The Stringam ranch sprawled out over many, many miles.
And took many hands to cover.
My Dad was twelve and had happily, and of necessity, joined the ranks of the ranch-employed aboard the first horse he could truly call his own.
The recently-broke and still fairly green, Queenie.
His pride and joy.
His first assignment was to keep an eye on the bulls.
I should point out, here, that the bulls were kept in the South pasture.
A vast, open field which went on forever.
With an outer fence that also went on forever.
Back to my story . . .
This fence had to be constantly patrolled.
On the other side of it were the Community Pastures.
Filled with . . . community cattle.
And none pregnant.
A state which their owners wished to preserve.
So someone had to explain to the bulls that any form of interaction was distinctly discouraged.
This was Dad's job. Make sure that the fence was doing its job.
Keeping the heifers on the one side . . .
And the bulls on the other.
But bulls are, after all, bulls.
And when the siren song goes off in their vicinity, they must answer.
With voice and/or action.
What's a paltry five lines of tightly-stretched barbed wire when love is calling to you from the other side?
They would ignore it as if it wasn't there.
And that's where Dad came in.
At a gallop.
Chase the bulls back.
Fix the fence.
He got pretty good at his job.
One day, he was riding along the fence.
Everything was unusually calm.
Then, something moved.
A brown head poked up out of the great sea of grass.
A brown head with darker brown stripes.
Dad had never seen a badger close up.
He turned Queenie towards it.
It turned away from them and started off across the prairie.
It ran faster.
They pursued faster.
After a few minutes of this, the badger had had enough . . . umm . . . badgering.
He turned and attacked.
At this point, Queenie decided she was finished with this adventure.
Dad could go it alone.
She piled him, forceably, into the prairie dust.
And left him there.
Dad screamed and jumped to his feet, certain that his beloved horse had landed him on the badger.
Or near enough that the badger would soon be on him.
He pictured teeth and claws.
And ravening. He wasn't sure what that was, but it sounded nasty.
He looked frantically around.
The badger had disappeared completely.
He took a deep breath of relief, then recovered his horse and continued with his job.
Dad decided, then and there, that the only four-footed animals he and Queenie would chase would be the big ones with hoofs.
They were safer.