Milo Yield: Laugh Tracks in the Dust 6-18-12
Since cattle, horses and humans are all thinking, living, breathing beings, it’s only natural that there’s been thousands of funny stories about their interactions. But when you substitute an unthinking piece of mechanical cold steel like a pickup truck, four-wheeler or utility vehicle for the horse in the equation, you’d think that the incidence of funny stories would go down at least by a third. However, you’d be wrong – as the following story attests.
Ol’ Dee Art Schuter needed help checking on the steers he had grazing in a big Flint Hills pasture. So he enlisted the help of his best friend, Jay Oaks, to help get an accurate head count, distribute salt and mineral, and, if need be, help doctor any sick ones.
They got a late start in the afternoon and Dee had his four-wheeler and Jay had his pickup truck. It took quite awhile to get the mineral/salt put out and count the widely-dispersed cattle. Sadly, they discovered a near-blind steer walking around in circles as such critters are prone to do.
The critter badly needed doctoring, which normally calls for a horse, cowboy and a rope. But, since Dee knows he is a poor roper by anyone’s measure, he decided he’d trump his ineptness with a rope and dally and go the modern way with a medicated dart gun. Thankfully, they had a dart gun with them and tranquilizer medication, too.
It was getting well into dusk when the intrepid “range vet” got ready to doctor the steer. On Jay’s advice, Dee decided to test the power and accuracy of the dart gun with a dummy dart, since the dart gun hadn’t been fired in over a year.
In the twilight, Dee loaded the dummy dart and pulled the trigger. “Poof,” the dart barely cleared the barrel and dropped harmlessly into the grass. Next step wuz to load a new CO2 cartridge into the dart gun and test fire again. “Zap,” the dummy dart fired with power as it wuz supposed to.
So, Dee finally loaded the $30 medication into the actual dart, crept up carefully on the wandering steer, took a steady two-handed “police” aim and fired at the steer’s hip. “Pfst,” the dart got half-way to the critter and fell into the grass. That was $30 wasted.
So, they decided to try the dummy dart again, but in the near-darkness, Jay said they’d better back away in the headlights of Dee’s four-wheeler for the shot so they could see where the dummy dart landed and find it in the headlights.
Dee again took a two-handed aim with the dummy dart and fired toward his four-wheeler. He made a direct hit this time – right into a front tire of his four-wheeler. It stuck in the tire, but, lucky for Dee, it stuck in the side-wall of the tire and didn’t deflate the tire.
By now Jay’s bent-over with the laughing fits and Dee’s blood-pressure has risen a tad. So, he gave the dart gun one more chance. Dee loaded another $30 charge of medicine and, using the lights from Jay’s pickup to navigate the darkness, sneaked up to the poor steer and at near point-blank range pulled the trigger.
Alas, this time he wuz too close to the hapless animal and the dart slammed into its hip – and bounced out, leaving another $30 dose of medicine to run harmless down its hide.
Well, the steer didn’t get medicated, but when Dee started to drive away in his four-wheeler, a loud “click, click, click” resounded across the prairie as the dummy dart, still stuck in the front tire, hit the fender at every rotation of the tire.
Four wheelers are a constant source of column material. For example, on Memorial Day weekend ol’ Nevah and I went to her 50th class reunion.
One of her former classmates, ol’ Tip Dover, wuz limping around the reunion and had a big half-healed cut on his hand. When I inquired about how he got injured, he replied curtly, “Had a senior moment.”
When I pressed for more details, ol’ Tip confessed that he wuz spraying brush and weeds with his four-wheeler and once, after he’d freshly filled the spray tank, he attempted to drive straight up a steep bank and the whole rig reared up and fell over backwards over him.
“It won’t happen again,” he assured me. I’ll bet it won’t.
Well, I confess that I’ve got utility vehicle problems of my own. Two tires on mine have slow air leaks and $12 worth of “tire slime” hasn’t solved the problem. Guess I’ll have to actually get them fixed or maybe even have to buy new tires.
Since mechanical devices are the theme of this column, I’ll quit with two appropriately wise quotes about them. John Stuart Mill said, “It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.” And, some wag named Andrew Vachss, said, “Building a mechanical device for its appearance is like putting lace on a bowling ball.”
‘Nuff said. Hope all your mechanical devices are working well for you. Have a good ‘un.
Oh, here’s an addendum to this column. “Thanks,” Jud and Ruth. Your generosity was way over the top.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.