THE SUPER LOOPER’S – PART 1
I don’t know if ranching ever counts against you on a life insurance form, but we’ve all been in a situation that would certainly warrant the adding of ranching as an “excluded event”. Ranching is not for the faint of heart. Take for example, changing flat tires on an old Ford by using a front-end loader tractor (a tractor that you had to start with a screw driver because they don’t make parts for it anymore). I could see it leading to an early exiting of this beautiful Earth. Here is the public service announcement “Please Do Not Try That At Home!” Then, add in the livestock factor and who knows what’ll happen. Things never seem to quite go according to plan, much like the day my brother roped an Auroch.
No, an Auroch is not some breed of cattle found in the nether regions of some sub-arctic, super humidified, unpopulated area of whatever Charlie the local expert café coffee drinker tells you. The Auroch is a pre-historic cow, think Tyrannosaurus but with four legs and horns. Take the meanest pregnant mama cow you ever dealt with, crossed with the meanest bull you ever survived, and times that by about a 1000 and you have the Auroch- plus they averaged about the size of a half-ton pickup. It makes you want to go right out and throw your rope around it, right? Not this brush buster, even I wouldn’t tie my illest tempered cow pony on to a rogue like that. But, none the less I saw it done one day.
We had gathered our cow’s early one disgustingly hot before the sun was up June morning. The kind of morning where just opening the back gate can make you break a sweat. Well, in bringing up the cows which for the most part just walk through at the shake of a bucket, we noticed an outlaw in the bunch. It was a big black nameless steer that was calved out and way past his finishing weight, but had never been shipped due to his ability to avoid traps-namely, anything to do with humans! It doesn’t happen very often, but once in a blue moon we get one like this that needs to be rounded up and hauled off. I mean, we don’t raise Longhorns -we feed the world! We knew he was around, but it had been awhile since he’d been spotted. He hailed from a long line of “I’d rather hurt you than eat your free grain” line of cows, and his mother was the famous cowboy killer “Black Mamba!” Black Mamba earned her name for the uncanny ability to stalk you and charge at you from deep in the brush. You could literally watch the Mesquite trees part like Moses parting the Red Sea as she ran at you. It was always a pretty unnerving event even for a well-seasoned cow pony, and even more panic evoking if you were afoot. The day she finally made it into the trailer for the sale barn, it took 4 good mounted cowboys and several ropes to do it. But, better safe than sorry! However, during that little round-up escapade her calf who had been worked at a very young age developed his mother’s distrust of anything that wasn’t him. We lost him that day and spent many a time after that discussing his fate. I liked to believe he had made it down to Mexico and was teaching the Corrientes’s the lost art of stalking and hooking! (Not that kind !!!)
He had disappeared so much so that he never was properly named, until this fateful day many many months later. I knew it was bad when Andrew looked at me that morning and said, “I can be saddled on Filly in two minutes.” For all I know, the boy must have had two bowls of cereal that morning and I was hoping our horses were feeling their oats, too! Intuition must be what mothers talk of when they say they know the exact time their boys are getting into trouble. Where was ours when we needed her?
Watching good cowboying can be compared to watching a masterful theatrical performance. This day was no such thing. The next couple of hours included riding lots of very thick brush, (I still don’t like to talk about that scar over my left eye), random shouts of, “do you see him? No, where are you?” And don’t forget, it’s mighty sultry (sultry is an SAT word) -even hotter surrounded by mesquite and cactus. I was thinking my horse was about done in and I was about to chalk it up as a phantom sighting- like Elvis or Bigfoot. It was surely just a mysterious animal that would torture the visitors of Sandy Oaks Farm for generations to com. But, alas I was wrong! Just as I was reining up to turn back, I hear “watch out we’re coming your way, get ready!” I looked up just in time to say, “where’d who go” as the son of Black Mamba brushed past knocking my horse and I for a good roll. It’s all fun and games until your horse gets hit and then it gets real personal, real fast! I remember my leap to my horse as she was coming to her feet was something that would have made Hopalong Cassidy proud. What followed next was more of the scene from the Oklahoma land grab. Dodging in and out of brush, following my brother and hoping he was sure ‘nuff on the right track when all of sudden we got separated. My horse and I were crashing through the brush when a clearing opened up and I saw that steer for just a split second. Just enough time that the “now or never thought” caused me to launch my loop! Notice, I said launch because that’s just what it did. To this day I question that throw. Don’t get me wrong. I miss sometimes, but for the most part I catch what I’m throwing at. This time was different to say the least. As far as I can figure, it had to be the adrenaline, or maybe deep down that “intuition” that said this was a bad deal. Whatever it was, I threw the worst loop in the recorded history of roping. My rope and my pride clearly sailed 30 feet before hitting a tree limb. It was more of a shot put than a throw and to compound matters worse it was witnessed (no, not just the silent laughing of my horse at me), but of course little brother had caught up in time to witness the whole thing. Without time to punch at him for laughing at me, or time to go hide, we took up pursuit of the troublesome steer again. This time with Andrew in hot pursuit and more open ground to work with, he was gaining on the outlaw steer. I still believe that it was my chase that tired the steer out, or maybe it was the edge of the brush line letting his horse gain ground, but I realized he was about to be in the best position to end this charade that we’d had all morning. To this day, I still can’t believe what happened next!
My brother cowboyed up and started swinging. I reined up to relish the moment, and that’s when it happened. I watched my brother “throw” and his throw went wild…(maybe it was the adrenaline). But, his loop went wide left over the steer. But, what happened next is what perplexes me. Just as I slapped my saddle horn and realized we missed our chance, I see that errant loop do a half moon maneuver that would frustrate Pappy Boyington, slap around a lone mesquite, make a right hand turn, and dangle off that blasted tree as the dang Auroch ran right through the loop entrapping himself and ending the chase. To this day, I still recall the smile on my brother’s face. His only words to acknowledge the win, “I told you I was a better roper!” You’re right- you are THE super looper!
To Be Continued….