The cactus photo
It is a photo imbedded in my memory; partly cloudy blue skies, a nearby mountain range coursing diagonally across the background, a finger shadow on the lens, and the glimpse of a startled horse’s left eye in the bottom right hand corner!
I was making a big circle one cold spring morning. I’d made it clear to the Canary Springs on the high end of the 7-section pasture. My horse picked up when I started back down over the ridges and smaller canyons. I passed a few cows, looked ’em over then topped the last big rise. The view was magnificent. It was a cowboy moment to be appreciated.
I pulled up to take it in. Rifling my coat pockets and banana bag, amongst the GPS, walkie-talkie, reading glasses, notepad, deerskin gloves, mini-binoculars, water bottle, runnin’ iron and tortillas, I finally found my camera.
Simultaneously, I was struck by an urgency that required me to dismount! Relieved, I began sweeping the landscape with my camera. A large green century plant lent color to the sea of yellow winter pasture grass and dark mesquite trees. Seeking the right composition I was snapping away, manipulating the zoom and trying to capture the horse’s majestic head, ears alert and silver concho shining. I stepped back, my spurs hit an obstacle and I sat, backside first… into the welcoming arms of a prickly paris maximus as big as a Barcalounger!
After sending out my emergency signal, “Ay-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y!” in case a curious doe, javalina or mountain lion was in the area, I sized up my situation. I was alone, no cell phone, three miles from the truck and pinned to a cactus like a butterfly on a board! Visions of old westerns flashed through my mind; the Lone Ranger pinned down by gunfire whistling for Silver, Shrek calling Donkey, Alvin screaming for the Chipmunks! I admit I did try to entice my horse to come to me, hand me his reins and pull me out, but his only reply was to take a step away. I thought I heard a chortle.
Taking it in my own hands I managed to unfasten myself from the cactus and I came loose like Velcro unzipping. For a moment I was thankful for my chaps until I realized they did not cover the offended area. I unhooked and dropped the left chap leg. I couldn’t drop my pant leg because it was pinned to my body! In a location outside of my peripheral vision! With each thorny spine, I palpated and pulled, I gathered fingertips full of the tiny hair-like aguates, which I am still trying to pick out of my skin. When the pant leg finally came down I repeated the tentative tactile search over the stickery battlefield. It took several minutes.
“Many thoughts went through my mind as I stood there,” as Marty Robbins would say. Pulling myself back together, so to speak, I climbed back on my horse and tested several positions, seeking comfort. To walk would not be the Cowboy Way. Eventually I adopted a sort of horizontal straddle with my right boot still in the stirrup, my head between his ears and my left hip glaring like a solar panel toward the sun! I looked like a scarred hood ornament on a ’49 Mercury.
Back at the house I deleted the photographic evidence from my camera, but I live in fear that some unmanned spy satellite photos are pinned on a bulletin board beneath the Pentagon and identified as a suspicious infiltrator disguised as a sunbathing acrobat.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News