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Ranch spelling bee

Tayler Teichert for Progressive Cattleman Published on 25 May 2017
roping a horse

Spelling was not my strongest subject in elementary school (to be honest, it still isn’t), but thankfully spell check is as common as the cold nowadays. Whether it was your forte or not, some schools had an annual spelling bee to determine who the queen (or king) bee was.

If you’re unfamiliar with the rules of a spelling bee, the judges are allowed to assist the speller by using the word in a sentence, giving the definition and telling the origin of the word. Often the words were completely unfamiliar to the student and this assistance from the judge would make all the difference to the speller.

A spelling bee is a lot like ranching, except ranchers won’t assist you in the way a spelling judge might. When they use completely foreign words, you are left to decipher the definition, translation, origin and spelling of their everyday lingo all by yourself. And this can make life difficult and entertaining all at once.

To help you in your next ranch “spelling bee,” I’ve decided to tell you about a few of the tricky words I have come across in my ranching adventures. I will first give you the word and if necessary, the pronunciation, followed by its origin. Then I will use it in a sentence as I once heard it. Finally, I will explain how it translates to you and me, and a word that might seem common or familiar.

Auttagate (auto gates)

  • Origin: Nebraska Sandhills
  • Sentence: “You’re going to go down this road for a ways; then you’ll take a left after the auttagate.”
  • I was excited this new place I came to work had automatic gates. Score! Nope ... Auttagates are not automatic gates. They are gates for your automobile to drive over, also known as cattle guards.
  • Auttagates = Cattle guards

Door (not what you’re thinking)

  • Origin: Nevada
  • Sentence: “Do you want me to build you a new door in that corner over there?”
  • We are not talking about a corner of a house; there was a fencer at Winnemucca Farms who called gates doors.
  • Door = Gate


  • Origin: Nebraska
  • Sentence: “How many ceaves did you see over in that pasture?”
  • Now just imagine that strung in a sentence with auttagates and such. Say calves in your best Australian accent and you’ll be close to how they say it.
  • Ceaves = Calves

Front arms

  • Origin: Nevada
  • Sentence: “He was really bucking around on his front arms, next!”
  • There is an Indian I got the chance to know, and he always called horses’ legs arms. So horses have front and back arms, and instead of hooves, they were hands! Also he slid the word “next” into his sentences, and it doesn’t have to make sense at all.
  • Front arms = Front legs
  • Next = Random filler word

Rubber snapper

  • Origin: Nebraska
  • Sentence: “Did you see where I lost my rubber snapper?”
  • Now my mind might be in the gutter, but the first time I got asked about a rubber snapper my mind went dirty. We got a good laugh once I got informed they were called bungee cord rubber snappers. Noted!
  • Rubber snapper = Bungee cord

Champion front feeter

  • Origin: Nevada
  • Sentence: The champion front feeter is John Doe!
  • “2005 Champion Front Feeter” actually got put on a trophy buckle. I can’t help but imagine the company making the buckles busting a gut when they got that order. In Nevada a lot of ranch rodeos have horse roping where one cowboy necks the horse and the other team member ropes the horse by both front feet. So what they meant to say was John Doe was the champion of roping the front feet. But I don’t know if “champion front footer” sounds much better.
  • Champion front feeter = Champion front footer (I guess)

There are probably a lot more of these around, but I grew up with them, and I don’t realize that they aren’t normal. So next time I use a word in a sentence that doesn’t sound quite right, ask me about it, and I will try and define it for you. Maybe I will even know its origin, and if we are lucky, my phone will be handy with spell check and I can even spell it for you!  end mark

Tayler Teichert, a 24-year-old sixth-generation rancher, was born and raised ranching across the American West. Since she left home, she has worked in the Sandhills of Nebraska, the shadows of Elk Mountain, the high desert of Idaho and the sage of northern Nevada. You can learn more about Tayler and check out her photography on her website.

PHOTO: Tub Blanthorne "front footing" a horse at McDermitt Ranch Rodeo. Photo by Tayler Teichert.