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A snake story

Tales From the ONO Ranch
Mad Jack Hanks
Wellington, Colo.

Gentle readers, I took a little walk yesterday down into the horse trap and noticed a few green sprigs pokin’ their little heads up through the soft damp soil. The robins had started their journey back to the ONO a couple of days before so I know that, indeed, spring is right on top of us. All of that said, it just means that, yep, the rattlers will be coming out of their respective dens post haste and we need to be very aware as that is when they are the most dangerous.

A number of years ago I wrote about Howard and his hoss Buck and our little adventure with a large Diamondback just north of our place at Amarillo, Texas. I would like to repeat it as it was such an unusual experience for me. One I have never forgotten!

There was 2,500 acres that bordered my place north of Amarillo. A cowman had it leased to run steers on for the summer and hired yours truly to look after them since I was just across the fence. He knew I was green as the spring grass but he also knew I had a lot of “try” and was honest as they come so we cut us a deal.

This feller told me he was sending out an older feller to ride with me and check the steers to see how it was all coming along. I have to tell ya, at this stage in the game, I had MY idea of what a cowboy was and what they should look like! Howard was about as far removed from my profile as anyone could be. He got out of his pickup, a tall lanky man of 60 something, khaki shirt and pants and lace up “brogans” for boots. Ol’ Howard had that “cowboy handshake” and was very much in shape and seemed to be very genuine and humble. Buck was just a tall rangy bay with a little “racehoss” blood in him. As disappointed as I was with Howard’s appearance, off we went. After an hour or so of prowling the hills, checking the windmills and up and down the dry creeks we were headed to the last windmill and then would head for the house. All had gone well to that point. We didn’t have to rope and doctor anything but by now I was convinced it wouldn’t have been a problem for Howard or Buck.

“Pull quote.”

“Hold up Jack,” Howard softly spoke. “What is it?” I pondered. “Buck has smelled a rattler and he won’t move until I kill it!” Howard offered. “Oh boy, here we go,” now it’s time for drama from this old coyote. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Yep, guarantee it. There is a rattler here close by and we need to find’em.”

We were in heavy mesquite brush and our eyes were scanning every inch of it cause Howard said so!! A moment later a kangaroo rat (long skinny tail) came bouncin’ out from under a mesquite tree. “That’s what ol’ Buck thought was a rattler I barked!” I had no sooner said that until a huge Diamondback shot out from under the tree and nailed that unfortunate rat. “I TOLD YA JACK. BUCK DON’T EVER MESS UP, I TOLD YA!” Howard stepped off Buck, gathered up his rope and began to thrash that snake with the honda end of the rope. When he had the snake unresponsive, he stomped his head. “Now we can get on with our business,” says Howard. “GREAT SCOTT,” I’m thinkin’, what just happened?

Yep, it was the most interesting morning and I gained an enormous respect for that old khaki clad cowboy in his brogan shoes and snake sniffin’ hoss!

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion, keep a sharp eye out, and friends, we are living in interesting times for sure.

Making those memories! I’ll c. y’all, all y’all. ❖


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