Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “cattle”

I Wasn’t Always Like This

A group of people, a family I supposed, emerged from the restaurant next door to where I was sitting outside the art gallery wherein my wife was hosting an exhibit of western art.  She had recruited some excellent artwork by local artists.  I was outside the gallery as a decoration in my cowboy hat.  I was playing a character — me.  As people passed by me on the sidewalk, I would invite them in to see the western art exhibit.  I solicited the group mentioned above.

A young man, college age, was pushing an older gentleman in a wheelchair.  There was a middle-aged couple, an older lady, and a younger woman.  The man in the wheelchair stared blankly ahead and did not participate in the conversations of his companions.

I smiled my award-winning smile and initiated eye contact with some of them.  The man in the wheel chair did not smile back.  Nevertheless, the group went inside the gallery.  Sugar took over the public relations.  I went in too, to see her in action.

The young man pushing the wheelchair kindly placed it in front of one of the walls adorned with paintings of Old West scenes, such as Remington or Russell created, scenes with cowboys, buffalo, cattle, Indians, locomotives, mountain scenes, running horses.  He waited patiently for the man in the wheelchair to take it in before moving to another wall.  The man in the wheelchair was not staring blankly.  He was intent, studying the images.

As I watched him, a lady came up behind me and explained that she and the man in the wheelchair had been professors at the university.  She added that he, Dr. _____, used to teach a course on The Philosophy of Art.  No wonder he seemed to be enjoying the art exhibit.

I introduced the doctor to Sugar.  She had a table of treats and beverages.  She asked whether he would like lemonade, coffee or wine.  He spoke.  He told Sugar he would prefer wine, using one word — “Wine.”  So Sugar brought the professor a little bit.  The young man, who we learned was his caregiver, pointed out to his charge, “This is not juice like you drink at home.”  The young man seemed surprised that the professor was partying at the gallery.  The professor smiled at Sugar and indicated that he would like more wine.  She gave him a little bit more.  He smiled again.  He was enjoying the gallery scene.

I am glad that the professor visited us.  I watched him studying the art and saw him in a new light.  At first, I just saw him as a person who seemed very limited in his abilities.  Now I saw him in the light of his history and accomplishments.  I could imagine him back when he was teaching college students.  He must have been knowledgeable and  bright to engage them.  He must have been respected.

He was not always like this.  And his present condition was not exactly as it appeared.  He still could enjoy a night out on the town.  He still could enjoy art.  And he still could choose whether to have lemonade, coffee, or wine.

And he can still be respected, and loved.  And he is.

Reluctant Saviour

Those who have read many of my posts are well aware that my trophy bride, Miss Sugar, has a very soft heart, much softer than mine.  She  is a good influence on me and often makes me behave better than I otherwise would.

So today we were driving home, where I intended to watch the Broncos’ game against the Raiders, scheduled to commence at 2:00 p. m. Mountain Time, and it was 1:55 p.m., but I knew we could make it if we stayed the course.  We did not stay the course.

Instead, I spent some time in my church clothes wrestling a goat in distress.  Why would I do that?  The answer is simple.  Miss Sugar has a soft heart.

A few minutes before I was in the goat pen of a stranger, my trophy wife and I were driving past a ranch about five miles from our place.  These ranchers have cattle mostly, but they also have a herd of goats.  It is a fairly big operation.  There are many pens, like a feedlot, loading chutes, and many buildings, including a large equipment shed, barns, other outbuildings, and three houses.  I don’t know if they are occupied by family members only or if hired help reside there as well.  There were many vehicles parked by the houses, probably six or seven, not including the camper,  horse trailers, stock trailers, and the semi-tractor.  In other words, it is not an abandoned ghost town.  It is an active livestock operation.

It is, however, not active nor observant enough of a livestock operation to suit Miss Sugar.  She noticed a goat as we drove by that appeared to her to have his head caught in a wire fence.  She commented on her observation.  I drove on.  We could make it home in time for the football game, you understand.  Right?  You understand that the goat is not my goat and it lives where many caretakers are very near.  Neither is it Miss Sugar’s goat.  And the game and all should be considered.  And, I was all dressed up.

So I drove about two miles past the goat to an intersection.  Then and there, I asked Miss Sugar,  “Do you want me to turn around?”  Actually, it was not a question.  It was a statement of recognition.  “You want me to turn around.”

Yes, she did want me to go back to the goat because we should never ignore animals suffering when we can help.  (Apparently, the people who live on the ranch rely on Miss Sugar to tell them when their animals need help.)

So we went back to the goat and, indeed, Miss Sugar was correct, it did have its head stuck in the fence.  It was now laying down.  Other goats around it were licking it, for comfort she supposed.  I am not recognized as an expert in goat emotions and the manners in which they are displayed, but I did not argue with her.

So we drove up the lane, past the many vehicles, and parked by the newest house.  Miss Sugar went up to the door and knocked.  The game was on the radio so I stayed in the car, listening, but I would have noticed if Miss Sugar had been abducted or otherwise in harm’s way.  She rang the bell and knocked, but no one came to the door.  She walked to the second house.  No one was home.  (Or they were watching the game.)  I drove the car to the third house.  Again, there was no response.  Well, there was a response, just not by the occupants.  The response was by me.

I got out of the car, walked fifty yards to the goat fence, and up to the subject goat. who scrambled to its feet, while leaving its head on the opposite side of the fence from where it kept its feet.  I suppose it was glad to see me, but, like I said, I am no expert on goats.  Someone even less aware of subtleties of goat communication might think the goat did not fully appreciate my efforts.

I analyzed the problem.   The wire fence was one with rectangles (designed for safety, no doubt).  The distressed goat had somehow gotten its entire head into one rectangle in a manner not recommended by the manufacturer of the fence, nor by the manufacturer of the goat.  Because the goat’s horns extend from its head at a widening angle, it was easier for it to get its head and horns into the rectangle than out.  In fact, the horns were curved past the top wire of the troublesome rectangle and back into the rectangle above, preventing the head from getting out.

That’s where I came in.  I skillfully got one horn back into the same rectangle as the rest of the goat head and the panicky goat somehow got the other horn out and scampered away.

I watched the critter run back to its friends, fully expecting expressions of gratitude from all.  Unfortunately, like I said, I am not an expert at interpreting goat emotions, so I suppose I missed those expressions of goat gratitude.  I would like to say that I could see it in those goat eyes, but I could not.

“C’mon, Miss Sugar, let’s get out of here before someone shoots us.”

We missed most of the first quarter of the game, but it is still on as I write this.  I’m glad I rescued that goat for Miss Sugar because whatever pleases her tickles me plumb to death.”

Stock Market Education

I guess you could say that my father was in the stock market.  He worked at Stockyards National Bank, in the Livestock Exchange Building, when Omaha was the world’s largest livestock market. 

Livestock, as opposed to stocks and bonds, refers to (live) animals, such as cattle, sheep, and hogs.  I don’t recall how old I was before I realized that the phrase “stock market” might describe anything else, such as the New York Stock Exchange. 

In the Omaha Stockyards, there were miles of pens.  Trucks and trains would bring the critters and yard men would organize them into pens.  The yard men had the job I wanted because they dressed like cowboys and some of them rode horses through the pens to move cattle at least.  I don’t think they used horses to move hogs, but maybe they did for sheep.  They used long whips too.

My poor father did not get to do the fun stuff.  He had to work in the bank.  His customers were ranchers, yard men, commission men (who bought and sold livestock like stockbrokers do shares in companies), and guys who worked in the nearby packing houses. 

I vowed that when I grew up, I would be a cowboy, or at least a yard man riding a horse.  Don’t you kinda feel sorry for the guys in New York City who spend their time buying and selling pieces of paper?  It is way more fun buying and selling cows, especially if you use a horse to do it.

Bison Bob

Not counting on television or maybe at a zoo, I saw my first buffalo on Uncle Bob’s ranch in western Nebraska.  I loved going to Bull Canyon Ranch because it was so dang big.  It was traditionally a cattle ranch, but Uncle Bob was a free thinker and he figgered he would branch out.  What he done, you probably guessed from the first sentence, was to add buffaloes to the ranch population.

At this point I better educate the more ignorant amongst us.  The critters are properly called American Bison by scientists and such.  I am not a scientist, so I call them buffalo like Buffalo Bill Cody and Buffalo Bob on Howdy Doody done.  Now this educating can only go so far.  If you don’t know who they are, just quit reading now cuz you are in over your head.

The mascot for the University of Colorado is Ralphie the buffalo and the athletic teams are the Colorado Buffaloes or Buffs.  I know there are scientists at that school but, apparently, they looked the other way and did not call themselves bison.

Bison, aka buffaloes, are more independent creatures than are cows, bigger too.  I have rounded up and herded cows on occasion, many times on twenty mile cattle drives.  It is pretty fun.  I have worked at brandings and the unmentionable collateral process of turning baby bulls into baby steers.  (Are you keepin up or must I explain how bulls become steers?)   I consider myself a cowboy.  But that’s where I draw the line.  I ain’t a buffaloboy or bisonboy.  I don’t herd buffaloes.  I don’t rope buffaloes.  I don’t brand buffaloes.  And I don’t castrate buffaloes.

I’ll tell you why.   Buffaloes are bigger, tougher and meaner than cows.  They require stronger fencing.  They can do what one tried to do to Uncle Bob.

Bull Canyon Ranch has (guess what?) a canyon.  It is what is known as a box canyon, which means there is only one way in and out.  So Uncle Bob fenced across that one opening.  He used tall sturdy fence, which turned out to be a pretty good idea.

I wasn’t there at the time, but Cousin Tom reported to me what happened, which was that after Uncle Bob (well, Tom didn’t call his father Uncle Bob) and his help got that first group of buffaloes into their new home in the box canyon, one of the critters was ungrateful about the free rent arrangement and decided to leave.  The way he went about it was to rush the fence and crash into it while Uncle Bob was looking the other way.  Tom said the buffalo was going after his dad and the fence just happened to be in the way.  As a country lawyer, I sometimes have to deal with legal issues that involve motive.  In this case, I’m not too sure about the charging buffalo’s motive.  I’m just glad Uncle Bob could build a good fence.

These photos were taken by Miss Sugar last summer when our neighbors got a dozen two-year-old buffalo heifers.   Their fences are not as sturdy as Uncle Bob’s.  They could use a nice box canyon.

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