Baxter Black: On the bright side
There always seem to be folks who need to say something good, even at the worst of times. Like Mrs. Custer. She might have said, “Well, on the bright side, at least he was wearing clean undies.”
Last spring on a gather we set out to find an evasive 300-pound steer, we’ll call him Rompy. We made a big
circle and never found him but we did discover a leak in the water line. Just luck, maybe, but on the bright side, it made the ride worth it.
The next day we rode out early and found him with his mother and a couple other cows. All went well, we sorted off Rompy at the trap and took him to the headquarters with intentions to hold him overnight for the sale the next day. We unsaddled and I stuck a water hose through the boards of the little pen where Rompy was being held. Pretty good morning, I was thinking, then Rompy came unglued!
He could see daylight through a 3-foot wide pipe gate into the loading alley. He took four runs at it. I ran around the other side to frighten him back. It didn’t work! On his fifth try he crashed over the top, bending the rail perpendicular. I dove out of the way as he sailed over me!
I looked back over my shoulder and remember thinking, this must be what a torpedo looks like leaving a submarine! We would see him again 30 minutes later on a big ridge overlooking town. We tracked him half a mile, through one fence and into a big BLM canyon. With a huge dose of luck (finding him), enough opportunities (catching him), and two stout horses (dragging him), we got him to a road. My partner hog-tied him and I went to get the rescue unit.
Our location was unreachable by trailer so I brought the old pickup. I loaded it up with an assortment of possibly useful items and returned to the scene. The steer was still on the fight and too heavy to lift or manhandle. After much cowboy cogitation we took two 8-foot, two-by-twelves and laid a ramp from the tailgate to Rompy. We tried to push him up but he wouldn’t slide.
I dug through the box and came up with a come-a-long, however, we had no place to chain it.
“Wait a minute!” I said, “Flip over that gooseneck turnover ball and hook it there!”
We flipped it over, chained it to the ball, pulled out the cable and ran it through some cotton rope we had wrapped around the hog-tie. My partner started cranking and I kept the head and tail-ends balanced as we drug Rompy into the bed of the pickup an inch and a grunt at a time. It was as much fun as changing a split rim tire off a Peterbilt. All three of us looked like we had been drug through a knothole. Even Rompy had lost his steam.
But, on the bright side, I guess. We could have been grape farmers. I don’t think we’d ever been able to load a 300-pound wild raisin…ain’t nothin’ to tie to!
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