Gathering pairs with a dude. By Lee Pitts

 

Have you ever had the notion that your livestock were laughing at you? Like maybe after you tried to preg check a bull or pull a calf that had already been born?

    A few years ago I was asked to help gather a set of cows and calves by a loan officer down at the bank. It seems that one of his customers got caught with his jammies under another woman‚s pillow and his rich wife took exception to his sleeping habits. This started a chain reaction of financial disclosures that left those who had loaned the adulterer any money grabbing for anything that wasn‚t nailed down.

    Because of some shady dealings, the borrower was now making hair-bridles in prison and the loan officer spooked and wanted to gather up his collateral ASAP. So he asked me to help him gather and ship a couple loads of pairs to the auction market.

    I arrived at the ranch to find the loan officer accompanied by an acquaintance from the local mounted sheriff‚s posse whose horse had never gotten closer than his leather bridle to anything even remotely related to a cow. The posse member was dressed up like a sore wrist in leather chaps, 10-gallon Stetson, wild rag around his neck and fancy spurs with danglers on them.

    The problem was the leased ranch was a converted old dairy, which meant the corrals were designed to handle more docile creatures. A set of corrals was located on a steep hill, surrounded on two sides by a concrete apron, with assorted piles of rusted barbed wire and broken posts strategically located around the pen. If the stall-fed tenderfoot had been mounted on a $20,000 gelding out of Peppy San Badger that could turn on a quarter and leave you enough change for a cup of coffee, he might have had a slight chance of getting the cattle into the loading area. But the posse member was mounted instead astride a pretty palomino pony whose moves were pretty much limited to proceeding in a straight line down a parade route.

    The caretaker of the place and I brought the first bunch of pairs to the corral and dismounted to help push the cattle into a smaller set of loading pens. We were immediately informed by the loan officer that he and his friend needed no help and that we should go get the rest of the cattle off the other half of the ranch. Knowing the trick layout the caretaker tried to protest, but the loan officer insisted they could handle it. So we rode to the top of the hill, dismounted and watched the ensuing wreck.

    The palomino was like a new pup with its first porcupineųit didn‚t quite know what to do. Every time he‚d get the cattle near the gate they‚d circle back around. It might have helped if the loan officer was mounted too, but he was one cupcake short of 300 pounds and you would have had to tie him on a horse with a diamond hitch for him to stay in a saddle. To top it all off, it was hotter that day than nine acres of onions with dry east winds that woulda‚ slipped the hair on a Brahma.

    The pretty palomino turned out to be as useless as a two-wire fence and soon the banker was trying to corral the cows on foot while the dude watched from astride his horse. The problem was the banker was wearing boots so tight you could see his socks, his feet were blistering up, sweat was rolling off in sheets and he was fillin‚ the air with cusswords every time the cattle circled back around behind him.

    About then the caretaker‚s nine-year-old daughter came out to feed her project lamb and she quickly appraised the situation. She saw a dude mounted on a horse basically doing nothing and a fat guy who looked like he was trying to corral a herd of cats running up and down a hill. After observing for a few minutes, she put a bale of hay on her wagon, rolled it to the pens, placed it in the feed bunks and had all the cattle in the loading pen in minutes. From a distance I swear those cows were grinning like a monkey eating a banana and laughing so hard milk was coming out their noses. 

 

Lee Pitts is an author, humorist and editor of Livestock Market Digest. He lives in Los Ojos, Calif.

 

 

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