Fortunately for country kids gone wild, danger doesn’t only present itself for courting in the wintertime. In the summertime, there are wild cows to ride.
This came to me one day while I was bringing in an AI cow to be bred. We had about seventy of them Bud was artificially inseminating to Chianina and Semital bulls. The nice thing about AIing cows is you can breed to exotic, expensive bulls of high quality you couldn’t afford to buy. The bad thing about it is you have to catch the cows at the right time when they are coming in heat and you have to be moderately skilled in AIing. I wanted to go to AI school too, but was told girls don’t do that. My part of the process was riding out to the AI pasture twice a day to check cows to see which ones were coming in heat.
I left the house before dawn so I could be out to the pasture about sunup and check cows. If you waited too long, they starting brushing up to get away from the heat and it was difficult to find them, let alone find them in a romantic mood. My step dad had the theory heat is contagious. It could be true. Who knows? I tend to come in heat when other people around me are in heat, but then that might be just a human thing.
I’m not sure if the heat is contagious is a scientific fact or not, but he believed it and so that is how we gathered cows. If one cow was showing signs then I left her until my next check. So, if she was romantic in the morning I left her to infect other cows and gathered her in the afternoon after it had cooled off, when they came out of the brush again.
One morning, when the landscape had kind of a peach blush over it from the rising sun and everything was as perfect as it could be, I sat there on Cowboy watching cow romance. Cowboy wasn’t overly interested in cow romance, but then he was a horse, and a gelding at that, so he really didn’t much care for cows, romantic or not. I’m sitting there on Cowboy, watching a steer courting a cow and wishing he wasn’t a steer and seeing if any of the other cows have that gleam in their eye. It just seemed like a waste to bring the cows in to the headquarters without making good use of them. Wild cows were a prime opportunity to indulge if a person had an addiction to danger problem.
The chute in the round pen had a slide gate on the front and back and also a side delivery gate. The cows were already mad by the time they go through the AIing process, and who could blame them. You come into heat once a year and do you get to play around with that fine specimen of bullhood one corral over? Nope. You get a pipette. Let’s be honest, something the size of a drinking straw once a year has to leave a bit to be desired. No wonder they were mad and on the hook.
So, we had a mad cow, not diseased, just mad. A chute. Someone with a taste for danger. Sounded like the perfect recipe to me.
I decided to talk to Bud and see if he would let us ride the cows. Being good-hearted like I am, I included Gary in the fun. To my great surprise, Bud agreed.
We didn’t have a bullrope, but we did have my bareback rigging. I tried riding bucking horses and was still at the getting my head buried in the ground stage, but I was hooked enough to have a rigging custom made for me. My hand was so small nothing stock came close to fitting me. I still wanted to ride bareback horses, but there wasn’t much opportunity on the ranch.
I already made a deal with Bud to work for six months for no pay in exchange for Cowboy and had no money to pay for practice somewhere. I was totally at his mercy financially and practice stock just wasn’t in the picture. I made tooled leather belts, but selling a belt once a month paid for my gas and that was about it. Money for things like going to the dance on Saturday night came from Herculean tasks he would decide upon sometime Friday afternoon. One week it was dig a hole for the new fuel tank. Gary and I got it dug, but we were dragging pretty low by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around. Still, we had earned the right to go to the dance and be damned if we weren’t going. .
Fortunately, or unfortunately, he decided he wanted the tank somewhere else and we had to fill that hole in and dig another one, which earned money for another dance But, there just weren’t enough hours in the day to do enough extra chores for practice stock money and gas to get there. The AI cows were the answer to my problem. Riding wild cows wasn’t the same as riding bucking horses, but it was riding something.
Bud had a little sadistic streak to him so I think him agreeing had more to do with that than anything. However, I would take my pleasure where I could and even an old, blind sow finds an acorn every now and then.
We’d been riding the cows for about a month when Bud loaded a big, black whiteface cow in the chute. She was not happy and had done her best to kick the chute to pieces. I, even with my addiction to danger problem, had a few doubts about riding her. This wasn’t a timed event and there was no help getting off or away once you got on. It was get on and ride till you got bucked off or figured out a way to get off. Gary rode a nice Hereford cow just before and it was a pretty ride, which looked like a lot of fun. I tried to convince myself this would be the same, except better since I had a bigger cow and she was obviously going to give me my quarter’s worth.
I crawled down in the chute with her as Bud pulled the latigo on the rigging tight. I jammed my gloved hand into the handhold and kept my toes turned in so if she reared up in the chute, I wouldn’t have my feet stuck between some slats as she slammed into me. I reached up with my left hand and pulled my hat down. It was my lucky brown hat, which I was positive, had somehow saved my life on that suicide run. Then I scooted up on the rigging as far as I could go. It was that “get a deep seat and a far away look in your eye” time just before they crack the gate.
Bud wasn’t a real patient person, so we just got down on our cows and called for them before he decided we had wasted enough time and opened the gate whether we were ready or not. My heart was pounding and adrenalin was racing through my veins like rocket fuel, which was pretty much normal. I was always on a high when I got on an animal.
The cow kicked the gate behind her so hard I heard one of the poles crack. That was as good a sign as any, so I nodded my head and Bud jerked the gate open. She launched out of there like she was spring-loaded. We made about three laps around the round pen before she quit bucking. She just stopped. One jump she was trying to kick the sun out of the sky and then next she just planted her feet in the ground and refused to move. I think she caught sight of the bull over in the corral, but whatever caught her attention, she was no long interested in fueling my addiction.
One of our neighbors was over there watching and he told me to kick her and make her jump again so I would have a little momentum coming off her. I drummed her ribs, but she wasn’t budging.
My steak was stuck.
I finally gave up and jerked my hand down to break the bind so I could swing off her. That’s when she lost interest in whatever had captured it and renewed her interest in bucking. I flew into one of the posts headfirst and slithered down it like a snake. I was still kind of crumpled up in a ball with my head jammed in my hat, which was firmly planted in the ground, my butt up in the air and my arms just kind of flopped out beside me like broken kindling. The cow bawled and bucked again as she went past. I uncurled a bit and flopped over on my side so I could get to my knees. The cow from hell bawled in protest as she made another round and I ducked down to keep from getting kicked. I was still about half out of it and couldn’t see very well, so I wasn’t quite as lucky the next time she came around.
My lucky hat had failed me.
I was on my hands and knees and tried to pull myself up on the rails of the round pen when she kicked me square in the face and sent me flying tail over teakettle.
Bud screamed at me not to move as he raced to the house. Chub, the neighbor, gave up trying to pen the cow and opened the gate into another pen. He ran back at my side to see if I was all right by the time Bud got back. Somewhere in the haze, I thought Bud went for Mom to come check me. I heard a clicking noise and hoped it wasn’t loose teeth. Tears streamed out of one eye. The other one was swollen shut by then. My nose was swollen and blood ran down my face.
“Cowgirls don’t cry,” Bud hollered.
“Yeth, they do,” I spat through a split lip, still not sure I had all my teeth. Chub sat me up and propped me against a post. Bud stood in front of me, holding something, but my vision was blurred and I couldn’t tell what it was.
“Damn,” he cursed. “Out of film. I’ll go to the house and get some more film then we’ll load her up again.”
“No,” I slurred. “No more.”
“It’ll be exciting,” he protested.
I waved my hand at him in dismissal as Chub picked me up. There were limits to the excitement a person could handle in one day. Even a person who thought they were addicted to danger could only process so much at a time.
I decided then I wasn’t really as addicted to danger as I thought. Interested maybe, mildly, in a brief passing way. No addiction here. No, sir. Not me. Well, not today anyway.