January 26, 2011



I’m starting to catch it again. I thought I was over it. And then this morning, I can feel it rising up inside me. No, it’s not the flu. It’s the need to have a team of horses! Shirley says it happens every few years. But, at least I seem to be cured of buying her a milk cow every couple of years.
I am going to blame my latest malady on Facebook. A friend posted a picture of himself driving a three-horse hitch. And looking out the window at the depth of the snow again this morning, I’m getting the itch to hitch. Isn’t that cute? I made that up.
When we were first married, I took my lovely bride to a sale over in Sidney. For some, still unknown reason I bought a milk cow. I never have milked much. And the little I did, I hated. But, I bought a milk cow. She was a little wild, hence didn’t cost that much. But, as a cowboy who detested milk cows, I was now the owner of a wild milk cow.
I choked her down and drug her into the milk stanchion. Oh, she hated that. Neighbor Pete informed me that that is not how you train a cow to come into the stanchion. He was right. I tied her tail up to keep her from switching me in the face. I tied one leg to a post after she stuck a foot in my bucket. I tied another leg to a rafter so she was balancing on three legs. She could still kick a little, but wasn’t as accurate. Oh, and then I kept a pitchfork handy as a defensive weapon. Pete informed me that he had never seen anyone gentle a cow with a pitchfork. She never did get gentle, but she did learn to blink when I reached for that fork! I milked her every day till she dried up. Took about a week.
My team deals weren’t a lot better. The Coors brothers, Coors and Coors Lite, were purchased at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale. Oh, they drove pretty well. Truth be told, they knew more about driving than I did. But, we bucked them in the summer. That really didn’t tend to make them trustful of human beings. Dad eventually took them to a big draft horse sale in Iowa, where one of them threw a fit and ran through a thousand Amish people, filling every nearby ambulance and emergency ward, causing the Meyer name to be banned forever in Amish circles of horse trading.
Then there was Ben and Buck, the mules. Never buy a mule that comes out of the trailer with the harness on. There is a reason they put the harness on at home. And it is not because it was “handy.”
We had a pole barn at the ranch. It was probably about a hundred-and -twenty feet by forty. Maybe smaller. And we had an old chariot from Dad and Grandpa’s chariot-racing days. The tires were flat, but then I wasn’t going to be racing Ben Hur, so I figured that didn’t matter a lot.
Shirley (under some gentle persuasion) helped me hook up. Then she quickly stepped out of the barn and watched through a crack in the door. I, being of sound mind and body, urged the mules forward. And oh, did they respond! We went forward with much haste! Around and around that building! I was wishing that small building was a little smaller. But they could go nowhere. Just around and around. I could hear Shirley screaming and the dogs barking outside the door. The dust was boiling up, and all in all, it was a grand old time.
Finally, they got a little winded. I was glad the tires were flat. That slowed the pace a little. In an hour, I was trotting figure eights and having no trouble stopping the mules when they came to a wall.
I hollered at Shirley to, “Open the door.”
“Are you nuts?” she replied.
“Dammit, woman, open the door!”
The door flew open.
I tell you what. When Ben and Buck saw that daylight, they forgot their hour of training and headed down the hill to the yard as fast as two twelve-hundred-pound mules, dragging a racing chariot with flat tires can run. Which is, at least it seemed to me, fast.
I was pulling on the lines and hanging onto that chariot for dear life. Luckily, the corral gate was closed. Not that that mattered to the mules. They hit that gate going nine-o, which in mule speed is really fast. Lumber, leather, and mule hair flew every direction. The chariot kind of launched itself into the air and catapulted me onto the mules. Luckily, I am a quick and agile person, and the mules were kind of in shock. I got out of the way.
Shirley came running down the hill. The dogs were still barking.
I looked at Shirley and said, “Why the hell did you open that door?”
I don’t remember much after that!
Oh, it turned out all right. And if I think of it next week, I’ll tell you about the Prancer that Lee didn’t trust. Oh, and maybe Thelma and Louise.