Devil is a rancher. He has upwards of 300 head of cattle. (I’m sure you remember him and Dare from my last story.) Well, this will be the second full year that he has had his mountain permit. And 200 pairs of cattle on a permit with several different pastures on Boggy Draw and Pease Point is no small operation. It’s a lot of work. I hadn’t been to the permit until the second time the cows needed to be moved to another pasture. Since I wasn’t in school, Devil invited me to come with him and his employee, Dare, to gather and move the cows. I agreed. Thursday morning, after picking up Dare and the horses, I settled in for the hour-long drive to Boggy Draw.
Not only was this my first time on the permit, it was also my first time on a horse. Sorry, but I grew up using four-wheelers to chase cows. And clearly, both my parents were worried about me. I was given Devil’s GPS to carry and also my can of bear spray. Devil told me several times, “When we get there, make sure you mark the location of the truck and if you get separated from Dare and I, just go straight back and wait for me.” Okay, I could do that. Besides, since I’ve never been here before and don’t have a cellphone (not that a cellphone would get service up here) I would be very happy to go back to the truck if I happened to get lost.
So, into the saddle I went. My horse took off down the trail at a trot, eager to find the cows. Then Devil spotted a lone bull. We drove him through the brush in hopes he’d lead us to some more cows. But all he did was to zigzag through the trees towards a canyon. After referring to his map, Devil decided we needed to push him in the opposite direction. But as luck would have it, the bull had entered a clump of brush that was impenetrable by horse, so Devil dismounted, handed his lead-rope to Dare, and said, “I’ll chase him out. Meet me at the bottom.”
Dare and I headed off, winding our way through the trees until we got to the canyon bottom. But Devil was nowhere in sight. Back and forth we rode across the canyon floor, back and forth again and again. Dare thought we should go back to where we’d last seen him and track him. But soon, we lost his tracks. We questioned ourselves, “He did say to meet him in bottom, right?”
After riding several more passes, Dare decided to go up the opposite rim, where Devil had wanted the bull to go. Once we got to the top, I’d been sure Devil would be there waiting for us. But he wasn’t. After what must have been hours, we returned to the canyon bottom, then back to where we’d last seen him. We heard something. I hoped it was Devil. But it turned out to be a bicyclist. And no, he said he hadn’t seen Devil either.
Dare once commented about he’d lost his boss on the first day, but he didn’t even seem worried. Me, on the other hand, was beyond nervous. I knew Devil was wearing his pistol but what if he’d run into a bear or a lion, or if the bull he’d been chasing turned on him?
I started wishing that Devil had been wearing some sort of tracking device so I could locate him on the GPS, or that he’d been carrying a whistle, or maybe even some huge spotlight to shine into the sky like Batman’s beacon.
We headed back to the top and this time followed a trail that led away from the canyon. We found several cows, including a playful calf that followed me for a while, but not our boss.
After several more hours we headed back towards the canyon and that was when we heard the shot.
To be continued ...
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You can’t have too many people when you’re working cows.