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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Me and My Pointy Stick!!

When I was about nine, my Mom met my Dad and my life as a rancher's daughter began. Up until this point, I'd been pretty much a tom boy, so making the transition to ranch life wasn't all that hard for me. I loved animals. I loved the outdoors. And I absolutely adored my Dad. However, looking back on it, I realize that I wasn't the brightest crayon in the box. Let me explain.

Through most of my youth I was a scrawny 90-pound waif of a girl. Just a little twig that a stiff breeze could probably blow over. However, that didn't stop me from being fully convinced that I was the toughest thing out there. There was no doubt in my mind that I could do ANYTHING that the boys could do and I had no problem proving that to any boy who believed otherwise.

Now my Dad had never really been around girls. He'd raised two sons who had kids of their own by the time my Mom and me came around. Anyone who's lived on a ranch knows that the work has to get done, regardless of whether you're a girl or not.

My mother will be the first to tell you that when we moved to the ranch, she didn't have the slightest idea of what to expect. She's a hard worker and more than happy to pull her own weight, but with age comes enough wisdom to know that large animals are unpredictable, and some things just aren't worth getting hurt. My Mom was great at running the tractors and throwing the hay bails, but when it came to being around those beady-eyes critters, she'd just as soon prefer to be on the other side of the fence. That's where I came into play.

Me, I wasn't afraid of horses or cows or anything else that might be out there. I was fully convinced that if my Dad could stand out in the middle of that pen, then so could I. And I set out to prove I could.

Determined to prove that boys aren't all their cracked up to be, I followed my Dad around like a shadow. I asked him 15,000,000 questions that probably drove him utterly insane. I hung on his every word. I totally idolized him! The funny thing about being young is that, one, you think you are totally invincible, and two, you're fully convinced that those you love would never put you in harms way. So Dad ended up with a perfect little minion who would do anything he told her to do.

I learned to drive a tractor before I could reach the pedals. I'd spend all day on the back of a horse working cattle before I could even put my feet in the stirups. I did my best to throw hay bails that were heavier than I was. And I stood my ground against a pissed off cow as good as any man. This last one is what makes me believe that I may have hit my head a few too many times growing up.

You see, my Dad raises Texas longhorn cattle. Now while these animals are generally pretty mild tempered creatures, they do have a tendancy to get a bit irritable. Namely during calving season when they're protecting their calves. Anyone who's ever watched the PBR rodeo knows that a person probably shouldn't try to take on a 1500-pound animal that is obviously irate. Try telling that to a 90-pound girl who thinks she's made of steel!

My Dad would go out to tag the newborn calves. And as you can expect, their mother's weren't all too impressed with the idea that this man was grabbing their bawling babies and apparently inflicting severe torture on them. My dad would hand me a pitchfork and tell me, "Now you just stand between me and that huge pissed off cow and if she gets too close, you poke her with this here pointy stick!" Sure thing Dad, whatever you say! And there I'd stand with my pointy stick while that cow pawed and panted and tested just how sharp my stick was. Did it ever once cross my mind that she weighed almost 20 times as much as me and her horns were as long as my pitchfork? Heck no!! Cows can't hurt you! That's just silly!! Did it ever enter my thoughts that I was holding off a 1500 pound cow while my Dad was wrestling a 60 pound calf? Well, no. I didn't know how to tag a calf & give a shot. Besides, I've got the pointy stick and he doesn't!!

This was pretty common practice on the ranch for many years. I got to be pretty good with that pointy stick!

It wasn't until I was well into my teen years that I started to realize that my Dad didn't always have the best advice. We were working cows one day and there was this younger cow who'd gotten seperated from her buddies. She found herself in a mess of older cows who were sorta picking on her. By the time we got her worked up to the shutes, she was pretty upset over the whole ordeal. I penned her and two older cows into a small area that leads to the shutes. Unfortunately, I couldn't latch the gate because she was so worked up that I would be risking a broken arm if she happened to hit the gate at the precise moment. I yelled over the fence to the men that they really needed to get this young cow out because she was desperately trying to escape through me. In the mean time, I just stuck my pitchfork up to the gate and gave her a little poke everytime she thought she was going to come back through it. Of course, in a situation like this, nothing seems to go as planned and the two old cows quietly took the lead through the shutes leaving a panicked youngster alone in the pens. Between pokes, I'm yelling at the men to hurry their asses up because this bitch was determined she was going out the same way she came in. And frankly, the only thing that was stopping her was an unlatched gate and me with my pointy stick!! Here's where my Dad's wonderful words of wisdom come into play. "If she tries again, just don't poke her with the pitchfork, we're almost done!" Okay Dad, whatever you say! Cows can't hurt you!! I'll just show her my pointy stick and talk nice to her!! And that's what I tried to do. At that precise moment I learned several things:

  1. Cows CAN hurt you.

  2. Dad DOESN'T always know what's best.

  3. An unlatched gate is not nearly as effective at stopping a cow as that POINTY STICK is

  4. A cow can EASILY plow through an unlatched gate if she so desires

  5. A gate can bounce back and hit you FOUR times before it finally stops swinging.

  6. A teenage girl can bounce off the fence behind her FOUR times as the gate hits her.

  7. Metal cattle panels will leave FOUR sets of really cool grid-shaped bruises on your back.

  8. A cow can slam you into a cattle panel hard enough to create purple bruises in 3 MINUTES FLAT.

  9. A teenage girl can be slammed between a gate and a fence and NEVER drop her pitchfork

  10. A teenage girl can THROW a pitchfork across a pen when she finally stands back up PISSED OFF!

  11. After being slammed into a fence by a cow you are capable of stringing 15 swear words into a sentence and STILL have it make sense.

  12. A 300-pound man will MOVE out of the way of a 100-pound teenage girl if she is pissed off and cursing like a sailer about the incompetence of the MEN who were calling the shots.

  13. Nothing tastes better than biting into a STEAK from the cow that slammed you into a fence.

  14. AND most importantly, never be afraid to use that POINTY STICK!!!


Anonymous said...


Randomness said...

Holy crap, that is a funny story, not the fact that you got your ass kicked by a gate, more the fact of what you learned. These are great and it is always fun to prove that the "parents" are not always right.