Simple folk’s Sunday

Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

What do “simple folk” do on a Sunday afternoon? Recently, in the company of friends, I had the good fortune to enjoy a melt-in-your-mouth-tender-steak meal and some equally attractive toddies in the Ringling Bar in Ringling, Mont. Located on Highway 89 in the southern edge of Meagher County, the unincorporated town has only a handful of people still residing there. Census says one person per square mile for the area.

There’s a building that was once a school house. Across the highway perched on a hill is a church, no longer in use to bring comfort to the populace. That solace can now be found in the Ringling Bar.

On this particular Sunday, a half dozen good ol’ boys seated at the bar were exchanging tall tales. My friends and I were a group of six, doubling the crowd numbers. We sat at a table, ordered food and began the always pleasurable jaw-boning about calving (two ranchers) and music (one musician) and fishing (one mechanic) and gossip (all of us).

Mechanic-fisherman: “Well, since I arrived in Montana I’ve learned about cattle.”

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Rancher: “That right? So have you worked on a ranch?”

Mechanic-fisherman: “Nope, but I’ve been up close and personal with cows.”

Rancher: “How’s that?”

The rest of us: (With lips zipped, our ears perked up waiting for a good story).

Mechanic-fisherman: “Yeah, me and Nellie (yellow canine of the Labrador persuasion) went fishing the other day. We had to go through a big pasture and I saw lots and lots of calves.” (Pause. Takes a sip of beer)

Rancher: “That right?”

Mechanic-fisherman: “We didn’t go close to the cattle, just moseyed on. Nellie went swimming and I started casting when I felt a snuffle.”

Rancher: “A what?”

Mechanic-fisherman: “A snuffle. Something was snuffling my hat. So I turned around and I’ll be darned if it wasn’t a little bitty calf, curious as a puppy.”

Rancher: “Yeah, they c’n be that way.”

Mechanic-fisherman: “Uh-huh, I was just reaching in my pocket for my phone when …”

Rancher: “Your phone?”

Mechanic-fisherman: “Yeah, you know, so’s I could take a picture of the little feller. That’s when I heard the rumble and the roar.”

Rancher: “The what?”

The rest of us: “The what?”

Mechanic-fisherman: “Well, I looked up and there was a cow about the size of a freight train. She was flinging snot, pawing the ground and bellowing like a rogue elephant.”

Rancher: “Uh oh!”

Mechanic-fisherman: (Another pause for another sip of beer).

Rancher: (Did not speak, only grinned).

The rest of us: “So what happened!”

Mechanic-fisherman: “I dropped my rod. And ran.”

Rancher: “Ran?”

Mechanic-fisherman: “Yeah, I jumped in the river.”

Rancher and the rest of us: “You jumped in the river?”

Mechanic-fisherman: “Had to. She was too close. I couldn’t have gotten away trying to run around her, that’s for sure.”

Rancher: (still grinning). “Bet that water was cold.”

Mechanic-fisherman: “Sure was! Didn’t catch any fish, but I sure learned about cows up close and personal.” (Pause. Sip beer). Thoughtfully: “Don’t think I’d care for ranching as an occupation. Think I’ll just keep my job as a mechanic.”

And now you know what simple folk do on a Sunday afternoon in Ringling, Mont. ❖