April 13, 2011



Carm called the other day and mentioned Matt and she were going out to doctor a couple of cows with foot rot. Now, that happens to the best of ranchers. A cow stubs her toe on something and gets a little infection. Her foot swells up, toes spread out, and before long, she is hopping along on three legs. And getting thin.
I’ve had experience with this. Not getting thin. With doctoring foot rot cows. There is nothing that heals a crippled cow up faster than poking a hole in your rope and building to a lame cow. That old cow, that a minute ago couldn’t walk, is all of a sudden qualifying for the Kentucky Derby.
And I will tell you right now, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will test a marriage more than thirty-five foot of nylon rope tied to a mad cow!
Now, I grew up (and some would question that) wanting to be a cowboy. I dreamed of riding my horse through the green grass and watching little calves play in the sun. But it seems calving never turns out that way. You are usually up to your boot tops in wet snow or used hay. Cows are hungry and calves are fighting to stay alive. Not playing in the sunny meadows.
And in a drought deal, the wind is blowing and the dirt limits visibility. These calves may not see green grass.
We had a bad bull last year. Now, usually, you don’t need to worry too much about cows having trouble calving. Unless there’s a leg back or backwards or something. But we must have one bull with a birthweight of 200 pounds or something. Seems like we have to pull one every day. Dead or alive.
And yesterday I got to thinking about a book I had read. “Nothing Too Good For a Cowboy.” It’s the second book in a trilogy, so don’t read it first. It’s a true story about a couple of Wyoming cowboys who, in the Depression era, decided to go into the wilderness of northern British Columbia and start ranching. Wonderful story. But they endured a lot of hardships including blizzards and floods and injuries. And they were tough. Living in tents when it was forty below. Freezing their hands so bad their fingernails fell off. And this one old boy would get up every morning and try to start the fire, break the ice on the coffee pot, and holler, “Nothing too good for a cowboy!”
Yesterday, I came across this wild Char cow having trouble calving. By the size of the feet sticking out, I think it was one left over from last year. And if you so much as made a step towards this cow, she would shake her head and act like she would take you. I went and got Shirley. I explained how she should…..And she told me to go to hell!
We decided, or rather Shirley decided, instead of roping her in the pasture, we would ease her a mile or so over to a corral. And we did. Until that old cow saw what our plan was. Then she just stuck her head up and headed for the brush. She would take your horse if you tried to stop her. Well, I didn’t have a gun to shoot her with, so I roped her.
Now, Shirley is a heck of a ranch wife. She can do most anything better than anyone in the country. But, I tell you what, her mother must have whipped her with a lariat. Cause when you take out a catch rope, she panics and stampedes. So, I’ve got this wild cow roped in the middle of this prairie dog town. The wind is blowing forty miles an hour and it looks like one of those sandstorms in Iraq. Shirley is shying away from the rope and won’t get close enough to heel this cow. It just happens there is a power line coming across this dog town, so I chase, or rather the cow chases me over to this pole. And I snub her up. Then I take Shirley’s rope and heel the cow, and give Shirley her rope back to hold.
The  calf has its head back and has already gone to calf heaven. And I haven’t got a lot to work with. But I’m laying on my side in this prairie dog town with dirt blowing in my eyes and my arm up the south end of a mad cow, and I’m thinking, “nothing too good for a cowboy!”
Anyway, the cow lived, the calf didn’t. Shirley forgave me for swearing at her, and I forgave her being born with a deathly fear of ropes. And I was thinking about what Jeff told me the other day. Said as mad as he gets at some cows, it’s lucky he doesn’t carry a gun! Shirley doesn’t know the Constitution, she won’t even let me own one!