In a Sow’s Ear
A perfect day may be different things for different folks. If the sun shines like liquid gold; if the sky is a blue dome overhead; if there’s no wind; if the temperature is just right … not too hot, not too cool; if tall cottonwoods cast comforting shade over the arena bleachers; if there’s 21 three-person teams signed on to participate in a ranch roping event and if you’re one of the contestants ” it’s a perfect day.
I was particularly pleased to see the women ropers. Also envious. Wild shopping trips, travel to exotic places, mingling with the rich, the famous and the powerful might appeal to some but for those of us who love horses, being astride a well-broke horse on a perfect summer day ” what could be better?
Women ropers bring their own flair to the sport. Cid Klebenow, manager of the Bozeman Saddle Outlet, teamed up with two men riders. The way things worked out, it became Cid whose rope caught the calf critter in a “deep loop” which means that the animal stepped through the loop before the slack got taken up, resulting in the rope encircling the calf’s mid-section. This is not a good thing.
One of Cid’s team dropped a loop around the calf’s neck. Cid’s job then turned into an effort to remove the “deep loop” off the critter. This is a little like trying to freeze-frame a whirling dervish. The calf dashes and darts. Cid had her hands full trying to dally up her rope to shorten it, so she could get within reaching distance of the leaping, bawling critter. From outside the arena, while she exerted huge effort, other contestants shouted advice and instructions. Every rider wanted her to succeed. Eventually she slipped up and pulled off the deep loop off thus allowing the third team member to heel the calf.
The way roping rules work, it now became Cid’s job to “tail down” the critter on the ground. Some ropings allow a fourth guy to run in to help a woman contestant tip the animal. Some don’t. This one didn’t. But Cid didn’t need the help. She gave a yank on the tail; the animal tipped over, but fell in the “wrong” direction. Didn’t bother Cid ” she merely executed a ballet leap and sailed over the critter to land on the correct side.
Rules say the ground team-mate has to remove the rope from around the animal’s neck and loop it around its front feet, thereby leaving the animal stretched out between header and heeler for “doctoring” (if out on the range), but not choking the poor thing half to death. Cid accomplished her task in a flash and the team came in under the required time limit thus qualifying for the next go-round.
When asked how she managed to finish up so swiftly, quietly and efficiently, Cid only remarked, “Oh, I just used my cow-whispering voice and whispered in her ear.”
Based presently in Livingston, Mont., Trina and Tom Curtin of Tom Curtin Quality Horsemanship conduct horsemanship clinics everywhere. But it’s their little dog, Chico, who draws a lot of attention. Chico accompanies Trina. No, not alongside, but right up on the horse. A weensy Chihuahua the color of charcoal, the little bow-wow perches in Trina’s lap. At times, she plants her front paws (the dog’s, not Trina’s) on the saddle horn, stretches to her full height of maybe seven or eight inches and surveys the crowd with Queenly panache.
“Do you put her down somewhere when you swing a loop?” I asked.
“Oh, no, she just crawls around behind me and hangs on.”
Then Chico, on command, demonstrated by slithering away around Trina’s waist to fetch up behind the cantle. The last I saw was the little canine’s minuscule rear disappearing to the right. In a moment or two, her button-size nose heralded her reappearance from the opposite side. I’m pretty sure she winked at me as she resumed her saddlehorn throne.
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