Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Friday, May 6, 2011

175

I never used a saddle. I had seen a movie, ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’ and the sister in that movie only used a riding pad. I though that was cool and copied her. Tacking up was amazingly easier. Riding much more natural. And no stirrups to get in the way.

But it afforded other . . . complications. For one thing you could never use a rope. Nothing to dally to. Chasing down and securing a calf presented . . . certain challenges. But nothing I couldn’t handle. I simply rode up beside them and leaned off to one side, catching said calf by the tail, or whatever protruded, and sliding off on top of him. Or her. It was fool proof. Until I met Cow 175. Head on. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The day started out much as any other. I was riding the herd. Checking to see if anyone had calved, or needed help in doing so. I came across a small, obviously newborn calf hidden in the tall grass. I straddled it and proceeded to make ‘distressed calf’ noises. A process I had discovered was sure to bring Mama on the run.

It worked. She came. She saw.

She attacked.

Now I should mention here that my Dad raised Polled Herefords. The breed known for their gentle dispositions. Oh, and also a breed that has no horns.

They don’t need them.

175 hit me with the pointy part of her head. The part made entirely of bone. Really hard bone. I saw stars and quite a bit of the prairie as I left the calf. In a summersault. Backwards. The culprit and her offspring wasted no time in vacating the area. I got to my feet and stared after them, fuzzily. I had lost my glasses in the encounter. But that didn’t even slow me down.

I piled back onto my horse and started after the two, quickly nabbing the calf once more. This time, I took the precaution of dragging it beneath my horse.

Throughout my years on the ranch, I was known for riding really . . . ummm . . . green horses. Usually quite unsuited to ranch life. GollyGee, my mount of the moment was totally in keeping with this reputation. She was an ex-racehorse. Tall, lean, fast, and really . . . not smart. Usually, a person walking anywhere near her would have sent her, by the most direct route, to the moon. And a person dragging something towards her? Jupiter.

Perhaps the anger radiating off me in waves had a stupefying effect on her. Perhaps she was merely trying something new. Self preservation.

Whichever.

She stood like a rock as I dragged the 50 pounds of protesting red and white calf beneath her.

Most cows are afraid of horses. Even horses with one lone brain cell, like GollyGee. Fortunately, this cow was only over-protective, not suicidal. She did laps while I injected and tagged her calf.

Then I stood up, releasing it, but before it could regain its feet and rejoin its Mama, I walked over and booted her. Twice. It felt good. Then I watched as the two of them headed for some human-less spot.

Riding back to the scene of the crime, I searched around until I finally discovered my glasses. Miraculously undamaged. Then I rode home and stabled my horse.

And here is where the story really gets interesting.

My Mom was the daughter of a rancher. Her years of ranching experience were many and varied. But she could still be shocked. Which I did. On a regular basis.

When I walked in the kitchen door, she screamed. And ran for a towel. It was only then that I realized that I could feel the tip of my tongue. Through my bottom lip. And that my shirt was completely covered in blood. You’d think I would have noticed something like that.

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