Cowboy for a Modern Age

The Texas Story Project.

My father, David Domingue, first came to Camp La Junta as a first year camper from Lake Charles, Louisiana when he was eight years old.

Today, over fifty years later, he is partial owner of that same camp with a job description too complicated to explain. However, despite his somewhat elevated status as “Wrangler Dave” he still is committed to teaching his campers about what he calls “Old Western tradition.” As he described it to me, this means learning how the people of Texas lived when the area was first settled and learning how to think and problem-solve without modern conveniences. The anecdote he used to describe this to me began with a Rough-Rider trip. A Rough Rider trip is, in layman’s terms, an endeavor in which eight of the best horseback riders in camp go on a trip with Wrangler Dave in which they learn the basics of cattle working and other skills. On this particular trip, in the days before cellular communication and weather radar, the group got caught in a sudden and severe lightning storm. The rain was so heavy that the horses turned their ears downwards to keep the water out and the lightning was striking the power line they rode next to, running up and down it, causing it to glow and crackle. Around this time, my father decided that he should be somewhere else and led the campers into a hollow to take shelter from the wind. However, this shelter turned out to be a poor choice as the rain was severe enough to raise the water up to the horses’ knees. Leaving the hollow, the troop eventually reached their destination, however, they had to cross a dam to reach their cabin, a dam across a river that was swollen from the rain. In order to ensure a safe crossing, my father took his horse, Lefty, whom he described as a good horse he never really liked, and crossed first securing a rope that the campers could cling to as their horses forded the dam. Eventually all the campers crossed the river and found shelter and warm clothes. The strangest thing about the story, however, is the fact that, despite the obviously miserable time the campers must have endured, this is the story my father hears about most often from the campers, now turned parents, on opening and closing days.

John Domingue is a first year student at St. Mary’s university majoring in mechanical engineering. He was raised on Camp La Junta in Hunt, Texas.

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