I could tell A.C. Buchanan was a dally man. It wasn’t the bow legs, the tan line across his forehead, or the calloused hands. It was, rather, the missing tip of his thumb that gave him away.
Cattlemen out west can be divided between those who tie their ropes hard and fast and those who dally. One group ties the end of their rope to their saddle horn before they ever leave the corral. For instance, when they rope a steer out on the range, in order to doctor it up, all they have to do is toss a loop over the critter and get their pony to shut it down. The steer dashes toward safety, but is brought down hard when he reaches the end of the rope. This way he’s not lost, unless the rope breaks.
The other type of roper slips the loop over the bovine, then quickly wraps the rope around the saddle horn. This is called dallying the rope, a term which comes from the Spanish “dar la vuelta”, which means to take a turn or twist with the rope. The advantage of this type of roping is that it gives a little more flexibility to each unique situation. The cowboy can shorten or lengthen the rope to make it less harsh on the steer. But there’s a drawback to being a dally man. Sometimes the thumb gets caught in the rope as he twists it around the saddle horn. A tip of a thumb can get clipped or a whole thumb. That’s what happened to A.C. Buchanan.
Now it seems to me that parents can adopt a dally-like attitude with their children. The Bible says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). We try to hold hard and fast to discipline principles. However, each child and their situations vary. Effective discipline doesn’t just jerk them down. To dally takes a bit more precision . . . and there’s the risk of personal discomfort for the parent . . . but it enables each kid to become who God created them specially to be.
Award-winning Western Author