Baxter Black: Illinois Cowboy
Where were you born?” The reporter asked one of my Colorado cowboy friends.
“Iowa,” he answered.
“Iowa!” she said. “Why did you move?”
“Because it’s hard to be a cowboy in Iowa.”
Well, it might be harder to be a cowboy in the Midwest but they’ve got a bunch of good ones anyway. No matter how much dependence modern cowmen place on man-made mechanical devices, there are times when nothin’ beats a good roper a’horseback.
Illinois is an anthill of bovine activity. They have an abundance of cow calf operations and the state has ranked in the top ten in numbers of cattle on feed. So a “loose cow” is not an unusual occurrence. That’s when a good cowboy comes in handy.
Dr. Matt has his veterinary clinic in one of the many small towns that dot the northwestern Illinois countryside. One afternoon he was processing a truckload of feeder steers in the back of his clinic.
Despite good help and good facilities, accidents can happen. A gate was left open and shornuf, one of the steers escaped. And, according to Rule #1 in the Guidebook of Loose Cattle, the steer headed straight for the center of town.
Matt leaped to his Toyota Batmobile and took up the chase as the girls in the office cheered him on and wished, not for the first time, they’d had a video camera.
The steer had the advantage. He was able to cut through lawns, across lots filled with farm implements, behind gas pumps and down sidewalks. He jaywalked with impunity.
He galloped into the bank drive-through, raised his tail to the pie-eyed teller and proceeded to circle the bank building. Matt careened into the drive-through hot on the trail. By using the parking lot and surrounding sidewalks, he was able to keep the steer circling the bank through the manicured lawn and decorative shrubbery.
Matt’s radio crackled, “Chet’s just pulled into the clinic, could you use some help?”
The steer broke for the high school. “Send him on,” Matt yelled, “we’re headed for the football field!”
The steer had slowed to a trot by the time Chet wheeled his pickup and trailer into the school parking lot. He unloaded his horse, grabbed his rope and mounted.
Matt said it was beautiful to watch. When Chet rode through the goal posts the steer was on the twenty-yard line and pickin’ up speed.
Chet’s horse was kickin’ up big divots and Chet was leaning forward like an outside linebacker. He sailed his loop and nailed the steer on the fifty-yard line. An amazing catch. The grandstands were empty. Nobody saw it but Matt, and he told me, with a faraway look in his eye, that to this day he can still hear the crowd.
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I try not to make this column too educational but sometimes there is a need that can’t be ignored. When ranchers and cowmen work their cowherd, they are often under pressure to cull cows that…