By Julie Carter
John Wayne taught about every cowboy I know how to be fearless. It’s the movies, but they believe it anyway.
They will fight to get on a horse that clearly has blood in his eye and rope wild cattle that would love nothing better than run a horn through them or their horses. They will climb windmill towers in a blizzard wind and track cougars through the snow, fly crop dusters like a wild man, and generally undertake most any dangerous activity they can dream up.
On occasion, they will even go so far as to order their wives around.
When not endangering themselves, they love nothing better than to help their pards out along those same lines.
Butch was running a big working crew and had already put in a full day. With great concentration, sitting astride his cowpony, he was counting cattle out the gate.
“Butch,” came a voice from behind him. Butch went on counting; ignoring the idiot that would dare interrupt.
“Butch,” came the voice again and getting the same response as before.
This continued but Butch just kept counting. When the last cow got through the gate, Butch turned and said, “What do you want, Frank?”
Frank tossed a big rattlesnake onto Butch’s lap and the wreck was on.
When the horse was back under control, the snake shaken off and his heart rate back below the critical stage, Butch rode over to Frank. He gave him a mean squinty-eyed look and said, “I might not could whup you, but I could surely hit you upside the head with this saddle gun I have.”
Frank took this statement under thoughtful consideration.
The next week Frank was horseback counting cattle while Butch was slowly driving the feed truck along and putting out feed. Frank tossed another big snake in the front seat of the truck. Butch bailed out the other side, the truck continued on, and Frank beat a cowboy retreat for parts afar.
During the rather colorful discussion that followed somewhat later, it was determined that Frank would not give Butch any more snakes, no matter the circumstances.
At the next cattle working, Butch seemed to have misplaced his gloves. Nobody would admit to anything, even with Butch’s threats about what he’d do if he found out someone assisted the gloves in going missing.
At the break, Frank brought out a Banty rooster he had brought from home and carefully put him in the large cardboard box full of ear tags.
When they started working again, he fessed up to Butch about his gloves and told him they were in the ear tag box. The flapping squawking rooster moment that followed when the box was opened was not nearly as good as the rattlesnake chaos, but it would do.
The next day Butch told Frank to saddle up the new bay colt and put some miles on him. He specifically told him to ride across the tank dam and show the colt how to do that, get him used to it.
Frank rode the skittish, scared colt onto the dam—fence on one side, water on the other—when a big Canadian goose whose nest was disturbed by this intruder, raised up, flapped her wings and hissed loudly at Frank.
You can break a colt to tolerate a lot of things, but a mad momma goose on the fight is not one of them.
It had taken awhile, but it was in this moment, Frank had an epiphany. He was thinking maybe it was time to give Butch a break.
Julie can be reached among those that never knew when to quit or at [email protected]
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]