Through the Fence 9-13-10
September 13, 2010
A loose translation of a Biblical proverb states, “There’s a way that seems right to a man but the end is destruction.” When a difficult situation presents itself, the solution often seems obvious, almost too easy. We spring into action without pausing to considering other options or the cataclysmic consequences that might await us if our obvious solution turns out to be faulty.
My husband told me about a young man he used to work with at a cattle sale barn in Texarkana when he was about 17. The man was mentally challenged so his job description was fairly simple – to open and close the gates when the cows were being unloaded off the trailers. He liked his job, and took it very seriously. He faithfully showed up on time and in a good mood and enjoyed joking around with the other cow hands at the barn. One fateful day, he saw an opportunity to be a champion.
A frisky cow escaped out of the pens before the young man could close the outside gate. She trotted off down the road, past warehouses, boarded-up old houses and the pickle factory. She ran right into a cemetery. Unfortunately, all the cowboys were busy, and their horses were penned at the back of the barn lot. The gatekeeper was so astounded and upset that he’d let one get past him that his mind began to whirl. He devised a cunning plan. Only he knew which way she had gone and still had her in view. So he jumped on his only means of transportation – his trusty bicycle. He was prepared for action, about like Barney Fife was always prepared with his one bullet in his pistol. Before he rode away, he had the presence of mind to grab a lariat rope. No animals were going to escape on his watch, he thought to himself.
He zoomed down the bumpy road toward the cemetery where the cow was strolling amongst the somber gray headstones and marble angel statues. He stopped his bike and tied one end of the rope onto the handlebars and pedaled towards the cow. He then made a good loop and tossed it right over the cow’s horns and onto her neck. She started galloping away and quickly came to the end of her rope. When she felt the pressure of the rope tightening around her throat, she panicked. She took off through that graveyard like a scalded rabbit. The initial jerk yanked the bicycle out from under the man and he fell down onto the rocks. He was disappointed that his big moment was turning out so badly; he just knew he was going to return to the barn leading the cow and receive a hero’s welcome.
He watched sadly as the cow galloped over the sacred ground, trampling grave markers and park benches. And the faster she went, the more the bicycle bounced, slamming into headstones along the way. It made quite a racket which scared the animal even more. By that time, the hands at the barn realized that their gate opener had left his post. Some got in their trucks, while a few others saddled their horses and went to search for him. They found him all skinned up and looking bewildered. He was upset but managed to explain what had happened. Nobly, they didn’t laugh.
The men on horseback spotted the cow at the very back edge of the cemetery. She’d stopped running and still had the rope around her neck. On the other end of that rope was what was left of a bicycle – no more than a tangle of twisted metal and two flat tires. The runaway was quickly herded back to the barn. Luckily, the young man wasn’t hurt. He’d had such good intentions but absolutely no clue about the power of a 1,000-pound cow and the damage she could do.
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Even though the round up didn’t go as originally planned, the cowboys bragged on the young man for his quick thinking and bravery. They never cracked a smile or expressed their real thoughts – at least not in front of him.