January 16, 2019



I always wanted to be a cowboy. And for a time, I thought maybe I had made it. I was riding saddle broncs, albeit it poorly, roping a bit, riding on roundups and chasing cows through the willows. I was breaking a colt to ride once in awhile and could do a c-section on a cow tied to a tree. I had spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle (actually that is an old song) as I go riding merrily along (that’s the rest of the song, hum it, you’ll like it).
But back to my story.
Whenever you think you are good at something, or maybe one of the best, you will find someone that is a heck of a lot better. And I’ve found that in pretty much everything I’ve ever done. Oh, I don’t mind that, I expect it. If there weren’t a heck of a lot of people better than I, we would still be living in caves and eating animals we could catch with a stick.
 The other night we got to visiting about good cowboys. And everyone has a story they would share about a good cowboy that they knew. They told of Fielding poking a hole in his rope and taking off after a young buffalo. Kind of like Gus in Lonesome Dove. And of Beaumister buying a wild stud in Mobridge, closing up the bar, saddling that bronc and heading 40 miles west for home. He had to swim the Missouri on an unbroken horse, but he got it done.
I told of one of the best I’d seen. It was a cowboy from South Dakota. We were running a bunch of yearlings in a common pasture with a bunch of other guys on Standing Rock. I think there were about 2,500 yearlings in the bunch. It’s a sight most people never get a chance to see. That many cattle being gathered in a big pasture. Cowboys kicking cattle off the ridge into a bigger herd that was moving on down the creek. Good hands, good cattle, and wonderful country.
As we neared the holding pens, you had to cross a prairie dog town. This town had grown enough so it couldn’t be avoided. The yearlings were getting antsy as we neared the pens and the in-gate was hard to see. As we held that herd, it was starting to look like a wreck. The cattle were milling around and every once in awhile something would break loose. There is nothing scarier than riding a running horse through a dog town after a crazy yearling. Except maybe Shirley on a bad day. But you knew that.
The cattle kept milling around and you knew that you were minutes, or maybe seconds from losing the whole deal. Then I saw a cowboy pull his jacket off! I thought “Katy bar the door, this is going to be a stampede when he waves that damn thing!”
But it wasn’t. He tied that jacket onto his catch rope, calmly dropped it on the ground, and started walking in a big circle a ways from the bunched cattle. But close enough they could see it. There is nothing more curious than a yearling. They quit milling around and a few of them started out to see what kind of animal was out there. The braver ones got close and that cowboy headed for that hard to see gate. In a instant we had 2,500 yearlings following a denim jacket into a corral.
I was never that smart.