On the Edge of Common Sense 2-22-10
In an effort to make managing the 20-section ranch more efficiently, the boss bought Jake a Ranger, a 4-wheel drive muscle car ATV. The cowboys on this west Texas ranch were equipped with cell phones, of course. What modern cowboy isn’t! They have replaced Copenhagen as the habit-forming addiction for the “orally dependent.”
Jake received a call. It was a neighbor telling him that there was a calf out on the road to the highway, a mile from the west gate where Charles Goodnight lost a tooth chasing coyotes in the winter of ’86 … down by the Quanah Wash.
Jake sighed and reversed his direction. It was back three miles and over two. But, he thought, only a calf, maybe a week or two old, probably got under the fence, Mama on the other side. Wouldn’t be too tough.
Fifteen minutes later he approached Quanah Wash to find a 300-pound beefy bull calf in the bar ditch! King Richard III whined in his ear, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” Making do with what he had, Jake tied the tail of his rope to the bumper on the Ranger and started after the calf. Down the bar ditch they flew! The bull was running along the fence line and Jake was maneuvering with one hand, trying to keep a wheel on the shoulder! Because he was going west on the wrong side of the road he was forced to rope left-handed. Not easy with a right-hand-twist rope!
After four throws and misses the bull was wearing down and Jake caught him by the left front foot! Whilst moving into position he managed to tangle the rope in the Ranger’s front wheel which immediately jerked his slack and killed the engine!
Our cowboy stepped out bravely and started down the rope thinking he could do a Fred Whitfield Flank Job and save the day. The bull calf bawled and, thinking HE could do the Pamplona re-enactment, charged up the rope at Jake! Now Jake is a big guy, but 300 pounds of crossbred cowhide and cojones comin’ at you at the speed of beef made him pause and take notice! It was like standing in front of the firing squad and saying “Okay! Take your best shot!”
The little bull flattened Jake, who managed to catch one hind leg on the way by. He held on through the brush and gravel till the bull reached the end of the rope!
It then became a wrestling match wherein points were exchanged for takedowns, reversals and riding time. Somehow Jake found himself with a scissor-lock around the calf’s head, a hind foot up his shirtsleeve from the inside, and both hands around the tail!
He weighted the odds, looked up at the darkening sky, slipped the loop off the foot and rolled over. “A management decision,” he later explained, “we were both working overtime.”
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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.