On its own, the word “wreck” conjures up endless images of smoke, dust, and cussing, blood and disaster. When you throw in the words cowboy, horse and rope, it becomes a definition. Cowboy defined.
And so it happened like this. The hard part of the job was finished. The yearling stray was roped, tripped, tied down and all that was left was a ride back to get the pickup and trailer, loading up the bovine and heading back to the corrals.
Like most cowboys on the job, he was alone, a long way from home and not a soul knew where he was, not exactly. He’d seen enough years to be “seasoned.” He’d done this very same job hundreds of times. And maybe that was his undoing.
When he stepped back up on his horse, rope still tied to one end of the yearling and the other end to the saddle horn, an errant loose coil of his rope snaked around his leg just as the rope pulled tight.
The horse felt the sudden jerk on the rope, jumped and that yanked the cowboy to the ground. And the wreck was on.
It was a cowboy wreck of the epic kind. Ingredients were trees, sage, rocks big and little for a scenery framework, a scared horse trying to get away from the cowboy caught in the rope bouncing behind him and the yearling dragging along behind it all.
It happened in seconds. The cowboy was on the ground before he knew what had happened and it wasn’t until many hours later that he could mentally think it through and even venture a guess at what took place.
What he knew was that in those few minutes, it occurred to him they could be his last.
“I felt a couple of my ribs break and knew then, if I didn’t get out of this pretty quick, I wasn’t going to get out of it alive.”
Only the coyotes and the buzzards would have found him. Providence intervened. The strain of the rope pulling on his foot pulled his boot off. That released him enough to reach up and cut his rope with his pocketknife, which freed him from the surety of being drug to death — every cowboy’s nightmare if they let themselves go there.
It was a grueling trip back to the pickup and the drive home even more so, only to face a frightened wife who wished she could kill him before he killed himself. The blinding pain subsided a little each day in the weeks that followed, leaving only a bad memory and an edge of caution for doing things a little differently next time. Or so he told himself.
It happens more than is recorded. And when we hear about it, it conjures up more of those “it could have been me” moments.
But with cowboy humor, usually they just laugh and make a great story of their “near death experience,” which as a phrase covers a myriad of events, both serious and just completely ridiculous.
Mostly, we’re just happy they’re still around to tell a good story.
Julie, a witness and a survivor, can be reached for comment a firstname.lastname@example.org.