
We'll start with their hobbies and interests, and what comes to mind is good quality fencing equipment. Ranches require a lot of fixing and cobbling on fences and sometimes have to have new fence built. Consider getting good fencing pliers or quality fence stretchers -- especially if you like the recipient's wife. Ranchers and cowboys will pinch along with broken, rusty, hard-to-operate tools, and their wives deserve better. After getting frustrated with shoddy fencing equipment, I gave my rancher each of these gifts. Every time I fix fence, I'm grateful that I gave him quality fencing pliers that open and close and fence stretchers that hold wire. Bonus tip: Top the package with extra springs instead of a bow.
Depending on one's budget, electricity is a safe but useful gift. The majority of these guys believe that they can save money on electrical work simply by using heavy duty power cords or reusing electrical wire from the 1930s. If hiring an electrician is not feasible, a free-standing shop light is a great alternative. Flood lights can be a big improvement in a shop with bad lighting as a result of a "did-it-himself" wiring job.
Since ranchers are not likely to buy an owner's manual if his used farm machinery didn't come with one when he bought it, so giving a manual as a gift could be a time, money and sanity saver when he has a meltdown over breakdowns. It could benefit the people who have to live with him as well.
For the older rancher who's accumulated everything, a box of brand new nails is another superb time-saving gift idea. Depression-era-raised ranchers especially will spend hours straightening bent nails they've saved to avoid having to buy new ones.
A liniment kit for aches, pains, sore muscles, headaches and head colds would make any cowboy or rancher feel good. These men will keep going in spite of their ailments, so why not keep them going pain free?
A box of brand new disposable syringe needles would also get used ... sparingly. Ranchers and cowboys are notorious for using disposable needles beyond their recommended use and an entire box would last them a long, long time; or, how about a new vaccine gun? A new one would be handy to have as a backup or as an extra, and new replacement parts would extend the life of a current one that's been leaking for 10 years.
For an inexpensive but long-lasting gift, consider a package of good quality, plain, black ink ballpoint click pens. If the recipient only uses one pen all the time, a whole package would last him a lifetime.
A carpentry tool kit is an ideal gift also. Unlike a chainsaw, these tools were designed for construction work and do a far better job at cutting lumber accurately for corral, chute and other ranch projects.
As you can see, there are plenty of things a cowboy or rancher could use. Another western shirt just isn't one of them.
Amy and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle, S.D. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com.