|Dad (right) and Ruel.|
Who could fool these two?
As a young man, Dad spent his summers working on the ranch.
It was these summers that convinced him ranching was in his blood.
Something he could make his life’s work.
Even with its embarrassing moments . . .
Young cowboys on a big spread are often the butt of jokes pulled by the older, more experienced hands.
Dad, though he was the boss’ son, was no exception.
He and a schoolmate, Ruel, were invited to go with a couple of the men on a ‘snipe hunt’.
The snipe, they were told, was a bird that lived in the coulees around the ranch. It was very tasty, if you could nab one. But there was the problem. Snipes were tricky creatures. They only had one weakness--they were mesmerised by a light at night. Ordinarily, they stayed still when darkness fell, but if disturbed, would fly toward said light. The trick was to have someone wait quietly, holding a bag next to a lantern and, when the birds were stirred up, catch them as they flew to the light.
The boys were excited to be included on this fun hunting trip. They rode behind the two older hands and took up a position at the mouth of the coulee, bag and lantern in hand. Then they waited while the riders circled around to the other end to ride down the coulee, driving the tasty little snipes ahead of them and straight to the waiting sack and certain doom.
They waited for over two hours.
Finally deciding that something had gone terribly wrong, the two boys gave up and walked the two miles back to the ranch. When they reached the barn, they discovered the horses the two older hands had been riding, safely tucked up for the night.
Only then did they realize they’d been had.
They toyed with the idea of hiding in the hay loft and getting the rest of the men stirred up when they didn’t show up for breakfast. They even went so far as to sleep in the loft, snuggled down cozily in the soft, fragrant hay. But the enthusiastic swinging of a pitchfork early the next morning as one of the hands fed the horses convinced them that they should appear or risk being skewered.
They stood up and endured the general laugh at their expense.
Grampa Stringam was disgusted. “How could you fall for something like that?!” he demanded.
It had been embarrassingly easy, so Dad said nothing.
Sometimes, ranching isn’t about the cows.
But being cowed.
P.S. The snipe is a real bird, living along watercourses throughout the world. It is notoriously hard to catch and the person who could actually shoot one would be known as a 'sniper'. Thus the name for a skilled gunman.