One of my Texas buddies was talkin’ about stockdogs “down south” being different than those “up north.” I agreed, depending on where you draw the Mason-Dixon Line. I describe those coming from the cooler climes as “suave, smooth, nervous and quick.” Think of hockey pucks, machine guns and playing zone defense. Border Collies, Kelpies and Aussies fit that description. The handler continuously moves his canine leaf-blower into position to “blow” the sheep through the gate. It’s almost like opposing magnets dancing.
In the hot muggy South in the land of Braymers, feral hogs and alligator, the dog handlers have bred a different kind of dog. One who works as well in the brush, the woods, the palmetto, the swamp and the tangle vine, as they do in open pasture. Catahoula hounds, blue heelers, and yellow-mouth curs are representative. If Border Collies are Spiderman, Catahualas are the Hulk, Iron Man and a car crusher!
Subtle does not describe deep south dogs. If Border Collies are like firing rubber bullets at your stock, Hound Dogs are like chasing them with a backhoe! They push, spook and scare cows along, rather than coaxing them.
Mr. Stokely was known for breeding “aggressive” stockdogs. One of his personal favorites was so aggressive, every stockman he sold ol’ Tiger to soon brought him back. “He’s worse than a wolf!” said one ex-buyer, “He scares them right out of their wool!” He was even tough on cows. It wasn’t enough for him to just “get the cows moving,” he’d put ’em through the fence! Tiger was not welcome on any roundup ... until, Charlie bought a set of wild cattle gathered on the edge of civilization, Uvalde. They arrived in three 32-foot two-axle trailers. They were unloaded to brand and tag, then Charlie wanted to load them back up to take to a new pasture.
One particularly ornery Braymer mamma with matching horns, refused to load. She also, single-hoofed, chased everyone; man, dog or horse, afoot, in flight or a’horseback, over the boards and out of the corral! Charlie remembered taking Tiger back to Mr. Stokely, and figured he might be the only way to beat the snot-blowin’ chargin’ wild cow.
Tiger arrived and was introduced to his opponent. “Load ’em up!” commanded Mr. Stokely. Tiger shoved under the boards and the cow came straight at him, bellerin’ and slatherin foam! When she was six feet from him, nose down and horns poised, he leaped! ... like a tiger, I guess. He got her in a lip-lock but she slung him plum over her back and into the timid cows cowering in the corner. He shot back out of the pile and dove at the wild cow. Once again he nabbed her by the lip. She did her best to shake him off. He looked like the propeller on a P-51 Mustang! The battle lasted three more minutes. Tiger lost his grip and flew off! Mad Mamma wheeled around and galloped down the loading chute with a bloody nose! Tiger growled and the other cows followed Mad Mamma like lemmings in the 12-yard sprint!
Charlie was manning the trailer gate but before he could get it closed, the whole corral-full of cattle were standing in the trailer, still leaving enough room to set up two lounge chairs and an umbrella!
“I guess,” Mr. Stokely observed, “he was the right dog for the occasion.” ❖