Posted 7/17/19 (Wed)
I’ve got a friend that’s a heck of a good cowboy. He can pick up a rodeo, calve a bunch of heifers, get his hay put up, and put a good handle on a broncy colt. When he was younger he followed the big rodeo and rode bucking bulls. He raised a couple of great young men and is raising some wonderful grandkids.
We ran cattle together on Fort Berthold for a few years. Now I’m old and fat and scared of horses, so he did most of the work. I just kind of tagged along.
He had a saying I heard an awful lot. You could be riding along in blistering heat swatting at horse flies and mosquitoes. You could be looking for the last few cattle you were short in November with temperatures around zero and your toes froze and ready to fall off. You could be pushing calves up the alley at Pete’s branding with rose bushes and sharp nails tearing at your clothes and skin.
And Wally would smile and say, “You know what I like about being a cowboy? Every gosh darn thing!”
Only he didn’t say gosh darn. You can figure it out.
I’m running cattle in a swampy area in central North Dakota this year. It is a land full of sloughs and lakes and swamps. The mosquitoes are thicker than hair on a dog’s back and the size of small turkeys. The horse and deer flies are capable of sucking the blood from your body faster than a well-rested vampire.
And the cattle have learned to walk out in the lake to find some relief from this horde of insects. And they learned that as they walk back to shore they could go around the end of the fence and graze on the neighbor’s second cutting alfalfa. One good thing about it. It gave us a chance to meet our neighbors and they were a heck of a lot more supportive of us than they would have had to be. They are cattle people and know bad stuff happens when you have cows.
So I took Shirley along for moral support and drove 170 miles one way to extend the fences into a couple of these lakes. The second time this week.
Shirley is good help. But she hates mosquitoes and hates the leeches that attach to you when fencing in the lake. I do too, but I’m the man. I had to wade out up to my chest, drive in posts, and put up hog panels to slow the migration of these cattle.
I’d come out of that water, shake it off like a dog, look at Shirley and say, “You know what I like about being a cowboy? Every gosh darn thing!”