Forty years ago this summer was the last time I “worked cows.” I did it for extra money back in high school when I thought I was ten foot tall and bulletproof. For those friends and acquaintances of mine that don’t quite understand what working cows is, I’ll explain.
As you can imagine, sort of like kids, a healthy cattle herd requires daily maintenance of feeding, watering, giving shots, applying medicines, and so forth. You get the picture.
So…a friend recently asked for my help in applying tags to a dozen or so new bull and heifer calves. This is where you attach a numbered identification tag to the animal’s ear… with an industrial strength rivet gun, basically. Keep that in the back of your mind.
I show up, eager to help out a friend in need and needless to say, it went straight downhill from there. First of all, there is no horse available to rope the beasts. So we have three grown men, in fairly un-good shape, and a strapping young man of about 20, chasing calves around the pen for a half hour. Cue the Keystone Cops music.
Someone gets the bright idea to “let Steve have a chance” at roping one of these terrified SCUD missiles on-the-hoof. I reluctantly take the rope and start stalking a calf around the pen… one throw… miss… two throws… not even remotely close… one last try and I actually came close… to roping a fence post.
Okay, next man… he finally gets one…and gives ME the end of the rope. I’m like, “what do I do with this???” He lets go and just like at Six Flags, the amusement ride begins… immediately.
Picture this…a 56 year old man, at full sprint, in boots, behind a furious and terrified 250 pound bull calf, headed toward a steel gate at passing lane speed, with a nylon rope in my hands, and this is where I suddenly remember… I have no gloves.
I am headed straight for a steel pole sticking up out of the ground! Not sure how, but I have the presence of mind to try and wrap the flaming rope around the pole between visions of gruesome injuries, thoughts of funeral plans my wife is about to begin, and maintaining some level of dignity while trying not to look like some whimpering sissy with her skirt on fire.
It worked! The calf stopped dead in its tracks! The other three wrestled the calf to the ground and applied the tag. One down…
Now I’m not one to whine about helping a friend out, but as we stared at the remaining, much bigger calves that were staring back at us, someone said, “There has to be a better way to do this,” and without batting an eye, I said “Outsource the job to cowboys!”
After an hour and a half and four calves tagged, we were through “working cows” for the day. We fired up the grill and put about ten pounds of one of those calves’ cousins on the grill in the manner of burgers, sausage, and hot dogs. We relaxed under a tree for the rest of the afternoon, sipping water and sweet tea, while reminiscing about all the “work” we’d just done…
So friends, as easy as cowboys make this sort of stuff look on TV, do not be fooled. There’s more to being a real ranch hand than riding horses and slowly punchin’ dogies and singing trailride songs as you ride off into the West Texas sunset.
“Hey honey, where’s the Bengay???”
God bless all y’all and keep it Texas!
The Impulsive Texan