Sunday, February 15, 2009

Brains versus testostrone

I am going to include a cowboy story I wrote this fall, little long but it took little long to live it also. true story, as God is my wittness.

Brains versus Testosterone

Chapter One:

Good fences make good neighbors

A long and convoluted story, might as well get started..

In the beginning there were twelve bulls kept in the dry lot at Shaky, Shaky so named for it's finances which back in the seventy's were shaky by all accounts. I volunteered to feed them corn in the evening, Shaky is close to my place and figured it would be good for the grandkids. Mostly I carried the buckets while the kids did the head count, didn't take long to see we had a problem. The dry lot had old highway guardrail around most of it's perimeter but a 90 foot section on the west side was high tension electric fence. In the extreme northwest corner a board down low was missing. We named the red bull Houdini for his abilities to escape, his favorite trick being to get on his knees and crawl under at the missing board.

Couldn't blame him, what with a nice herd of cows only one pasture and a electric fence away. Will asked me to help get him put back in, again. I saddled up Molly and grabbed Kayla my granddaughter and off we went, once there we opened the gate to a second dry lot and ran the remaining bulls into it this allowed us to leave the gate open between the upper pasture and the first dry lot. Myself on Molly, Will and Kayla in the old red Chevy we went to the hidden valley pasture to round up the herd Will along the way assuring me he had the weak fence corner fixed righteous.

The logic to moving the whole heard up was simply no way Houdini was coming by himself. The round up went smoothly, after getting to the lot it only took a couple of tries to get Houdini and a few of his favorite cows in the dry lot, once in I was able to cut the cows out while Will and Kayla watched the gate, the key to the operation is to simply be smarter then the bull, he is just following his pecker, we got brains.

Shutting the gate to the pasture I am to ride Molly thru the mud, oh yes I am up to my ankles in mud and worse then open the gate to the second dry lot letting the other bulls back in to the first dry lot where we have old Houdini corralled, while I am doing this simple operation Kayla and Will are going to use the pickup to drive the cows back to the lower pasture, Kayla loves to chase and drive livestock often doing it just for the pure joy of it much like a mad dog chases sheep, to be able to do it lawfully is almost more joy then she can bear, they take off bouncing across the pasture the red Chevy's horn honking Kayla hanging out the window whooping like a mad Apache her blond hair flying.

I turn from this sight to open my gate, as I bend over I glance back into the dry lot, I quickly jerk myself upright and look again from side to side, end to end, Houdini is GONE.

I start running thru the mud towards the bouncing red pickup yelling waving and cursing, “it's a trick, turn back , turn back”, my efforts are in vain, Will and Kayla are having to much fun, cows jumping and running in front of them horn honking Kayla shrieking out the window. They never would have stopped except Houdini cut in front of the pickup, as Will tells it, “all of a sudden there was set of nuts swinging in front of me”.

We patched the fence, again, stuck old Houdini back in, again, went for supper and came back, again,I was right behind Will & Kayla when we pulled back into the yard, when I got out Kayla was jumping up and down yelling and laughing,”Will said the F word, Will said the F word”. I followed Will's gaze to see every bull we had out in the pasture. One of the bulls, let me guess, Houdini, had got his head under the gate and wrenched it off the hinges. We fixed the the gate and rounded up the bulls, again,or at least we rounded them all up except Houdini, he had made his way thru a 7000 volt fence and was back in the hidden valley pasture with his harem. Clearly it was going to be along summer.

Chapter Two:

The Black Sheep Land and Cattle Company

Got it's start the evening we rounded up the black Muscovy ducks, I never wanted them in the first place, Will had gone to a exotic animal auction a month earlier buying a goose, the four Muscovy's, two West Indies ducks and some fancy schmancy chickens. At the time his folks were in Mexico, my thinking is on the way home he got cold feet thinking they might not appreciate his purchases so he just dumped them off. I welcomed the chickens and the West Indies, the goose although welcome split after a couple days never to be seen again. The Muscovy's were the ugliest birds I had ever seen, not only that but they ranged over the whole neighborhood and of late had began to fly all over my end of town. Was clear the heat would soon be down on me.

I pondered the problem then recalled Will had a farm pond, after all they were not my damn ducks anyway, right?

Armed with a old fish net and small cage we scoured the hood for them finally finding them down in the little creek east of my place, certainly we never looked smarter then we did driving those ugly ducks back up to the catch pen in the yard. Sometime during the great duck drive the name Black Sheep Land and Cattle company was born, call it divine intervention if you wish, we sure liked the way it rolled off our tongues.

Fast forward to early fall, my daughter/office manager Audrey is ordering me up a new winter jacket, she asks if I want it embroidered, sure I say, then thinking even deeper, I say, hey what about getting it lettered ,Black Sheep Land and Cattle Company, oh how we laughed, hey we could get Will one also, I know soon a he sees mine he will want one too. We could have his all done and lettered up, then when he asks if he can get one we will just pull it out of the box. We order two.

We are sitting around the campfire at dusk last Wednesday. night, Kayla, Will, my son Alan and myself. I get up for more wood then hear Will talking on his cell phone, getting back to the fire Will is starting his old red Chevy and pulling away. I ask Alan, were is Will going?, Alan starts laughing hilariously then says “I guess Will is going to go work on getting his getting the cows back in patch”.

The patches were Audrey's idea, she figured since both Will and I had nice new jackets we could earn patches for them just like the Cub Scouts do. This never gets old, you got your, getting the bulls back in patch, your, I shut the damn gate patch, your fencing patch, your haying patch. The number of patches is mind boggling, as Alan said, “this patches thing is just never going to get old” We are even considering a sign on Wills Jacket like those that state how many days a business has gone without a work related injury. Wills would be how many days he has gone without having a cow out.

It has been two weeks since we got our jackets and neither of us has a patch yet, not altogether a bad thing, you screw up Audrey can take them away.

Chapter Three:

Challenges are encountered and overcome or Miss Connie gives up, on us

As the summer drifted by the number of bulls at Shaky dwindled, one by one they found ways to slip through the west fence. Most turned up with the cows in time, a couple took side trips, one taking a right rather then a left and turning up at my place, cops even got called out on that one. Then one day they were all gone. With the condition of the west fence a round up was pointless, Will and I buckled down and began adding steel rails to the west side, we used the cutting torch, the welder, we pulled broken posts, sank in new ones. The nights were getting shorter, the sun setting sooner but we kept at it,lastly we fixed the area by the water tank. Done we broke a bottle of root beer over the new railings and christened it Folsom.

Although getting a little long in the tooth Will's Mom, Miss Connie is still a pretty good horsewoman/wrangler in her own right so it was with great pleasure we welcomed her along on our big bull roundup. We met at her house for a dinner of porcupine balls and ice cream then saddled up our horses, adventure at hand our spirits high we hit the trail.

The round up went smoothly, both of my horses being indisposed I rode Wills paint, Lighting, Miss Connie rode her Gurila, B.J. while Will rode his new Palomino, Penny. The land we were on is as pretty as any in the county, rolling hills, hidden valleys, oak trees ,creeks and a river.

It was the first time I have sorted with three horses, seemed to make things go just that much smoother, The bulls although intimidating went well and were quickly sorted off, following them we sorted the heifers off and put them in another pen then ran the cows back out into the pasture. The hard part was over, all that was left was to ride the horses back to the home place then drive the pickup and trailer back, load the bulls and dump them off at Folsom, my minds eye could see Houdini laid out cold after ramming the steel in our freshly re-enforced corner. Most certainly our patches were within grasp.

Will backed the trailer up to the old barn, there are a couple posts three feet from the building you back into, these posts have wood sides from them back to the building forming a short loading chute. Inside the barn is a long chute that funnels the bulls to the loading chute, we drive 6 of the twelve bulls up the chute,they lumber along giving no resistance, if I can not see them walking on the trailer I can hear them their feet hitting the aluminum decking. Will is first out the door, his cussing the first indication something has went awry, sticking my head out I see two bulls on the trailer, four lounging about free as birds. Damn.

One of the bulls evidently got his head between the post and the trailer and snapping it off at the base gained their freedom, things looked pretty grim. Our horses back at the big house we grab some white cattle sticks and start rounding them up, carefully. We get two in a pen, the third heads for the grove, Wills goes after him, then goes for his four wheeler,about this time Miss Connie shows up in her white Jeep I give a brief explanation of what transpired and she leaves, one red bull hops into the feed bunk, then slips thru the cables getting in with the heifers, great. Will is a little sore now and really gives the last one a good run for his money before chasing him back into the pen, gate shut we head off for Shaky with our two remaining bulls. We feel our patches slipping away.

Will turns and grinning tells me it was Houdini slipped in with the heifers, that S.O.B.

It is a mile to Folsom, we pull in the yard, I get out of the truck just in time to see a big black bull step out of the trailer, Oh Oh. Quickly I go back to peak in the trailer thru it's gaping open back gate, another Oh Oh, bull number two ain't in there. I look down the long lane to see him standing dazed in the middle of it, to make matters worse right across the lane to the north Mert's cows are coming to the fence to check him out, all we need is for him to skip thru that fence and have his way with with them. About this time Miss Connie no doubt feeling guilty about driving off from the trailer house farm in our hour of need pulls up to survey the scene in her white Jeep then thinking the better of it drives off again this time without even rolling down her window. I can only assume she felt not only were we lost, but that she couldn't save us.

Well we sucked it up and got everything put right, the bull jumped from the trailer appeared no worse for it although when we pulled out we could see a pretty impressive slide mark in the gravel where he hit..Mert's cows seemed disappointed, thank God it wasn't Houdini on the lane, surely he would have put a big dent in Mert's breeding program before we got him out.

I got on the cell phone and told Audrey to not worry, she wasn't going to have to stay up tonight sewing patches. So close, so close, yet so far away.

I thank you for listening, Roy Gage

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