In a Sow’s Ear
Mandy hosted a Gals Night Out party at her ranch home. Mandy happens to be a genius at organizing parties. She made gourmet snack foods; we gathered on the lawn where comfortable armchairs nurtured us. We sipped on margaritas ” the perfect salty beverage for a long summer evening. There were no mosquitoes and only one fly. A couple of dogs and two cats provided visual entertainment.
Except for Twyla, we were all ranch women ” cattle, sheep, hogs, horses and the occasional llama raiser ” so naturally stories having to do with animals and country incidents abounded. We included Twyla in the conversations as best we could. When she asked what “pulling a calf” meant, we explained ” with a lot of laughter, of course.
That got Mandy started on night-calving stories. She’d had a snorty cow turn on her. Mandy is no bigger than five seconds, but she’s a cowgirl to the core. She leaped to the top of an old refrigerator kept in the barn to house animal medicines and tools. The cow whammed the frig. Mandy held on.
“Gosh,” said Twyla, “what did you do, how did you get away?”
“Oh,” said Mandy, “I just waited till the old sister got bored bashing her head, then I jumped down, went to the house and woke up my husband.”
The cow story reminded Barb of the time she and her husband, Burt, were going to sort the cows for preg-testing. Barb and Burt allow hunters on their land on a regulated basis. Four arrived the day of the cow-sorting chore. They offered to “help” which meant getting in the way, waving their arms, shouting, getting in the way, yelling, getting in the way and getting in the way. Finally, Burt called the four mighty hunters to one side. With a stick, he scratched a groove in the dirt. “Stay behind this line,” he told them. “If a cow gets close, chouse her back, but DO NOT cross this line.”
Twyla murmured a question. “What’s preg-testing,” she asked. We did our best to explain even as we laughed.
“You put your arm in … the cow’s …” said Barb and broke into chortles at the expression on Twyla’s face.
“It’s okay, Twyla,” Barb said. “That’s why the plastic sleeve. Sometimes you gotta go in a long way when you’re feeling around for a fetus. Same thing if you’re A-I-ing.”
“A-I?” repeated Twyla. “Does that mean Artificial Intelligence?”
By now everybody but Twyla had a stitch in her side. We were practically rolling with laughter as we tried to explain, but I suspect Twyla thought we were speaking in Sanskrit.
The mention of hunters sparked a story from Caitlin about the time she and her husband and son went fishing. While her men folk fished, Caitlin took a hike. Coming to a fence ” she intended to crawl over or under the wires ” when she spotted a rattlesnake the size of a boa constrictor (she claimed) curled at the base of a fence post. When Caitlin is tramping around in wilderness territory, she packs a sidearm which she used to put five bullets in Mr. Rattler.
“You actually shot a snake?” said Twyla.
“Well, yeah,” said Caitlin. “I wanted it dead.”
The snake story reminded Jane of the time when she’d seen a dog with a broken leg struggling along the county road. She’d stopped and tried to get the dog to come to her. When it wouldn’t, Jane thought about the gun in the trunk of her car and considered shooting the poor beast to put it out of its misery. But she decided first, she’d try to locate its owner. The story ended happily with the dog’s rescue and healing.
Twyla asked, “Do all of you women know how to shoot guns?”
“Well, yes,” we said. “Don’t you?”
And that was way before we got going on bear stories.
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Steve Poet is an agricultural education teacher at the High Plains High School in Seibert, Colo. Although he has been working with kids for 20 years, this will be his fifth year at High Plains…