Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: The only this we have to fear is…
One of the strange contradictions in ranching is that while many ranch activities provide a great deal of satisfaction, others are determined to rob a rancher of his dignity. These uncontrolled events are like the guy who whispered in the Roman emperor’s ear that he was mortal. A few unguarded moments now and then are healthy reminders of our human frailties.
I was spraying weeds with my four-wheeler the other day in a narrow little draw. The past few years it has been easy to see where to drive because the grass was short. Driving becomes much more of a challenge when the grass is tall. There is only one tree on this drainage so I wasn’t thinking much about trees that day. As I threaded my way up the draw scanning for Canada Thistle, I ran over a hidden tree branch. It was like stepping on a rake, with the thicker end of the branch suddenly rearing up out of the grass. It might as well have been a mountain lion leaping up at me but at least I didn’t scream. Every other human flight or fight responses fired off in my brain and not one of them waited for correct information.
I had to laugh when I realized nothing was going to get me. It reminded me of another time I had worked hard to scare myself. When I was a teenager, I had stayed in the little three room house near our shearing pens. I was the only person in a couple of townships of country. It started to rain one night and I got up to put the freshly shorn yearlings ewes in the shed. The little house didn’t have electricity so I was stumbling around in the dark trying to find my slicker. There was one door that went from the living room to the kitchen, and another door that went from the kitchen into a little hall that lead to the outside door. Between the doors was a washstand with a medicine cabinet mounted over it. I thought I was headed out to the outside door when lightning struck.
Suddenly there was light and I was starring at a very ugly person who had managed to sneak up to within a foot of me. I went scurrying around the little kitchen until the next lightning flash showed me I was alone. The mirror on the medicine cabinet had played the perfect practical joke on me. Nothing like a little self inflicted fear to make us humble.