A fictional yarn told by Hughze.
Years ago, before I changed careers, I worked as a hired hand on a large ranch. There was no shortage of work from day to day and, as I was the only hired hand, it was not uncommon for the larger tasks to carry on into the next day or more. It was no problem for me. I had grown up on a farm and ranch not far from there so the work was no mystery to me.
The day of which I am going to relate to you started like all the others except John, my boss, and his wife, Ida, were preparing to go to town for the entire day. John came to me with the 'to do' list, "Well," he said, "You know the chores. You'll have to run feed to the wracks being as I'm not going to be here. There's a couple of the pickup trucks that need an oil change and lube. There's a couple of planks been knocked off the corrals below the barn. If you'll put those back on. And, if you have time today, there's a little black Angus bull in the creek that I've been trying to corral for the last couple of days. Why don't you see if you can get him in."
"He's not wanting to come in I take it?" I said.
"Nah. He goes for awhile until he gets tired and then he sticks his head in a bush and won't move."
"I see. Well, maybe I'll have a look at him later today."
It was late fall. The grass was brown and the days were getting cooler. It was time for the ranchers to bring in their bulls to pasture them separate from the cows. All of John's bulls, save one, were in their winter pasture.
I hurried through the morning chores, feeding, checking water, and juggling animals around from pen to pen. The wracks went fast. (The wracks are a fence designed to allow animals to poke their heads through to reach feed that has been put out for them on the other side.) I puttered around the rest of the day fixing this and maintaining that until mid afternoon. It was time to go see what this little black bull's problem was.
First I needed a reliable steed. I walked past Buddy Boy's pen. He was a bay gelding which seemed like he was asleep all of the time, even when saddled. Next was the stud, Big Red. He seems like he never sleeps. Whats worse, his feet never seem to touch the ground from the time you first saddle him to the time the saddle comes off. Then there was the sorrel mare, Sally. Too slow. Jackson, the blue roan. Too young and green. Finally as I approached the end of the alley, a choir of angles began to sing. Light began to glow from the last pen. I found him right where I left him the last time I rode him. I threw open the gate and beheld the beauty of his red skin and black frame. His name was clearly branded on his hip, Honda XL 250. He was saddled and ready to go.
I grabbed a stock whip from the barn, jumped on, kicked the starter, and the engine roared to life. I made one stop to prop open the front gate of the corrals before I took off down the road to the creek to find the elusive bull.
John's property consisted of thirty square miles of bad lands. It was miles of land lined with deep gouges cut into the earth from millions of years of erosion. Above these cuts were grassy plateaus. The bottoms were littered with patches of trees and bushes. Clearings, that consisted of grass and sage brush, stretched from tree patch to tree patch. The cattle had cut trails into these clearings that weaved to and fro amongst the sage. It was one of these trails that Honda and I followed up the creek.
I had traveled at least two miles up the main creek bed after leaving the road before I spotted him. He stood alone amongst the sage brush watching me as I approached. I circled him a couple of times, feeling somewhat like a bee circling a large black rock. I just hoped that the rock didn't decide to, all of the sudden, swat the bee. Eventually, I positioned him between me and the corrals and charged, revving Honda's motor and cracking the stock whip. He surprisingly started moving in the direction I wanted. This was turning out to be easier than I had anticipated. Too easy.
I backed off a ways to give him some air. He seemed want to follow a trail that wound through the creek toward the road. I was content in letting him do so as long as it headed in the right direction. All was well for about a mile and then it started. He veered off the trail and headed for a thicket of trees and brush. I gave Honda's throttle a twist to try and head him off. It was no use. He plunged into the brush ahead of me. All I could do was follow, shouting and cursing and cracking my whip.
I swear that cattle have a secret bovine library somewhere and even more, I am certain that, in that library, there is a book entitled "How to Aggravate Cowboys and Drive Them to Insanity". I am also quite certain this little black Angus bull either read it or worse, wrote it. He led me through some of the thickest brush he could find, slapping me with tree branches every chance he could get. This went on for what seemed like miles to me. We went from one patch of trees and brush to the next until finally, the trees ended and before us lay open pasture all the way to the corral gate--open pasture except for one large, lone choke cherry bush, John's favorite choke cherry bush. The bull headed strait for it and crawled into it until all that I could see was his rear end.. There he stopped, refusing to move again.
I shouted curses, revved Honda's engine, cracked my whip. That didn't work. He just stood there. I could swear I heard him snickering. I grabbed his tail and pulled. Nothing! He didn't even try to kick me. I could see I was going to have to settle this problem the cowboy way.
Honda stood tethered a short distance away. He could tell that his cowboy meant business by the way his spurs clinked as he walked and then the way he rolled up his sleeves before he entered the Chokecherry Saloon. Honda knew that only riffraff hung out in that establishment and there was sure to be a fight. His suspicions were confirmed when less than a couple of seconds later there was a resounding, "Splat!", and his cowboy came flying out one of the windows.
Well, obviously the cowboy way wasn't going to work either. Defeat crept into my very bones as I realized that there was nothing I could do except give up. But then I noticed a dead branch on the ground not to far away. It was about eight feet long. I suddenly had an idea and an evil grin stretched across my face. I grabbed the branch, hopped on Honda, and backed off some fifty to one hundred paces so I had a direct path in line with the bull.
The crowd cheered as the flag man stepped up to the rail. He checked the White Knight astride his mighty steed, Honda. The White Knight nodded. Then the flag man checked the challenger, the Dark Knight of Choke Cherry. The Dark Knight nodded. Both knights ready, he raised the flag and dropped it. The crowd roared. Honda, reared and charged. The White Knight leveled his lance studying his advancing adversary for a target. He picked the Dark Knight's large black shield and aimed his lance. He spurred Honda for speed. The distance between the knights closed..."CRASH!"
Conditions had been perfect that day so that sound traveled for miles and echoed throughout the canyons. The neighbors had stopped what they were doing to listen. Even today they still tell stories of the ruckus they heard. Some speak of battle cries composed of words they, until that day, never knew existed. Words they refused to repeat. Some say they saw a cloud of dust explode into the atmosphere and rise above the horizon. Some even say they thought they saw branches twirling amidst the dust as it reached for the sky. But all agree that they had never heard a more fiercer battle between man and beast on the Yellowstone, Missouri divide.
John and Ida returned home that evening finding the little black bull laying in the corrals, chewing his cud like cattle do when they are relaxed and resting. There was no debris on the road for them to swerve around as I had taken the time to remove it on my way home for the day. I never told John how I was able to get the bull to finally decide to come to the corrals and he never asked. At least not until late the next spring when he went down to see the progress of the choke cherries on his favorite bush in the creek. "Where the heck is my choke cherry bush?" he yelled as he roared into the yard on his motorcycle.
I could not tell a lie, "Heh! I don't know Boss. Must of washed down the creek in the flood during the spring thaw!"
© 2009 Kyle V. Huseby