IT ALL STARTED one bright and sunny morning. Everyone else was happy with the fact that they had just made it through Friday the thirteenth without a hitch, but I was nervous. Being the sort who is usually two bucks short and a day late, Saturday the fourteenth can be a real skull-knocker for me, and I mean that in the most literal sense available to one’s imagination.
The plan for the day was to haul the portable panels and a new chute down to Coyote Gulch pasture. We would set them up so the bull and steer calves could get preconditioned. Then we would gather the three hundred- twenty pairs of cattle into the one permanent corral to hold them for the night so that we could get a good early start the next morning.
Things started out smoothly, but then Lester had a flat on his truck and didn’t have a spare. At least the truck happened to be sitting where we would need it the next day to work the hydraulics on the chute. He jacked it up, took off the tire, and left it up on the jack.
We began putting up the panels. None of us had set things up here before as the ranch had just been bought by the father-and-son team of Orville and Wilbur Spendercrash. We were nearly finished when it dawned on us that this corral design would definitely crash when actually used, so we decided to circumvent Orville’s plan and go to plan B. Orville and Wilbur showed up right on time just before we were finished. Surprisingly enough, they approved of plan B and were anxious to get horseback.
As Plan B was not quite completed, Vern, the manager, decided to stay back with Lester to finish up. JR and RJ went to the west end while I had the honor of taking Orville and Wilbur to the east end. Orville and Wilbur are right at home in a business office. On a horse, neither would ever be accused of being Hopalong Cassidy or the Lone Ranger, but they enjoyed the romance of playing cowboy and rounding up cattle. I headed us off at a trot, not because the pasture was that large, but because it was getting late. About a hundred yards out, Wilbur’s horse stepped in a hole and crashed to the ground, cushioned only by Wilbur’s
leg. Wilbur was sore but still wanted to ride, so I went back and caught his horse. . I chided Wilbur a little and asked how he was enjoying the romance.
We got started again, and I told him how my family jokes that my brother rolls cars and I roll horses. Also, just in case he ever got hung up, I told him to roll over on his belly so that his foot would be able to come out of the stirrup. This is a trick I learned while being rapidly dragged across the desert by a mule. By the time I figured out the trick, the mule had covered a quarter mile with a quarter of his tracks on me.
When we were nearly to the end of the pasture, I looked over the situation and decided which way we would go with the herd. Orville could stay with the cattle, and rather than go along the fence, he was to bend the them north so that we could pick up some strays that were around the hill and then head back toward the fence and on in. As I started kicking a couple of pairs off of the top, I noticed that RJ had come down our way and was kicking the strays I had seen over the hill down to Orville, which meant we could take the easy route along the fence. But, as I said, Orville was little green, and as Wilbur and I came up the draw with the other cattle, he got the lead started by pushing RJ’s cattle back to where they had just come from. Back they went at a quick trot with the rest of the bunch following.
Since I had seen RJ head back up-country I knew there was no one at the point, so I loped to turn the herd toward the pens. There were only about 150 pairs, so it didn’t take much effort to get them lined out again. All we had to do was go through
a short valley and take the south exit to the fence. I had to drop back and keep an eye on the drag as Orville has this real neat trick of spreading the drag out rather than lining it out. He accomplishes this by riding alongside the cows while hollering and waving at them. They kind of slow down to watch him go by and then start wandering off. I wanted to make sure they didn’t wander off too far.
About the time I was going back up to make sure the drag had a lead to follow, two old swingbags headed out back to the southeast where we had picked them up like the king of all grizzlies was hot on their trail. Now, I may have been new to this ranch, but when they bought this herd, I sort of came with the deal, so I knew from experience that the rest of the bunch would
soon be following these two crowbaits. I rode across through the cattle and loped on up to turn them back, hoping that either Orville or Wilbur would get the idea and turn them back towards the fence instead of letting
them go back up the hill. Alas, they were too busy enjoying the romance of watching me bring the two old witches back to pay attention attention to the lead, which had headed up the north trail rather than down the south one. It was no big deal, however, as I loped over and headed them west over the hill toward a trail which would drop down to the pens.
At the top of the hill I was able to relax a little, as RJ had returned. Since the drag was a little wadded up and spread out, thanks to Orville’s talent, I thought I’d go show him how to string them out. Loping back, I was nearly there when ol’ Sorrely stepped into a badger hole. Thinking, “Oh well, here we go again,” I dropped my left stirrup and started to bail off of the right side. Then he hit a second hole and fell onto my right foot, jamming it into and pinning it in the stirrup. While catching my balance, I thought, “Oh, donkey dung,” as I felt my left foot go back into the stirrup. As his back end came off of the ground, I flung myself forward, and things got real dark for a second as he went over me.
This wasn’t really a slow-motion wreck, but I wasn’t panicked yet. My parents gave me a name in which the initials spell REK, this was far from my first, and ol’ Sorreley was a pretty gentle old puke who usually stops on voice command… usually. This time he started running and kicking, which is also about the time I thought my duck was plucked and this was my last
Rather than see my life flush before my eyes, I brought my arms up around my head so as not to hurt Sorreley’s feet when he kicked it. I tried to kick my off foot free at the top of each bounce. Finally he kicked me high enough to free my foot, but I couldn’t seem to get rolled over onto my stomach. I uncovered my head to look up and see that not only was my foot still in my stirrup, but my spur was hung in the cinch. Now I considered panicking a little, but still tried rolling over. Finally, after what seemed to be about three lifetimes, my spur came off, I got rolled over, and my foot popped right out of the stirrup.
As I rolled on the ground moaning obscenities that would have embarrassed Satan himself, I heard the thunder of horses approaching at a dead run. Orville and Wilbur to the rescue, or at least the wake. They were wanting me to lie still, but I was too smart for that, I had to get up. Chewing them out, I insisted that I would live and that they should get back to the cattle
and get the ^><|?}* herd gathered up before it got dark!
Orville went to help RJ while Wilbur helped me find my hat. He claimed the lucky horseshoe he kept in his pocket would find my spur, and he was right. About the time he found it, Vern came riding up leading Sorrely and asked how to get around some cows which were heading back up the hill. Rather than tell him where to get around them, I volunteered to go get them myself. I
managed to get them back down the hill but also regretted having volunteered as being horseback wasn’t quite as comfortable as usual.
I worked at the chute the next day and rode the morning after that before my head softened up enough to let me go to the doctor. I found out that I hadn’t broken anything. Shortly after taking my first dose of painkillers, I came to the conclusion that Nancy Reagan was wrong, and drugs are your friends. I also need to admit that after this upside down ride, the worst feeling in the word is a stumbling horse…
This story is from my Book Cowboy Romance (Of horsesweat & hornflies) available with my other books on Amazon.