Sometimes I tell my stories to civilians and they don’t get it. That’s what brother Keith calls non-ranch or rodeo people, civilians. Anyway, this is one of my favorites and I’m writing it here because you non-civilians will get it.
Neighboring is the way to get things done. When I worked at Whitmire Ranch, Ray Blasi helped us and the Whitmire crew helped him. This particular morning, we went to help Ray gather a set of his own cows. We must have just been moving them, because they didn’t have calves and we were taking them to the pens to load.
Evidently, Doug Potter rode my Salty because of this cow – I didn’t know it when we saddled up – but now I know he thought he might have to rope this cow. Everyone who had been there before knew this cow.
I rode a barely three-year-old Strawboss. He didn’t belong to me then and he didn’t have much ranch experience because he hadn’t been broke long. I had never roped anything on him. I think Doug had dragged a few calves and might have roped a foot rot or two that was too sore to run, but I’m sure no wild yearling had ever been roped from his back, much less a crazy cow.
When we unloaded and trotted out, I was beside T.J. Mills. He said, “there’s a high-horned brindle in here that will run off. Don’t worry about her when she does it, because she’ll be to rope and once she runs off you just might as well leave her. She may even stay with the bunch right up to the pens, but she’ll be to rope.”
We made the gather. She was easy to spot. High horns that were sharp at the tip, brindle as any F1 ever born, and kept her head held so high all the time she stood out in the herd.
T. J. was right, she stayed with the bunch almost all the way to the pens. She made her break as the bunch was already funneling in. We all ignored her. It happened that T. J. and I were at the back of the herd, so once we got the gates closed with the other hands inside to sort and load, that left us to catch the cow.
“Straw is probably faster than this mare,” T. J. said. The roan mare is a top shelf ranch horse, but looking back on it, she was probably only about four at the time herself and while she might have roped a cow, I doubt she had roped one like this.
“If you get there before I do and get her roped, you turn left and ride hard cause she’ll get in the saddle with you.” I didn’t know if Straw could outrun that mare and I wasn’t about to find out, because whether T. J. knew it or not, he was going to beat me to that cow if I had to trot. It was many years ago and I had much less experience than I do now, but I had experienced a mad cow in the saddle with me at the salebarn, and I didn’t want any part of that. Plus I was sure Straw didn’t, either.
We tried to sneak up on her, but she took off quite a ways before we got there. She broke toward the right and T. J. was on my right. The roan mare fell right in behind her. Straw was so green, he didn’t even know what we were doing, so it took me a second to point and send him. Being the fine hand he is, T. J. reached right out and roped her. By then I had kind of caught up.
“Heel her if you can,” T. J. says, arcing her in a circle. It was cool enough to still be wearing a jacket and the dead cheat was pretty high, but somehow I got one heel.
By now we were pretty far away from the pens. She was winded and we pancaked her on her side, but we needed to hurry before she got her wind.
T. J. knew I couldn’t get down and leave her heel tied to Straw. He was nowhere near ready to do that and we might get in a real big wreck if I tried, so he bails off carrying the tail of his rope, jerking his tie string loose from his chaps.
“If she gets up before I get her sidelined, you turn around and ride off hard.”
I kept my reins tight and held her back leg as far as it would go. T. J. sidelined that cow faster than a college goat tyer.
“We’ll have to tie her better to leave her,” he said.
When she was done up like a Christmas package, her legs were up hill.
“T, don’t you think we should turn her around? She might die by the time we get back.”
“I hope she does. Every year I tell Ray he needs to sell this cow, and every year he doesn’t! Let’s mosey back to the pens and find a trailer.”
It was a little while before we got back to her with the trailer. Of course she wasn’t dead – she was just mad. We got two ropes on her run through each side of the trailer before we let her up and she fought and blew snot everywhere. Of course we weren’t choking her because she had horns. Might have been better if we had been.
“You could just haul her to the salebarn right now,” T. J. said. “She’ll be alright,” Ray said. “She’ll setttle down once she’s turned out.”
Of course we all laughed. We knew she’d be to rope the next time, and one way or another, we knew we’d be good for it, too.

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