Whew, it’s been hot! How hot is it? It’s so hot a neighbor is feeding his chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying hard boiled eggs. Yuck, yuck! It’s so hot that the milk cows are giving evaporated milk. However, no matter how hot it was recently, I found myself out in the back pasture checking cattle the other day. My usual pattern of driving around making sure fences were up, washouts weren’t washed out, (we could have had a one spot thunderstorm) and evaluating the late bred mama cows found me coming up short. We seemed to be missing a bull, and of course not just any bull, but a home raised one that ended up being a little bit bigger and a tad hair wilder than I ever expected!
The missing in action fugitive was a bull named 44. Naturally, we named him 44 due to his big blue ear tag #44 (we have a whole bunch of horses with various names of Red), and that was my brother’s football jersey number so it must’ve been a sign. (Sign of future trouble that is!) Well, 44 and I had a not so well to do history. I believe it was due to me vaccinating him and him not wanting to be. Since then, we had pretty much come to a gentlemen’s agreement that I’d leave him alone, and he’d stay within the meager makings of the ranch fences. He was free to roam whatever pasture he chose, as long as he only roamed his own property. In fact, this agreement had never been broken between us. This is what led me to take a closer look at his disappearance.
My first thought was to call the “Top Hand” of the ranch….aka Mother! It usually takes me two calls before she picks up the phone. Personally, I think she screens me, her own son, knowing that the second call must mean it’s important and she answers. When she does answer, I ask her if she’s seen 44 and she say’s no, but he was here the other day. Hmmm, well that means I didn’t drive by him in the brush. I turn to Gaucho the wonder dog, my copilot, who just happens to have found the only shade afforded the back of a Ford pickup way up in the corner. Gaucho is unimpressed with my command, “here boy find 44.” His lackadaisical yawn and stretching implies that I was rather rude in asking him to work in anything other than perfect fall weather, or a nearby stock tank to swim in. Muttering under my breath, “Old Yeller would have found him”, it appears it is time for plan B. Helicopter search? No, nothing that fancy. Although, my grandfather has been known to turn a Cessna 172 on its wing to circle a mountain at less than 500 feet and point out stray cattle. However, in this brush country I think even that would be hard for him to accomplish.
Plan B, was to check the game cameras down by the river pasture. If he was on today’s pictures or video then I could call off the search and just assume I’d missed him somewhere. The gates to the river pasture were open to grazing, but access to the river required repelling down twenty-foot sand cliffs to the river’s edge….doubtful that 44 attempted this Olympic feat. But, there was a game camera around an old feeder that the cows just love to pose for as they watch the wild hogs come for corn. Sure enough, he was on the film; problem was his video portrait was two days prior. Remind me though to have a talk with him about his version of the “twerk” (might be on to a YouTube hit there). After scouring the river bottom, which found me recalling past Boy Scout merit badges of what constituted poison ivy, what was just itchy, and what colors of red and yellow kill a fellow on a snake, it was concluded that 44 was not on the premises. Plan C, call in the cavalry!
If good fences make good neighbors, then good neighbors that answer cell phones after dark are saints! A few phone calls later to our surrounding pasture neighbors (all of which answered on the first call) and 44 was found to be safe and grazing with a bunch of young heifers. The neighbor said he’d trap him the next evening and I could pick him up then. I thanked him and called it a night! Gaucho was already asleep.
The next evening found me hooking up Ol Blue and traveling over to the neighbors. Great folks, they have always been a joy to be around. After some quite expert maneuvering of my truck and trailer, meaning I didn’t tear down their gazebo, or crack the water lines as I pulled through to their pens, I found myself backed up to their loading chute. This particular neighbor had encountered a bad experience with a bull a few years earlier, but them being the great neighbors they are they had penned up 44 with some cows to keep him company until I arrived.
That’s when the gates of hades broke open! 44 seemed his docile self until we went to sort the last cow by his side. All I can think is that he must have been pretty love struck on that pretty little white-face heifer because he about blew my doors for trying to separate them. I’d seen that look once before after his experience with shots and deciding to put me over the squeeze chute. I’m not one to want to break up romance. In fact, I consider myself a romantic at heart. I still cry when Lady and the Tramp share that spaghetti. No crying this day though, mainly because I was scrambling for my life. I didn’t know the exact amount of pressure it was going to take before the portable panel separating me and 44 would break under, but I felt how much he was pressing and how much I was pushing! I’m pretty sure if it had failed I’d be enjoying a lot of meals through a straw, and Flat LB would replace Flat Stanley books. I still don’t blame him; she was a great looking heifer. We’ve all done crazy things for love. I would’ve jumped the fence for a second look at her, too! It’s always been my problem according to some. A couple of more go rounds and he finally coaxed into the chute and into the trailer. Gaucho, the wonder dog, was no-where in sight.
The neighbors of course refused any attempts at monetary exchange for the trouble they incurred or the help they provided. I did offer to buy any would be calves that came out resembling a certain outlaw bull if they weren’t up to the cow owners expectations. I drove off with 44 in tow, feeling relieved to have him back, and blessed at the same time for the kindness of good neighbors. At the writing of this experience, 44 has resumed his usual lollygagging around the ranch, but don’t be surprised one day if there’s a blog, “44 roams no more!”