A Socratic Rancher 4-19-10
Back in the days when I was an inexperienced stockman … well, the truth is that the longer a person keeps stock, the more that person comes to understand how much they don’t know. There are always surprises and lessons, even for those who have dedicated a lifetime to ranching. Nevertheless, there is a stage in the life-cycle of a stockman known as The Greenhorn, and one of my early lessons in this period provided both wisdom and entertainment.
A neighbor, Willy, came by one day with a star-crossed jackass in his trailer. Willy and I jawboned for a stretch, during which the jack did some virtuoso honking, and I have to admit, I find jackasses extremely amusing. Willy happened to have a few longnecks in his portable cooler, which we tipped, and after a few, and after the jack had honked an especially beautiful tune, Willy offered me a half interest in the jack, whose name, appropriately, was Jerusalem.
“This is a rare jackass,” Willy told me. “The cross on its back proves it’s directly descended from the jackass Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.”
Impressed, I accepted a half interest in the rare jack for a mere 50 dollar bill. It wasn’t until Willy had unloaded Jerusalem and the handsome jack stood in my corral eating hay that it dawned on me what had happened. I now owned the front half of Jerusalem, so I owned the privilege of feeding him.
A month or so later, Willy came around again on a hot summer afternoon when I was waiting for hay to cure, and again offered me a few longnecks, which I accepted. We went out to the corral and watched Jerusalem, who seldom disappointed to entertain.
I don’t recall what, exactly, prompted Willy to do this, but he got a wild hair and decided, longneck in hand, to take a ride on Jerusalem. He steered the jack to the corral rails and slid over onto his back. Jerusalem took a couple laps around the corral, Willy raising his longneck in good spirits, both of us laughing so hard it hurt while Jerusalem putted along, honking.
Then, the jack just stopped. Right in the middle of the corral. It was a hot day, and I could see he was tired. But Willy wanted Jerusalem to at least wander over toward the corral rails so he could dismount without excessive effort, so he nudged the jack in his withers with his heels, to absolutely no avail.
Suddenly, Jerusalem’s hindquarters literally erupted, tossing Willy a good 3-feet into the air where, during his laughing descent, he barely missed getting kicked in the head before landing on his beer bottle in a small pile of manure. Luckily, the bottle was horizontal.
“I coulda been seriously hurt,” Willy said, his mirth subsiding a bit.
We headed back to the house, Willy limping a bit.
I asked if he was OK and if he needed anything.
“I could sue you,” Willy said, a mischievous sparkle in his eye.
“No, you couldn’t,” I said.
“The offending part of the bucking ass belongs to you.”
The North Park Stockgrowers Association and Western Landowners Alliance hosted a meeting in Walden, Colo., on June 20 for northern Colorado ranchers focused on reducing conflict between working lands and wildlife as naturally migrating wolves…
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