Hell of a Roper
"Ain't This Romantic" is the title of a forthcoming book
by Cowboy and Author Kent Hanawalt.
Click the titles below for excerpts.
I had made good progress at bringing in a new calf and
his mother to the calving shed, where Ben and Steve were
standing near the door. This calf was still pretty wobbly,
and was just learning about this bright new world. He had
followed his mother along pretty well until this point, but
just as the cow turned into the shed the calf turned away
and headed under the gate.
In the first few days of life the instinct of a calf is
to follow that big form next to him, and he hasn’t yet
learned the difference between his mother and the horse
behind her. It’s very hard to turn back a calf with a horse
until he learns that the cow is safety and cowboys are
danger. So when the calf took a wrong turn I quickly flipped
a loop under his belly, picked up his hind legs, and pulled
him the last few feet into the barn.
Steve watched the whole proceedings from a few feet away.
He understood exactly that my move was far more efficient
than climbing off the horse, grabbing the calf by the hind
leg, turning him around, and pushing him in the door –
meanwhile giving his mother a chance to escape. Being an
accomplished roper, Steve approved my strategy, and
appreciated the fact that it had taken only a couple of
seconds to accomplish.
Turning calmly to Ben, Steve said “He’s either awful
good, or awful lucky.
* * * * *
A couple of years later I was out at Emma’s ranch during
calving. She had been bragging on Carl’s roping talent after
he snared a calf with a lariat out in the field while he was
afoot. It kind of grated on me that she appreciated that
farmer, without paying homage to my superior abilities as a
cowboy. I had to wait for a chance to prove my aptitude at
Emma’s system was to tag each calf soon after birth while
he was still unwary and uncoordinated enough to be caught
afoot. Each calf got an ear-tag and a vaccination for
“overeating” - a virus that causes a quick but agonizing
death. That practice worked well most of the time, but
occasionally one missed being tagged in the first few days
and became too quick and agile to be caught by a man afoot
in an open field.
One such pair had escaped capture for a couple of weeks,
and Emma was especially worried about getting the calf
vaccinated. I saddled a horse. It didn’t take long to get
the pair into the corral where we could accomplish the
tagging and vaccination.
The calf was now old enough and big enough to put up a
fight, and I have always been lazy enough to do a job the
easiest way possible. I had a horse, a rope - and a saddle
horn to take the strain of the struggle. There was no
question as to the appropriate way to accomplish this task.
Just as I had in front of Steve and Ben, I dropped a
loop, picked up the calf’s hind legs, and dallied. Tying off
to the horn, I went down the rope, picked up a front leg,
and tipped the calf over. With me on the front and the horse
holding the rear, the calf was laid out securely, flat on
his side, with very little effort on my part.
Just as Emma handed me the syringe full of vaccine,
however, the calf found enough slack in the rope to pull one
hind leg free. He planted that free hoof right in my belly,
knocking me on my ass - scattering me and the syringe all
over the ground as he ran away - making a fool of me right
in front of God and Emma.
It took few more years to convince Emma of my great prowess
as a cowboy.
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