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Modern Cowboy: A lifestyle still as rough and tumble as the frontier

This isn’t a recreational vehicle you can take out whenever you’re up to it,” Seimer says. “Horses aren’t much different from people.”


is Independence barber shop walls are draped with faces familiar to any fan of
the Western genre.
John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood.
They’re all here.
So are the other parts that make up the American cowboy: the 10-gallon hat, bull horns, a rope looped
into a lasso.
For Ron Siemer, these vestiges of a lifestyle as rough and tumble as the frontier are forgotten – but not
He is living proof.


iemer is a man who has fire water in his cup and in his veins.
A while back he was booted in the ankle by a horse. Right away, he knew it was broken.
Not that he much cared.
“I think we depend too much on the generosity of other people when it comes to doctoring ourselves,”
says Siemer, talking beneath a cowboy hat that’s dirty and swabbed in sweat stains. His eyes are as gray
as the overcast sky; his mustache is worn like an upside-down horseshoe.
It was weeks before Siemer got the break looked at by a doctor that didn’t come in a shot glass.
The busted ankle was set in a hard cast. Only recently was Siemer downgraded to a fracture boot.
He wore it out of the doctor’s office, but ditched it at first chance.
“The only boots I wear are my cowboy boots,” Siemer says.


iemer looks forward to Mondays. Unlike other people, for him Monday isn’t the day to kick off a work week.
That would be Tuesday, when he trades cowboy for barber, working the day hours at the Siemer Barber
Shop on Missouri 291 in Independence. He opened the place in 1992. Siemer isn’t enamored with the
notion of cutting hair; although good at it (he’s been barbering since his high school years), he much
prefers the conversation.
“I enjoy the company of others,” Siemer says.
Four years ago, Siemer opened the Blue and Gray Livery Stables in Grain Valley. In terms of horses,
Blue and Gray offers boarding, training services (including barrel racing, reining and roping with calves
available on-site), rentals – Siemer leads rides through the 1,700 acres of trails at the nearby Blue and
Gray State Park – and horses for sale.
“I’m not one to hand over just any horse your finger points at,” Siemer says. “I want to pair my horses with your personality and experience; it’ll know whether you can ride it or not.”
Everyone who stables a horse with Seimer knows the promise: if you can’t visit your horse three days a week, better board elsewhere.
“This isn’t a recreational vehicle you can take out whenever you’re up to it,” Seimer says. “Horses aren’t much different from people.”
Siemer said there’s few things he enjoys more than teaching someone else the art of horsemanship.
After all, such is his solace.


iemer owns eight horses, but there’s only one he thinks of as a good buddy.
He goes by Jack, and he’s a 13-year-old quarter horse the color of fertile earth.
“Jack’s my roping horse,” Siemer says, “and a damn fine horse at that.”
Siemer is applying an antiseptic to a wound Jack suffered a few days back. Siemer was called to retrieve some cattle that got away from a local farmer. Jack was gouged in the ankle by some barbed wire.
If need be, Siemer would have stitched it himself.
“You better learn on your feet if you’re going to do this right,” he says. “When I was a kid, my dad’s dad taught me that a cut can turn bad real quick if you’re not careful.”
One minute of being ignored, and Jack is employing his snout to knock over a shovel.
“You cut that out,” says Siemer, finger pointing. “Don’t you do that.”
Today, Siemer isn’t in the mood for funny business.
He’s running on four hours sleep in three days.
Siemer’s father needed him to relocate 500 head of cattle to another farm in Princeton, Mo. Four hundred or so were loaded up and hauled in trailers.
The rest were transported the old-fashioned way.
Siemer took several horses with him for the cattle drive and recruited 15 of the finest riders he knew.
“We stirred up the neighborhood, all right,” says Siemer, eyeballing Jack, who is nodding his head and neighing. “We had a couple of crazy cows that weren’t about to mind.”
One of them kicked a mare called Rhapsody in the ribs; none were broken. Seimer bought Rhapsody because of her bloodline, which traces back to one of the first horses he ever knew.
“She got lucky,” says Siemer just as Jack is about to knock over a sack of feed. “Well if you aren’t some kind of puppy dog.”


iemer boasts that he can break any horse, no matter its temperament.
At the moment, he’s training four horses, none of whom compare to a Palmetto mare he had several years back.
The 5-year-old horse was raised by the Amish, renowned for the physical demands they place on farm animals. This horse was no exception.
A man had dropped the horse off assuming it was without hope.
Early on, Siemer escorted the mare to a small pen and, as soon as he closed the gate behind him, it leapt over him – and the fence.
After bringing it back to the pen, Siemer saddled the horse, climbed aboard and – after nearly getting bucked – was able to bring calm.
“It was fear,” Siemer says. “Once the fear was gone, she was a very good horse.”
Siemer says his grandfather also taught him patience.
“He told me any horse can learn,” Siemer says. “It’s just a matter of whether you’re willing to put up with its refusal to learn.”
Another horse infamous for its foul temperament was Jack.
Siemer knew the horse sounded familiar when he got a call from a man he’d done construction for who’d bought a horse so big a rascal it warranted a private fence.
He asked if Siemer could right the horse.
He said he’d give it a try.
Upon arrival, Siemer recognized the horse.
“I told my wife, Paige, I knew this horse,” Siemer says. “I never forgot it.”
Siemer had trained the horse for a woman who gifted it to her granddaughter. The horse hadn’t lasted but a few years before it was on the market.
Now, it was set to be sold again.
The man complained the horse bucked. Seimer corrected him.
“It’s what we call a kick-out,” Seimer said. “If you told Jack to do something he didn’t want to do, he’d kick his hind feet out and scare the guy to get off; Jack put the buffalo on him.”
The man had lost all patience and offered to sell to Seimer, who was obliged.
“I always saw a lot of myself in Jack,” says Seimer as Jack’s head comes to rest on Seimer’s shoulder. “I will bury him.”
The Seimer family owns a small pet cemetery where only the friendliest animals are buried.
But Jack’s demise is not a matter for today; virtually all the horses in the cemetery were in their 30s when they passed.
Jack, meanwhile, has heard enough. He stomps his foot in protest.
“You’re just begging to hit that trail, aren’t you?” says Seimer, laughing.


eimer is, in many ways, a vision from the past.
He’d be a better fit for the mid to late 1800s (in fact, he made a cameo in “Ride with the Devil,” a film set along the Missouri-Kansas border during the Civil War). One need not look at his face to surmise as much: his fingers and knuckles are ravaged by scabs and scars.
Seimer says his favorite thing about living in the Midwest is the winters, when he can hitch a horseback ride during a snowfall.
“When everything has that blanket of white on it, it’s like you’re in a different time,” he says.
Step onto the grounds of his ranch, and you’ll know what he means.
A simple barn surrounded by open country. No noise save the wind scratching against wheat.
And then there’s a voice.
A baritone as deep as a river channel.
Then another one.
It’s that of a girl who’s learning to ride for the first time.

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